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Sixth 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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    Coolidge
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    Petzel
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    Ritter
Coolidge
Birthdate: 6/4/1959
Occupation: CPA/Retired
Marital status: Separated
Spouse:

Education:

M.S. in Accounting, New York University
B.A. in Government, Harvard University, cum laude in general studies

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

Board of Trustees, Chicago Academy of Sciences and its Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Vice Chair, Board of Directors, International Crane Foundation
World Wildlife Fund's National Council

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

No

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

No

Petzel
Birthdate: 3/14/1983
Occupation: Executive Director/Friends of the Fox River
Marital status: married
Spouse: Melissa Petzel

Education:

I attended Indiana University where I received a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration with concentrations in Public Finance and Environmental Management.

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

Sierra Club, American Fishing Tackle Manufacturers Association, Friends of the Fox River, Prairie Rivers Network, National Association of Residential Property Managers, Nature Conservancy, Planned Parenthood, National Audubon Society, Equality Illinois, National Organization for Women

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

Yes. I worked for the Village of Glenview in their Economic Development Department during 2003.

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

I worked for the Village of Glenview in their Economic Development Department.

Ritter
Birthdate: Did not respond
Occupation: Mechanicl Engineer
Marital status: Single
Spouse:

Education:

I am a graduate of Purdue University were I studied Mechanical Engineering from some of the smartest people in their fields. I am currently studying at the University of Illinois at Chicago, also in Mechanical Engineering and working on my Masters. Eventually I aim to continue on to my PhD as well sometime in the future.

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

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

I have not been elected or held any political office as of yet. The only contact I have had with the Federal Government is working for the Census Bureau a few times conducting Census work.

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

My family has had no contacts with the Federal Government. My only job has been with the Census Bureau for a few short months during various census times.

Campaign information
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    Petzel
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Coolidge

Campaign headquarters: P.O. Box 3161, Barrington, IL 60010
Website: www.CoolidgeforCongress.com
Campaign manager: Harold Moore
Campaign budget: $5 million
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
Joanna Sturm $5,000
Peggy Notebaert $2,500
Deborah Lahey $2,500
Heather Paquette $2,500
Steve Wilcox $2,500

Petzel

Campaign headquarters: 231 West Main Street, Suite 225, Carpentersville IL 60110
Website: www.PetzelforCongress.com
Campaign manager: Dean Argiris
Campaign budget: $2.5 million for the primary and general election combined.
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
We have had a large number of donors. At this time our largest donors have contributed $2,500 or less. We have not accepted campaign contributions from corporations.

Ritter

Campaign headquarters:
Website:
Campaign manager: George Ritter
Campaign budget: Right now my campaign budget is roughly $15,000.
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
Right now my campaign has had very small contributions. It is a campaign being run with minimal money because I believe politics and our leaders should be smart and capable leaders and not be elected based on how much money they can generate.

What are your top priorities for the nation?
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Our top priority for the nation must be to get the economy growing at a stronger pace. I have found in talking to people in my district as I go door to door that most people are considerably more concerned about getting or keeping a job than about the deficit or government spending. Job numbers are finally on the uptick but the best way to put the economy on firmer ground is by increasing consumer demand which leads to more confidence on the part of business that it is time to create jobs and invest in inventories, new technology and equipment.

There are several steps Congress can take to spur job growth. Most immediately, Congress should promote investment in infrastructure, such as repairs to deteriorating bridges and roads, that private industry cannot provide on its own. I would also propose giving businesses incentives to create jobs, such as generous tax credits for the salaries of first-year employees. I also believe the R&D (research and development) tax credit should be made permanent to spur American companies to develop new technologies. A study by Ernst & Young shows doing this will add 130,000 jobs to the U.S. economy just in the short-term. In fact, a focus by Congress on rewarding innovation can improve our economy over the long term by creating high paying jobs and making us more competitive in world markets.

My other priorities for the nation are aimed at giving the middle class a fair shake, which will also help the economy. In Congress, in addition to job growth, I would focus on:
• Making the tax code fairer to all taxpayers and insisting that everyone pay their fair share and
• Protecting Social Security and Medicare for future generations.

Because of my background working with the World Wildlife Fund, the International Crane Foundation and other environmental organizations, I would also hope to take a leading role in Congress in protecting the environment against the assaults of those seeking to roll back the environmental protections enacted over the last fifty years.

Petzel

My top priorities are to create jobs by establishing a fair tax system and bringing back American manufacturing, providing affordable quality healthcare to all Americans, and to preserve Social Security and Medicare. Most importantly I want to help bring Congress together to effectively implement real solutions to the serious issues facing our nation. Our politicians must stop the partisan rhetoric and get serious about representing the people they were elected to serve.

Ritter

My top priorities for the nation are to get the economy moving again, get people back to work and to improve the infrastructure that is falling apart. It is to make sure that people have access to affordable health care plans as well. It is also important to me that the Federal Budget finally gets under control and all the reckless spending be dealt with.

Also working on reforming education and making sure we rebuild our education system is another priority for me.

What are your top priorities for your congressional district?
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    Petzel
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My top priority for the 6th Congressional District is to bring more jobs to the district by creating relationships with companies with a view to encouraging them to relocate to a district with highly-educated workers and world-class access to transportation. While Congress should not directly provide financial incentives for businesses to locate in specific members' districts, the district's member of Congress can certainly do more to personally entice businesses to the area and I would consider it a part of my mandate to do so.

Another of my priorities is ensuring that everyone in the district has access to health care by strengthening and expanding services such as DuPage Community Clinic, which provides preventative and emergency medical services for those who cannot afford them. Studies have shown that large amounts of money can be saved by catching chronic diseases early and managing them, rather than treating people who wait until later stages of their disease to seek help. When we talk about cutting health care costs, we should start with small investments like this that could pay off handsomely.

I also believe that the 6th District is going to suffer increasing problems with water quality and availability as the increasing population begins to drain the aquifers that supply much of the water for residents and businesses. Congress needs to help provide the education, technology, and incentives to encourage people and businesses to use water resources more efficiently.

Petzel

My top priorities for the 6th Congressional District are to established affordable healthcare for all and to stabilize housing values. Both of these priorities will help boost our local and national economy. I believe that the rising cost of healthcare is a significant drain on personal, business and governmental financial resources. Currently, the average resident of Illinois pays 14% of their income to cover health insurance costs and the average business sees 13% of its payroll expenses dedicated to health insurance costs. In order to see sustainable economic growth and a growth in individual earnings we must get a handle on the rising cost of health insurance.

I also believe that we must deal with housing. A continued decline in housing values further weakens our economy and the economic stability for thousands of families in the 6th District. Stabilizing the housing market will take time, but public and private initiatives can slow property value declines and stabilize markets so they can begin to recover lost values. For many people, the single biggest investment they own is their home. We must work toward stabilization and recovery in housing.

Ritter

My district contains many of the suburbs of Chicago making us both an infrastructure crossroads and business leader in the Midwest. I want to make sure we have the resources to make sure our infrastructure is rebuilt to that business' in the area are able to compete to the best of their ability.

We also have had funding problems in education resulting from state budget cuts. Giving schools the resources they need is always important.

Home foreclosures in the area is also a concern and should be dealt with by giving people the chance to refinance their homes instead of being evicted from them.

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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One reason the economy is weak because there is currently not enough demand in the economy to encourage businesses to invest in creating jobs and expanding operations. Once consumers see that more people have jobs, they will feel more confident to spend in the amounts that businesses need to see to invest in inventory, equipment and workforce. This, in turn, will spur lending as banks see more opportunity to invest in future growth. Congress can help spur this growth in confidence by focusing on job creation.

Another severe drag on our economy has been a reluctance on the part of banks to lend, even to credit-worthy borrowers. There are several ways to speed recovery in this area. For example, financial incentives or penalties can be put in place for lenders who are sitting on excess cash.

Petzel

The primary causes of a weak economy are a failure of the real estate market, restricted lending by banks, and market uncertainty. All of these issues are tied together. The first thing I would do is modify lending requirements to allow banks including Freddie and Fannie to refinance underwater mortgages. Second, I would modify capital requirements for banks to encourage lending for small businesses and real estate purchases. While banks should have capital requirements that do not weaken their ability to provide financial stability to consumers and our national economy, lending standards should not be tightened to the point where small businesses and homeowners cannot obtain a loan. Finally, I believe that the economy is suffering as a result of political deadlock in Washington. Our Congress can't agree on middle class tax cuts, budget issues, healthcare or any issue that impacts all of us every day. Many businesses and investors see this political deadlock and lack of action and are holding back from investing in their businesses until some certainty exists in the market. Congress can re-establish certainty by working together to find common sense solutions to the serious problems facing our economy.

Ritter

The clear cause of the still weak economy is the lack of investment in our country. From infrastructure to education and many aspects in between we have been cutting back on everything while other countries across the world such as China have been investing in new industries and technology and leading the way.

We need to start investing again so that we can rebuild the nation, put people back to work, and make it possible for business' in the country to be more competitive.

Another reason the economy is slowed is because of the tax code that has become more complicated over the years and allows for people to take advantage of the system. It also gives business' in other countries an advantage with the higher rates.

All of these goals will put people back to work, give people more money to spend, increase the competitive nature of America and put us back on track to be a leader in the 21st century.

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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Everyone needs to shoulder their fair share of the cost of our shared needs. Of course, we should pare unnecessary and wasteful spending to the bone. But beyond that, if we are to return to a society with a strong and thriving middle class, our tax system must not penalize people who work for a paycheck while heaping benefits on those who profit from their labor. Yes, wealthy people who create jobs should be rewarded for that and given incentives to create more. But we have had ten years of tax cuts for “job creators” that do not seem to have created any jobs. I would like to focus Congress's attention instead on solutions that have been proven to work to improve the economy, not continue to pursue failed policies like tax cuts for the wealthy. In my opinion, if everyone pays their fair share, including corporations, and the economy gets rolling again with more people overall paying taxes, a balanced budget and reductions in the national debt will be eminently reachable goals without the need for raising taxes on the middle class.

Petzel

Yes. New revenues and budget cuts will be necessary to effectively reduce the national debt and create a balanced federal budget. Under President Clinton, a 1% increase on top income earners mixed with reforms to government spending (rather than elimination) created a budget surplus. In the 1980's both President Ronald Reagan and Dick Cheney, who was a Congressman, were willing to accept new revenue in exchange for some cuts. Compromise should not be a dirty word in Washington.

Ritter

The tax program that I have developed broadens the tax structure. It both lowers rates for almost everyone while at the same time generates large amounts of revenue increases for the federal government.

I believe that all Americans should be able to make some contribution to fixing the tax system, but people with more resources should be able to contribute more to the problem.

By closing loop holes and simplifying the tax code we can make sure people have more money to spend and business's are better able to compete across the planet.

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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Coolidge

I will not sign such a pledge. We must not tie our hands with pledges of any kind; we are sent to Congress to legislate solutions to the problems the country faces and shouldn't start that process with any option already off the table. Not raising taxes, while an extremely worthy goal and something I applaud personally, cannot be a goal of government policy, in itself. I believe that to focus on taxes alone unnecessarily limits the ability of legislators to respond in rational ways to the problems we face. A case in point was the fight that was engendered last year by an attempt to eliminate the accelerated depreciation deduction that business owners could take for corporate jets. We're talking about cutting Medicare and Social Security but we can't reduce a tax deduction for multi-million dollar planes because some in Congress took a pledge not to raise taxes, ever? That is contrary to the best impulses of the American spirit.

Fortunately, this pledge has been exposed as the sham it is. Many Republicans in the House saw absolutely nothing wrong with letting the payroll tax extension for working people die at Christmas time. What would have been the result if they had gotten their way? Yes, a tax increase.

Petzel

No I have not signed the Norquist pledge. I will never sign the Norquist pledge because the only pledge that a Congressman should make is to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

Additionally, the Norquist Pledge restricts a law maker's ability to close tax loopholes or allow the expiration of the Bush Tax Cuts for top level income earners. I would not want to take revenue increases off the table when the financial problems facing this country are so serious. Serious problems take serious solutions and I believe anyone who limits the possible solutions by signing a lobbyists pledge is not focused on real solutions for the average American.

Ritter

As an engineer I would never sign such a pledge because I believe it limits what solutions are possible when possibilities are taken off the table. I sometimes wonder about the math abilities of the people we have elected in the past. While mathematically we can solve our budget problems solely by cutting spending, the cuts would need to be so great that it effects many other aspects of American life. The only logical choice is to both fix the tax problem we have while at the same time making sure the budget is efficient and the money we spend is being spent in the most important areas.

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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Coolidge

First and foremost, as a CPA, I like to delve into the numbers and understand the facts of any problem under consideration. I think that we can work through any necessary reforms to social programs and minimize deficits if we are willing to listen to each other and base solutions on what is best for everyone.

Unfortunately, it is very hard to know in advance when specific compromises will be useful, especially if the other side only says “no” to Democratic ideas. In my business career, I have a great deal of experience finding solutions working with people with very different opinions. Successful negotiation requires two parties who are willing to work together and consider compromise. I hope to be able to reach across the aisle to craft reasonable outcomes with those on the other side who believe that we were sent to Washington to help improve the lives of the American people, not fight about politics.

Petzel

Compromise is absolutely necessary to ending the political deadlock we face in Washington. Putting this country on a path of deficit reduction and a balanced budget will require compromise on both sides of the aisle. Any solution will require a balanced approach. During the Clinton Administration we achieved a balanced budget, but that required serious compromises from both sides. An ultimate solution will result when both Republicans and Democrats agree to give in on certain issues. Our decisions should not be based on what is best for the party, rather our decisions should be made based on what is best for the people we are elected to represent. I will compromise when I think the result of the compromise achieves an overall benefit to the country and people of the 6th District.

Ritter

Compromise is important as always. But for me, it is not really about compromise because when I solve problems it doesn't matter to me where the solutions come from. My only goal is to solve problems we face by making sure it benefits as many people as possible and at the lowest cost.

If the people in Washington aren't able to over come their predetermined views for the greater good then they should have no place in being in Washington in the first place. In many cases both parties can benefit from a more practical solution instead of deciding a course of action based on political goals.

Does the Social Security program need reform? What exactly should be done?
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Social Security is a critical part of our economy, giving seniors the ability to support themselves in retirement and giving them money to spend with American businesses. A lot of Baby Boomers will be retiring in the next ten to twenty years and the program will need careful monitoring and adjusting to make sure it stays on a stable basis. I am confident that I can help provide Congress with an understanding of what we might need to do to adjust the financial underpinnings of this successful program that keeps millions of seniors from falling into poverty, especially since most private sector companies will not be providing traditional pensions in the future. We must carefully examine the projections and assumptions on which Social Security is currently based before doing anything that could undermine the safety net that the program represents. I believe Social Security can be made solvent for many years in the future by adjusting certain aspects of it, such as raising the maximum earnings subject to Social Security taxes, currently $110,100.

Petzel

Social Security is a cornerstone of economic stability for millions of Americans and must be preserved without an increase in eligibility age, a reduction in benefits or a reduction to cost of living adjustments. Currently under the existing program Social Security will begin to default on its payments beginning in 2037. In order to prevent this, the Congress must pass legislation that lifts the Social Security tax cap.

Currently the income tax is applied to the first $110,000 a person makes and all income above that level is untaxed. I support lifting that cap and taxing all income for social security. This would allow Social Security benefits to remain in place with no reduction in benefits for at least the next 75 years.

Ritter

I believe that the social security program needs reforms in order to be available into the future. I have made several changes in my plan that over time will give people more money to retire on, save the government money and make it so businesses can plan better.

First off, I changed the retirement age to better reflect retirement. Instead of randomly changing the age I based it on the life expectancy of a person born in a particular year. This assures that over time as medical technology gets better and we live longer the retirement age also increases to represent this fact.

Secondly, everyone who is currently on social security will not have their plans changed at all. They put money and time into the system and decreasing or changing their benefits to hurt recipients won't be allowed.

The new system takes tax free contributions from employees, employers and the federal government and sets up accounts for each person. By encouraging people to save for retirement the burden can be better dealt with for the future and it also allows people to save more money for retirement then the old system allowed for.

How would you reform Medicare? Be as specific as possible.
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The biggest issue with preserving Medicare is to get costs under control. If we don't, the present model is probably unsustainable. But that does not mean we should end Medicare as we know it by giving senior citizens vouchers to pay their insurance. According to The New York Times, studies have shown that Medicare has done a better job of slowing cost increases for health care than private insurance has, while improving the lives and health of seniors.

Cutting costs without harming senior care is eminently doable. Tremendous efficiencies can be built into the health care system (and not just for seniors) with a conversion to electronic record-keeping, for instance. This will go a long way toward making health-care delivery more efficient and avoid overmedicating and overtreating patients who may see more than one doctor.

Even better, there are ways to reduce the cost of Medicare without killing it. Perhaps the best example is prescription pricing. When the Medicare drug benefit was implemented, the federal government was prohibited from negotiating the price of prescriptions. Medicaid faces no such restrictions. If Medicare could also negotiate drug prices as Medicaid does, it is estimated that the cost of Medicare would drop by at least $112 billion over 10 years.

Petzel

Medicare reform must be part of the overall national health care debate. I would propose we create a single payer health insurance program for all. Every person would be covered by a government health care plan just like Medicare. Payment for such a plan would come from maintaining existing federal health care spending levels that currently pay for Medicare, VA health benefits and federal employee health benefits. Additionally, employers and employees would pay 8.25% of their income toward this benefit (just like Social Security). These revenue streams combined with co-pay revenue would cover the $2.6 trillion cost to provide health care to every American. Essentially my proposal is a massive expansion of Medicare for all with a payment structure similar to Social Security. My proposed payment structure would result in significant cost reductions for the average employer and employee over current health insurance premiums. This plan preserves Medicare benefits and expands Medicare to every American with a reasonable revenue stream to pay for it.

Ritter

We need to make sure that the emergency facilities and doctors are getting paid at a rate that is comparable to other health insurance programs.

We also need to make sure the benefits of people who rely on this system are not decreased just to solve budget problems. Pharmaceutical prescription drugs should also be available for as cheap as possible.

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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Yes, there is a growing gap between the richest and poorest Americans. In fact, 2010 Census data showed that while the income of the wealthiest 5% of Americans (earning over $180,000 per year) rose, the income of families earning $50,000 or less fell. A larger concern is that nearly 50 million people in this country are now living below the poverty line ($24,343 for a family of four), which is unconscionable in a country as rich as ours.

We need to make sure that the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share of our tax burden. And a majority of them seem actually willing to do so. A Quinnipiac study last September (just after the debt ceiling debacle) showed that 64% of those earning $250,000 or more thought they should pay more in taxes. Taxes on the wealthiest families, which are low in relation to their total earnings, have only widened the income gap.

The opportunity gap in America is also real. We need to insure that all children have a chance at a quality education by making the funding of education a higher priority for the federal government. While I believe that educational policies should be set at the state and local level, I believe the federal government can contribute significantly to improving opportunities for all students. I believe we should focus on three areas: 1) funding improvements in early childhood education, including resisting Republican proposals for huge cuts to Head Start, and supporting elementary education to give all children a relatively equal start in life, 2) encouraging community colleges to focus on high-tech and other career-oriented education to prepare students for new, well-paying careers and 3) instituting a civilian “G.I . Bill” that would help anyone who served their country, not just in the military, to pay for education post-high school. I wouldn't be where I am today without the original G.I. Bill that sent my dad to college and, of course, without the good public education I received. There was no opportunity gap in my family, but there certainly could have been.

Petzel

Yes, there is a growing income and wealth gap. The income and wealth gap can be blamed on a number of issues. In many cases costs are rising faster than wage increases. As an example, over the last 10 years healthcare costs have risen 4 times faster than wages. Effectively, this has created a situation where many middle income Americans have seen their wages go up but their take home pay has decreased. Congress has a responsibility of creating policies that benefit the average American. From creating a more affordable health care system to spurring job creation and an expansion of manufacturing with pro-manufacturing and pro-American jobs policies Congress can help close the income and wage gap. Ultimately, when I am elected to Congress I will make my decision not based on party ideology or political strategy. I will make my decisions based on whether or not a policy will help the average person in my district. If that was the standard by which our politicians made their decisions I think we would all be better off.

Ritter

There is a growing problem in America of the income disparity between people. With this growing financial gap usually comes an increase in power for the wealthy. Giving them even greater influence over the middle class.

The opportunity for everyone should be the same and their should be no discrimination one way or the other.

The government can tax wealthy people more and try to distribute the wealth better but this usually doesn't work very well. The only thing the Federal Government can do is give laws that effect the middle class more.

In the end of the day it is up to every citizen to elect people who best represent them. If we keep electing wealthy people to govern over us then we should be prepared to have laws that benefit the wealthy.

Who is to blame for the home mortgages collapse?
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The real estate bubble was driven by both financial institutions and home buyers. Too many people viewed their houses as piggy banks or bought more house than they could afford because deregulation loosened lending standards to a greater degree than was safe for the country. Speculators were also encouraged by low interest rates and lax oversight to buy homes simply in hopes of making a short-term profit. And financial institutions came up with ever more “creative” ways to package the resulting securities. The result was overbuilding and infectious optimism that suddenly came to an end when the financial crisis of confidence hit.

Congress needs to let the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau do its job under its new leader to help ensure that nothing like the home mortgage collapse ever happens again. It needs to go to work to protect consumers from excessively risky loans. The mortgage collapse proved that there simply needs to be more oversight. Financial institutions should not allowed to profit from the upside of a financial boom while taxpayers and homeowners get stuck with the cost.

Petzel

Everyone shares the blame for the home mortgage crisis, but Congress should receive the majority of the blame. Congress, since the 1980's, has deregulated the financial industry and the result has been financial ups and downs. This started with the Savings & Loan Scandal. The final nail in the coffin was the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 which reversed Glass-Steagall. This allowed banks to create new financial products, such as mortgage backed securities, which encourage risky lending and led to the eventual collapse of the mortgage and financial markets.

Banks share a big portion of the blame by promoting risky loans because the sale of mortgage backed securities was very profitable. However, Congress opened the doors to this practice by overwhelmingly de-regulating the industry.

Ritter

There are many people to blame for the mortgage collapse. From the banks to wall street. Even to people who bought more house then they could afford to. I think the banks should allow more people to refinance their loans at the historic low rates so that people can stay in their homes and that the banks can continue to make money.

What, if anything, should be done to assist Americans whose homes are financially "under water" and face foreclosure?
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Homeowners who are “under water” own a home that is worth less than the outstanding balance on their mortgages. They are fine as long as they keep paying off the loan. But many of them took on a bigger loan than they really could afford during the boom. So they may not be able to afford to keep up the payments for long if they face financial hardship such as a job loss. Then foreclosure may be the only option presented to them by their bank.

I believe that Congress should require lenders to make a stronger effort to help their customers. Banks are almost certainly already recognizing losses in home value on their books for these loans for accounting purposes. But for the most part, they are not allowing consumers to recognize that loss by forgiving some of their principal payments. Banks should be encouraged to renegotiate the loans of borrowers who are struggling to make mortgage payments or are facing foreclosure. This is particularly true in the case of banks that were bailed out and are now dragging their feet when it comes to modifying mortgage loans for borrowers.

Petzel

“Under water” homes are a significant issue. As of last month, 22% of all homes (10.7 million) were underwater. Many underwater homeowners are making payments on-time every month at interest rates 2-3% higher than the existing mortgage rates. Through Freddie and Fannie and well as regulatory changes to lending requirements, banks should be re-financing these loans at today's mortgage rates. If a homeowner saw a 2% interest rate reduction on a $173,000 mortgage(the average home value in America) that homeowner would save $199 per month. If 50% of the underwater homes were refinanced and experienced a 2% rate reduction it was save those homeowners $12 billion a year. That is real money that will be put back into the economy.

Ritter

They should certainly be able to refinance their loans so that they can stay in their homes and take advantage of the low rates for loans. That way the banks can still be making money while at the same time making sure people aren't kicked from their homes.

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

Yes, climate change is real and it is man-made, according to the vast majority of climate scientists, and it is getting worse. The U.S., along with China and other big polluters, should be leading partners in global agreements to reduce greenhouse gases. There are also several viable solutions that Congress can help implement which will go a long way toward solving this problem. The most realistic solution is the market-based one almost implemented by Congress a few years ago: cap and trade. This has the great advantage of giving industry incentives to reduce overall emissions, which is a big step in the right direction since industrial emissions are a greater source of greenhouse gases than cars.

Deforestation is another leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions and we should support the UN's effort to reduce global deforestation called REDD. This program offers financial incentives for developing countries to refrain from cutting forests.

Petzel

Nearly every credible scientist in the world agrees that global warming is real. I believe that global warming is real. Global warming does not necessarily mean warmer temperatures, but it does mean more unpredictable weather patterns. The potential impacts of global warming include global food and water shortages and rising sea levels. The implications of these impacts should not be ignored especially from a national security prospective.

We have seen significant progress with our domestic policies in the last three years in dealing with global climate change. An increase in fuel economy standards, Cap and Trade and massive investments in renewable energy are important steps in dealing with climate change and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. We should continue to strengthen these efforts and support worldwide efforts to reduce global climate change impacts with international partners.

Ritter

Global warming is a real problem and should be addressed. As a leader in emissions the United States needs to be a major player in the reform and control of green house gases that effect our planet. But global warming is a planet wide problem and the only way it can be solved is if all countries participate in the solution. We need to work with the other major countries in the world to solve this problem. Solving it such that all countries still have the same benefits.

What is the role of the federal government in promoting "green" alternatives to fossil fuels? What are those alternatives?
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    ALL
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    Coolidge
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    Petzel
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    Ritter
Coolidge

Congress should provide more help to support companies pursuing alternatives to fossil fuels, such as renewing the subsidy for the solar industry that expired in 2011. In addition, incentives for wind power operators, in place since 1992 are set to expire at the end of 2012. That should not be allowed to happen because wind power can allow us to reduce our dependence on electricity generated by fossil fuels. We should even consider how to better support a vibrant high-tech biofuels industry. These "green" subsidies, far from being simply handed out to already profitable and powerful companies like those in fossil fuel industries, instead promote our energy independence, protect our environment and create jobs.

The U.S. government can also promote green alternatives, like Smart Cars and solar energy, by providing tax and other incentives to encourage consumers to buy them out of self interest. We responded to the mortgage deduction by buying and building homes at a blistering pace. Similar results for green technologies could be as easy to obtain. Making green technology financially viable for more Americans, mainly through tax breaks, would go a long way toward developing alternatives to fossil fuel, spurring job creation and fostering economic recovery.

Petzel

The federal government should aggressively promote the use of renewable and clean energy sources as an alternative to fossil fuels. Congress can take a number of steps to creating a clean energy economy. First Congress must make permanent the Production Tax Credit that will provide tax credits to producers of renewable energy like wind and solar, thus promoting new investments and an expansion of production capacity. Second, Congress should authorize $16 billion in low interest loans to expand and rebuild portions of our transmission line network to allow renewable energy to be efficiently transported to population centers. Third the Congress can mandate that by 2025, 25% of America's electricity will be produced from renewable sources. These actions combined with current regulations such as the implementation of higher fuel economy standards will result in a reduction in American demand for fossil fuels. These actions will result in a cleaner environment and lower utility rates for customers in Illinois.

Ritter

It is very important that the federal government promotes new technology. Many times private industry only does research when it knows they can make money off of the product in the future. Private industry does not usually change their ways unless it somehow effects their bottom lines. So it is important that the government promotes green technology.

Products like solar, wind and cleaner nuclear options should all be on the table. Taking advantage of regional resources should also be encouraged. Funding research into new generation nuclear power plants that are safer and pollute less should also be a priority.

Funding research into energy efficiency is also another way to promote green initiatives.

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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    ALL
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    Coolidge
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    Petzel
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    Ritter
Coolidge

Yes, waterboarding is torture. I have no doubt about that. Even John McCain thinks that torture is not the American way and does not result in good information in any case. Torture, even when it results in actionable intelligence, is likely to result in a great deal of false information. Studies have shown that information obtained through torture is less likely to be truthful than that obtained by other means. It is therefore an ineffective means of interrogation and I believe it should never be used.

Petzel

Waterboarding is torture. I make that assertion based on a number of facts. First, the United States has historically opposed waterboarding. During the Vietnam War, several US Soldiers were court-martialed for waterboarding enemy soldiers. Second, the United Nations considers waterboarding torture based on the UN Convention against Torture. Finally, the US Army Field Manual entitled Human Intelligence Collector Operations bans the use of waterboarding because the US Army considers it torture. Under no circumstances should the United States Government torture suspects.

Ritter

Water boarding most certainly is a form of torture. Any act that causes pain or discomfort to an individual is a form of torture. Torture is anything that causes pain to the mind or body. Torture should not be allowed in the United States at any level.

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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    ALL
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    Coolidge
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    Petzel
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    Ritter
Coolidge

I support decriminalization of marijuana for two reasons: because it will save our country billions of dollars in law enforcement and destroy a currently profitable criminal enterprise. Possession of marijuana should be a misdemeanor at most. Our 1920's experiment with Prohibition should have shown us that fighting a war on marijuana costs too much money in enforcement and incarceration to make sense, especially in an era of high deficits like this one. In fact, making possession of marijuana a crime only encourages criminal activity because it makes selling marijuana more profitable. I also believe the federal government should step in to make medical marijuana legal in every state based on studies that show it works to alleviate the pain of serious illness. Although it's irrelevant to my views, I smoked marijuana in college but haven't since then.

Petzel

I believe that we expend a significant amount of time and money fighting marijuana usage when those resources could be used more effectively elsewhere. If marijuana were legalized at a federal level, the federal government would save or create $10-$11 billion per year. Ultimately, the states should have the ability to determine whether the sale, cultivation or use of marijuana is legal. I support removing the federal government from this decision while allowing the states to determine marijuana's legal status for themselves.

Ritter

I personally would not be upset if marijuana was legalized in the United States at a national level. It is not what I consider to be a hard narcotic. The United States could benefit from taxing the sale of it just like it does cigarettes now creating billions in new revenue.

So long as there are strong penalties for participating in its practice. Laws that would be equivalent to any drunk driving laws that exists should be attached to such a movement so that taking part in it is done in a safe manner. The same harsh laws associated with drunk driving would also have to apply to marijuana. Other then that I would be fine with legalizing it.

The race
The candidates
Leslie Coolidge
Geoffrey Petzel
Tim Ritter

Not pictured:
Maureen E. Yates

The district
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