1) What is the No. 1 issue in your district and how would you address it?
The most pressing problem facing our community and the country is reviving our economy. In the new 8th Congressional District alone, more than 20,000 workers have lost their jobs, and at least 7,000 homes are in foreclosure. Therefore, my number 1 issue is cultivating a robust economic recovery to create jobs and preserve and strengthen our middle class. As the president of a high-tech small business, I am the candidate best suited to work on these issues. As part of my campaign, I have released a comprehensive economic plan (found at http://rajaforcongress.com/economic-plan-pdf) which calls for, among other things: (a) jump-starting small businesses by easing their access to capital, providing payroll tax relief to make hiring easier, investing in innovation and research programs for small businesses, and attracting immigrant entrepreneurs; (b) restoring consumer demand by extending unemployment benefits and enlarging the payroll tax holiday; (c) promoting the green retrofitting and repair of our infrastructure with a National Infrastructure Bank and public-works jobs program; (d) tackling the housing crisis and providing relief for homeowners who find themselves “underwater”; and (e) reviving our manufacturing sector through aggressively partnering the federal government with local governments, community colleges, and manufacturers as well as addressing unfair trade practices engaged in by foreign nations.
2) How would you promote job growth in your district?
As discussed above, the most pressing problem facing our district and the country is reviving our economy and reducing unemployment in order to strengthen the middle class and working families. In the near-term, we must embark on a number of initiatives. First, we should extend the payroll tax holiday for employees for a full year, optimally at the 3.1% rate proposed by President Obama, and maintain unemployment benefits to keep consumer demand buoyant. Economists universally agree that our economy may stall, and unemployment may rise unless we pass these measures. Next, we must assist small businesses by empowering small community banks to lend to these businesses and by preserving Small Business Administration programs, which are currently under attack in Congress, so that small businesses can expand and hire new employees. We should also offer payroll tax relief for small businesses that hire new employees. Furthermore, it is crucial that we re-authorize the Surface Transportation bill as well as promote the green retrofitting and repair of infrastructure through mechanisms such as a National Infrastructure Bank, which will spur productive investment in our economy as well as put skilled people to work.
In the long-term, we must re-invigorate our workforce. The cruel irony today is that there are 3 million job vacancies at a time when we have 14 million unemployed workers.
Therefore, we must retool our workforce so that they can fill existing and future job vacancies. First, we must consolidate the $20 billion spent across 47 different federal job training programs so that a greater proportion of these dollars are directed to small employers for on-the-job training efforts. Next, for unemployed workers, especially those in declining industries, the federal government needs to partner with local governments, employers and technical education programs to create targeted job-training programs to prepare our workforce for jobs in growing sectors such as high-tech manufacturing. For example, in Michigan, manufacturer Tenneco and the local Kellogg Community College developed an 8-week welding course with support from the Michigan state government to enroll students in the course for high-paying welding jobs following completion of the course. The community college provided the training, the state helped fund the training, and Tenneco agreed to hire the workers as soon as the training was completed. Kellogg Community College has trained over 1,000 Tenneco employees and works with over 150 Michigan companies in a similar capacity.
3) Should the federal government cut spending and where?
Yes, it should. Significant savings can be found by making Medicare more efficient, ending the war in Afghanistan, and making commonsense reforms to the defense budget and tax code. The Affordable Care Act ended wasteful sweetheart deals in the Medicare Advantage program for health insurers, and by allowing Medicare to negotiate with prescription drug providers, we can save as much as $500 billion over the next ten years. We can also save at least $100 billion per year by ending the war in Afghanistan, and realize significant savings by ending other unnecessary defense programs, such as the Joint Strike fighter alternative engine. Major revenue increases can be realized through an overhaul of corporate and individual tax expenditures, which currently cost the government well over $1 trillion annually. Obviously some individual tax expenditures, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, mortgage interest deduction, and charitable giving deduction play an important economic role, but most should be ruthlessly scrutinized to see whether they are actually helping the economy.
4) If Republican, which GOP presidential candidate do you support?
5) Give an example of something you’ve done that is bipartisanship in nature.
As Deputy Treasurer of Illinois, I was in charge of the state’s technology venture capital program. In this capacity, I helped to reach across the aisle to build a broad base of support for this program in the state legislature. During my time in the Treasurer’s office, we also had a bipartisan External Advisory Board, which included both Republican and Democratic members of the General Assembly, and I was part of the group that kept this Board apprised of developments in the Treasurer’s Office in a bipartisan fashion.
6) Name one good policy idea that comes from the opposing party.
The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), launched by President George W. Bush, has been a laudable success in the fight against AIDS. According to a 2009 study, PEPFAR has averted 1.1 million AIDS-related deaths in Africa, and has reduced rate of deaths from AIDS by 10% in the countries which have received assistance through it.
7) How do you define family values?
We need to be a society that values our families, rather than one that merely preaches to families about what their values ought to be. Accordingly, our government needs to ensure that families have access to, among other things, good jobs, affordable housing and health care options, excellent public schools, and a robust safety net when they fall on hard times and when parents retire after a lifetime of work.
8) What are your thoughts on the healthcare law?
The Affordable Care Act was a good first step in achieving the twin goals of reducing health care costs while achieving universal coverage. Some wrinkles have been ironed out already, such as the “1099 Fix” passed last year and signed into law by President Obama, but more can be done to ensure that the law is implemented in the most effective way possible in 2014 when many of its provisions go into effect.
I would support changes to the Affordable Care Act that enable the health insurance exchanges to negotiate with health insurance companies for an affordable menu of insurance options from which individuals and businesses may purchase insurance. We need to ensure that exchanges can negotiate with insurers so as to avoid repeating the mistake made when Medicare was barred from negotiating for lower prescription drug prices. We also need to tweak regulations that prevent states from opening exchanges to businesses with more than 100 employees until 2017, and remove provisions which would allow states to exclude businesses with over 50 employees after 2016. Other improvements include ensuring an adequate primary care workforce to provide care to the millions of newly insured. Expanding support for the National Health Service Corps. for primary care doctors in underserved areas will help in this effort.
9) Who is your political role model?
The late United States Senator Paul Simon.
10) What’s on your iPod?
U2 and 80’s and 90’s music are a staple in my listening repertoire.