Position sought: U.S. Representative, 6th Congressional District
Political party: Democratic
E-mail address: email@example.com
Phone: 847-277-0904, cell: 312-659-1325
Address: P.O. Box 3161, Barrington IL 60010
Campaign committee: Coolidge for Congress
Age: 52, June 4, 1959
Family: Stepson Terric Stephens, his wife, Alana, and their son, Darren.
Education: B.A. in Government, Harvard University, cum laude in general studies, 1981; M.S. in Accounting, New York University, 1983 - received award as top student
Occupation: CPA, retired
Previous Elected or Appointed Offices: None
Is there any additional experience you believe qualifies you for the position?
As an experienced CPA and former partner with one of the world’s largest accounting firms, I have worked with both multinational corporations and small businesses. I can delve into the numbers behind proposed legislation and ensure that what we pass in Congress benefits the American people as a whole. I am qualified to understand our overly-complicated tax code and work to simplify and make it fairer for everyone.
I am also a passionate environmentalist. I hold board positions on several prominent environmental organizations and have worked to preserve wild lands and animals for future generations. From this experience, I have learned that we can protect the environment and create good jobs at the same time. In fact, whole new industries are emerging already as businesses invest in the green technologies of the future. Congress can help America become a leader in clean energy, significantly reducing our dependence on oil and other polluting energy sources, by eliminating oil and gas subsidies and creating incentives for investment in green technology.
All of the candidates in this race, including me, are committed progressives but I believe that I would bring the most relevant experience to Congress. I have managed large groups of people, worked all over the world, negotiated at a high level with clients and colleagues and worked collaboratively to solve complex problems. We need much more of that in Congress these days.
What would your priorities be if elected to this office?
I began my campaign entirely focused on economic issues. It is beyond question that we need to continue to strengthen the economy and help businesses create jobs. I believe we can put many more people to work through investments in infrastructure upgrades to our crumbling roads, bridges and schools. In addition, in order to rebuild a strong America, we need to invest in new technologies like high-speed rail and environmentally-sound energy. The money these jobs will put back in the economy with help give businesses the confidence they need to expand and create more jobs.
We also need to protect Social Security and Medicare from those who would destroy them or turn them into voucher programs. I believe both programs are fundamentally sound but could be tweaked if necessary to ensure their long-term viability. For instance, we could raise the cap on the top income subject to Social Security, currently $110,100. Senator Durbin also suggested that we could raise the Social Security retirement age by only one year over the next 40 years and make the system solvent for the foreseeable future.
We also need a much fairer tax policy where the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes. The wealthy themselves also believe that – as many as 68 percent of high earners think they need to pay more in order to contribute fully to our country’s recovery. In order to make the investments we need to create jobs and reduce the deficit, the Bush tax cuts for people who earn more than $250,000 should be allowed to expire at the end of 2012. We should also consider taxing those with incomes above $1 million at 30 percent, a plan the President calls the “Buffett Rule,” an idea that came from Warren Buffett, the nation’s second wealthiest man.
But the events of the past few weeks have given me something new to fight for. The very existence of women’s reproductive rights seems threatened by this Congress’s notion of “religious freedom” and its exclusion of women’s voices from the table. “Where are the women?” Representative Carolyn Maloney asked at a hearing on reproductive rights. Everyone, of course, has the right to practice their own religion. However, when it comes to business relationships, such as those between employees, employers and insurance companies, the needs of employees should be given at least equal weight to the beliefs of employers. This is yet another area where Congress’s apparent obsession with rolling back settled law has made me aware that we need to defend the victories of the past, not just women’s reproductive rights, but also protections for our air and water and voting rights for all people.
What sets you apart from the other candidates?
Official name of your campaign commitee (if you have one).
Coolidge for Congress
How do you define a small business and what can government do to support them that isn't being done?
The way we define a small business is important because many government opportunities, like federal contracts and incentives, are targeted toward small businesses. In some cases, the Small Business Administration finds that a business qualifies for government contracts and incentives targeted at small businesses if it has as many as 1,500 employees or earns as much as $21 million annually. I believe that government has a role in helping small businesses of all sizes, but should concentrate particularly on those on the “mom and pop” end of the spectrum. These businesses, those with 20-499 employees create more than 30 percent of all new jobs. But these business owners are less likely to apply for the government assistance they are qualified for and less likely to win government contracts. As Congresswoman, I would work to simplify the tax code, particularly as it applies to smaller businesses and create a strong outreach effort to businesses in the 6th district to ensure that they can profit from any assistance that is available to them.
What steps would you take to reduce the federal deficit? If it includes tax increases, what taxes? And if it involves federal service cuts, which?
The deficit got out of control when the Bush Administration started two ill-advised and expensive wars and didn't ask taxpayers to pay for them. Instead, tax cuts were given out. Now that the war in Iraq is over, spending on military contractors should drop precipitously. There is a likelihood, though, that that won’t happen automatically, since those companies will lobby hard to keep the gravy flowing. We in Congress must work to redeploy the resources currently devoted to the military to other uses.
In a very real sense, concentrating on the deficit gives us a false notion of what our priorities should be. In fact, once we get the economy rolling again, more people and businesses will be paying taxes on higher incomes and so the deficit will automatically fall. We do need to look for places to cut spending, though, because there is still a lot of waste in government spending. For instance, we can easily allow the Medicare system to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies, as Medicaid now can, which will greatly reduce the cost of Medicare, now estimated at $480 billion per year. And we should also work to stop the widespread fraud in the system. The GAO estimates that $48 billion dollars of Medicare reimbursements went to “improper payments” in 2010, amounting to 10 percent of the total Medicare payout in the year!
We in Congress should also ensure that wealthy people support our country at least as much as working people do. For instance, private equity firm owners, who are allowed by law to recognize all their income as capital gains, are costing the treasury multi-millions of dollars in lost revenues. Everyone should pay their fair share of taxes – including the hundreds of profitable corporations who pay no income taxes. Getting them to support essential government services will do a lot to get the deficit under control.
What should the government do to create more jobs?
We in Congress can help the economy create more jobs both directly and indirectly. Our infrastructure – our roads, bridges, schools and other public works – are actually becoming unsafe because of inadequate federal investment in maintenance. The simplest way of creating jobs is to make these repairs a priority and hire people to do them. And we should be investing in the technology of tomorrow as well, such as high-speed rail, solar energy and wind power. Expanding these private-public partnerships also puts people to work immediately and puts money into the economy where it can support American businesses.
In addition, I believe a focus by Congress on encouraging innovation can improve our economy over the long term by creating “the next big thing,” that has made us the most competitive country in world markets for the past 100 years. Unfortunately, for at least the past ten years we’ve been losing ground to hungrier competitors overseas. But Congress can help U.S. businesses regain the leading edge and motivate them to create good jobs on our shores. For example, we can make the R&D (research and development) tax credit permanent to spur American companies to develop new technologies. A study by Ernst & Young shows doing this alone will add 130,000 jobs to the U.S. economy just in the short-term.
Should there be repercussions for legislators who don’t read bills, and how do you enforce that?
Legislators should be aware of everything that is written into a bill. The fact that not enough legislators carefully read bills they vote on allows provisions with significant implications to be inserted in bills without anyone really noticing. Often legislation will mysteriously expand after coming out of committee and before a vote. In 2009, in fact, the Democratic caucus hired speed readers to review the huge number of amendments proposed by Republicans in an effort to slow down energy legislation. Ideally, members of Congress should read every word of any legislation they vote on and that would be my inclination. I would read as much as humanly possible just out of my natural interest in delving into details. As a CPA, I understand how important details are. Even one word can entirely change the intent and the effects of legislation. Unfortunately, many bills balloon to more than a thousand pages of detail, making it impossible for any member of Congress to understand all the ramifications, despite their best intentions. My recommendation would be to require legislation to be written in plain English and not be changed after it emerges from committee except by formal amendment.
Should the “No Child Left Behind Act” set different measurements than now for economically disadvantaged students, special education students, students learning English as a second language, etc?
Absolutely. It makes no sense to force students who are unable to cope with a standardized test, such as the mentally disabled and those without English, to take a test aimed at measuring achievement of average students. It never made sense to include those classes of students in the evaluation of schools and helped undermine the legitimacy of NCLB. I would suggest that we move beyond this law as we go forward. A good idea that is gaining traction is called “common core standards,” a set of agreed-upon expectations directly based on what colleges and employers expect students to know in order to succeed. States which competed for Race to the Top funds were required to adopt the standards. This seems to have a great deal of potential to help students become the creative and problem-solving adults we’ll need for the US to remain the world’s leading innovator.
Should federal immigration policy be changed, and if so how?
We should start a discussion of the immigration problem by admitting that people are going to be drawn to the promise of higher-paying jobs and will come here whether we want them to or not. A good place to start on a more realistic immigration policy would be to come up with a new visa system to allow people to enter the country without cheating, along the lines of the H-2A agricultural visa program that allows employers to recruit immigrants for back-breaking planting and harvesting jobs that citizens don’t want. We should also talk about easing the green card process that currently allows only about 5,000 low-skilled workers to enter the path to citizenship every year, although more than a million are waiting for their applications to be approved. Hard-working immigrants who sincerely want to be American citizens or legal residents should be given a chance, just like our ancestors were.
We should also pass the DREAM Act which allows the children of illegal immigrants, who came here through no fault of their own, to have access to college education. I think we can get a better handle on immigration by bringing illegals out of the shadows and converting them into contributing members of society. At the same time, we should immediately move to deport those who are convicted of crimes in this country. I am very interested in working on this issue once we get our economy moving again.
What are your philosophies on social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion, and what should government’s role in those issues?
Decisions on these matters should be made by the individuals involved, without government interference. I don’t understand how Republicans want to remove government from every aspect of our lives except our bedrooms. Abortions should be safe, legal and extremely rare and the decision to have one should be between the woman and her doctor. And I believe that marriage is an institution that stabilizes relationships and should be encouraged. No church, of course, should be required to perform a same-sex marriage, but why deny anyone a chance at lasting happiness through civil marriage?
Are there certain things you think could be reasonably taxed (fuel, entertainment, luxuries, etc.)?
What should minimum wage be and through what method should increases be determined?
The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25, a rate which has now gone for the longest period in its history (since 2009) without an increase. Congress sets the federal minimum wage which applies to government workers and certain workers engaged in interstate commerce. States must also set their minimum wages to be at least as high as the federal minimum wage. The minimum wage was originally established to ensure that workers would be able to afford housing, even though it was never intended, by itself, to raise workers above the poverty line. Currently, federal minimum wage-earners working full time take home about $1,200 a month, or $2,400 if two in the family work. That’s hardly enough to get into even the cheapest housing in most urban areas where minimum wage jobs are concentrated, especially when security deposits are taken into account. In fact, New York City recently went through an effort to raise its minimum wage to $10 per hour in order to make sure that work was rewarded with at least the chance for decent housing.
This whole debate would be simplified if the minimum wage could be increased to 90 percent of the poverty line, where it was in the 1960s, a period of prosperity, and increased automatically when CPI increased. Businesses would protest, of course, that they couldn’t afford it and some low-skilled workers would be laid off, at least temporarily. But if history is any indication, businesses would actually benefit from increases in the minimum wage because more people would be able to afford to buy their products if they are not spending a majority of their income on the basics like housing and food. The proper amount for the minimum wage must balance the desires of both workers and employers, but it reached its peak in the late 1960’s in terms of purchasing power, an economic boom period. Even Henry Ford, a noted skinflint, paid his workers enough to be able to afford the cars they were making. Ford understood that you cannot have a prosperous economy, with people spending money at American businesses, if too few people have enough money to spend.
How would you find a better balance between relieving the tax burden and funding services?
Currently, people who work for a living pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than those who invest. We must make the tax code fairer and simpler so that everyone pays their fair share. As a CPA, I have had a more intimate exposure to the Federal tax code than most people and it is not a pretty sight. Over the years, incentives for numerous behaviors and businesses interests have expanded the tax code by tens of thousands of pages and made it impossible for ordinary people to understand. We need to simplify the tax code and reduce the loopholes that allowed some thirty Fortune 500 corporations last year, like Verizon, to pay absolutely nothing in taxes on their incomes and as many as 55 percent of all businesses to pay no taxes at least once in the last seven years. An easy fix would be to eliminate the oil and gas subsidies and other incentives won by lobbyists. President Obama has also proposed that the tax rate on most businesses be reduced to 28 percent but that many loopholes be closed to ensure that all of them pay something in income taxes. I agree with this suggestion.
Bi-partisanship is given a lot of lip service by congressional members. Tell us how you would work with members of the opposite party?
I believe that I am in a unique position to be a leader in the effort to make Congress more bi-partisan and ease the current gridlock. As a CPA, I was trained to be a problem solver, not an advocate for a particular ideological position. I have a lot of experience negotiating with clients on financial matters and resolving disagreements through dialogue and compromise. That is not to say that I would never take a firm position, but it would be based on an understanding of the facts and the needs of 6th District residents.
We need more people in Congress willing to work together to solve problems. I believe that “sticking points” only become sticky when people stop listening to the other side. We should be willing to consider all options to produce results. I believe you can reach across the aisle to develop relationships with people who believe that finding solutions to our pressing problems should be our top priority. Reasonable people can craft sensible solutions to complex problems when we focus on the needs of the people we serve.
Do you think some or all of the health care bill should be repealed? What can the government do to provide more access and affordability to health care?
No, it should not be repealed unless it is replaced by something that contains a public option and covers more uninsured people. In other words, my only objection is that the Affordable Health Care Act did not go far enough. I believe in universal coverage to make sure everyone has access to affordable health care. The main change I would support would be to bring it into full force earlier than 2014. I believe that once people experience the benefits of the Act, most of them will support it. Already, more people are covered by insurance, including children with preexisting conditions. And community health clinics, supported by the Act, are becoming more common, which can only lower the overall cost of health care by ensuring that people are seen by a doctor for preventative care and care for chronic conditions rather than having to wait until they are so sick they end up in an emergency room asking for help they cannot afford, simply because they do not have insurance.
What should government’s role be in private sector finance?
Government has a significant role to play in preventing future economic meltdowns by regulating the risk that financial institutions can take on in their trading. There are also benefits beyond simple prevention of disaster to government interest in private financing. Increasingly, governments are turning to private-public partnerships in order to fund worthy projects that neither could accomplish separately. As an example, the UN’s effort to combat rainforest deforestation in developing countries (REDD) may be partially funded by private investors. Government involvement in projects such as this has several benefits, including making these investments less risky by putting the credit of government behind the project.
Who are your political heroes and why?
Two of my political heroes are President Teddy Roosevelt and Senator Ted Kennedy. Both were the forces behind major legislation which continues to affect us today. With the stroke of a pen, Roosevelt set aside more than 150 million acres of forests as wildernesses. He also created 50 wildlife refuges beginning with the beautiful Pelican Island in Florida. He is considered a role model for environmentalists because he realized, before most people, that the power of government could be harnessed to protect the environment.
I also admire the late Senator Kennedy, who almost obsessively shepherded the affordable health care bill to passage. Along the way he championed extending Medicare coverage to everyone, something I think is feasible and perhaps necessary to make sure everyone is covered. He also was almost single-handedly responsible for the 1964 passage of the Civil Rights Act. He was able to persuade enough Republicans to break a filibuster against it that it passed.
Following the troop withdrawal from Iraq, what do you think is the future of the war on terror?
I hope we as a nation have discovered we cannot win the war on terror militarily. The future of the war on terror must deploy both sanctions and diplomacy against nations that harbor terrorists, like Pakistan. Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put it perfectly: “To truly defeat a terror network, we need to attack its finances, recruitment, and safe havens. We need to take on its ideology, counter its propaganda, and diminish its appeal, so that every community recognizes the threat that extremists pose to them and they then deny them protection and support. And we need effective international partners in government and civil society who can extend this effort to all the places where terrorists operate.” This is the approach we should take to ensure that we get control of terrorists and persuade people to ignore their enticements.
Have you ever been convicted of a felony, sued successfully or had a restraining order placed against you? If so, please explain.
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