The Issues

What is Common Ground?

It seems no one in Congress can find common ground between the parties.

Our nation’s unemployment and debt problems cry out for bipartisan cooperation. Instead we get gridlock and maneuvering for political advantage. Economists have argued that the political uncertainty resulting from Congress’s failure to legislate is one of the factors slowing economic growth.

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The Norquist pledge prevents progress

Grover Norquist, more than any one person, is responsible for Republican refusals to compromise on tax revenue to achieve spending cuts and deficit reduction agreements with Democrats. 40 of 47 Republicans in the Senate and 236 of 242 Republicans in the House have signed his pledge to never raise taxes and only close loopholes if used for further tax cuts.

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Big Banks – Too Dangerous to Permit

Richard Fisher-President of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank declared, "I believe that too-big-to-fail banks are too-dangerous-to-permit." He is not the only one saying this. As a congressman I would work to limit the size our largest financial institutions and restore Glass-Steagall type rules that separate banking and proprietary investing activities.

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Social Security

Defenders of “Social Security as it is” cite the fact that the Social Security Trust Fund has $2.8 trillion that can pay promised benefits for perhaps the next 37 years. By statute, that Trust Fund is held in U.S. treasury bonds. The government, of course, has already used those earlier surpluses. So every dollar of benefits that is not covered by workers’ FICA payments has to be borrowed by the government. Those FICA payments are just now beginning to fall short of covering promised benefits. We need to make adjustments to solve this impending problem.

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Deficits

On Dec. 3, 2010 the president’s Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission failed to approve its own proposal. The proposal combined tax base broadening and rate reductions like the 1986 Reagan tax reform. It proposed entitlement reforms. There was plenty for both parties not to like in the proposal. Democrats and Senate Republicans agreed to a compromise, saying at some point "we need to govern". House Republicans killed Simpson-Bowles.

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US Healthcare

The healthcare debate can be considered as two questions: "How do we pay for it?" and "Why does it cost so much?"

"How do we pay for it?" is the question we spend the most time on. "Why does it cost so much?" arises from the fact that we spend 50-100% more per person than other industrialized countries with no better health outcomes on average.

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Tax Reform

At the risk of oversimplifying, everyone knows what we need to do to address the deficit: We need to cut spending and reform the tax code. We know what we need to do – lawmakers just can’t get it done.

The Bowles-Simpson deficit commission modeled the framework for ending the tax code’s myriad loopholes, tax credits, and deductions while lowering tax rates – including corporate rates. This broadens the tax base, increases confidence and predictability in the tax code, reduces compliance costs, and is thereby stimulating to growth. What, if any, deductions and credits to keep would be the battle. Special interests would abound.

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The Farm Bill

The farm bill has finally become law. There is much good in the bill. However, the increases to crop insurance in what should be an austere budget environment are inappropriate.

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Minimum Wage

When international financiers met in Davos, Switzerland a couple of weeks ago, a panel was asked what they saw as some of the challenges, headwinds for the world’s economy. One headwind they identified was stagnant wages around the world. It is clear that Democrats and Republicans share common ground around their agreement that low wage earners need more income, and the world economy needs them to have more income. As a congressman, I would support a higher minimum wage……..but not enthusiastically. I would hope and work for higher income support with fewer negative side effects. But I would be committed to enacting some measures to get more income to low wage earners.

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“War on Poverty”

Too much of the discussion of the 50 years since LBJ’s “War on Poverty” has been fueled by our partisan divide instead of refocusing us around a common mission. Of course, it is healthy to reflect on what progress has or has not been made. But the issue is often framed as a false choice between fiscal responsibility and funding to help the poor. Our conversations should focus on what is working and what is not working.

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Abortion

Abortion continues to be a particularly divisive issue in our country. When a woman has an unwanted pregnancy, there is an unavoidable human dilemma: The woman cannot escape the effects of the pregnancy on her life and the baby is wholly dependent on the mother for life.

While pregnancy may be unwelcome news in such cases, an expectant mother continues to have options regarding how to continue in life, though they may be painful and even bleak. However, an unborn baby has but one option to continue its life. That is birth. I support legally protecting unborn life except in cases of rape, incest, underage pregnancy, and grave threats to the health of the mother.

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Immigration Reform

The United States is not the only country in the world that struggles with managing undocumented immigration. Boatloads of immigrants routinely attempt entrance into Europe over the Mediterranean Sea. Japan confronts undocumented immigration in the Asian Pacific. Migration is a universal and continuous human phenomenon. Our country needs an immigration system that works for America.

There are several immigration reforms that both parties support. That is common ground. We should pass those reforms now, to lay the groundwork for more wide ranging reforms later.

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Same-Sex Marriage

Since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, same sex marriage is less of a federal issue and more of an issue on the state level and, of course, in the courts. Few candidates address the issue on their websites. However, a few people have asked for my views so I will post a statement. We should all welcome the tone that Pope Francis has brought to this issue.

One of the reasons that passing same sex marriage in Illinois stalled several times was because of the efforts of a group of conservative Chicago Democrats. I would consider myself one of those Democrats who support traditional marriage.

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Climate Change

It would be entirely too arrogant for us to dismiss the possibility of what may be happening to our climate and do nothing. Foremost, we should focus on measures that continue technical efforts in energy efficiency

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