Bachelor's Degree, Physics, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ph. D., Physics, Harvard University
Scientist, businessman and former U.S. Congressman
Married, Wife, Aesook
On the Record
Now that the Supreme Court has OK’d most of President Obama’s health care reform act, what should Congress’ next steps be to make sure as many citizens as possible have access to more affordable health care?
I voted for the health care law after hundreds of meetings with doctors, nurses, business owners and ordinary citizens, because it was a necessary step forward and because of the successful experience with “Romneycare” in Massachusetts. Those who continue to waste time and taxpayer dollars by voting repeatedly to repeal the bill, including my opponent who voted 27 times for repeal, have yet to explain how they would cover the millions of people who were uninsured before this bill passed – including the 40,000 who die every year because of a lack of health insurance. Those who would repeal this bill would be giving back to big insurance companies the power to deny insurance to children with pre-existing conditions, to drop people’s coverage when they get sick, by weakening Medicare, and passing billions of dollars of prescription drug costs back onto the elderly. What we must do is make sure that the ACA is well implemented so that provisions in the health care reform bill – such as electronic medical records and bundled care payments – that are already starting to reduce costs will benefit both the Medicare program and reduce health care costs for younger Americans.
Unemployment across the U.S. remains above 8 percent. What should Congress be doing to spur job growth?
First, we need to continue policies to strengthen U.S. manufacturing. In the years of Republican control we witnessed the decimation of American manufacturing, with one-third of U.S. manufacturing jobs lost, because of policies that encouraged companies to ship jobs overseas instead of instead rewarding companies who keep manufacturing here. My opponent voted for all these policies as well as the bad trade deals that allowed China and other countries to steal U.S technology and compete unfairly against U.S. manufacturers. As these policies are reversed, U.S. manufacturing is leading the recovery, but the damage will take years to undo. Second, we need to help middle class homeowners who are bearing the brunt of the burden during these tough times. The Harp 2.0 program is an example of a successful program to help underwater homeowners refinance their homes at lower interest rates, while saving money for the taxpayer. This type of program should be extended. Finally, we must avoid doing harm by preventing the “fiscal cliff” that my opponent voted for. While it is obvious that a compromise will be needed, my opponent has unfortunately taken a pledge never to compromise on this issue.
Is it possible for Congress to stop deficit spending and start paying down the national debt without raising taxes? Be specific in your explanation.
I believe in fiscal responsibility, and have often described myself as a Paul Simon Democrat. In that vein, I am a supporter of a balanced budget amendment like the one Senator Simon proposed. But the Republican proposal that would end Medicare as we know and raise taxes on middle class families in order to protect tax cuts for the wealthy is the wrong approach. It asks for sacrifice from only the middle class – the people who have already sacrificed the most. While I would like to see this type of balanced budget amendment, I believe there are things that Congress can do now to start reducing our deficits. Returning tax rates on the top 1% to where they were during the Clinton years would be a step in the right direction. There are also significant opportunities for reducing government expenses, such as the $1.4T cost of the fleet of next-generation manned fighter planes when unmanned drones can do their job much more cheaply, cutting unneeded farm subsidies to millionaire farmers, and using emerging technologies to battle drug and alcohol addiction.
What, if anything, should the U.S. be doing to help stabilize Syria?
America has always been a beacon of freedom, democracy and opportunity for the rest of the world, and I think the last three years have gone a long way toward restoring that image. There is simply no other country in the world that can play the role that we play, and to that end, we must continue to assume our leadership role in the world. On the other hand, the bellicosity and unilateral swagger of the last decade cost our country dearly, both in blood and treasure and in our reputation in the world. A much better model for the way forward was the approach taken in Libya, which (despite the recent tragedy) resulted in the termination of an unacceptable regime with an understanding that the word community – and not just the U.S. – bears the responsibility for the long-term stability and humanity of the emerging government. I believe that the approach of the Obama administration of gradually ratcheting up multilateral pressure on Syria, including economic pressure that will soon make the Syrian army unable to pay its troops, is likely to yield results within a year.
Congress’ approval ratings are abysmal, and that’s largely because of all the partisan rhetoric and the inability to compromise. If elected, will you be willing to reach across the aisle and work on compromise with members of the opposite party to resolve this country’s many issues? Explain.
I too am fed up with the gridlock in Washington, and I am willing to vote against my party leadership to cure it. This is in sharp contrast to my opponent, who has taken the Grover Norquist “zero-compromise” pledge and has been a straight party-line vote for all of the economic policies that turned a budget surplus into a $10 trillion deficit and wrecked our economy – and a straight party-line vote against efforts by the President to repair the damage. There will be no compromise in Washington as long as the leadership of whatever party is in power can count on lockstep party-line voting from members like my opponent. It is only when members start showing some independence that party leadership will be forced to the negotiating table. I believe the best solutions are driven by facts instead of partisan politics. So I was willing to vote against my own party when I thought it was best for the country – such as voting against Democratic budgets that did not contain a long-term plan to pay down our debt, or voting against the “Cap and Trade Bill” that relied on flawed technical and economic analysis.
What should Congress do in regards to Social Security?
Social Security is a successful program and Congress has a responsibility to protect it for future generations. I believe the best thing we can do to protect Social Security is to increase economic growth, by continuing to reverse the policies that provided near-zero growth during the Bush years. With increased economic growth, Social Security can better withstand the retirement of the baby boomers, and provide a safety net for generations to come. The long term health of Social Security can also be significantly strengthened by proposals such as making the payroll tax applicable to incomes above $250,000 which are currently exempt. There are many like my opponent who want to privatize Social Security. She supported President Bush’s efforts privatize Social Security and voted for legislation that would send hard-earned Social Security funds into the hands of Wall Street money managers who would then extract management fees from the retirement funds. If their efforts had been successful, it would have resulted in catastrophic losses during the economic collapse of 2008. I will continue to oppose privatization.
With all of the issues surrounding the economy, immigration reform has taken a back seat. What, if anything should the federal government be doing?
We need a comprehensive solution to immigration, and I believe that the McCain-Kennedy comprehensive immigration reform proposal is an appropriate starting point for a negotiated solution. First, we must secure our borders, using both agents and technology to insure that no one comes across the border illegally. This is both an immigration and a national security issue. Second, those who are here illegally must not be given more favorable treatment than those who are waiting in line to become citizens. I believe the most effective thing we can do is attack this problem at the source: employers. We should crack down on those employers who hire illegal immigrants, which will reduce the demand for this kind of labor. I supported and voted for the DREAM Act when I was in Congress. I support the President’s implementation of portions of the DREAM act through executive action. It is a first step towards comprehensive immigration reform and it’s unfortunate that the Tea Party and Republican leadership, including my opponent, have stood in the way of moving this important legislation forward.
Outside of jobs and the federal deficit, what are the one or two most important issues in the 11th Congressional District, and how do you plan to address them?
Education should always be a priority. In an increasingly competitive world, we need to be sure that our children receive the best education possible. I applaud President Obama’s efforts to reform and improve our schools. When you consider the number of engineers that are graduating in places like India and China, you realize how important these educational reforms are. Second, I believe that investments in science and technology are critical. These are important for our nation to stay on the cutting edge of scientific discoveries. And it’s important locally. With Fermi Lab and Argonne, these are job creating machines as well as laboratories of discovery and we need to support them. I was deeply disturbed by the draconian cuts to federal research budgets contained “Ryan Budget” – a cut of over 30% as estimated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science – and disturbed by Congresswoman Biggert’s vote for these cuts, which will result in substantial layoffs at the National Labs.
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Kathleen Bergan Schmidt