Getting America Back to Work
When my father was 55, he found himself without a job when the company he worked for was sold. It took him years to recover, and to find a job that let him support his family. Those were hard years -- we scrimped and saved in every way we could, and we got by with the help of food stamps and the support of friends and family.
Today there are thousands of men and women in the 8th District who are facing the same challenges. My dad was able to pick himself up and go on, and we need to help people like him do the same thing.
Our District, like our nation, has a diverse economic base that offers challenges and opportunities. Large companies like Sears and Motorola are major employers, but we also have thousands of small companies that provide services, make products and do business on the streets of Elmhurst, Wheeling, Elgin, and across the globe.
Our government can't put everyone back to work, but it can offer a hand up -- it can help businesses create the kind of good jobs that will rebuild our economy and create a foundation for future growth.
Here are some of my priorities as we work together:
Invest in rebuilding and improving our basic infrastructure
Transportation is critical to a strong economy, and to the 8th District. We need a new transportation bill, immediately, to repair and expand our roads and bridges, rail network and the critical hub at O'Hare Airport.
Too many people in the 8th District struggle to get to work, whether their job is in downtown Chicago, a warehouse in Elk Grove Village or a shopping center in Carpentersville. Traffic can be a huge problem, and our alternative transit options are not yet up to the challenge of getting people from where they live to where the jobs are. We need to invest in more and better transit options.
We also need to invest in our public schools now. Our older communities have buildings that are unable meet today's needs and in some cases have deferred maintenance for decades. And our newer communities are struggling to meet the demand for classroom space.
I strongly support efforts to build a modern power grid that can distribute energy efficiently and reliably, and make way for new and sustainable sources of energy. A new "smart grid" will help us meet the demands of our economy today and as we grow in the decades to come, while helping our energy producers to reduce the impact on our planet.
Modern communications infrastructure can and should be built and expanded alongside transportation and power distribution projects. This work opens up new opportunities in every community where faster, more reliable and more capable technology becomes available. Let's build call centers here, where the customers are, and help high-tech businesses communicate no matter where they locate. Let's allow small- and home-based companies have access to the same tools available in downtown Chicago, New York or Silicon Valley.
Support businesses that create new jobs and opportunities
Now is the time to give businesses every incentive to hire American workers, and eliminate uncertainty in the tax code.
I favor targeted, short-term tax incentives for small- and mid-sized businesses that create new jobs, and for any company that hires a worker who has been unemployed. The US Economic Institute estimated that a 15% tax credit for expanded payroll costs could create up to 2.8 million new jobs over a year. Ideas like this one are a great place to start.
Our high schools and community colleges should get grants to support internships at key high- tech businesses. We can promote math and science education and practical skills while helping companies find and prepare new workers with exactly the training they need, now.
We need to encourage hiring. Let's expand programs like the one I helped create in Illinois that give tax credits for businesses to hire Veterans as they leave military service or unemployed Vets who acquire new skills. We can give businesses a tax credit if they hire jobless workers as proposed in the HIRE Act.
Invest in education and communities, so that every American worker has the skills they need in the new economy
Our young people, Veterans, and those who have lost jobs during the economic crisis need support on many fronts. I propose targeted investments in education and the creation of job programs that address the immediate need for jobs and strengthen our communities.
Education is the number one predictor of individual success and is vital to our national and economic security. I graduated from college with $70K in debt; many students are in same situation today. Congress cut billions in student loans while at the same time handing out billions in subsidies to oil companies.
We should invest in the budget-neutral FAST (Fix America's Schools Today) program to repair and modernize our public schools. And we must revise or eliminate the unfunded mandates of No Child Left Behind while maintaining accountability.
AmeriCorps is a great example of a program that works, supporting Americans who want to make an impact on our communities. That's why I admire the ideas Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky proposed in her Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act, and would like to see key pieces of her plan implemented. Rep. Schakowsky's proposals could create up to 2.2 million new jobs rebuilding schools, improving our parks and public lands, expanding access to healthcare in underserved communities and more.
Pay as we go, to bring the deficit under control
We have pressing needs and large budget deficits, and those two facts have to guide us moving forward, on both the tax and the spending sides. I think the vast majority of voters in this district, Republicans and Democrats, agree that our tax policies benefiting those with the most -- instead of small businesses and workers -- are out of order. I want to change that.
Tax cuts, done right, can put money back in the hands of the middle class and people who need it most, they can prime the pump of consumer spending. Targeted tax cuts for businesses can encourage meaningful investment in our economy that will create jobs. I reject the notion that cuts need to come from programs that serve as a safety net for our most at risk populations. I will not support new tax breaks at the expense of critical programs for the most vulnerable among us.
Governing is about tough but also responsible choices. Congressman Mike Quigley has proposed a number of ways to reduce spending, and I agree with many of his ideas. I propose:
- Ending subsidies to the oil and gas industry and certain agricultural subsidies. We need energy to power our economy, but we must stop permanently subsidizing the basic business practices of oil companies that are producing record profits. And likewise, we should end supports for crops like tobacco and programs that unduly favor large agri- businesses over small, family farms.
- Medicare must to be allowed to negotiate for cheaper drug prices, like the Department of Veterans Affairs does. It is unconscionable that a consumer can buy medicines over the counter for less than the Medicare.
- Make responsible, reasonable cuts to Pentagon and related programs. I can speak with experience about the spending of the Department of Defense, which has the largest budget of any federal agency.
- A nonpartisan panel just reported to Congress that the US is wasting $12 million a day on contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. We must improve oversight.
- We should eliminate the Joint Strike Fighter alternative engine, as the Pentagon has suggested
- The VA's Project Management Accountability System should serve as a model across government, eliminating any contract that cannot meet its time and cost requirements after three attempts to get back on track. It has saved VA over $50 million in 2010 alone.
- Allow the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% to expire.
- Give Medicare and Medicaid the flexibility to improve efficiency and pursue best practices. Our largest healthcare programs already deliver care with a minimum of overhead, but they must have the flexibility to emphasize prevention and demand that providers use best practices in patient care.