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Third Congressional District, Democratic Primary

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The questions

All candidates were invited to respond to questionnaires, although not all chose to participate. Click on a candidate's name to see the unedited response to each question.

Biographical information & experience
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    Baqai
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    Lipinski
Baqai
Birthdate: 7/22/1967
Occupation: police officer
Marital status: divorced
Spouse:

Education:

B. A., Criminal Justice, Governors State University, 2000
M. A., Political and Justice Studies, Governors State University, 2001
Master of Jurisprudence, Child and Family Studies, Loyola Law School, 2011

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

none

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government.

none

Lipinski
Birthdate: 7/15/1966
Occupation: Member of Congress
Marital status: Married
Spouse: Judy Lipinski

Education:

Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering, Northwestern University
Master's Degree in Engineering-Economic Systems, Stanford University
PhD in Political Science, Duke University.

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

Currently elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government.

None.

Campaign information
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    Baqai
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    Lipinski
Baqai

Campaign headquarters: 11246 S. Whipple St.
Website: farahforthepeople.com
Campaign manager: Grace Akinlemibola
Campaign budget: $300,000 to $600,000
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
Act Blue $808.00
Lisa Baqai $535.00
John Maggi $500.00
William Hightower $300.00
Margaret Brousalis $200.00

Lipinski

Campaign headquarters: 512 W. Burlington, Suite 8, La Grange, IL 60525
Website: www.lipinskiforcongress.com
Campaign manager: Victor Hernandez
Campaign budget: $250,000
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
Caterpillar Employees PAC ($10,000)
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Committee on Political Education ($10,000)
Machinists Non-Partisan Political League ($10,000)
United Association (Plumbers & Pipefitters) Political Education Committee ($10,000)
United Transportation Union ($10,000)

What are your top priorities for the nation?
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    ALL
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    Baqai
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    Lipinski
Baqai

I believe that our top priorities are to revive the economy, create good-paying jobs, and expand access to healthcare. Also, we need to improve our educational system at all levels in order to compete with other advanced nations.

Lipinski

With 24 million Americans unemployed or underemployed, my top priorities are creating jobs and strengthening America's long-term economic growth while restoring fiscal discipline and reducing the national debt.

There is no better way for Congress to quickly create jobs while enhancing long-term economic growth than to pass a robust surface transportation bill to repair and expand our streets, highways, bridges, and rail and transit systems. Transportation infrastructure investment creates an estimated 28,000 jobs for every $1 billion invested. In addition to creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in the short-term, a robust transportation bill would build durable infrastructure that reduces congestion and enhances efficiency for decades to come, helping America to compete in the global economy at a time when nations such as China are making major investments in their own infrastructure. The last transportation bill, SAFETEA-LU, expired on October 1, 2009. Since then, Congress has passed a series of short-term extensions of current law that are insufficient to address the growing infrastructure needs of the nation and that fail to provide long-term investments. To continue to do so at a time of high unemployment, when the effects of a lack of transportation infrastructure investment are apparent to everyone, would be foolish. That is why I have continued to urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to work together to pass a new transportation bill that will put people to work and adequately address the challenges we face.

Democrats on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee have long urged passage of such a bill. More recently, House Republicans have abandoned a proposal to cut transportation funding by roughly a third and have spoken of making a reauthorization the GOP's “primary jobs bill.” In the Senate, work on a two-year bill is underway. We have a golden opportunity to both put people back to work and address the congestion and delays that cost our country more than $100 billion annually. Failure to make a serious and genuine effort to forge a bipartisan bill with a legitimate chance of passing both the House and Senate would be an abdication by Congress of its responsibility to the American people.

A crucial part of my efforts to create jobs is my work to strengthen our nation's manufacturing base. Manufacturing remains a critical component of our economy, providing good-paying, middle-class jobs for millions. Continued offshoring not only eliminates existing American jobs, it threatens our ability to innovate and develop the next generation of high-tech products, as well as to independently provide for our own national security. We need to start reversing this trend immediately if we are going to remain the world's economic leader and create the roughly 12.2 million jobs we need to return to prerecession employment levels. To promote the long-term competitiveness and growth of the manufacturing sector of our nation, I have reintroduced the National Manufacturing Strategy Act, H.R. 1366. This bill is designed to forge broad, bipartisan support for an actionable plan to revitalize American manufacturing. In 2010 it passed the House 379-38 and the current version has again drawn strong bipartisan support. H.R. 1366 requires the establishment of a Manufacturing Strategy Board consisting of representatives from the public and private sectors and labor. Every four years, the board will conduct a comprehensive analysis of the manufacturing sector covering matters ranging from financing to trade to the defense industrial base. Based on this analysis and ample public input, the board will develop a strategy that includes specific recommendations to the President, Congress, and industry for bolstering American manufacturing. To make sure we stay the course, the board will assess the implementation of its recommendations annually, and the GAO will conduct a separate review.

An additional aspect of my work to bolster U.S. manufacturing is my effort to ensure that the $530 billion the federal government spends annually on goods and services buys products “Made in the U.S.A.” To that end, I have reintroduced the Buy American Improvement Act, which would close loopholes in the existing Buy American Act that result in billions of taxpayer dollars being spent on foreign-made goods. In addition, in recent years I have successfully pushed to include Buy American language in the stimulus bill, the FY 2010 Defense Authorization Act, the 2010 Water Resources Development Act, and in the America COMPETES reauthorization bill governing our nation's research and development programs.

As important as it is to do everything we can to promote job creation right now, we must also take a long-term approach that enables America to maintain its global economic leadership for decades to come. That is why one of my top priorities is helping to produce the highly educated workforce we need to innovate and compete in the global economy. As a member of the House Science and Technology Committee, and as ranking member of its Subcommittee on Research and Science Education, I have long worked toward this goal. I helped pass the America COMPETES reauthorization, which includes: 1) the reauthorization of the National Science Foundation, which I authored, 2) expanded research and technology development programs, and 3) a number of provisions to strengthen and support science, technology, engineering and math education. Technology development will increasingly drive economic development in the future, and we will not win the competitive battles of the 21st century if we do not invest now to ensure Americans are educated and trained in these fields.

In order to assure that both our shorter-term and longer-term efforts to restore job growth bear fruit, we must reduce the national debt. In June, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the surging national debt could damage economic growth to such an extent that the economy would be almost one-fifth smaller in 2035 than would be the case otherwise. I have repeatedly supported bipartisan compromises to avoid such an outcome. I voted for the bipartisan budget deal that prevented a government shutdown in April, as well as the short-term extensions that enabled us to reach that compromise. Following that, I voted for the Budget Control Act in August that ensures the deficit is reduced by at least $2.1 trillion over 10 years, thus beginning the process of bringing the national debt down to sustainable levels. I was also one of the 100 House members who signed a bipartisan letter in October in support of a comprehensive, $4 trillion deficit-reduction plan. Last month, I voted for the bipartisan agreement that sets federal government spending for fiscal year 2012 and adheres to the deficit-reduction compromise passed in August. I continue to urge my colleagues to put aside their differences and come together to provide the deficit reduction that we need in order to ensure a bright future for our children and grandchildren.

What are your top priorities for your congressional district?
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    Baqai
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    Lipinski
Baqai

As a member of congress, I will work diligently to create more opportunities for entrepreneurship that can bring good-paying jobs into the 3rd district. Also, I will work to create more environmental-friendly green jobs.

Lipinski

For as long as I have been in Congress, I have been committed to getting things done to improve the everyday lives of my constituents. That is why my top priorities for the Third District continue to be promoting local job creation, improving local transportation, and providing top-notch community service.

I have always been a strong advocate of American manufacturing, which is especially critical to many communities in my district. My Manufacturing Strategy Act passed the House in the last Congress and I am working to bring it to the House floor again this spring. I have also been active in working to ensure that, whenever practicable, the federal government “buys American” when purchasing goods and services. I have been able to add “Buy American” language to bills in the House and I have introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen the Buy American Act.

Recently, when the Pentagon failed to abide by the Buy American Act, I stepped in on behalf of a local company, forcing the Defense Department to rebid a forklift contract that had been incorrectly awarded to a South Korean company. As a result, Hoist Liftruck of Bedford Park was able to win the contract in October. This contract is supporting 40 jobs at the company, contributing to the demand that has allowed Hoist to hire new workers, and is also supporting jobs at numerous Midwest companies that are part of Hoist's supply chain. Another recent example of my efforts at the local level to contribute to job creation is the Job Fair that I held in October. This event brought hundreds of job seekers together with dozens of companies that are currently hiring. In the months since, I have heard from a number of constituents who obtained jobs through this fair.

As the nation's transportation hub, northeastern Illinois depends on investments in an efficient and robust transportation system to drive job creation. As the most senior Chicago-area member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have directly secured more than $126 million for local transportation improvements, including $100 million for the CREATE rail modernization program to ease rail and road congestion. After obtaining this funding for CREATE, I worked with stakeholders from the city, state, Metra, and the freight railroads to reach a three-year, $330 million agreement to begin Phase 1 of the program. In addition, I was proud to work with state leaders for the inclusion of $300 million for CREATE in the 2009 state capital bill. I also helped lead the Chicagoland Congressional delegation in successfully lobbying for a $100 million federal grant for CREATE that includes substantial funding for several key projects. Among these is the $27 million 71st Street underpass in Bridgeview near Toyota Park, which is now under construction. Separately, I was a strong supporter of the $133 million Englewood Flyover, working both to obtain the funding for the project from the federal government and to keep it on track when disagreements threatened it. Ground has been broken on this rail bridge, which will create 1,450 jobs, reduce delays immediately on the Rock Island Metra line, and enable future delay reductions on the Southwest Service Metra line, both of which serve the Third District.

Last year, I worked with IDOT to pay for a study of increasing Metra service on the Heritage Corridor line, which currently offers only three weekday roundtrips between Joliet and Union Station. This study is currently ongoing. I have also successfully advocated for weekend service on Metra's Southwest Service Line (and recently led the successful effort to preserve that service when it was threatened by proposed cuts), initiated the CTA Orange Line extension project to Ford City, and helped establish long-awaited rail quiet zones in Berwyn, Riverside, and North Riverside, as well as Oak Lawn. I have also helped secure over $16 million for runway improvements at Midway Airport to improve the safety of passengers and area residents. In November, I brought the head of the FAA's Airports Division to Lewis University Airport in Romeoville to meet with local officials and discuss plans for the airport's future and how it can stimulate further economic growth and job creation as well as ease air traffic congestion in the region. The airport's convenient location near three major interstate highways in a fast-growing area has attracted numerous Fortune 500 and other corporate aircraft users and makes it a key selling point for the region as it seeks to attract further economic development and jobs.

In addition to CREATE and these other transportation achievements, one of the most significant transportation priorities that I have advanced is the Central Avenue Bypass project, which will link Central Avenue through the vast three-mile long rail yard just south of Midway Airport. For more than three decades the lack of north-south access along Central Avenue has resulted in traffic delays on Harlem Avenue and Cicero Avenue, disrupting commerce on a local, regional, and national level. I have gained the support of key state and federal officials for this project, including Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and successfully advocated the inclusion of $60 million for it in the 2009 state capital bill. The combined $170 million set aside for the Bypass is expected to pay for pre-construction engineering and right-of-way acquisition, enabling the next step: construction. Although there is much work to be done, the Central Avenue Bypass is closer to reality than ever before.

While I undertake direct and targeted efforts to support job creation in the Third District, I also believe that my efforts at the national level as part of my five-point jobs plan will be of particular benefit for my constituents. Strengthening manufacturing and leveling the international playing field, for instance, will pay dividends for the many manufacturers that call my district home, and also help to attract new manufacturers to the area, whose advantages include the proximity of numerous suppliers, its central location, and unparalleled access to transportation options. Similarly, passage of a multi-year transportation reauthorization and of an FAA reauthorization will fund many local projects that put people to work immediately and that enhance local business efficiency, helping to spark new hiring and lure new businesses to the area. Investing in innovation and in science, technology, engineering, and math education must be a national project, but there is little doubt that regions like ours that are already home to top universities, national laboratories, and high-tech companies will benefit disproportionately, as pioneering work done locally translates into new local companies and jobs, and companies in search of pools of talent take notice.

In addition to these priorities, I have always believed that it is critical that I provide the best possible constituent service for the people of the Third District. The job of a representative is to represent his or her constituents in all manners possible. One of the most important ways I can help my constituents is by serving as their representative in dealing with the federal bureaucracy. Whether it is Social Security, Medicare, veterans' benefits, immigration and naturalization, IRS issues, mail delivery problems, obtaining a passport, or any other issue, I make sure that my office is available to help all constituents. I also regularly hold senior fairs and veterans fairs to provide assistance and connect constituents with other organizations that can be helpful. In addition to job fairs, I have also held events to help connect local businesses with federal government contractors.

From securing funding for local transportation priorities, to ensuring a level playing field for local businesses and supporting local manufacturers, to connecting companies and job seekers, I remain committed to rolling up my sleeves and delivering results for my constituents.

The nation's economy has yet to recover. What are the causes of the weak economy, and what should be done to speed its recovery?
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    Baqai
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    Lipinski
Baqai

Too many jobs have been outsourced by large corporations, and even after getting stimulus funds from the federal government, major banks have not made that money available to local businesses to stimulate the economy. One way to revive the economy is to develop a larger stimulus package, not to bail out banks, but to channel money directly into local communities to fix the crumbling infrastructure of our nation, which will create lots of jobs. Job creation must start from the bottom-up, rather than from the top-down.

Lipinski

The American economy continues to suffer from the collapse of the housing market and the aftermath of the financial crisis, but there are also structural issues that have undermined the middle class for a long time and have gone unaddressed. Last year I created a five-point jobs plan that focuses on issues that I have been working on for years to address the underlying problems with our economy.

My plan aims to strengthen manufacturing, modernize our infrastructure, level the international trade playing field, produce a better educated and trained workforce, and invest in innovation. Each of my efforts in these areas is outlined elsewhere in my responses, but one aspect deserves special emphasis here.

I have been deeply frustrated by Washington's failure over many years to stand up for American workers who face unfair competition from abroad. I continue to advocate for legislation to combat China's currency manipulation, which if halted could create between 500,000 and 2.25 million jobs, according to experts. In addition, I have repeatedly urged direct action to halt unfair trade practices by China, including its illegal subsidies for clean-energy manufacturers. I have also stood up for fair trade by opposing job-killing NAFTA-style trade deals with South Korea and Colombia. Time and again, we've seen supporters of these kinds of agreements assure us that they will lead to economic growth and jobs, only to watch as more American factories shut down and reopen under the flag of one of our trading partners. Manufacturers in my district know this, workers in my district know this, only Congress and the President seem blind to it.

As part of our effort to restore America's economic leadership and strengthen the middle class, we must force other countries to play by the rules. A blind faith in trade, with no regard for the terms on which it occurs, is undoubtedly one reason why wages have stagnated and middle-class families are more squeezed today than at any time in recent memory. Increasingly we are seeing policymakers and elite opinion wake up to this fact, which has been clear to many Americans for a long time. A recent report by the Economic Policy Institute found that 2.8 million American jobs, including 118,000 in Illinois, have been lost over the last decade due to our trade deficit with China. Meanwhile, a study by three independent economists found that cheap Chinese imports have wiped out U.S. jobs, depressed wages, and driven up costs for taxpayers to a far greater extent than previously recognized. The time to change the terms on which American workers and businesses compete is now.

Should revenue increases, in the form of new taxes, higher taxes or more broadly imposed taxes, be part of the solution to crafting a more balanced federal budget and reducing the national debt?
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Baqai

Yes, we need to reform the tax code to make it fair to working and middle-class familes, and also generate much-needed revenue. We cannot balance the budget and reduce the national debt by placing a heavier burden on working and middle-class families.

Lipinski

The growing federal debt presents serious challenges to the long-term competitiveness and economic vitality of the United States. For that reason, we need to reduce the annual budget deficit and bring our national debt under control so that we have the capacity to continue to make wise investments in our economy, education, infrastructure, and national security. I have supported an “all options on the table” approach to resolving our federal budget challenges because I believe this approach is essential if we want to forge a genuinely bipartisan and long-term solution to our deficit challenge. While I believe that our focus needs to be on cutting unnecessary spending – as my voting record shows – I also believe revenue increases should be on the table. There are many tax loopholes that need to be reconsidered, and our tax code should be significantly revised in a way that reduces complexity and increases revenues. I was among 100 bipartisan House members who urged the “super committee” to “go big” and pursue as much as $4 trillion in deficit reduction, an amount that would require both spending reductions and new revenues to be realized.

Many Republican members of Congress have signed the Grover Norquist pledge not to support a tax increase of any kind at any time. Have you, or would you, sign this pledge? Why or why not?
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Baqai

No, I would not sign this pledge because we desparately need new sources of revenue.

Lipinski

I would not sign this pledge. While my record demonstrates that I believe we must focus on reducing spending, I do not believe it is responsible to lock myself into a position that rules out anything that Grover Norquist or anyone else decides is a tax increase, including user fees.

What is the role of compromise in ending the political deadlock on fundamental goals such as entitlement reform and deficit reduction? When and how would you compromise?
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Baqai

Members of congress should remember that compromise is an essential part of their jobs if they are to serve the people that they represent. Ideology should not get in the way of helping people.

Lipinski

Compromise was integral to the founding of our nation, especially in the creation of our Constitution. We should follow the lead of our founders, who understood that compromise is often essential to overcome disagreements so that our nation can make progress in addressing the vital issues of the day. In the early 1980s, President Reagan and Speaker O'Neill compromised to put our nation's Social Security program on firmer financial footing, with Republicans agreeing to revenue increases and Democrats agreeing to raise the retirement age over time. We must have compromise if we are going to enact entitlement reform and deficit reduction. Over the past year, as polarization has repeatedly resulted in irresponsible brinksmanship and gridlock, I have supported reasonable bipartisan compromises to prevent government shutdowns and a government default, to enact deficit reduction, and to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance and prevent a Medicare cut that puts seniors' access to their doctors at risk. I have also strongly urged my colleagues to do the same, such as when I joined over 100 other members in urging the “supercommittee” to “go big” and develop a plan to cut $4 trillion from future deficits. But compromise requires give and take on both sides. For example, although we must address the long-term solvency of Medicare, I did not support Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's plan to fundamentally change the program because it presented a one-sided approach that threatened to undercut affordable health care coverage for seniors.

Does the Social Security program need reform? What exactly should be done?
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    Baqai
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    Lipinski
Baqai

Social Security must be preserved and protected. We must not allow it to be privatized.

Lipinski

For more than 75 years, Social Security has worked for our nation's seniors. Unfortunately, our aging population and the increasing number of people receiving benefits places a burden on Social Security that can threaten its long-term sustainability. That is why I strongly believe we need to consider options today that will help guarantee the program's long-term viability for future generations, while ensuring that current recipients and those close to retirement receive their scheduled benefits.

In the short-term, many have argued that the Social Security Trust Fund is solid. Today, the Trust Fund holds approximately $2.6 trillion in assets and, according to the Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees, those assets will peak at $3.6 trillion in 2022. After 2022, assets will be drawn down until they are exhausted in 2036. At that point, the Board projects the Trust Fund will only be able to pay out approximately three-fourths of scheduled benefits through 2085.

Therefore, in the long-term, the Board of Trustees concludes that Social Security is “not sustainable under currently scheduled financing and will require legislative corrections if disruptive consequences for beneficiaries and taxpayers are to be avoided.” The Board goes on to say that “if action is taken sooner rather than later, more options and time will be available to phase in changes.” The message here is clear: Congress can no longer kick the can down the road. To pretend that changes can be avoided is to assure a drastic reduction in benefits for future recipients.

One common-sense approach to help extend the long-term solvency of Social Security is to increase the current limit on the amount of income subject to taxation. Current law limits the collection of Social Security taxes to the first $106,800 an individual makes, and any amounts above that are not subject to FICA taxes. In other words, an individual who earns $106,800 a year pays the same amount into Social Security as a person making millions of dollars a year. Raising this ceiling will bring in additional revenue to help sustain Social Security, and do so without adding to the economic burden that most middle-income workers face.

At the same time, we also need to consider other modest changes spread out over several generations that will similarly help put Social Security on a more sustainable path. Some, for instance, have suggested pegging the future retirement age to expected longevity for younger workers. I believe we should explore such moderate and gradual reforms, as putting Social Security back on track will require a multi-faceted approach.

While Social Security will continue to successfully provide promised benefits in the short- and medium-term, we cannot afford to downplay its long-term problems or put them off. Today we have the opportunity to consider and implement reasonable reforms to Social Security so that it is sustainable for generations to come, while ensuring existing recipients and those close to retirement receive their promised benefits.

How would you reform Medicare? Be as specific as possible.
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Baqai

Similarly, we must fight to protect and strengthen Medicare. Medicare is a vital part of our health care delivery system, and, when it is linked more thoroughly with the health care reforms of 2010, it has the potential to reduce costs, and expand coverage.

Lipinski

Medicare has served an essential role in bringing quality health care to millions of American seniors and it is critical that the program be able to continue this success. But Medicare, along with the rest of our nation's health care system, faces skyrocketing costs that cannot be sustained. Add to this America's aging population and it is clear that reforms are necessary in order to allow Medicare's success to continue. Indeed, the 2011 report of the Medicare Board of Trustees estimates that the Medicare trust fund (which covers Part A, or hospital services) will become insolvent in 2024, five years earlier than it had predicted in the 2010 report.

The first step to shoring up Medicare is to stop implementing policies that will have a negative impact on the program. Unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act will hurt the fiscal solvency of Medicare. That is because the Act is scheduled to reduce payments to Medicare providers by over $400 billion. However, that money is not retained by Medicare, but instead is used to pay for other parts of the health care law. I disagree with taking money out of Medicare to pay for other programs. In addition, I share the fear of the Chief Actuary of Medicare that these payment reductions will be unsustainable. We have seen how reductions in Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors put into place in 1997 (the Sustainable Growth Rate) have been continuously suspended by Congress. By taking money out of Medicare to pay for other programs while not reducing Medicare spending, the program will more quickly become insolvent.

The Affordable Care Act also had a negative impact on Medicare when it raised the Medicare payroll tax on higher income earners (over $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for joint filers) and applied a new 3.8 percent tax on unearned income for these taxpayers and then spent that money elsewhere instead of channeling it into the Medicare Trust Fund. In effect, the long-standing source of funding for Medicare has been unacceptably siphoned away, making it more difficult to reach fiscal sustainability.

Though there are a wide range of changes that can be made to Medicare to improve its solvency, I believe there are three areas that should be focused on first: combating waste, fraud and abuse, encouraging cost savings through negotiated purchase of prescription drugs for the Part D drug plan, and pursuing delivery system reform.

Since Medicare processes about 4.5 million claims per workday, it is no surprise that this program has been cited since 1990 as at risk for improper payments and fraud. While an actual loss figure is hard to come by, analysts assume that billions are lost in Medicare on an annual basis. Congress has made some progress in trying to address Medicare waste and fraud, including appropriating in late 2010 $100 million for CMS to initiate predictive modeling and other analytics technologies, and adding nearly $3 billion over 10 years to combat health care fraud and abuse in the Budget Control Act that passed in August 2011. These are important first steps in assuring the integrity of Medicare, but we can and should do more, including expanding predictive modeling following the initial pilots, expanding the recovery of erroneous payments, and developing a stronger centralized claims and orders system.

Significant savings can be derived if the federal government were allowed to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies on the prices paid for drugs. Medicare Part D is primarily financed through a combination of beneficiary premiums and federal general revenues, so any savings realized under Part D would directly affect the federal budget as well as individual beneficiaries. According to a 2008 report by the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, the United States could save as much as $156 billion over ten years through HHS negotiating Medicare Part D drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, and seniors could save as much as $27 billion over the same period. Having repeatedly cosponsored legislation to allow the government to negotiate drug prices, I was disappointed this opportunity for savings was not included in the Affordable Care Act, and I joined many of my colleagues in urging that negotiation authority be included in any deficit reduction plan.

The most important step for keeping Medicare solvent is to institute true reform of the health care system that bends the cost curve by expanding and more aggressively pursuing delivery system reforms. Our health care system is often too disconnected, leading to redundancy, inefficiency, overuse, and medical errors, which all in turn increase costs. Delivery system reform is a critical element to resolving these challenges, by incentivizing doctors, hospitals, medical device companies, and others to work collaboratively, smartly, and more efficiently. I have been a strong supporter of novel approaches, including accountable care organizations (ACOs), bundled payments, and medical homes, which are expected to have broad cost-saving and health care quality benefits. Locally, Advocate Health Care has been a leader in pursuing ACOs across its physician and hospital networks. Some of these models will be tested under the ACA, but there are opportunities to expand and accelerate the testing and implementation of these programs, and to do so in a way that engages providers, insurers, and beneficiaries more expeditiously.

One Medicare reform plan that I could not support was the proposal of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. Included in his proposed FY12 budget resolution, Chairman Ryan proposed shifting Medicare to a premium support program, in which seniors would get a voucher to buy insurance on the private market and the publicly operated Medicare system would be terminated. This would not address the growing costs of health care and would pass increasing medical costs on to seniors. While there may be a place for private insurance as an option in Medicare, much as Medicare Advantage currently operates, we cannot make it seniors' only option, particularly without addressing the underlying causes of increasing medical costs.

Is there a problem of a growing income and wealth gap in the United States? Is there a problem of unequal opportunity? What, if anything, should government do about this?
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    Baqai
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    Lipinski
Baqai

Yes, the growing income and wealth gap is one of the most serious problems facing America. Despite their years of hard work and making sacrifices, millions of Americans fall further behind each day in trying to provide for their families and make better futures for their children. Yet, the top 1 percent of income earners grow wealthier each minute, and easily afford those basic necessities such as housing, health care, and education, and luxuries, that the majority of Americans can only dream about. Government should use it powers and resources to stimulate the economy in ways that produce more decent-paying jobs, and initiate tax reforms that ensure that the wealthy pay their fair share.

Lipinski

There is a growing income and wealth gap in the United States, and it is a symptom of an underlying problem – our middle class has suffered greatly over the past three decades. The middle class has been hurt not only by changing global economics, but also by Washington officials who have consistently supported policies that hurt the middle class while doing little to help. Historically, our nation's greatest strength has been a broad middle class along with ample opportunity for economic advancement. But we have seen the erosion of good-paying middle class jobs – especially in manufacturing – due to unfair trade practices, currency manipulation, and the indifference of politicians who are only concerned about the GDP and do not understand the importance of supporting these types of jobs. In addition, failures in elementary and secondary education have left many Americans without the skills needed for the jobs of today and tomorrow, limiting economic opportunity. The result has been a widening gap between the people who have been lifted by globalization and those who have been swept under.

My five-point jobs plan addresses many of the issues that are critical to rebuilding the middle class and once again providing people from all backgrounds the opportunity to live the American Dream. The five areas of focus are strengthening manufacturing, modernizing our infrastructure, leveling the playing field in international trade, producing a better educated and trained workforce, and investing in innovation (to read the full plan, visit http://lipinski.house.gov/uploads/JobsPlan11.pdf).

To strengthen manufacturing, I have introduced the National Manufacturing Strategy Act (which passed the House overwhelmingly in 2010) and the Buy American Improvement Act.

To modernize our infrastructure, I have been strongly promoting, through my position on the Transportation and Infrastructure committee, the now long-overdue reauthorization of the federal highway and transit funding bill, which would put millions of people to work and make our economy more efficient in the long run. Throughout my time in Congress I have been highly successful at securing funding for transportation projects in the Third District. I will continue to fight for projects – like the CREATE rail modernization project in Chicago and the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) – that create jobs now and form the basis for future economic growth.

To foster a better-educated and highly trained workforce, which is critical for individual economic opportunity and national competitiveness, I am working to improve science, technology, engineering, and math education through my position as Ranking Member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee's Subcommittee on Research and Science Education. The Department of Labor projects 15 of the 20 fastest-growing occupations will require significant math or science preparation, and we need to make sure that America's schools can meet the demand for a skilled, technologically savvy workforce. I helped author and pass into law the America COMPETES Act and the National Science Foundation Reauthorization Act to address some of these concerns. Additionally, we need to do a better job of re-training workers who have lost their jobs, especially through our community colleges.

To level the international playing field, I continue to press Congress and the President to pass legislation that will put pressure on China to raise the value of its currency, which it artificially suppresses in order to lower the price of its exports, putting American companies and workers at a disadvantage. Last Congress, I cosponsored and helped pass a bill in the House that would have done this, and in this Congress I have signed a “discharge petition” to force the House to consider a similar bill. I have also pushed to enforce our existing trade agreements and laws in defense of American workers, and voted against NAFTA-style trade agreements that put free trade above fair trade and neglect the painful lessons we have learned in recent decades about the impact of unfair trade on the American middle class.

To promote innovation and ensure America remains the world's leading source of new technologies, I have helped to write and pass legislation that puts us on a path to double investment in high-tech research and speeds the commercialization of researchers' discoveries to help create jobs. I have also been a leading supporter of R&D in areas such as nanotechnology, which has extraordinary potential to create jobs and transform industries ranging from medicine to clean energy. To help small businesses innovate, I have helped provide them with $12 billion in tax relief and increased access to credit and successfully worked to reauthorize the Small Business Innovation Research program to support R&D done by small businesses.

America's economic troubles peaked in the recession that began in December 2007, but they did not begin there. In fact, the years prior to the downturn were marked by sluggish growth, stagnating incomes for the middle class, and the offshoring of jobs. A return to the pre-recession economy is not good enough. That is why my plan puts the middle class first and helps create jobs both now and for decades to come.

Who is to blame for the home mortgages collapse?
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Baqai

Much of the blame for the home mortgage collapse goes to the growth and lack of regulation of high-risk mortgage lending businesses. However, consumers are also responsible for mismanaging and excessive spending. Many consumers bought houses they could not afford, and relied too heavily on credit cards.

Lipinski

There is plenty of blame to go around for the housing crisis that has caused so much pain and great economic hardship for so many Americans. Many of the country's biggest banks engaged in irresponsible, fraudulent, or predatory behavior for their own enrichment, then turned to taxpayers for a handout when the inevitable crisis occurred. I voted against the Wall Street Bailout all three times it was brought to the House floor because it did not provide the accountability, oversight, or reform that should have been included.

Additionally, some homeowners irresponsibly borrowed far more then they could ever repay and some speculators exacerbated the bubble by “flipping” houses without much regard for their true value or the local community. As we turn the page to a new year, millions of families continue to struggle and deal with the fallout. The downturn in housing was one cause of the recession and the economy's vicious spiral of high unemployment and falling incomes has, in turn, prevented a recovery in the housing market.

I believe that explosive growth in new types of mortgage products which were not fully understood by those to whom they were being sold played a special role in the collapse. As these loans were packaged into complicated financial products bought and sold on Wall Street, it became easy for banks and sub-prime lenders to sell dangerous - but highly profitable - mortgage products without incurring any direct risk.

Anyone who bears criminal responsibility for what occurred should be prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the law. The fact that so few of those who are most responsible for the collapse (many of whom reaped huge rewards during the bubble years) have been held accountable is rightly a source of deep frustration to many. We must work to create a system that will help avoid a repeat of a similar crisis in the future. That's why I voted in favor of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010, which - while imperfect - serves as a critical foundation for financial reform. And I support the work of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which holds much promise in strengthening enforcement against anti-consumer fraudulent practices, including in the mortgage industry.

What, if anything, should be done to assist Americans whose homes are financially "under water" and face foreclosure?
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Baqai

I would support strengthening of the Truth in Lending Act so that homeowners can be protected against foreclosures and risky loan terms.

Lipinski

Ultimately, the best housing program is a strong economy. The expansion of the middle class and the growth in homeownership, retirement savings, and educational attainment in the 20th century rested on a foundation of high-quality, good-paying jobs. Without a national commitment to supporting job creation through much-needed investments in infrastructure, research and development, and education, federal housing efforts will likely at best have a limited impact and Americans will be left struggling with low-paying, low-skill positions that make it difficult for them to pay their mortgages.

In the wake of the housing crisis, the federal government established a number of programs to aid homeowners at risk or already facing foreclosure. Unfortunately, these programs have had limited success. This is in part because mortgage lenders and servicers have not always followed through on promises of mortgage modification. But some programs, such as the FHA Refinance Program, are simply ineffective. I have voted to eliminate these programs.

I do, however, support some of the Administration's efforts to help responsible homeowners stay in their homes by refinancing at lower rates. The foreclosure crisis has had an unprecedented, damaging effect on our economy and communities. Illinois ranks third among states in loan modifications through the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), one of the main federal foreclosure prevention initiatives, while the Chicago metropolitan area ranks fourth among cities. Nationally, over 900,000 families have achieved permanent loan modifications through HAMP. Clearly, some federal intervention, as long as it includes prudent eligibility criteria and checks to ensure program integrity, is appropriate for the many Americans who need a hand up at this unusual time to once again make their mortgage payments on schedule.

Is global warming real? Is it man-made? What, if anything, should be done about it?
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Baqai

Scientists from around the world have demonstrated that global warming is a real problem resulting from how we have misused the resources of the planet. While it cannot be changed drastically overnight, we can take important steps toward reducing global warming, and contribute toward making earth more livable for future generations. Among the immediate steps we can take are: acceleration of energy saving and recycling programs, development of alternative energy sources, and perhaps foremost, increasing public awareness about the threats posed by global warming and climate change.

Lipinski

Global climate change is a real problem and I respect the scientific consensus that it is being caused by mankind's greenhouse gas emissions. I also believe that the risks associated with global warming are serious and that we should act to address this problem. But even if global warming were not a serious issue, it is clear that we must act to reduce our dependence on foreign fossil fuels.

In recent years, as gas prices rose to unprecedented levels in our country, we have seen what our dependence on foreign oil can do to our nation. Spending hundreds of billions of dollars a year on imported oil is sapping our economic recovery and is a serious national security concern. We simply cannot have our economy almost completely dependent on other countries - some of which are politically hostile - for the energy we need to move goods, people, and equipment.

It is clear that there will not be any congressional action in the near future to implement policies that will directly lower greenhouse gas emissions, whether it be a cap-and-trade system or some type of carbon tax. I have always stated that it is critical that any attempt to institute such a system not hurt the middle class, seniors, or manufacturing. We must also recognize that the problem of global warming is international in scope, and that we need countries like China - the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases - to work with us in developing global solutions.

I know that America cannot continue its current course on energy, and that if we act correctly we can protect the environment, increase our national security, and produce millions of new domestic energy jobs. That is why the federal government should be involved in promoting the development of alternative energies.

What is the role of the federal government in promoting "green" alternatives to fossil fuels? What are those alternatives?
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Baqai

The federal government can use tax incentives and grants to local entrepreneurs to stimulate development of green alternatives.

Lipinski

The government's role in “green” alternatives begins with research. Because of the expense, risks, and long horizons involved, the private sector alone will not fund the basic science and engineering research needed for transformative new energy technologies. Through my work on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee I have helped spur the development of research programs for advanced vehicles, solar technology, and natural gas vehicles. I authored and passed the H-Prize Act, which established competitively awarded cash prizes to spur innovations in hydrogen energy technologies and advance the use of hydrogen as a fuel for transportation. I also helped create the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). This program, modeled after a highly successful Department of Defense program, will speed the commercialization of energy technologies, helping bridge the gap between the lab and new products. ARPA-E has issued over 100 energy research grants, including one to NALCO, a company with facilities in Bedford Park.

The federal government has a role to play in commercialization of new technologies, but ultimately this work needs to be done by the private sector. First and foremost, I believe that the government should use its purchasing power to support domestic energy goals. The military, for instance, is the world's largest single user of petroleum products, and when the Air Force commits to buying a new biofuel it can create new industries and make our military less vulnerable. My BRIGHT Energy Savings Act, which requires increased use of energy efficient light bulbs in federal buildings, is another example; this provision, which became law in 2007, fosters the production of efficient bulbs while saving taxpayers money. The federal government should also protect US manufacturers in clean energy industries from illegal trade practices, set minimum standards, support open and competitive electricity markets, and encourage early adopters.

The last goal can be accomplished by many different policies, from tax incentives to loan guarantees to direct grants. While I believe that it is a good idea for the government to help new energy technologies break into the market, these types of incentives need to be temporary, targeted, and free from political interference. Solyndra is a cautionary example. Before going bankrupt, this company manufactured a new kind of solar panel with the help of hundreds of millions of dollars in government loan guarantees. While there will be risk in developing any new technology – if commercial success were assured, there would be no role for the government – I am deeply troubled by reports of political influence in this particular case. It is imperative that Congress continue to investigate Solyndra.

I consider “green” alternatives to traditional fossil fuels to be any energy source that is sustainable and frees us from dependence on foreign supplies. This includes things like solar and wind power, but it also includes nuclear energy, natural gas for vehicles, and coal with carbon capture and storage. Perhaps the single most important and available “alternative” fuel, however, is efficiency. Nothing is cheaper than the barrel of oil or kilowatt-hour that we do not use. Improving the fuel economy of our cars and trucks, and adopting energy-efficient appliances saves money and makes our economy more competitive. In addition to my work on R&D policy and the BRIGHT Energy Savings Act, I have used my position on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to become a leading advocate in Congress for improving the efficiency of our transportation networks, helping secure hundreds of millions of dollars for the CREATE rail modernization program, which will reduce congestion and fuel consumption throughout the region. I am also fighting to advance the Next Generation Air Transportation Network, which will reduce airline fuel consumption by billions of gallons through a new, more efficient satellite-based navigation system.

Is waterboarding a form of torture? On what basis do you make this assertion? Should the United States engage in waterboarding under any circumstances?
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Baqai

Yes, waterboarding is a form of torture, and should not be practiced by the United States, especially, when a person is confined and restrained. Because we are recognized as one of the leading nations in respecting human rights, use of torture tactics goes against our basic value system.

Lipinski

I agree with Senator John McCain, who was tortured while he was a prisoner of war, that waterboarding is torture. The Geneva Convention, to which the United States is a signatory, defines torture to include “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession.” It appears that the effects of waterboarding meet both the physical and mental thresholds for torture.

With my support, it is now law that both the U.S. armed forces and our intelligence community abide by the U.S. Army Field Manual, which prohibits torture, including waterboarding, when handling prisoners.

Torture makes our country less safe. When the U.S. engages in torture, it damages our reputation as a defender of human rights and engenders animosity and violence towards our people. The embarrassing events at Abu Ghraib have become rallying cries for terrorists around the world and damaged our relations with our allies. This reflects poorly on the United States, as a modern, developed, and moral nation.

Do you support the legalization or de-criminalization of marijuana, either on a state or national level? Have you ever personally smoked marijuana?
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Baqai

No, I have never smoked marijuana. From a law enforcement perspective, I am not sure if I would be in favor of legalization of marjuana, or anything that effects or alters your ability to function. However, I am open to the idea of legalization of marijuana for medical use.

Lipinski

Marijuana use has been shown to impair short-term memory, judgment, and perception, cause respiratory and cardiac problems, increase rates of anxiety and depression, and cause developmental problems in youth. These negative health effects lead to societal problems such as lost productivity, increased health care costs, and needless accidents. Magnifying these problems is the fact that marijuana use has been associated with increased rates of future use of “harder” drugs, such as cocaine or heroin. In fact, research has found that of those who have ever used marijuana, early marijuana users were eight times more likely to have used cocaine, 15 times more likely to have used heroin, and five times more likely to develop a dependence on a drug later in life.

European countries with relaxed marijuana drug policies similar to those proposed by supporters of legalization have witnessed increases in marijuana use among youth as well as increased rates of other drug use. Consider that from 1984 to 1996, when marijuana started being sold more openly in the Netherlands, the use of the drug by 18-20 year olds increased from 15 percent to 44 percent.

For all of these reasons, I continue to oppose the legalization of marijuana. At the same time, I acknowledge that our country's drug policy is far from perfect. I look forward to continuing to work to reduce overall drug usage rates and to help those with addiction problems.

I have never smoked marijuana or taken any other type of illegal drug.

Iran, according to a new United Nations report, is covertly at work building a nuclear bomb. Should Iran be stopped, and how? Please explain the merits of international sanctions versus military action.
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Baqai

First, is the need to make a thorough assessment of whether Iran poses a threat to us. Based on our experiences with Iraq, we cannot afford to make a similar mistake at the costs of thousands of American lives, and trillions of dollars. The United States. working with our allies, can use economic sanctions and diplomatic resources, to discourage Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Military action should be considered, only as a last resort.

Lipinski

Iran has for decades presented a serious threat to the security of the United States, its allies, the region, and the international community. Its support for terrorism and other belligerent activities has been a particular challenge to the security of Israel and the entire Middle East. Iran's efforts to develop nuclear weapons significantly elevate these security threats and must be resisted.

I believe that the United States must proceed on international and, if necessary, unilateral tracks to contain the threat posed by Iran and to dissuade the nation from developing nuclear weapons. The United States has a long track record of imposing sanctions on Iran and these sanctions must be continued and strengthened. At the same time, the United States must work with its allies to collectively increase the pressure and penalties on Iran to desist in its nuclear ambitions.

I have strongly supported increasing U.S. sanctions on Iran to compel the nation to end its support for terrorism and stop its uranium enrichment and pursuit of nuclear weapons. In October, I led 39 members of the House of Representatives in sending a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging the administration to enforce existing sanctions against foreign companies investing in Iran's energy sector, the lifeblood of the Iranian economy. Iran relies on its oil exports to derive income and must also import 30 to 40 percent of its gasoline needs. Sanctions on petroleum development and the oil needs of Iran will further cripple its economic development and increase the pressure on the nation to stop its nuclear activities. Additionally, I cosponsored and helped the House pass H.R. 1905, the Iran Threat Reduction Act, which would provide additional sweeping sanctions on Iran and target Iran's Central Bank if it is found to be supporting Iran's terrorist activities.

Simultaneously, it is vital that we seek the support of the international community to pressure Iran. A diplomatic effort that engages multiple countries is essential if economic sanctions are to be effective. There have been some positive signs that, along with American efforts, this may be having some impact. While Iran has not stopped its nuclear weapons activities, its failure to accept or implement the terms of negotiations has led Europe, and more notably Russia and China, to support an International Atomic Energy Agency resolution calling for a fourth round of international sanctions against Iran and for the country to suspend nuclear weapons development activities. The support of Russia and China will be crucial in securing further international sanctions through the United Nations Security Council.

It will be very important in the upcoming year that we continue to proceed with both U.S. sanctions and also international diplomatic efforts and sanctions to prevent Iran from proceeding with its nuclear weapons ambitions. A nuclear Iran would be a grave threat to our security.

How would you define "success" for the United States in the war in Afghanistan? Do you support the President's plan and timetable for withdrawing American troops?
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Baqai

I believe that we should withdraw our military from Afghanistan. We should not waste the lives of our troops on wars that are not our own. Instead, we can use those billions of dollars here in the U. S.

Lipinski

There remains a legitimate reason for American involvement in Afghanistan – to mitigate the sanctuary that terrorists could again have in the country and to help guard against instability in nuclear-armed Pakistan. I supported President Obama's surge of troops into Afghanistan in 2009, modeled on the successful approach in Iraq, to bring more resources to bear on the challenges that Afghanistan continues to present. While this effort has reportedly succeeded in diminishing the leadership and strength of al Qaeda and the Taliban, their fighting force and violent capacity continue to pose a threat to Afghan society, regional stability, and coalition troops. This is true even with our success in eliminating Osama bin Laden.

I believe that it is vital for us, until we achieve our goals, to maintain our presence in Afghanistan and focus our military strength and intelligence on eliminating the terrorists and their safe havens, without the strong distractions of Iraq. I also strongly support engaging in reconstruction and development to improve the lives of Afghans and reduce the influence of al Qaeda and the Taliban, and working to establish strong security and governance structures in the nation, so that we have an honest and reliable local partner in this counter-terrorism/counter-insurgency mission, and to best ensure that the nation will remain secure and averse to terrorists into the future.

In June 2011, President Obama announced that he would be withdrawing 10,000 American troops by the end of 2011, and the remainder of the 30,000-troop surge from 2009 by the summer of 2012. Further, the President plans to continue to reduce U.S. troop levels through 2014, planning to have only military advisor/instructors and special forces in Afghanistan past that point. This approach is centered on the success that the surge – coupled with special forces raids and drone attacks – has had in dismantling the networks of al Qaeda and the Taliban and in significantly diminishing their leadership. It also rests on the expectation that enough Afghan troops will be sufficiently trained and capable to take over the security mission from the U.S.

While many Americans are rightfully tired of our military presence in Afghanistan and the continuing threat that it presents to our men and women in uniform, I think that the consequences of departing Afghanistan immediately could be severe. We risk seeing Afghanistan move toward becoming a failed state, allowing al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other violent extremists to once again use the country as a sanctuary from which they can plan and launch attacks against the United States and our allies.

So, while I understand the rationale for President Obama's plans to remove all the additional troops surged to Afghanistan by this coming summer, I think that we must take a measured, reasonable approach thereafter. We should not diminish our resolve against those who are set on harming the United States and should be guided by the advice of military commanders and diplomats on the ground, to assure that we do not lose the security progress that has been made, and that we leave Afghanistan in a state that presents the most limited threat to the United States possible.

Success in Afghanistan will be a sustained reduction in violence, an increase in the security, freedom, and economic activity of the population, sufficient indigenous Afghanistan forces demonstrating an ability to effectively keep security, and indications that the size and influence of the Taliban and al Qaeda have been diminished. We can establish metrics for evaluating progress in these areas, as General Petraeus did in Iraq, and we should plan reductions in U.S. forces based on these measures.

The No Child Left Behind Act is overdue for reauthorization. Do you support the Administration's blueprint for reauthorization, the bill that recently passed the Senate Education Committee, or some other alternative?
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Baqai

No Child Left Behind is not a good program. Children learn at different rates. We should work to produce school environments that are conducive to those differences, rather than spending time and money preparing students for standardized test-taking.

Lipinski

As a former educator, I have seen firsthand how poorly prepared many of our high school graduates are and I know that education reform must be a national priority. Without a better education system, especially in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, individuals will suffer and America's economic competitiveness will decline. Although we spend more per pupil than any other country, American students have persistently lagged behind their competitors abroad.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) governs many of the federal K-12 education programs. This act, which became known by the name of its most recent overhaul – the “No Child Left Behind Act” – expired in 2007 and needs to be reauthorized. I am frustrated by the piecemeal extensions Congress has passed for the last four years and think that we should use this opportunity to correct the acknowledged shortcomings of No Child Left Behind and to implement essential education reforms.

I agree with the overall goals of the administration's blueprint for reauthorization, including its focus on teacher accountability and student outcomes, promoting school choice, and turning around low-performing schools. Most of these goals are common sense: we need higher standards in schools, we need to better prepare students for college or a career, we should reward teachers and administrators who excel, and we could use more successful charter schools. We should also do a better job of assessing and tracking performance and judge schools based on their success at educating our children.

Unfortunately, this blueprint is not detailed enough to form a basis for legislation and the details are not easy to fill in. The Race to the Top program (part of the blueprint), for instance, has the admirable goal of rewarding states and districts that implement successful reforms, but its evaluation of state proposals has been too subjective. As with teacher effectiveness and student performance, it is not easy to develop effective metrics, and I believe the Race to the Top scoring system should be reformed as part of ESEA's reauthorization. We also need to emphasize the development of robust, locally-supported tests and accountability mechanisms as we work to implement reforms like performance pay or changes in the tenure system.

The Senate-passed bill is a modest step in the right direction, especially insofar as it is the result of legitimate bipartisan compromise. The bill addresses the worst problems of NCLB, notably the arbitrary benchmarks imposed by the Adequate Yearly Progress requirements. However, I do not think it is likely to be voted on by the full Senate and the House is certain not to take it up. As a result I think that the Administration's approach, tying education reforms to waivers of the unreachable requirements of NCLB, is the most effective way of improving K-12 education in the short term.

Deciding what reforms to fund, how to assess student performance, and how to evaluate teachers requires cooperation between parents, teachers, administrators, states, and the federal government. A “one-size-fits-all” federal approach will not work. Instead, all federal reforms should include multiple approaches to student assessment and should give local parents and educators a role in developing plans to improve our schools. Unless parents are engaged in their children's education, even the best policies, teachers, and schools cannot succeed.

The race
The candidates
Farah Baqai
Daniel William Lipinski
The district
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