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Sara Dady

Democratic candidate for U.S. House (16th district)

Sara Dady

Sara Dady

Democratic candidate for U.S. House (16th district)

BA, Classical Studies, Luther College, Decorah IA JD, William Mitchell College of Law, St. Paul MN
Attorney, Partner, Dady & Hoffmann LLC
Past Political/Civic Experience

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?

The dollar amount of debt is less important than whether we have the ability to pay down the debt. The average American has about $137,000 in debt, but an income of under $60,000. American cost of living has increased 30% over the last 13 years, but incomes are not keeping pace, which indicates the average American will be unable to continue to pay down her/his debt without cutting expenses or increasing income.

We tend to think of government debt in the same terms as individuals but they are two different animals. To put the current U.S. debt in perspective, the U.S. national debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio is 75%, lower than it was following World War II when it was 112%. Japan has a debt to GDP ratio of over 200%, but enjoys strong credit terms due to both its strong economy and ability to continue paying on its debt. So the dollar amount, and even the debt to GDP ratio, is not a good measure of whether a country is spending beyond its means.

After WWII, the wealthiest Americans and corporations were taxed at a higher rate, we had strong labor unions bargaining for higher worker wages, and we spent heavily on education, health care and infrastructure. The weakening of unions, tax cuts for corporations and the highest individual bracket, increased spending on wars, and deregulation have caused wage stagnation, widened the wealth gap, and hindered our economic development and our ability to pay on our debt. The Republican tax bill continues these disastrous policies which will increase our debt by $1.4 trillion and widen the wealth gap.

Consequently, we must work harder to pass fair tax reform, increase minimum wage, strengthen collective bargaining rights, reform our immigration system to meet future labor demands, and invest in education, health care, infrastructure- all drivers of economic growth- which will ensure our ability to pay down our national debt. Unlike the average American, a country's capacity for economic growth is unlimited, provided we elect representatives committed to investing in everyone, not just the few.

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

The proposed border wall is an unnecessary waste of taxpayer dollars. U.S. immigration reached its peak in 2005 and as of 2014, and right now more Mexican immigrants are leaving the U.S. than coming. Border apprehensions are at the lowest level since 1979. The Department of Homeland Security estimates a border wall will cost $21.6 billion to build and additional millions to maintain each year. This money would be better spent on implementing universal health care and strengthening social security.

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 are examples of successful government programs. However, with the retirement of Baby-Boomers, stagnation of wages, and widening income inequality, these programs will face enormous pressures unless Congress acts.

All health care costs continue to spiral out of control. As an employer, my costs for health care increases annually anywhere from 17-20% for our employee plan. If we did not increase our portion of the employer paid premium, our employees' annual pay increases would be eaten up their increased premium costs. Employer sponsored health care is unsustainable. Not only do the costs inhibit employers expanding their business, these costs also inhibit employees from taking risks, like starting a small business, out of fear of losing their health insurance.

We need to transition to single payer health care system. It is cheaper, places competition where it should be - between doctors and hospitals - for patient care, and will make the U.S. better able to compete globally with all other first world nations that have a universal health care system. The failure of the U.S. to invest in a universal health care system not only increases our deficit but, more importantly, hinders our economic growth.

On July 27, 2004, I lost my mother because she did not have access to medical care when she needed it - she was uninsured and could not afford the MRI she needed - the MRI that could have diagnosed her with the aneurysm that killed her. In the United States of America, no one should ever lose a loved one because they do not have access to medical care. I oppose any cuts in benefits to Medicare or Medicaid.

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

As a Democrat, I know we have a responsibility to invest in our greatest asset - our people. Just as we invest in public education, public safety and public transportation, we need to invest in public health care for our domestic, economic security and growth.

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?

No. Wage growth isn't slow, it has been essentially stagnant for the last 30 years. The Republican view that tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, coupled with increased spending on defense, are sound policy has been proven time and again as harmful to our economic growth. We need to invest in public education and vocational training programs for a career ready workforce, make college affordable, provide universal health care which will encourage small business growth, increase minimum wage and strengthen collective bargaining rights. We need to close the wealth gap by making sure everyone pays their fair share in taxes, invest in public education and vocational training programs for a career ready workforce, make college affordable, provide universal health care to encourage small business growth, increase minimum wage and strengthen collective bargaining rights. As Senator Wellstone said, "We all do better when we all do better."

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?

There are approximately 11 million undocumented people who are fully integrated into our communities and workforce. We cannot deport millions of people in any reasonable amount of time or for any reasonable cost- cost in taxpayer dollars or costs to families and the communities where they are fully integrated. These individuals did not have a lawful way to come to the U.S. to begin with and are now taxpayers, business owners, family members of U.S. citizens - and should be afforded the opportunity to apply for legal status.

Where is there is no law, we need a law. Comprehensive immigration reform that provides a means for people to apply for lawful status must include a measure that ties visa availability to actual labor and family unity demands.

The DREAM Act of 2017 has bipartisan support, as it did in 2013 when it would have passed had then-Speaker Boehner brought it to the House floor for a vote, and should be passed before March 6, 2018 when DACA protections begin expiring. Illinois has 32,000 DACAs contributing $2.3 billion in state gross domestic product and cannot afford to lose a single taxpayer. The best option is for Congress to pass a legalization program that would allow not just DACAs but the vast majority of undocumented taxpayers apply for lawful permanent residency.

Given the Republican majority's active resistance to common sense legalization and fair reform of our immigration system, this option is unlikely to happen prior to March 2018. All 34 Republican Congressmen who signed the letter in December 2017 calling for a 'DACA fix' by the end of 2017 but who have failed to co-sponsor the DREAM Act or take any action to bring it to the floor for a vote must be held accountable for empty gestures. Rep. Kinzinger signed this letter but has refused to co-sponsor the DREAM Act and has now put 1,800 DACAs in the 16th District and their U.S. citizen family members at risk of separation by deportation, loss of family financial stability and a negative effect on,state and federal revenues.

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?

Former Representative John Dingell is correct that war is the failure of diplomacy. We have elected a President who is actively seeking to escalate the possibility of nuclear conflict with North Korea, not only by tweet, but by extensive cuts to the U.S. Department of State - our diplomacy corps. The anticipated $10 billion budget cuts, elimination of staff, and hiring freeze all combine to gut the only federal agency that is tasked with preventing war. Instead of increasing the Department of Defense budget by $54 billion, Congress should invest our diplomats to help us avoid any future military conflict. We need to prioritize strengthening our relationships with allies and trading partners to de-escalate tensions with North Korea.

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

The domestic security of the U.S. is a central priority. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is tasked with and does a fine job of protecting the U.S. from terrorism. The terrorist related shootings over the last years have been perpetrated by individuals radicalized inside the U.S., not from abroad.

Our national security concerns should always be balanced with our individual rights to be free from unnecessary government intrusion and our humanitarian responsibilities. There are more displaced people in the world today as a result of conflicts like the war in Syria, than at any other time in history. The U.S. has a moral responsibility to join our allies in resettling people who have been victims of and who are fleeing from terrorist acts.

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

Yes. Diplomacy only works if we have credibility by keeping our word. It is critical that we remain consistent as much as possible in our foreign policy from one administration to another.

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

We need to begin transitioning from a military operation to a rebuilding effort in Afghanistan which will require extensive State Department resources and leadership.

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.

When our schools are forced to run active shooter drills with the same frequency as tornado drills, we falsely teach our children that mass shootings are as unpreventable as a natural disaster. After an active shooter drill, my then 10-year daughter came home to tell me, as if it were normal, that her class would be the first to die because her classroom didn't have a door. As a mother, I am horrified that our children have the perception that gun violence is inevitable because Congress refuses to take any action to prevent it.

My representative, Adam Kinzinger, announced he is "leading the way" on preventing gun violence by asking the ATF to reevaluate its position on 'bump stocks', a legal device that allows a semi-automatic weapon to mimic a fully automatic. Mr. Kinzinger appears to misunderstand both the term 'lead' and the powers of the office granted to him by the constituents of the 16th Congressional District. Sending a letter to a federal agency is a good way to appear to be doing something while doing nothing. That is not leadership.

After the Las Vegas massacre, where bullets rained down on innocent concert goers, it is more urgent than ever for Congress to take legislative action to protect the public from preventable gun violence. I am calling on Representative Kinzinger to not just send a letter to the ATF, but to use the power of his position to pass legislation that will reinstate the assault weapons ban, close loopholes that legally allow guns to be converted into weapons of mass destruction, and require universal background checks for both private and online weapon purchases. It is also worth noting that funding for the ATF has remained flat since 1972 even though there are now over 300 million guns in the U.S. We need a representative who will stand up to the gun lobby, someone who is committed to responsible and common sense legislation to prevent gun violence.

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

We have a responsibility to trust our scientists who agree that climate change is occurring due to human produced carbon emissions, and Congress must take action to curb the effects. We need to affirm our commitment to our friends and allies and resume our leadership role by re-joining the Paris Climate Agreement. Congress needs to keep EPA regulations in place to reduce U.S. carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants and boost auto emissions standards. If the EPA is unable to act, then Congress has a responsibility to legislate on these standards and invest in renewable energies that reduce our carbon emissions.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us.

I am a third generation 4-Her who was a 4-H International Youth Exchange Representative to Greece in 1996.

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


Candidates for U.S. House (16th district)