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Richard Gonzalez

Democratic candidate for U.S. House (4th district)

Richard Gonzalez

Richard Gonzalez

Democratic candidate for U.S. House (4th district)

BA, Accounting, DePaul University Masters Degree, Public Administration, Illinois Institute of Technology
1.) Chicago Police Department and 2.) Resident Management Services, Inc.
Past Political/Civic Experience
Ran for Chicago Alderman in the 41st Ward. Do not hold, and never have held, any elective or appointed political position or office.

Responses to our questions

The U.S. government is now $20 trillion in debt. To address that historic level of public indebtedness, the country would need to raise revenue and/or decrease spending. What is your position on the budget and debt?

In my view, the $20 trillion dollar debt is driven by inequities in the tax system. This factor is every bit as significant as the cost of government programs funded by tax revenue.

The new Republican tax law is not tax reform at all. It is a multi-trillion dollar gift from the United States to the richest people and corporations in the country at the expense of hard-working American wage-earners. The radical tax law cuts the Trump administration spearheaded through Congress will add trillions more dollars to the deficit because essential entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare, and so forth) cannot really be cut without profoundly damaging both the individual citizen who depends upon them but also the credibility of any politician who attempts to make such ill-advised cuts.

If elected to Congress, as both a Democrat and a member of the middle class, I will fight for a level playing field and support legislation that compels the richest segments of society to pay their reasonable and fair share of taxes. After all, successful persons and corporations did not get to that point in a vacuum.

Tax-supported infrastructure (from roads and bridges to the federal student loan programs that created an educated workforce) laid much of the groundwork that made success possible for individuals and corporations alike. The radical Republican tax cut law needs to be repealed and replaced. In order to fund these tax cuts, revenue must be drained from other areas of the budget.

Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are in great jeopardy because those are the programs most likely to be amputated to compensate for the cost of the tax cuts. The replacement for the Republican tax bill should be a permanent tax cut for the middle classes and small businesses (not for vastly wealthy individuals and corporations), which will spur economic activity in local communities. As more people in the community have more money in their pockets to spend, demand for goods and services will grow, and the businesses needed to supply these demands will in turn grow as well.

Can you identify any major federal expenditures or programs that you would eliminate?

At this stage, I am not proposing to eliminate programs. Rather, I advocate making reductions in spending that are carefully considered and deliver the greatest impact to the budget with the least disturbance to the millions of Americans who depend on government entitlement programs (which, by the way, I do not think should be called "entitlements" at all; they should be called what they really are: earned benefits, as all of us have paid into these programs with our tax dollars).

Still, making reductions will be difficult decisions, no doubt whatsoever, but they will need to be made. I would target first the Republican tax cut, which is not a tax cut for anyone but the rich, and eliminate or greatly reduce that expenditure, especially since Paul Ryan has publicly stated that cuts to Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid are next on the horizon for the Republican administration.

I would also look deeply at the cost of war. I am a firm believer in the importance of the military, but the cost of prosecuting wars in the Middle East for the past 17 years is neither sustainable nor just. The enormous cost of warfare must, and can, be curbed.

Medicare and Medicaid costs continue to spiral. How can these programs be restructured to control costs and avoid collapse? Be specific about your willingness to change or reduce future benefits.

Medicare and Medicaid costs continue to spiral because the cost of healthcare itself continues to spiral. Medical treatment providers (doctors and hospitals) and the insurance companies that so significantly influence the pricing of medical services, are what really need to be interrupted to bring down costs. That will be difficult but crucial.

In addition, the programs themselves need to be administered more efficiently, with less red-tape. And finally, whatever the cost of delivering medical services to recipients of Medicare and Medicaid, it could be covered with far greater ease if the tax structure is reformed so that the richest individuals and corporations contribute their fair share of taxes.

A simple way to control healthcare costs would be to employ a single-payer system. Having said that, we can also control costs by allowing government to negotiate and purchase drugs in bulk (which would drastically lower the cost of prescriptions), provide incentives to doctors to set up practices and clinics in under-served communities, which would improve the health of a population that is regularly forced to use much more costly emergency services because routine healthcare is not readily accessible to them, and in general incentivize both doctors and patients in underprivileged communities to place a strong emphasis on preventative and primary healthcare.

What if anything should be the federal government's role in helping Americans obtain health insurance coverage?

The Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), while not perfect, was a significant step in the right direction. Overall, my view is that healthcare is a basic human right and, as such, the federal government has a central role in making sure that it is available to the American people. I support a single-payer (government-sponsored) system that covers everyone. Again, the equitable restructuring of the tax system is necessary to pay for healthcare with the universal coverage I endorse. A healthier nation is, ultimately, a wealthier nation as it will cost much less to maintain a population less afflicted with acute and chronic disease.

Economic growth has been steady but wage growth is slow. Are you content with the state of the economy? What is your recipe for enhancing American prosperity?

It is true, according to many sources, that the economy in improving. That is good news. In an improving economy, the first order of business is the creation of new jobs, which will absorb the many people sidelined into unemployment during the last eight years of recession. Once these jobs exist, we can then begin to address the stagnant wages. So jobs first, then wages.

As more people are employed, demand for goods and services will grow. With this increased demand, the production of goods and services will grow, and as the businesses that produce what is in demand grow more prosperous, the leverage to boost wages will come into play with more and more strength. I also believe prosperity will be enhanced if the business community and related industries can be convinced that their participation in the common economic good is both in their best interest and the responsible thing to do. Specifically, I would like to see the flow of jobs being shipped overseas come to an end, or at least slow to a trickle. I would also endorse high-quality jobs training programs that emphasize genuine apprenticeship in a given trade so as to create a workforce that is skillful, strong, and readily employable.

If you could fix longstanding problems with this country's immigration system tomorrow, what would you do? What is your position on the future of DACA and the Dreamers?

In a global world, we need to accept the fact the policies of the United States will play out in other countries affected by those policies. And sometimes those policies will, perhaps unintentionally, destabilize these countries. People from those nations will seek the U.S. as a haven and a new home. We need to do our part in this global arena.

Do we have a right to vet who comes to our country? We do. Will this change life in America? It will. But largely in ways that enhance life for all citizens: by creating diversity within our borders. And yes, I also believe we should do all that we can to make American life understandable to immigrants newly arrived and to help them adjust and assimilate to American values. Today, the United States is home to the largest immigrant population in the world. We should be proud of this, not afraid of it.

While some politicians have blamed immigration for slowing U.S. wage growth, most academic research finds little long-term effect on American wages as a result of immigration. In fact, the available evidence suggests that immigration leads to more innovation, a better educated workforce, greater occupational specializations, better matching of skills with jobs, and higher overall economic productivity. Immigration also results in a net positive effect on combined federal, state, and local budgets. This is cause for celebration, not worry.

As an Hispanic candidate, seeking to represent a heavily Hispanic constituency, immigration is especially close to the bone for me. The Hispanic population -- Mexican, Puerto Rican, Central American, and South American -- came here seeking a better life. And they have largely found it, but are often still relegated to second-class status. This is a gross injustice to a hardworking, enterprising -- and diverse -- ethnic group. I support establishing a clear, safe, non-punitive path to citizenship for all undocumented persons.

I support DACA and advocate for the immediate suspension of deportations that threaten to separate families, or that force the exit of children in this country who have lived virtually their entire lives in the United States.

North Korea's nuclear weapons program represents a direct threat to the security of the United States and its Pacific allies. How should the U.S. confront or contain Kim Jong Un's regime?

The leader of North Korea shows many signs of being maniacal, and that in itself is certainly dangerous and should give the President pause in the way he deals with North Korea's nuclear threat. If the United States did take military action against this regime, "limited" though that first strike might be, North Korea would almost certainly respond with a nuclear assault, claiming many lives and completely destabilizing Asia. If ever there was a trigger for World War III, it is North Korea. That is, unless it is President Trump.

Still, I doubt that nuclear annihilation is something North Korea and Kim Jong-Un really want to invite. The U.S. should recognize this basic instinct for survival and take a step back. We may not be safe with North Korea, but we are probably safer than we think. I believe that sanctions and diplomacy must come to the forefront. We must show prudence in our words and actions and do more to relax tensions, not ratchet them. We need to refrain from foolishly baiting an extremely dangerous dictator. And however disagreeable it might seem from where we stand today, we need to mount a diplomatic mission to North Korea that may one day defuse this volatile regime.

ISIS is contained in Syria and Iraq but terrorism remains a threat. What are your priorities in keeping the country safe?

ISIS is contained but not completely gone. As a law-enforcement professional with over 25 years experience, I know that there are sleeper cells around the world, full of young men radicalized most effectively by the internet's "dark web." We just recently experienced the tragic effects of this radicalization in the New York City truck attack. To counter radicalization, we need to present a different picture (via the internet) of what life can be like for a young Muslim, both in this country and elsewhere, demonstrating that his religion is respected, not demonized, and that his contributions to society are valued.

The terrorist strikes of the past two years in Orlando, New York, New Jersey, and Boston confirmed that one of our largest security vulnerabilities is "soft targets" -- these relatively unprotected venues where large groups of people gather for events or where they merely pass through in the course of a day -- airports, transit systems, stadiums, restaurants, shopping malls, and city streets. All of these places are easy to attack and difficult to protect. I would advocate the formulation and widespread dissemination to all United States residents of a safety plan -- a protocol for how to react if faced with a terrorist attack. I envision these as "preparedness manuals," written in multiple languages, as strategic, common-sense recommendations to mitigate the impact of potential terrorist attacks. These would be distributed to residents and businesses, through media, such as newspapers, websites, social media, and direct mail. We cannot live our lives afraid and quaking, but we should be intelligent about terrorist threats, and be prepared.

The Department of Homeland Security's $44 billion budget will soon come before Congress for approval. We need to think carefully how these funds are spent to achieve maximum safety. I would support legislation and the creation of task-forces to investigate how terrorism is financed so we can better track the illicit flow of money into the hands of terrorists. In general, we need to conduct deeper investigative work and expand greatly the cyber-skills of intelligence gathering. We are doing this already, but we need to do even more of it.

It's clear that the internet fuels radicalization more than any other accelerant. We need to track what's out there with every cyber-skill our intelligence community can develop. We also need to understand the culture and economies of the Middle East much better than we generally do.

The so-called "Muslim Travel Ban" not only is unfair and discriminatory, it is counter productive. It further alienates an alienated radical and makes terrorist plots ever more urgent. We need to find a better way to screen who comes into the country. This is why immigration reform is so important. People who are undocumented cannot be vetted. If immigrants could be legally registered, without fear of automatic deportation for no cause other than lack of documentation, we could find out who these people are and accurately assess if someone presents a strong potential risk to American security.

Should the U.S. continue to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement with Iran?

Yes, the U.S. should continue to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement with Iran. The first reason we should abide by it is to convey to the world, and most certainly to Iran and the Middle East, that the word of the United Stated is worth something. The agreements our diplomats so carefully negotiate and craft will not be altered or shredded with every change of administration. A measure of continuity is required.

Another reason to abide by it is that, while not ideal in every respect, it provides a span of time, while it is in force, to work with the Iranian government to lessen tension. What is often forgotten about Iran is that its society, while governed by a theocratic dictatorship, is nevertheless highly evolved, very modern, and contains a large population of young people, and educated people, who are not especially anti-American and who are increasingly dissatisfied with their nation's rulers. Over time, the United States can make productive inroads diplomatically and economically, that will result in far greater safety and a reduction of nuclear competition.

What is your position on the continued presence of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan?

We must find a way out. We entered that country with false or inaccurate information and our presence there has greatly contributed to the fueling of terrorism. An exit strategy must be hammered out and American troops withdrawn and as we do so must do all that we can to leave what stability we can with the Afghan people.

Do you support a unified, federal background check system for gun sales? Do you support magazine limits or a ban on certain rifles? Describe, briefly, your position on how to balance safety with the Second Amendment.

Yes, I support a unified, federal background check system for all gun sales. And the best way to do this is to win over the support of gun owners for sensible gun control measures. It can be done. We must provide assurances that gun ownership itself is not in jeopardy. Treat gun owners with respect and do not characterize them as a suspect fringe group. Then make the case for credible background checks, mental health screenings, restrictions on gun ownership for those with convictions for violent crimes and domestic abuse. It may be an uphill effort, but I believe reasonable gun owners can be persuaded that gun safety can be greatly increased without depriving them of their firearms, which many see as a constitutional right under the Second Amendment.

Bump stocks, however, should be banned. These create weapons of war. They are not recreational; they are not suited for individual protection or sport. Their purpose is to kill, and to kill many at a single sweep. There is no legitimate reason for a private citizen to be armed in this super-lethal way.

Should the U.S. government take steps to curb emissions of greenhouse gas? If so, what steps? If not, why not?

There is no greater long-term danger to the world than the harmful effects of climate change spurred by greenhouse gas emissions. The Trump administration's hostility to the science demonstrating these dangers is deeply disturbing -- and almost as dangerous as climate change itself. Efforts to harness solar and wind energy should be greatly increased, support for coal should be curtailed (and coal miners either re-trained or subsidized for their economic loss), the development of non-fossil-fueled automobiles vastly increased, farming and cattle-ranching practices reformed to reduce the expulsion of methane gas into the atmosphere, and oil-drilling and pipeline construction carefully reconsidered to minimize their damaging consequences to the environment.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us.

I was once an amateur boxer. I am a great fan of music. I've been known to sing and play guitar at weddings and other social gatherings, with some degree of success and praise; and I have emceed other events, benefits, and galas, which I have greatly enjoyed doing, and hope those in attendance have enjoyed at least half as much. And I suspect that they have.

If you are an incumbent, tell us the most significant accomplishment of your current term.

Not applicable. I am not an incumbent.

Candidates for U.S. House (4th district)