Democratic candidate for U.S. House (14th district)
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?
I support deficit spending when necessary and also when we are positioned to spend in ways that spur economic growth and individual spending. Our country cannot continue supporting corporate welfare and fiscal policies that recycle money across the hands of the wealthy elite in our country. History has shown that such trickle down economics do not work well enough to justify continuing the practice. I support raising revenue by taxing repatriated earnings, limiting and in some cases eliminating corporate welfare, and we must close some tax loopholes like the capital gains loophole and deferred income from foreign corporations.
Can you identify any major federal expenditures or programs that you would eliminate?
I would eliminate funding for the border wall and limit corporate welfare. Also, as a proud Navy veteran I fully understand the immense costs that come with keeping our country safe. Nevertheless, I support decreasing parts of the Defense budget
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.
I am not willing to reduce future benefits, I think we should expand the benefits to include every U.S. citizen. Specifically, we must allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and we must increase the pool of insured populations. We must develop a way to ensure that the gap between economic growth and wage growth decreases before we talk about taking away programs that are the most vulnerable.
What if anything should be the federal government's role in helping Americans obtain health insurance coverage?
In the future, I support Medicare for All as a long-term, full solution to helping Americans receive affordable health insurance. Until that can happen, we first have to improve the ACA because insurance markets thrive on stability. To make ACA more stable we need to increase subsidies, allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, get younger people enrolled, and help insurance companies cope with the high costs associated with pre-existing conditions.
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?
The only people who are content with the fact that economic growth has steadily outpaced wage growth are the wealthy. In illinois' 14th Congressional district every single school district has at least doubled their low-income student population. These school districts have not seen their budgets double. In fact, the school districts have been asked to do more with less (like almost everybody in the United States outside of the top 1%). Our economic growth has only heightened the gap between the haves and the have-nots. My recipe for enhancing American prosperity is investing in people, education, and small businesses instead of continuing to support and subsidize large corporations.
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?
Immigration increases economic opportunities and production, raises wages, and improves revenue from taxes. I've been teaching in public schools long enough to have had undocumented students unable to continue their education after high school without protection. When we turn away immigrants, we lose a sizeable investment in our future.
- We need to enforce current laws and hold businesses accountable who take advantage of immigration laws and/or make use of undocumented workers illegally.
- We need to continue investing with our global partners and in the areas from which illegal immigrants largely stem.
- We must show compassion to those who are currently in our country who were brought here as minors, through no fault or decision of their own.
To that end, I support complete and indefinite protection of DACA individuals and the Dreamers.
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?
I believe economic and diplomatic sanctions are essential to solve any threat like North Korea. The United States has ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, we cannot afford another quagmire so I would be reluctant to commit to any military action. Our response to Kim Jong Un's regime cannot be unilateral given our Pacific allies proximity to North Korea. We need to continue to press our allies, including China to pressure North Korea with economic and diplomatic sanctions. I appreciate what our military is capable of, but as a proud Navy veteran, I understand too well everything that comes with a decision to use our military might.
ISIS is contained in Syria and Iraq but terrorism remains a threat. What are your priorities in keeping the country safe?
One thing that the ongoing War on Terror has proven is how essential intelligence sharing with our closest allies has been. One of our first priorities in keeping the country safe must be to reaffirm and strengthen our relationship with our close allies in order to continue reciprocal information that can help stop the spread of terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere abroad. Secondly, we need to continue to strengthen our military by investing in the Armed Forces from enlistment to post-service support. We are only as strong and the proud men and women in uniform. We must fully support them to ensure that our troops on the ground remain the strongest and most capable armed forces in the world.
Should the U.S. continue to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement with Iran?
Yes, the United States should continue to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement with Iran. Let's remember though, the nuclear agreement with Iran was just a starting point and we should continue to use diplomatic measures to see where the relationship with Iran goes and we need to pay close attention to the current protests in Iran.
What is your position on the continued presence of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan?
I believe that we need to continue to have a presence in Afghanistan.
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.
I am in favor of common sense gun control including universal background checks, banning sales to mentally ill, violent criminals, known or suspected terrorists. Balancing safety with the 2nd Amendment also means expanding mental health care too but most importantly, it means enforcing the laws that are already in place and closing real loopholes that exist. We'll never be able to guarantee complete safety from gun violence, but we must attempt to do what reasonable things we can to curb senseless, preventable gun violence.
Should the U.S. government take steps to curb emissions of greenhouse gas? If so, what steps? If not, why not?
We, as a nation, need to recommit to the Paris Climate Accord. Let's incentivize cities to be 100% reliable on clean energy, provide more subsidies for working class individuals to convert their homes to renewable energy, and move back to the fuel economy standards that the Obama administration put in place. These standards will spur innovation and help the environment and continue to drive our 21st century economy. Finally, we need to fully fund the Environmental Protection Agency so that it can fulfill its mission and help ensure a livable and beautiful world for future generations.
Tell us something about you that might surprise us.
Some people might be surprised to learn that Andy Richter is my brother. Growing up with somebody like Andy meant that my childhood was never dull. It is those memories growing up with Andy and my other family members that have driven much of my political philosophies today. I remember the good times, of course, but my world perspectives have been shaped largely from the struggles we witnessed firsthand growing up in a working class family rocked with, at times, economic struggles and complex health problems.
If you are an incumbent, tell us the most significant accomplishment of your current term.
Although I am not an incumbent, I am proud of my latest professional and personal accomplishments. Professionally, I am proud to continue teaching over 100 students every year the importance of history and civic awareness as well as the ability to critically discern information for themselves. In my students' eyes I see a renewed faith in the great institutions of our country and an unwavering hope for a brighter future. My wife and I are raising a wonderful son and daughter who continue to inspire us. I'm proud that we've raised them to ask questions and to always be curious to learn more. Some may see the time period and world in which we are currently living as a dangerous and scary place to raise kids. I'm proud that our children are growing up with an interest in their community and in the world around them. It is my children that give me the most optimism for our future.