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Congress, District 9

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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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    Schakowsky
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    Wolfe
Janice D. Schakowsky
Political party: Democrat
Birthdate: 5/26/1944
Occupation: U.S. Representative/People of Illinois' 9th District
Marital status: Married
Spouse: Robert Creamer

Education:

Graduated from the University of Illinois in 1965 with a B.S. in Elementary Education.

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

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

Prior to her election to Congress, Schakowsky represented the 18th District in the Illinois General Assembly for eight years. She served as a Democratic Floor Leader and as Secretary of the Conference of Women Legislators.

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

Timothy C Wolfe
Political party: Republican
Birthdate: 9/20/1953
Occupation: Certified Public Accountant and Certified Financial/Self Employed
Marital status: Married
Spouse:

Education:

Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Illinois Wesleyan University (1975)
Bachelor's degree in Accounting from Illinois State University (1978)
Master's degree in Taxation from Northern Illinois University (2003)
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
Certified Financial Planner® (CFP®.)

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
Illinois CPA Society
Republican Jewish Coalition
Republicans of Wheeling Township
New Trier Republican Organization

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

I have not held elective office or appointed to any political office.

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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    Schakowsky
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Schakowsky

Campaign headquarters: 821 Chicago Avenue
Website: www.janschakowsky.org
Campaign manager: Alex Armour
Campaign budget: $ 1.25 Million
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
AFSCME - $10,000
IBEW - $10,000
UNITE HERE - $10,000
Operating Engineers - $10,000
Machinists/Aerospace Workers Union - $10,000

Wolfe

Campaign headquarters: 119 S Emerson St. #212 Mount Prospect, IL 60056
Website: www.TimWolfeforCongress.com
Campaign manager: NA
Campaign budget:
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.

What are your top three priorities for the nation?
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    Schakowsky
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    Wolfe
Schakowsky

My top three priorities are creating jobs, addressing income inequality (part of this important element is protecting Social Security and Medicare, which are addressed in questions below), and ending the foreclosure crisis.
1) Jobs: In order to reignite the American Dream and rebuild the middle class, we must be aggressive in creating jobs -- good jobs that provide adequate pay and benefits. I introduced H.R. 2914, the Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act (http://schakowsky.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2877%3Aschakowsky-introduces-bill-to-tax-millionaires-and-billionaires&catid=22%3A2011-press-releases&Itemid=44), to accelerate our fragile recovery by creating over 2.2 million jobs in areas critical to our communities and our economy -- teachers, cops and firefighters; child development and health care workers, school construction and maintenance workers. In addition, I support providing assistance to states and localities, so that they are not forced to lay off public employees. The President included parts of my bill -- on school building, jobs for youth, and putting teachers, firefighters, and police back to work -- in his proposed American Jobs Act. I strongly support his bill and have cosponsored it in the House.

We also should stop using taxpayer dollars to subsidize companies that outsource American jobs and use overseas tax shelters to avoid taxation. I introduced the Patriot Corporations of America Act to provide preference in federal contracts and lower tax rates for American companies that produce at least 90% of goods and services and conduct at least 50% of their R&D in the United States. It would pay for this by eliminating tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs and profits. My bill is part of the House Democrat's "Make It In America" Agenda.

2) Income Inequality: Income inequality in the United States is at levels that we haven't seen since 1928. Success in our country is based on a robust middle class. Between 1979 and 2008, annual income for the wealthiest 1% of Americans grew by $1.1 trillion, while the annual income for the bottom 90% declined. In addition, income immobility has increased. Today, a person born into the bottom fifth of incomes has only about a 50/50 chance of moving up the economic ladder -- a worse opportunity than in Britain, Canada and other countries. More than 15 percent of Americans are now officially living below the poverty line -- which for a family of 4 is just over $23,000 in income each year - and that number is growing. I have introduced H.R. 1124, the Fairness in Taxation Act (link), to establish new rates for income over $1 million -- starting at 45% and rising to 49% for income over $1 billion. My bill would raise over $800 billion over the next decade so that we can protect the important benefits of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and make additional investments in job-creating initiatives. My bill will help us reverse course by asking the very wealthy to pay their fair share, raising the resources necessary to provide opportunity for all Americans.
The current situation is the result of decades of policies, primarily the reduction of effective tax rates on the wealthiest Americans and profitable corporations that has brought federal tax revenues to a 60-year low. As a result, we have cut back on needed investments in education, child development and child care, health care, infrastructure development, R&D, and innovation.
Many of the jobs that do exist provide insufficient wages and benefits leading to massive underemployment. Finally, the erosion in union membership has had an effect, since union wages are nearly 28% higher, 34% higher for women, 31% for African American, and 51% more for Latino workers and members are more likely to have health care and pension benefits. In addition to raising more revenues, we need to ensure that private and public workers are able to exercise rights at work.

In addition, we need to make a commitment so that no one in this country goes hungry. Almost 50 million Americans are food insecure, meaning they sometimes don't have enough to eat. In the wealthiest nation on earth, that is simply unacceptable. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) works to ensure that children have enough food to grow, that underpaid and underemployed workers have the means to feed their families, and that seniors don't have to choose between food and medicine. As a past participant in the Fighting Poverty with Faith Food Stamp Challenge, I know how difficult it is to eat a healthy diet on just $1.50 per meal -- the average SNAP benefit. Nonetheless, SNAP prevents chronic hunger for nearly 50 million Americans, and we must protect it from reckless cuts proposed by Congressional Republicans.
3) Foreclosures: I have co-sponsored "Foreclosure Workshops" in my district so my constituents could meet with housing counselors, lenders, and experts. It is there that I have painfully witnessed the desperation and the disintegration of the middle class, the loss of hope and home. I have been working with my colleagues in the House to put forward legislation to assist homeowners facing foreclosure. I am a cosponsor of H.R. 363, the HOME Act, which would enable homeowners with a GSE-backed mortgage to refinance their mortgage by extending their mortgage term to 40 years and waiving all fees or penalties from the original or adjusted mortgage. I am a cosponsor of H.R. 1477, the Preserving Homes and Communities Act, which would prevent lenders from foreclosing on a property without a good-faith effort to restructure the loan. I am also an original cosponsor of Rep. Maxine Waters' Principal Reduction Act, which would allow underwater homeowners to reduce the principal owed on their home to 90 percent of the current value.

Unfortunately the Republican Congress has decided not to take up any legislation to assist homeowners struggling to pay their mortgage. Due to the inaction of House Republicans, my Democratic colleagues and I have encouraged the Obama Administration and federal agencies to take any measures available to them to protect homeowners without the consent of Congress. For example, the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) has been restructured to allow underwater homeowners with Fannie GSE loans -- regardless of how far underwater they are -- to lower their interest rate as long as they are current in their mortgage payments. However, that is just a small step, and just a drop in the bucket in terms of what we need.

Wolfe

1. Reduce the Federal debt and the irresponsible spending policies that have created it by promoting economic growth and job creation and limiting the role of the Federal government and lifting the burden of heavy taxes and regulations from households and businesses so that we can prosper in a free market economy.
We must reduce Federal spending by modernizing the budgeting system, away from the current baseline-budgeting, which essentially makes permanent the overspending of the past, and toward a zero-based budget. Zero-based budgeting requires analyzing prior expenses to budget for the future while baseline budgeting simply assumes the appropriateness of prior spending and adds additional spending, thereby creating a new "baseline." We then need to eliminate the waste, fraud and abuse that have become inherent in this system. Efficiency experts should be hired with compensation from the savings their efforts produce. We must then prioritize spending and eliminate non-critical spending and spending more properly delegated to state or local governments or the private sector.
I will not support any approach that relies on, or even attempts to, raise taxes, through new types of taxes or higher tax rates, without first making substantial, permanent and current Federal spending cuts. As the economy improves, we will almost certainly generate additional revenues.
Because of duplication, bloated and excessive salaries/wages and benefits, inefficiencies and fraud there is no area in the Federal government that would not benefit from spending cuts. We must reform our tax system, including development of an alternative tax system, reducing regulations and freeing up the energy sector to help the country work towards energy independence and reduced reliance on foreign sources.
A compelling argument can be made that by lowering tax rates, tax receipts do not drop, and often increase. This is because lower rates generate more economic activity. However, in striking contrast to such a policy, increased government spending does require more taxes, while trying to force rates higher is likely to exacerbate current economic problems.
My opponent suggests that tax rates should be raised to as high as 49% and that the "Fairness in Taxation Act" would bring in $78 billion in new revenue (which is enough money to fund the government at current spending levels for less than 8 days). This example clearly illustrates that we cannot tax our way out of this mess. The solution must be to cut spending dramatically.
Raising taxes on job creators would also be a job killer because people who invest in businesses and jobs are taking a risk in return for the opportunity of being rewarded. When tax rates are raised, there is a tendency for there to be less tax collected than had been expected. When the economy begins to improve, there will be a significant increase in revenue collections. With that in mind, deficit reduction should focus on controlling spending.
Congress must minimize the excessively negative impact the Federal government has on private market businesses. Among other policy reforms, we need to remove heavy-handed controls on the energy sector to help the country work towards energy independence and strongly reduce reliance on foreign sources. This will also hold down inflation and create jobs, thereby advancing the recovery in economically responsible ways.
We must begin serious discussions about the reform of Medicare and Social Security. Doing nothing, including raising payroll taxes on the "rich", will not alter the path towards insolvency, which is where are headed. We must begin reforms now in order to make these programs sustainable for future generations. We must increase both the standard retirement age and the early retirement age for Social Security recipients because of longer life expectancies, and match up the start of Medicare benefits with the standard retirement age.
Overall, spending priorities need to be established. We need to deal with bloated government and insure that government pay, including benefits, is in line with similar jobs in the private sector. In 2011, the General Accounting Office issued a report (Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue) outlining a number of ideas to help reduce the nation's deficit. Rather than ignoring this report, as they largely have until now, Congress should specifically act on this report in a way that implements the best of its proposals, while making the public aware of the issues that it raises.

2. Repeal the Affordable Patient Care Act and replace it with a smaller, less intrusive, law that keeps health insurance in the private sector, which would incorporate the few positive points of the Affordable Patient Care Act (coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, parents being able to continue covering children on their health care policy up to age 26-whether or not they are still in school), enable interstate sales of health insurance policies to stimulate competition, no life-time maximum and implement tort reform. It is up to each state to determine whether to require health insurance in a way that is similar to the requirement to have auto insurance.
We only need to look to Europe and see that moving further down the path towards socialized medicine is not the answer.
I believe that we need to place more reliance on high-deductible plans combined with Health Savings Accounts. Additionally, all people with pre-existing conditions must be covered, however, that does not mean that they should necessarily avoid having to pay higher premiums.
To reiterate, the number one legislative issue that must be corrected is to repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. This law embodies many of the ills imposed on our country, including further empowering the Federal government to tax and modify personal behavior, favoring illegal immigrants over citizens, hampering the free market economy, abridging freedom of religion, ignoring states' rights, dishonestly portraying the devastating effects this legislation will have on senior citizens, and undermining the legislative process by passing incredibly poor legislation using deceptive procedures that did not even provide representatives time to read the bill before they voted on it.
Replacement of Obamacare will require co-operation between the government and the insurance industry. Government must legislate for interstate sales of insurance products, coverage of pre-existing conditions and tort reform. The private market must develop new and innovative products that will hold premiums, and out of pocket costs, in check.

3. Make energy independence a national priority by reducing federal constraints on exploration and production. A tremendous number of good paying jobs could be created.
The US needs to become more energy independent. We have the capacity in this country to become independent because of abundant natural resources and advancing technologies such as fracking--where oil is found in shale formations. We see that reliance on foreign energy can be problematic particularly given such situations as the potential blockade of the Straits of Hormuz by Iran, and other forms of conflict that may soon emerge.
Washington should not subsidize production of ethanol. If ethanol were an effective alternative, then subsidies would not be necessary.
We currently have an anti-energy policy. Energy is a critical issue for the American people, and current policies have increased prices and strangled economic growth. I am committed to energy self-sufficiency by eliminating government micro-management in favor of free market policies that create jobs. Energy independence is essential to national security as well. Dependency on distant sources of energy in unstable regions has forced us to risk blood and treasure to secure resources that we already have at home, and potentially in abundance! Thus, productive energy policies lead to peace, prosperity, job growth, and national security, and these are the policies for which I stand.

What are your specific priorities for your congressional district?
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Schakowsky

I want to bring good jobs and opportunity to all my constituents -- and I also want to provide the highest quality service to help them get the services they need and deserve. I am very proud of the Constituent Service operation in my district offices. Our Constituent Advocates do everything that they can to help solve constituents' problems with government agencies, from postal problems to immigration matters to Medicare issues. We help people avoid foreclosure, find affordable housing, be reunited with their families, access Veterans benefits, and clear up tax problems. We help students and families learn about Pell grants and loans to help them afford a college education. In November, my office organized a small business event so that current and prospective small business owners could learn about federal contracting opportunities and programs that can provide them assistance. We cut through bureaucratic red tape, connect people to benefits and programs, and help identify and obtain grants. One of my constituent advocates has helped save constituents over $2.4 million since 2009, primarily in the area of health care.

Wolfe

1. It is a priority to provide reliable constituent services at convenient locations and hours.
2. It is important to maintain a dialogue with constituents in various ways. Therefore, I will continue holding town hall meetings throughout the Ninth District to share current issues in the Congress and to hear concerns of constituents. Being available to meet with groups of constituents to discuss issues is also a priority to better enable representation. Through written updates by surface mail and e-mail as well as through website connections will also maintain the dialogue.
3. Effort will be made to repeal or counter the Race to the Top Education Program of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which provides grants to some school districts, but requires them to make very significant changes to their programs that, in fact, may be undesirable for this country (and also the grants are very time-consuming to generate). I would rather support general funding for education to school districts so they can focus on the job of educating students. I support the local school districts being responsible for educating students. I do not support the Common Core State Standards Initiative since I do not favor a national school program, controlled and administered by the Federal bureaucracy.

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

I have not and will not sign the Norquist pledge. The idea of never raising any tax, never considering raising new revenue as an option, is a positively ridiculous and counterproductive idea.

Wolfe

I will not sign the Grover Norquist pledge, eventhough I do not support any tax increase and plan. When elected to Congress, to not support any tax increase, but rather to work to decrease taxes and or change the tax system such that taxes would be decreased, I think it would not be productive to sign such a pledge. We cannot predict future unanticipated circumstances when we may be required to realign our positions in consideration of emergent alternatives.

Which sitting Supreme Court justice do you admire most and why? Which current justice do you think has been the greatest disappointment and why?
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Schakowsky

I most admire Justice Ginsburg. As the 2nd female Supreme Court justice, and the 1st Jewish woman to serve, Justice Ginsburg overcame many obstacles over the course of her career -- including being denied a Supreme Court clerkship due to her gender -- and I deeply admire what she has been able to accomplish. Over the entirety of her legal career, Justice Ginsburg worked tirelessly to promote the interests of women. Whether it was founding the first law journal focused specifically on womens' issues, or starting the Womens' Rights Project at the ACLU, she has always been at the forefront of this fight. Since her appointment to the Supreme Court she has proven to be a reliable voice for those who would otherwise be marginalized.

I believe that Justice Scalia has been the greatest disappointment. I attended part of the oral arguments for the court's consideration of the Affordable Care Act, and I was stunned to hear Justice Scalia say that the bill was over 2,000 pages, and ask whether he and his clerks were really expected to read all of that. More fundamentally, his opinions -- such as on the Arizona immigration law -- include political commentary that undermines our system of separation of power and further weakens the belief of the public in an independent judiciary.

Wolfe

Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas for their principled reading of the Constitution

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for declining to even recommend the U.S. Constitution as a model for emergent nations

Is there a problem of a growing income and wealth gap in the United States? If so, what's to be done about it?
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Schakowsky

I believe that the enormous growth in income inequality is the most serious challenge we face as a society and one that requires an immediate and aggressive response. There are multiple and serious consequences from this enormous shift in income and wealth: the erosion of the middle-class, problems for businesses unable to find customers for their goods and services, and a concentration of political power by the wealthiest Americans able to make large campaign contributions. This is not a healthy situation for our economy or for our democracy. This concentration of wealth is coming at the same time that income mobility is declining. It is becoming more and more difficult to achieve the American dream -- that if you work hard, you can succeed. More and more American children are facing insurmountable odds -- born into poverty, unable to obtain quality education or health care, limited in job opportunities.

This situation is the result of decades of policies, primarily the reduction of effective tax rates on the wealthiest Americans and profitable corporations that has brought federal tax revenues to a 60-year low. As a result, we have cut back in needed investments in education, child development and child care, health care, infrastructure development, R&D, and innovation. Many of the jobs that do exist provide insufficient wages and benefits leading to massive underemployment. Finally, the erosion in union membership has had an effect, since union wages are nearly 28% higher, 34% higher for women, 31% for African American, and 51% more for Latino workers and members are more likely to have health care and pension benefits. Responses that would help reverse course include asking the very wealthy to pay their fair share, raising the resources necessary to provide opportunity for all Americans, and ensuring that private and public workers are able to exercise rights at work.

Wolfe

I think the statistics show that, except for the past four years, there has not been a growing income and wealth gap in the US; rather that there is an increase in the percentage of the population that is part of the middle class and that the socio-economic level of the US middle class has been rising. Regarding the past four years, the solution is to change the mix in both houses of the Congress (the House of Representatives and the Senate) and then pass legislation to permit and encourage economic development and job growth. This includes repealing and replacing the Patient Protection and Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which adds new taxes, increases existing taxes, and has the effect of controlling the distribution of services and decreasing the deliverable services. Because of my accounting, tax and financial planning experience, I am someone who can help with this solution. But the bottom line is that inequality is counteracted by opportunity, and that is what we need to maximize.
We need to modernize our tax system in order to make it simpler and more equitable, which are more important goals than an abstract notion of fairness. I believe that we must take a serious look at moving from an income tax system to a national sales tax based system that would, among other things, eliminate the built-in impediments to opportunity of the current system which includes the class warfare with "the rich" vs. everyone else, and taxation of interest, dividends and capital gains.

Is global warming real? What, if anything, should be done about it?
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Schakowsky

Yes. We are already seeing acidifying oceans, coral bleaching, thinning ice, rising seas, shifting habitats, and a loss of biodiversity. We need to take our changing climate seriously and work toward a comprehensive program of carbon emissions reduction. I supported H.R. 2454, the cap-and-trade bill in the last Congress, and I believe that is exactly the type of legislation needed to reign in reckless pollution. Domestic cap-and-trade systems have resulted in the elimination of leaded gasoline and the reduction of acid rain in the past, and a similar system can and should be developed to contain global warming. Climate change is a growing problem, and one we cannot wait to address.

Although this Congress has been resistant to any beneficial environmental policies, some things are being done. The President announced in November the agreement between the auto industry, labor and environmental groups to achieve a 54.5 miles per gallon average fuel economy for their cars by 2025. The 54.5 MPG Standard will allow the U.S. to reduce oil consumption by as much as 2.2 million barrels per day by 2025. That is more than half the oil we import from OPEC. I commend the President for using his authority to set such this attainable yet achievable standard.

The Republican-led 112th Congress has voted to end funding for the Department of Energy loan guarantee programs and is working to pass legislation that would limit grants to applications received before 2012. Those ideas are backward-looking. Instead, we must instead renew our commitment to supporting nascent clean energy technologies competing with entrenched dirty energy sources such as oil. I will continue to support incentives like the Production Tax Credit for wind (which is set to expire at the end of 2012 and should be renewed immediately), grant and loan programs, and other efforts to build a clean energy sector that is the envy of the world.

Wolfe

I do not believe that man-made global warming is real. When global warming advocates call skeptics "global warming deniers", it emphasizes how politicized their perspective is. I support genuine climatological science, not junk science contrived to support predefined conclusions. The human sources of climate change have yet to be established, however, I will dispassionately assess scientific evidence as it becomes available.

President Obama, working with other nations, has pushed economic sanctions to compel Iran to cease work on a nuclear bomb. Critics say the sanctions are working too slowly and a military strike by the U.S or Israel is necessary. What should be done?
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Schakowsky

Iran's push toward nuclear weapons poses a grave threat to regional and global stability, and the United States has been a leader in efforts to halt Iran's nuclear ambitions. While I do not believe we can take any options off the table, I strongly believe we need to first exhaust our full range of diplomatic and economic options, including biting sanctions, before discussing military alternatives. I cosponsored and voted for H.R. 1905, the Iran Threat Reduction Act. Strong sanctions have had a crippling effect on Iran's economy, and I support President Obama's efforts to mobilize the international community to enact multilateral sanctions and further isolate Iran. We must continue to work with Israel and other regional partners to push Iran to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

In addition to critical efforts to halt Iran's progress toward nuclear weapons, the U.S. has also been a leader in ensuring that the Straits of Hormuz remain open to international traffic. About one fifth of the world's oil passes through the Straits annually, and Iran must abide by its international commitments and keep the Straits open. The U.S. also must continue to be a leading voice in encouraging the Iranian government to end its crackdown on civil society and to improve its abysmal human rights record.

Wolfe

With regard to Iran and its nuclear program, we must support the utilization of increased sanctions if necessary to gain international cooperation. However, some form of sanctions has been in place for several years and we have not achieved our basic goal of knowing what the true intentions of Iran are. Also, we must find ways to assist Iranian citizens in their attempts to regain control of their government. In order to implement these types of policies, the US must maintain the largest and best-equipped military force in the world. We must be prepared to help our friends and to promote freedom around the world. During the Obama administration, we have not been as reliable an ally to Israel as we should be, and that must change. With regards to foreign aid, we must more closely tie it to the nature of our relationship with recipients of our aid. We must eliminate, or severely restrict, aid to countries that are not working to benefit their own people and to establish or maintain identifiable, positive relationships with the U.S.

Republicans have criticized the Obama administration for cutting military spending. Democrats have defended spending cuts as necessary to balancing the federal budget, while insisting they are committed to a strong military. What's your view?
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Schakowsky

I support smart cuts to our military budget. We can reduce what former Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the "gusher" of defense spending without compromising our national security by focusing on modern threats and ending funding for Cold War-era weapons. The Defense Department is one of only a few agencies -- and certainly the largest -- that cannot pass a financial audit, and we know that there are wasteful items and practices that can be curtailed. (I have worked extensively on reforming the use of government purchase cards so that taxpayer dollars are not wasted.) We currently spend as much on defense as the next seventeen countries combined (most of whom are our allies). As a member of the President's Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, I proposed a deficit reduction plan that significantly reduced the defense budget by eliminating waste and outdated weapons systems. With defense spending at record levels, I support common-sense reductions to the Pentagon budget, particularly at a time when many in Washington are talking about drastic cuts to critical domestic social safety net programs.

We must reduce military spending in ways that do not break our promises to soldiers, their families, and veterans. I do not support policies and proposals to reduce service member or veteran benefits. Our men and women in uniform perform an extraordinary service to our nation, at great personal sacrifice, and we have a responsibility to ensure that they have access to the benefits they have earned and the services that they need. Our soldiers and their families deserve our deepest gratitude.

Wolfe

The United States cannot fight everyone's wars. While we must be prepared to help friendly countries, they must make a significant commitment to maintaining their own security.
With terrorism being one of the major world problems, the effectiveness of traditional military forces can be limited. We must extend the technological tools and improve the intelligence resources needed to fight terrorism. In all of these areas, we must stop the casual divulgence of information and the politically-oriented leaks that have characterized the current administration. Such irresponsible actions place our representatives, and those who would work with them, at unnecessary risk.
Every department of government spends excessively and we must make all departments within the Federal government more efficient and effective. However, budget for the Department of Defense is being more drastically reduced than that in other departments. Defense is a primary role of the Federal government so it seems to be that we have not done an adequate job in prioritizing our expenditures and so we must do much more to reduce spending in other areas before continuing to decrease the Defense Department budget.

How would you reform the financial time bomb of Medicare? Should there be a defined contribution (where the government decides what it will pay) or a defined benefit (where the government guarantees a level of coverage)?
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Schakowsky

Medicare is an American success story. The program provides critical benefits for more than 40 million seniors and more than 8 million citizens with disabilities. While we need to improve Medicare, it is important to realize the critical role that it plays in providing health care in a cost-efficient manner. Medicare's per capita spending increases have been lower than the private sector over the 1969 to 2009 period and are projected to grow by 3.5% between 2010 and 2019, compared to 5.4% for private insurance. Medicaid's recent cost growth is mainly because it has picked up the cost of coverage for children and families who lost private insurance during the Great Recession. We need to address the underlying causes of health care inflation -- but simply cutting back on Medicare and Medicaid by cost-shifting to individuals and families, businesses and state and local governments is not the answer.

Instead, we need to look at ways to make health care more efficient, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which I proudly call Obamacare, makes many improvements, including new tools to go after fraud and abuse, new emphasis on prevention and wellness, elimination of overpayments to private Medicare Advantage plans, better care coordination, and a focus on improving patient care, rather than encouraging overuse of technologies and services that don't add value but result in higher payments.

We can do more to lower costs. I am the sponsor of H.R. 999, the Medicare Prescription Drug Savings and Choice Act, which would create a Medicare-administered Part D drug benefit, to compete with private plans. Like the public option (which I also strongly support), it would expand choice and lower costs. I also support requiring that Medicare negotiate for drug prices, using its market power to negotiate for deep discounts as the VA does.

Wolfe

As voters, we must recognize that the commitment to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid cannot be limitless. As it currently stands, the portion of the budget that must be allocated to this program will grow from the current 20% today to 35% in 2035.
Medicaid is a federal/state health program for the poor, elderly, and disabled. One of most important things the United States can do to reduce spending for this program, is to develop an improved economy that will reduce the number of poor being served by this program. The Federal government should also put a maximum cap on payments to the states while giving the states more flexibility in structuring the program at the state level.
Changes to Medicare must include coordinating the starting of benefits to the normal Social Security retirement age. We must also move towards making Medicare a premium-supported program -- that is through private insurance or a private insurance model. Finally, the specific benefits that are covered by Medicare should be reviewed.
Recently, a high level administration official has said that 20 - 30% of total spending for Medicare and Medicaid is "wasted spending." (Dr. Donald Berwick, Former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) We should be devoting more resources to discovering fraud and waste by seeding bids from companies who are experts in detecting fraud. We could pay companies based upon a percent, of reduced costs.
We need to restructure Social Security and Medicare by increasing the standard retirement age because of much greater life expectancies and demands made on the system since these programs first began. We must also coordinate the start of Medicare to coincide with the standard Social Security retirement age.

On the issue of abortion, the two major political parties take very different stands. The Democratic platform supports a woman's right to seek a "safe and legal" abortion, regardless of her ability to pay. The Republican platform states that the "unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed." The Republican platform does not address whether exceptions should be made to a ban on abortions, such rape or incest. Where, if anywhere, do you part company with your party's platform on abortion?
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Schakowsky

I support the Democratic platform on abortion. As a leader in the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, I support access to the full range of reproductive health services, including abortion. I believe we need to eliminate restrictions on access to abortion which prevent low-income women, federal employees and women in the military from obtaining this Constitutionally-protected service. I also steadfastly oppose any effort to eliminate Title X funding to the more than 4,400 clinics in the United States, including Planned Parenthood clinics, which rely on that funding to serve approximately 5 million young and low-income women and men each year. Title X clinics provide preventive care, including lifesaving cancer screenings, routine gynecological examinations, contraceptive services, immunizations and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. Title X clinics are critical to achieving the goal of improving quality health care in this country, including efforts to improve women's health, lowering the rate of unintended pregnancies, and decreasing infant mortality.

Wolfe

Social issues are not a priority for me and I am not seeking to change established law in this area, except for opposing government funding of termination of pregnancy (unless medically indicated), as mandated in the PPACA .

The Democratic Party platform, for the first time, supports civil gay marriage, but adds that churches should be allowed to administer marriage as a sacrament as they see fit, "without government interference." The Republican Party platform calls for a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman." Where do you stand?
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Schakowsky

I support the Democratic platform on gay marriage. I am a strong supporter of marriage equality, and co-chair of the LGBTQ Equality Caucus. I believe that discrimination against individuals due to their sexual orientation is wrong and I will continue to fight to further the interests of equality. I am an original cosponsor of H.R. 1116, the Respect for Marriage Act, which would amend the Defense of Marriage Act to give equal protections to same-sex and heterosexual couples. Last year, I participated in a field hearing in Chicago about the effects of DOMA. During this hearing, I heard from several constituents in same-sex marriages who are harmed by this law. Their stories have made it even clearer why this bad law must be repealed or overturned in federal court. No one should ever have to spend time convincing a doctor to be allowed to see her partner in her hospital bed. No one should ever again have to go without health insurance if his partner's employer provides it. No one should be separated from a life partner because immigration laws don't recognize the relationship. I will continue working hard to see that all members of the LGBTQ community receive just and equal treatment.

Wolfe

Marriage is currently defined as one man and one woman and should stay that way. The Defense of Marriage Act (1996) should be enforced and remain in effect. The numerous state initiatives cannot be lightly dismissed. Each state must address the issue of civil unions in order for same-sex couples to be able to publically express commitments to each other and share in social and legal benefits and responsibilities.

On the issue of Social Security, the Republican Party platform proposes making no changes in the system for "any current or near-retiree" but envisions allowing younger workers to choose personal investment accounts as "supplements." The Democratic platform pledges to "find a solution" and warns of subjecting a retiree's benefits to the "whims of the stock market." What should be done?
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Schakowsky

I agree with the Democratic platform that we need to ensure the solvency of the Social Security program, and I support doing so without cutting benefits. It is important to remember that Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit and, by law, cannot borrow to pay benefits. The Trust Fund currently has a surplus of $2.4 trillion which will go up to $4 trillion, and without any changes the program can pay out full benefits until 2037. As a member of the President's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, to ensure that Social Security can pay full benefits for the next 75 years, I put forward a plan that would eliminate the wage cap on the employer side and raise it to cover 90% of aggregate wages on the employee side and establish a small legacy tax on wages above the cap. Those recommendations would result in surplus funding that can be used to improve the extremely modest benefits that are now provided.

My plan specifically rejects cuts to already modest Social Security benefits to achieve long-term solvency. The average Social Security retirement benefit is only $14,000 a year ($2,000 a year less for women). Six in 10 seniors rely on Social Security for the majority of their income -- 1 in 3 for 90% or more. Raising the age of eligibility (the current age for full benefits is already being increased to 67 years), lowering the initial benefit, or reducing the cost-of-living adjustment will threaten the economic security of millions of Social Security recipients.

I strongly oppose privatization. We have only to look at what happened to savings during the Great Recession (estimates are a $2 trillion loss in 401(k)s and IRAs) and know that this would put retirement security at tremendous risk, unlike Social Security whose inflation-adjusted benefits continued.

Wolfe

Originally Social Security was meant as a safety net for retired people. However, the life expectancy was much shorter when Social Security was implemented and therefore the long range viability of Social Security was not in question. Today, the life expectancy of our citizens is much longer and the expectations of Social Security have shifted from a safety net to an integral part of one's retirement. Although benefit decreases should not affect people who are 55 or older and looking towards retirement, I believe that because of longer life expectancies the starting date for receiving benefits (both normal and early retirement ages) needs to be increased.
I do not currently believe that we need to increase the Social Security tax. However, we also should not be reducing payroll tax collections such as what we are currently doing with the payroll tax cut we had in place in 2011 and in 2012.
With regards to the benefit formula am not yet familiar enough with the formula to pass judgment. However, I think we might want to consider establishing a specific annual increase every year for a 5 or 10 year period so that we can better budget for costs.
As I stated in the above answer, we need to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse with one solution being to put bids out to companies who specialize in uncovering and correcting losses from these problems.
The Federal government has proven that they are not a trustworthy trustee of funds because they have spent money that should be accumulating for current and future beneficiaries. We must therefore develop a plan that segregates the Social Security funding from the General operating expenditures of the government.
In sum, we need to restructure Social Security and Medicare by increasing the standard retirement age because of much greater life expectancies and demands made on the system since these programs first began. We must also coordinate the start of Medicare to coincide with the standard Social Security retirement age.

Do you support "right-to-work" laws, now in effect in 23 states and promoted in the Republican Party platform, that limit the extent to which labor unions can require membership and the paying of union dues as a condition of employment? Or do you agree with the Democratic Party platform that such laws are "attacks" on the right of workers to organize?
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Schakowsky

I agree with the Democratic platform that "right-to-work" laws undermine the ability of workers to collectively bargain and are harmful. States currently have the ability to require that employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement pay the union that negotiated that agreement a fee to cover their share of the costs. Employees cannot be required to pay for other union-provided services, such as member education or political activities.

I believe that workers benefit from collective bargaining agreements and should pay their fair share of the costs. Wages in states without right-to-work laws are significantly higher and workers are more likely to receive benefits such as health insurance. Right-to-work laws allow some workers to avoid paying their fair share of the costs even though unions are legally required to bargain on their behalf. Unions operate under democratic principles. Union representation must be supported by the majority of those who would be represented by the union. Workers decide how much their dues will be and how the money will be used. And, by law, union dues cannot be excessive or discriminatory. I believe that unions have made important differences in the lives of working men and women, and I oppose legislation like the National Right to Work law that would threaten their existence.

Wolfe

I support "right to work" legislation, in that labor unions have the right to organize but not to require workers to be members of a union. Employees retain the right to decide whether union membership is in their interests. Union membership should never be imposed by fiat.

What further federal legal restrictions should be imposed on guns of any kind?
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Schakowsky

I support common-sense gun safety legislation, and I believe Congress needs to have a real national debate about guns. This is a public safety issue, one that threatens our families and communities every day. Thousands of children are killed by guns each year in the United States. Homicide by firearm is the second-leading cause of death for young people ages 1-19 in our country, and thousands more kids are killed or injured in unintentional shootings. Whether because of daily shootings in Chicago or horrific tragedies like the shootings in Tucson and Aurora, we must address the deadly violence threatening our neighborhoods.

Like the majority of Americans, I support renewing the assault weapons ban. These extremely dangerous, semi-automatic weapons are specifically designed to kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. They pose a grave risk to our communities, which is why the overwhelming majority of Americans support limiting the sale of military-style assault weapons. I am a cosponsor of a number of important gun safety bills including H.R. 308, which would reinstate the ban on large-capacity ammunition feeding devices, magazines designed for the sole purpose of shooting as many people as possible; H.R. 1781, which would make it more difficult for dangerous individuals to obtain guns; and H.R. 6241, which would ban the anonymous online sale of ammunition. I do not believe that any of these initiatives violate the Constitutional rights of American citizens.

Wolfe

Laws preventing gun ownership by felons and the mentally ill should be strictly enforced.

The Republican Party platform calls for a mandatory requirement that employers verify the legal status of their employees and rejects any amnesty for illegal immigrants. The Democratic Party platform calls for reforming the American immigration system to bring "undocumented immigrants out of the shadows" and requires them to "get right with the law, learn English, and pay taxes in order to get on a path to earn citizenship." Which approach do you favor? Most specifically, what should be done?
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Schakowsky

The 9th Congressional District of Illinois is one of the most diverse in the country: 40% of our residents speak a language other than English at home; one-third came as immigrants, fifty-some languages are spoken in our schools, and 75-80% of the constituent service work in my district office is immigration and visa related. I myself am a first generation American.

I believe we need comprehensive reform of our broken immigration system, and I agree with the Democratic platform. We need to combine enforcement of our laws with a pathway for citizenship for immigrants currently in the country, nearly all of whom simply want a better life for their families. We must protect our borders while also creating a mechanism by which people who are here illegally can come out of the shadows, register with the government, and, if they have no criminal history, obtain work permits, pay taxes, learn English, gain legal status and work toward citizenship.

I also support the DREAM Act, which would give eligible young people the opportunity to legalize their immigration status and work towards citizenship. Nearly 65,000 youth graduate high school in the US each year but find themselves unable to work, join the military, or go to college because of their immigration status. Passage of the DREAM Act would give these young men and women the opportunity to pursue their American dream. We need to enact this bill but in meantime I strongly support the Obama Administration's action to halt deportation of DREAM Act-eligible young people.

Our immigration enforcement should prioritize real threats, not the deportation of hard-working kids who a seeking a college education, long-time lawful permanent residents, men and women who have been in the U.S. since childhood, and elderly individuals. I support the Obama Administration's use of prosecutorial discretion to focus limited immigration resources on targeting individuals posing a clear risk to national security, serious felons and repeat offenders.

Wolfe

Immigration reform is definitely needed. We are a nation of immigrants and continued legal immigration is desirable. Legal immigration should be a Federal tool used to bolster employment areas that are necessary and critical to the economy but unfilled by citizens of our country, a means of protecting oppressed people, and also as a means of reuniting families. There are, however, abuses in the legal system that must be eliminated.
Anyone who wants to become a citizen should go through the proper legal procedures. If a person is here illegally, then I see no direct path to citizenship. They should be required to return to their home country and, if they still wish U.S. citizenship, proceed through legal means.
With regards to illegal immigration, there are several specific steps I would support. I would support some type of permanent residency status for illegal immigrants who have lived in the United States for many years and have been employed, paid taxes and have never been convicted of violations of U.S. law. My overriding principle, however, is that illegal immigration is, by definition, not legal and citizenship should not be provided to anyone who has come to this country illegally, regardless of the circumstances surrounding their situation (recognizing that there may occasionally be unique exceptions). I would support some type of permanent residency status for illegal immigrants who have lived in the United States for many years and have been employed, paid taxes and have never been convicted of violations of U.S. law.
Other steps that I would take include withholding Federal aid from any governmental jurisdiction that does not follow Federal immigration laws (including so-called sanctuary cities), and also support a law requiring an originalist interpretation of the 14th amendment granting citizenship to children born in this country regardless of the status of the parents and/or guardians. I would also support "sealing our borders". Finally, illegal immigrants must not be allowed to be exempt from any law, including the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). I would support a specific law reversing all such exemptions.

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The district
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