On Jan. 15, Jim Walz appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked him why he’s running for the Democratic seat in the 14th Congressional district of Illinois in the March 2018 primary:
My name is Jim Walz. Democratic candidate running for the Illinois 14th Congressional District. I was a Democratic nominee in November of 2016. I’m presently a school board member at Warren Township High School in Gurnee, but I’ve been active throughout the district for the last 10 plus years.
Well, there are many issues that are staring us in the face. The health of our economy. The health of our democracy. The health of our environment and quite frankly, the health of each other. There are so many things that are facing us. I’m not going to Washington D.C. to be to the Democratic party what Randy Hultgren is to the republicans, a rubber stamp. I’m there to represent the voices of the 14th Congressional District. To do what is right and just and bring true representation to Washington.
Medicare for all. I believe that healthcare is a right not a privilege. I believe that we live in the richest country in the world. I believe that no one should have to decide whether or not how to take care of their own health or putting food on the table or a roof over their head.
The Chicago Sun-Times sent the candidates seeking nominations for Congress a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois. Jim Walz submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:
QUESTION: As a member of the House from Illinois, please explain what your specific cause or causes will be. Please avoid a generic topic or issue in your answer.
ANSWER: The economy is not working for most all of us. The stock market goes up, but we don’t pay bills from a 401k account. And when we need that retirement savings, it may not be there after yet another correction. Right now the average person from IL14 isn’t being heard, they can’t get a voice without a hefty campaign contribution.
That isn’t how our democracy is supposed to work. We see this when families are struggling to afford health insurance premiums; one side wants to keep the status quo and the other wants to go back to caps on coverage and no protections for preexisting conditions or medical bankruptcy. Wages are artificially suppressed for decades yet we are told $15/hr is too much until those same companies get to add trillions to our deficit in a tax scam at our expense.
I have a detailed list on my website dedicated to reasonable steps we can take now to stop the decline on middle class. jimwalzforcongress.com/economy/
Running for: 14th Congressional district (Illinois)
Political/civic background: 2016 elected Democratic Nominee, Illinois 14 Congressional race, 2016 -Warren Township School Board
Occupation: Outside Sales, Customer service
Education: Western Illinois University, Bachelor of Arts Degree
Campaign website: JimWalzforCongress.com
QUESTION: Please list three district-specific needs that will be your priorities. This could be a project that is needed in your district, or a rule that needs to be changed, or some federal matter that has been ignored.
ANSWER: Climate Change and the New Green Economy – work to restore funding cut to Argonne/Fermi Labs and promote other new sustainable technologies within the district and work to end the policies that limit or penalize residential solar or other green manufacturing initiatives, including allowing for industrial hemp
Healthcare – work to immediately lower the eligibility age for Medicare to 55 and then begin rolling out the program to all Americans.
Income inequality – Immediately repeal the $1.5trillion dollar deficit burden of the tax scam to pass an equitable plan (detailed on my website at https://www.jimwalzforcongress.com/economy/) to lower taxes for small business and working families while only raising taxes on the top earners in very modest portion. Everyone pays their fair share and we move the economy forward.
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QUESTION: If you are running as a Democrat, what is your best idea for getting any initiative you may propose advanced if the House continues to be controlled by the GOP after the 2018 elections?
I have a long history of being able to collaborate with colleagues across the aisle and working with people, even if we do not agree on everything. I have demonstrated this ability in the past and I am today working on a program where private business, government and education are working to achieve costs savings and STEM education goals through two solar arrays for Warren Township schools.
The policies that I am advocating for are being championed across the country by candidates who are also flipping districts. People across the county are realizing that the divisive rhetoric and wedge issues are simply distractions and we, as neighbors, have the same goals and far more in common particularly in our income gap and access to opportunity in this country.
TOPIC: President Donald Trump
QUESTION: What do you make of President Trump?
ANSWER: Every day I am amazed.
QUESTION: Which three actions by the Trump administration do you support the most? Which three do you oppose the most?
I am most pleased that President Trump removed Tom Price, Michael Flynn and Steve Bannon from their staff. I would like to see more added to this list in the very near future.
I am concerned that President Trump ignored the emoluments clause in our Constitution. Had he heeded advice from prior Republican leaders, I feel that much of the talk on his business dealing might have been avoided.
I am concerned about the dim view this administration has taken toward the State Department, our diplomatic corps, and the role of diplomacy for our trade partnerships and future opportunities. Our businesses and economy depend of having a strong and well respected outreach through Foreign Service and State official channels.
I am concerned that he and his team are either not familiar with the laws of our country or are not particularly bothered by following them.
QUESTION: What is your view of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian tampering in the 2016 election, including possible collusion by the Trump campaign. Does Mueller have your support?
I hope that it is permitted to continue without obstruction. We are a nation of laws and hold to the principal that no one is above the law. If the investigation proceeds, we will all have an opportunity to see the facts presented and move past this difficult time.
QUESTION: What should Congress do to reduce the threat of terrorism at home, either from ISIS or from others?
ANSWER: The safety and security of all Americans is of utmost importance and we must also protect our civil liberties and constitutional rights. We have to deal with terrorism, both, foreign and domestic. The safety and well-being of our citizens here are tied to the safety and well-being of all others around the world. We must be a champion of freedom, justice and democracy. Lately, though, we have lost that moral authority when we have a President who issues travel bans that target the Muslim community.
We need to take domestic terrorism seriously and stop encouraging fringe groups. We witnessed a turning point in Charleston and saw some of nation’s top leaders condone violence and fascism on our shores. We see the media contributing to the divisive rhetoric and profiting from the outcome. I would advocate for reinstating the Fairness Doctrine to help bridge the divide in our national conversation.
I also see the attacks on our nation’s top security teams (CIA, FBI, TSA, and Boarder Patrols) as a destabilizing influence. When we need these agencies to be working together for our security, leadership is casting doubt for what appears to be personal gain.
TOPIC: Guns and violence
QUESTION: What is the single most important action Congress can take to curb gun violence in the United States?
ANSWER: Uphold the laws we have and allow states to defend their boarders from neighboring states who are not taking the issue seriously. Many of the illegal gun sales in Illinois originate in neighboring states. Illinois gun owners are law-abiding and advocate for stronger safety and training programs. Our state has the benchmark standard for safety requirements, yet we pay the cost in lives and resources from our neighboring states.
In addition to this, allow the universal background check program to proceed. This is one area where responsible gun owners and gun safety advocates agree. It is time to put aside partisan politics and work toward this easily achievable goal.
QUESTION: Do you favor a law banning the sale and use of “bump stocks” that increase the firing speed of semi-automatic weapons? Why? Do you favor any further legal limits on guns of any kind? Or, conversely, what gun restrictions should be done away with?
ANSWER: I would be open to a ban on bump stocks and limiting high capacity magazines.
Just as I support privacy right with regard to reproductive choice, I recognize the rights protected for law-abiding gun owners and have already begun having productive conversations with both sides; responsible gun owners and those who are opposed to private gun ownership of any kind.
I do not see this kind of progress being made by politicians anywhere who treat this as anything more than a wedge issue without regard to making progress for all our sakes. Treating just the symptom of an epidemic does not make us safer. After Columbine, Boulder, Sandy Hook and elsewhere, we can see the failure of politicians and corporate lobby groups like the NRA working against our best interests.
TOPIC: America’s growing wealth gap
QUESTION: As an editorial board, our core criticism of the tax overhaul legislation supported by the Republican majorities in the House and Senate is that it lowers taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans at a time of historic inequalities of wealth and income in the United States. We believe in free markets, but it does not look to us like the “silent hand” of the market is functioning properly, rewarding merit fairly. We are troubled that the top 1 percent of Americans own 38.6 percent of the nation’s wealth and the bottom 90 percent own just 22.8 percent of the wealth. Tell us how we are right or wrong about this. Does the growing income and wealth gap trouble you?
ANSWER: You are on the right track, but keep going.
Fixing our rigged economy is a priority for me and should be for all of us. For over 30 years we have seen wages artificially suppressed while the top 1% continue to get more. That isn’t “Free Market” at work. That is a rigged system.
Right now CEO pay has increased to over 300% of the lowest paid worker in that same company. Politicians are even making false claims that the gender wage gap is a myth that women somehow choose to be paid less for the same work. Can we now admit that yes, ours is an oligarchy? This tax plan for Republicans is just a sign that they are no longer hiding their true intentions.
We cannot afford to lose more neighbors who are falling from the middle class – the group of producers who fuel the economy and run 98% of our businesses in this country. Recall that every large company once started small; NCR started in a garage, UPS from two college kids with a bike, etc. They had opportunity to compete, the opportunity our small business do not have now. The role of government is to create that “Free Market” by protecting business from monopolies. That isn’t happening. An example of this is Net Neutrality and three monopolies profiting from infrastructure and regulation built off our taxes. Instead, we further burden our small business with high overhead expenses for phone and Internet where their counterparts in Europe are paying a fraction for better service. Is that “Free Market” at work or a rigged system?
I have thought about taxes quite a bit and outlined my plan, using 2017 tax figures. My plan helps build a thriving middle class and provides some relief to small business while ensure all of us pay an equitable share. https://www.jimwalzforcongress.com/economy/
TOPIC: International affairs
QUESTION: Do you support the Trump administration’s decision to move the United States embassy in Israel to Jerusalem? How will this help or hinder efforts to secure a lasting peace between Israel and its Middle East neighbors?
ANSWER: No. It has already led to increased destabilization in Jerusalem, lives have already been lost.
QUESTION: Is military action by the United States a plausible response to the nuclear weapons threat posed by North Korea? How might a U.S. military response play out for South Korea, Japan and China? What alternative do you support?
We need to fill the numerous vacancies at the State Department which would help clarify the U.S. position in the region. (We must use diplomacy as opposed to the twitter approach). If we and our allies in the region, Japan and South Korea, work with China and offered a comprehensive diplomatic strategy that included a combination of economic incentives and security assurances, that would be something we should consider. One of our objectives needs to be the lowering the danger of nuclear weapons and ultimately, eliminating them.
QUESTION: The Supreme Court has ruled that the third version of the Trump administration’s travel ban on eight countries with predominantly Muslim populations can go into effect while legal challenges against the ban continue. What is your position on this travel ban?
ANSWER: The reasons cited for this ban discounts the three-tier vetting and review process already in place and does not include countries whose nationals have engaged in terror attacks on our soil and around the world. I support securing our boards and keeping our citizens safe, but his plan appears to have been intended to distract and destabilize our national focus. This in itself is dangerous.
QUESTION: Has the United States in the last decade been accepting too many immigrants, and does this pose a threat to the American way of life?
ANSWER: Let’s make a clear distinction here, legal immigrants, including those here through amnesty programs were invited and welcomed just as most all of our families were. Ours is a nation of immigrants and we have a rich national heritage because of this. This is what made us the “light of the world”. There is no country in the world that integrates a broader range of people, races and religions than we do. That is where our focus should remain while to we build an economy that can support the traditional American Dream.
QUESTION: Should the “wall” between the United States and Mexico be built? What might it accomplish?
ANSWER: No. It is a fool’s errand and a campaign lie. Family homes and land have already been taken through eminent domain for this arrogant and futile project.
TOPIC: Affordable Care Act
QUESTION: The tax reform plan created by Republican majorities in the House and Senate would eliminate the Obamacare “individual mandate” that most Americans must have health insurance or pay a fine. Does this threaten the viability of the Affordable Care Act? What more on this, if anything, should be done?
ANSWER: Yes, it certainly does. Right now, we have few benefits afforded through the ACA law that are already under attack: the cap on coverage and protecting those with preexisting conditions. But, our neighbors on the right have been telling us for years there is a problem of uncontrolled costs: of out-of-control premiums, and prescription costs. They are right and ACA did little the help alleviate this economic burden. What’s more, subsidies were never available cover families if the employer offered insurance only to their employee. Remember, the employer mandate only covered insurance costs for their direct employee, not the whole family. That left millions without financial help and without coverage options. Ignoring these shortfalls made it easier for Republican Congressmen to strip away funding piece-by-piece just as they are doing with CHIP and Medicaid now.
In addition to this shortfall, a key provision in the ACA also hurt our private practice doctors. The ACA was designed to save money by reducing reimbursement costs for Medicare and Medicaid paid to care providers. We see the results today – an accelerated consolidation of provide practice offices into large health corporations. Today, it is difficult to find a doctor who will accept new Medicaid patients because of this. We have to be honest about ACA and truly consider the high cost of premiums with excessive deductibles and limits on who you can see at all. What good is insurance if you can’t use it? It is time to start listening to ALL of our neighbors and really tackle the root of the problem – access to healthcare should be a right, not a privilege for a few.
I believe all Americans deserve access to care. We can join the rest of the industrialized world in providing basic coverage and work in partnership with private insurance through expanded Medicare for All. We trade a $20,000 annual premium for a $6,000 tax and no premium while businesses save, too. We already spend more than needed now nationally while we get far less.
In addition, it makes sense to negotiate drug prices as we do for the VA, to help control prices. The Federal government takes this approach in the defense industry and other areas, by capping the allowable profit margin and offsetting those costs to help with needed research. We can do the same to help promote research while saving lives of our citizens. And, by joining everyone together under a national plan, we have the strength of each other to prevent Republican politicians from so easily dismantling our system in piecemeal fashion.
TOPIC: The opponent(s)
QUESTION: What is your biggest difference with your opponent(s)?
ANSWER: I’ve been in this fight for years and I know this district better than anyone. I have personally spent years walking all seven counties, knocking on doors and speaking with neighbors from every political stripe. I know their stories and that we, as a district are not nearly as divided as some might hope.
We all agree that our district has been under siege from the policies of big banks who took our taxes in the bailout at the same time they foreclosed on our homes, charged us in exorbitant interest rates. Most of us lost 40 -60% or more of our retirement, yet these Wall Street darlings were rewarded through their lobbyists to convince Randy Hultgren to help strip away what little consumer protections we had.
We are struggling to care for aging family members and pay for college for our kids, all while Hultgren is serving his big donors, Pharma and Wall Street. Our access to healthcare is being stripped away, through millions cut from Social Security and the CHIP program for kids or the very high cost of health insurance. Even TriCare recently had benefits cut while costs rose for our veterans. On one side, establishment candidates are saying we should be happy with the status quo of ACA and $20,000 policies with $6k deductibles and on the other, Hultgren says we deserve even less.
I know we can do better and there is no one who will work harder than me to the job done.