Running for: Congress 14th District (Republican)
Political/civic background: Currently serve as State Senator in the 25 th District
Occupation: Owner and Chairman of Oberweis Dairy which is now run by my son
Education: graduated from Marmion Military Academy, received a B.A. from the
University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and an M.B.A. from the University of
Chicago Graduate School of Business.
Campaign website: www.jim2020.com
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent nominees for the U.S. House of Representatives a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing their districts, the state of Illinois and the country. Jim Oberweis submitted the following responses:
Are you satisfied with the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? Why or why not? What grade would you give President Donald Trump for his handling of the pandemic, and why?
The most frustrating part of confronting COVID-19 has been the politicization of this virus. From the very beginning of the pandemic we lost valuable time in terms of responding to the virus because of the misinformation coming out of China. Had China been more forthcoming with good information about the disease, we could have been more informed in terms of how to respond.
Our initial view of the virus was shaped by the information coming from China. At the beginning of the outbreak, health officials told the public that there was nothing to fear about the virus. Dr. Fauci did numerous interviews in which he said COVID-19 was not something Americans should be concerned about.
Once the virus took hold in our country, it became as much a political story as it was a medical story. Democrat governors took to the podium every day to blast the President and then the President spent a great deal of time in his press briefings defending his decisions and pushing back against the political attacks.
The COVID-19 pandemic has cost the lives of too many Americans and our response to the virus has cost millions of Americans their livelihood. Entire industries have come to a complete halt because of this disease. If ever there was a time for America to be united – it should be a time like this.
Unfortunately, because of the politicization of this disease, we are more divided than ever. Are there things the federal government could have and should have done better in responding to this virus? Absolutely. We should, when the pandemic is behind us, thoroughly examine what actions were successful and what actions need improvement. This should not be done as a finger pointing exercise but rather as a good faith effort to learn how to better prepare for future pandemics. I give the President a B+ for his handling of the pandemic. I think the two negatives in his response were the initial issues with testing, which his administration did eventually get resolved, and the delay in encouraging everyone to wear a mask when indoors and in close contact with other people.
What should the federal government do to stimulate economic recovery from the pandemic shutdowns?
The best thing the federal government can do to help the economy is to encourage state governments to stay the course and keep moving ahead with reopening the economy. Bailouts and stimulus bills are only temporary solutions at best. The long-term solution is reigniting the full power of the American economy.
Obviously, the continued reopening of the economy and our schools must be handled with care and public health is of the utmost importance, but a full economic recovery will not happen as long as major parts of our economy remain locked down. The best thing the federal government can do is to work with state governments to continue the reopening efforts. One size does not fit all. Continued assistance with testing and being ready to respond should hotspots create bed shortages and other public heath assistance will allow states to safely reopen. I believe we need to move to the tests that will give results in a matter of minutes rather than days, even if they are less accurate. They are also very inexpensive and can be repeated to improve accuracy.
3. In the wake of the death of George Floyd, President Trump signed an executive order on police reform. It calls for the creation of a database to track police officers with multiple instances of misconduct, federal grants to encourage police departments to meet higher certification standards on use of force, and the greater involvement of social workers and mental health professionals when the police respond to calls dealing with homelessness, mental illness and addiction. The order also calls for police departments to ban the use of chokeholds except when an officer feels his or her life is endangered. Will this be enough to address concerns about police brutality? If not, what other steps should be taken?
It certainly is a good first start. I have filed legislation in Illinois to require licensing of police officers. This legislation was first filed about 10 years ago by former State Senator and former sheriff Tim Bivins. Most police departments are supportive of this effort because it will allow them to get rid of the officer who abuses his power. Today the police union will defend those individuals and frequently prevent them from being fired. If they are fired, they frequently get rehired in a different jurisdiction. Licensing would help prevent that. Perhaps there are other steps that can be taken to enhance training for police officers and other reforms that can be implemented as well.
Also in the wake of the death of George Floyd, the House passed the Justice in Policing Act, which would ban police departments from using chokeholds, develop a national standard for use of force, limit the transfer of military weapons to police departments, define lynching as a federal hate crime, establish a national police misconduct registry, and limit qualified immunity, which protects officers from lawsuits over alleged misconduct. Do you support this legislation? Why or why not? What other steps, if any, would you like to see the federal government take on police reform?
There are elements such as making lynching a federal crime that I can support but many of the ideas contained in this legislation greatly undermine the ability of our police to do their jobs. Creating a national standard for the use of force will likely lead to a bureaucratic nightmare for police departments and ultimately put the lives of police officers in danger. Every situation is different and trying to put one size fits all solutions to police encounters is not practical.
The problem is not the type of equipment officers use or the types of maneuvers they employ to handle hostiles – the problem is training. We need to make better training a high priority for our police officers. We need better initial training and constant continuing training for officers. The federal government can assist with this through grant programs and through providing well-qualified instructors to assist local police departments. Solid training will help officers make better decisions when they are in tough circumstances.
The vast majority of our police are excellent, fair minded individuals who risk their lives every day to keep us safe. We certainly should not judge the majority by the unacceptable actions of a few.
What’s your view on President Trump’s decision to commute the sentence of Roger Stone?
The President did not fully pardon Stone. He commuted his sentence and he did so because of Stone’s age. The decision to do this was the President’s alone and he must live with the political implications of that decision. Personally, I think it was a bad idea.
Jim Oberweis submitted most of the following responses before the March primary:
Please tell us about your civic work in the last two years, whether it’s legislation you have sponsored or other paid or volunteer work to improve your community.
I currently serve as the President of the Oberweis Foundation. I also serve on the advisory board for ProjectHood and served eight years on the Northern Illinois Food Bank Board.
What are your views on the decision by the U.S. House to impeach President Donald Trump? Has the impeachment process been fair or not? How so? If, in your view, the president should not have been impeached, would you have supported censure? Please explain.
While the House Impeachment Inquiry failed to come anywhere near the bar for impeaching a duly elected President - Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff and Lauren Underwood are wasting time and taxpayer dollars, doing nothing but playing politics.
We the people elect the President, not Pelosi and Underwood. Impeaching President Trump is nothing but partisan politics at its worst and it’s wrong. It has been nothing but a waste of time and taxpayer dollars.
The time wasted by Congresswoman Underwood could have been better spent helping to protect and create jobs, cover pre-existing medical conditions, lower drug prices, solve our border security problem and help fix our failing roads and bridges.”
How would you reduce the federal budget deficit, which now stands at about $1 trillion for 2020? What changes, if any, to the U.S. tax code do you support and why?
There is no question spending is out of control. The debt we are creating is stealing the economic future for our kids and grandkids and it is wrong. I believe we need to return to a true budget process. No more continuing resolutions that get rammed through at the last minute and are negotiated in secret. The recent CR was more than 2,300 pages. Very few read it. No one truly knows what is in it. The current budget process needs to change.
Specifically, we need to:
Substantially reduce discretionary spending;
Reduce entitlement spending through structural market-based reforms;
Enact a federal Balanced Budget Amendment;
Give the President the ability to use the line item to veto appropriations bills like most governors can do in the states.
When it comes to taxes, I support simplifying the tax code to a flat tax. Let’s get rid of deductions and lower the tax rate by establishing a flat, easy to understand tax rate that exempts low income earners and eliminates the tremendous cost and time it takes to prepare tax returns every year.
What changes would you like to see made to our nation’s healthcare system? Would you shore up the Affordable Care Act or work to repeal it in full? What’s your view on Medicare for All? And what should be done, if anything, to bring down the cost of prescription drugs?
We need to increase price transparency of healthcare services. Consumers have no idea what the actual cost of their healthcare is. We also need to encourage more competition in the open market. Another way to lower costs would be to allow healthcare plans to follow the individual rather than tie these plans to employment. Portability of healthcare could help substantially lower costs.
I support repealing the ACA but I am not in favor of ending coverage for pre-existing conditions. I believe Medicaid for All eliminates choice, would be enormously expensive, and is an unworkable, unrealistic solution.
We can make prescription drugs more affordable by allowing the reimportation of US made prescription drugs from countries like Canada. This has been something I have advocated for the last 12 years. I am glad to see President Trump adopt this as part of his prescription drug plan.
The Trump administration is awaiting a ruling from the Supreme Court as to whether it can end the DACA program — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — which shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation. Do you support or oppose DACA and why? Should a path to citizenship be created for the so-called DREAMers? Please explain.
I am strong proponent of immigration and a fierce opponent of illegal immigration. As a matter of policy, we should not hold children responsible for the actions of their parents. I believe there should be a reasonable path to citizenship for children brought illegally into the United States at a young age who have now grown up here, but I would not provide a path to citizenship for their parents who broke the law.
Those parents could be allowed to stay but not have a path to citizenship or rights to taxpayer provided services. Trump’s attempt to end DACA is a great negotiating tool to bring true reform, which in my mind involves a compromise for dreamers while providing strong border security and ending birth right citizenship for children born to non-citizens here illegally. I believe this is a reasonable compromise and should be the approach we take to bring about meaningful immigration reform.
What are the three most important issues in your district on which the federal government can and should act?
The three most important issues I hear about on the campaign trail are taxes, healthcare and jobs. One of the reasons I am running for Congress is the fact that I do not want Illinois to become the example for the rest of the nation. Illinois is an example of the tremendous damage out-of-control spending and high taxes can do. We have thousands of people leaving Illinois each year because of the high taxes and outrageous spending. Illinois should serve as a reminder that sound fiscal policies and fair – not punitive – taxation is the best way to improve our economy.
People want access to affordable, quality healthcare. There are free market solutions that will enable us to achieve these goals. We can lower costs and increase access while protecting pre-existing conditions.
Allowing more competition, increasing price transparency and allowing portability of healthcare coverage are just some of the ways we can improve healthcare.
Finally, when it comes to jobs, I have been a job creator for decades. I have built and run two successful businesses. I have an MBA from the University of Chicago. I understand economics and I have created thousands of jobs in the last 20 years.
What is the biggest difference between you and your opponent(s)?
I have lived in this district my entire life. I live here. I pay taxes here. I am proud to call the 14th District my home. I am a parent and a grandparent. Unlike my opponent, I have extensive experience in the private sector, and I have a proven track record of job creation. In addition, I have served 7 years in the Illinois Senate and currently serve as the Minority Whip. I know how to work across the aisle to get things done.
My opponent is one of the most partisan legislators in Congress. She does not seem interested in working with Republicans on much of anything and has voted with Nancy Pelosi 100% of the time this year.
I will be a leader for the whole district - Democrats and Republicans. I will work with Democrats just as I did with the legislation to increase the speed limit on Interstate Highways from 65 mph to 70 mph.
Finally, residents of the 14th District know exactly who I am and where I stand. My opponent told the City Club of Chicago that it was probably in her best interest not to talk about presidential candidates in the Democrat party. She recognizes that the 14th Congressional District is not any where near as radical as so many in her party (Underwood included) seem to be. Underwood cannot be honest with her constituents about her positions on the issues because she knows they are not in line with the majority of people in the 14th. I can and will be honest with the people of this district because that kind of honesty and integrity is what voters need and deserve.
What action should Congress take, if any, to reduce gun violence?
There are five different databases collecting background information and right now these databases are not connected. We need to have a system in place that warehouses this information in a central location.
If we want to get serious about stopping gun violence – we must get these different databases connected. As a member of Congress, I will advocate for a more streamlined system of collecting information and advocate for law enforcement agencies to work together to better enforce the gun laws we already have.
Is climate change real? Is it significantly man-made? Is it a threat to humankind? What if anything should Congress and the federal government do about it?
Yes, I believe climate change is real. However, I believe solutions like the Green New Deal are a boondoggle that will bankrupt us and are not realistic solutions. We all must make efforts toward conservation but banning airplanes, for example, is not a part of the solution. The transition from fossil fuels to renewables should be the goal but it is not something that is going to happen overnight. We must work toward these goals with the objective of maintaining accessibility to affordable energy. This will take time and it cannot not be rushed or forced.
Rushing this will lead to price increases that will hurt working families and less privileged countries. We must also continue technological advances to help solve parts of this problem.
What should Congress do to ensure the solvency of Social Security and Medicare?
There really are only three solutions. One is to increase the retirement age. The second is to raise social security tax rates. The third is to increase the base that is taxed. We may need some combination of all three but the most important is to consider an increase in the normal retirement age. When social security started, the life expectancy was about 63 so payments were not expected to be made for very long. A significant increase in life expectancy to about 80 (which is wonderful) is making those payments unsustainable. We need to increase incentives for individual retirement savings like 401k plans to supplement social security payments and to provide more flexibility for people considering retirement.
What should Congress do to address the student loan crisis? Would you use the word “crisis”?
There is no question that the cost of college tuition is out of control. Young people are being strapped with tremendous debt that takes them many years to repay.
We need to reduce administrative costs at our universities. Additionally, universities need to eliminate programs that are not attracting students and do a better job of managing themselves. There are universities that sometimes have programs with more faculty than students. This is not acceptable.
Finally, we need to do more to promote community colleges and trade schools as viable choices for students.
What should our nation’s relationship be with Russia?
War is terrible. We must solve our differences amicably. Russia is still a nuclear threat, and we have to find common ground and peacefully work out our differences.
Personally, I view Iran and North Korea as greater threats to our security than I do Russia. The bottom line is we cannot continue to be the world’s policeman. It is not our job to solve every problem. Our focus when it comes to foreign policy should be the security of our nation.
What’s your view on the use of tariffs in international commerce? Has President Trump imposed tariffs properly and effectively? Please explain.
I am generally opposed to tariffs. I believe in free market economics. But I will say that President Trump has effectively used tariffs to win important concessions with China, Mexico and Canada. As long as we are getting results, I will support the President’s trade deals.
Does the United States have a responsibility to promote democracy in other countries? Please explain.
One of the big issues when it comes to immigration is that people want to come to the United States to escape poor conditions in their native countries. We cannot accept every person who wants to come to the United States. It is important for these countries to become free nations and to develop a strong economy of their own. It is in our best interests to help other countries embrace capitalism and a democratic form of government.
What should Congress do to limit the proliferation of nuclear arms?
I think the best way for us to do this is to use economic sanctions and to get other nations involved in putting pressure on countries like Iran to stop nuclear proliferation.
Please list all relatives on public or campaign payrolls and their jobs on those payrolls.
What historical figure from Illinois, other than Abraham Lincoln (because everybody’s big on Abe), do you most admire or draw inspiration from? Please explain.
Ronald Reagan. He is the greatest president of my lifetime and one my personal heroes.
What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
My favorite TV viewing is Fox News, CNBC and Jack Ryan on Amazon Prime.