Congressional hopefuls stake out positions

Published in the South Bend Tribune: April 22, 2018, Author: Tribune Staff Report

See original article here.

The United States is divided into 435 congressional districts, each with a population of about 710,000 individuals. Each district elects a representative to the U.S. House of Representatives for a two-year term. The U.S. House of Representatives, along with the U.S. Senate, passes national laws. The Indiana portion of the Tribune circulation area lies within the 2nd Congressional District.

These responses were collected verbatim from the Vote411.org website. To read candidate responses to additional questions, visit Vote411.org, sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

There are six Democrats and two Republicans on the ballot for the primary. For the Democrats, Douglas Carpenter is a physician, Pat Hackett is an attorney, Mel Hall is the former CEO of Press Ganey, Yatish Joshi is a business owner, Roland Leech is a retired bookkeeper and John Petroff is a school bus driver.

 Republican Jackie Walorski is the current Congressional Representative for the 2nd District. Fellow Republican Mark Summe did not respond to the questionnaire.

What are your top three legislative priorities and why?

Carpenter: My priorities.1. Immigration reform to include keeping our promise to the dreamers and a clear pathway to citizenship. Why?, because NOW is the time stop frightening our hard working Hoosier immigrant famlies. 2. Expanding Medicaid as an alternative to the Affordable Care Act, taking care to ensure coverage for those with preexisting conditions. Why? Because this issue is close to my heart and the reason I first decided running for congress. 3. Exspanding Mental health accessibility expecially to the growing number of Hoosier families facing addiction. Why? Because it is truly a matter of life and death.

Hackett: 1. Campaign finance reform including a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, because we cannot pass effective legislation that upholds dignity and justice for all when outside financial interests silence voters’ voices and control members of Congress on issues like gun legislation, private prisons, education, and health care. I will advocate immediately for responsible gun laws, especially regarding weapons of war, and related ammunition, killing our children on our Nation’s streets, churches and schools.

2. Medicare for all because health care is a right not a privilege.

3. Public education and sustainable wages because they are essential to our democracy. I support public education, oppose vouchers, and support laws to improve early childhood education, STEM curricula in middle schools, incentives to improve high school retention and graduation rates, as well as affordable college and training in the vocational trades.

Hall: If elected, I will work tirelessly to promote job growth, protect and expand health care, and keep Social Security and Medicare sacred.

Hardworking Hoosiers deserve good-paying jobs and higher wages, but we’ve seen jobs go unfilled and shipped overseas. We need to take concrete steps to fill these jobs, including expanding apprenticeship programs. I will work to make it easier for businesses to stay here at home and for people to make a good wage.

We have a representative who wants to gut the Affordable Care Act, not improve it. In Congress, I will work to ensure all Hoosiers have access to affordable and reliable care by increasing competition in the marketplace, promoting competitive bidding for durable medical equipment, and reducing inefficiencies in our health care system.

We made a promise to our seniors and those who pay into Social Security and Medicare that one day they can retire with dignity. I will work to ensure that we provide seniors with the benefits they’ve earned.

Joshi: 1) Making health care affordable and accessible for all through common-sense adjustments to the Affordable Care Act, eventually leading to Medicare for All. We must move toward Medicare for All so that everyone in America will get the care they need. This will also reduce the financial burden on businesses and allow them to further invest in their workers. We must have health coverage that includes dental, vision, and mental health care as standard practice. 2) Raising the minimum wage to $15/hour for an unskilled laborer to make it living wage. Worker productivity will increase and reduce financial strain on the family, which in turn will enhance profits and facilitate additional investment by the company in its workers. 3) Implementing humane and compassionate immigration policy with a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and their families to maintain American family values. I value the social, cultural, and economic contributions of our immigrant neighbors.

Leech: 1. Remove Marijuana from the Controlled Substance Act 2. Legalize Marijuana; “ Recreation Marijuana”, you must be 21 years of age or older to purchase. “ Medical Marijuana”, will be sold to person 21 years of age or older. Under the age of 21 will need a parent or guardian to sign. 3. The state sales from the marijuana will go to the states public schools or the states infrastructures.

Petroff: My top two are timely and need immediate attention. One is guns, and the other DACA recipients. These two are pressing, urgent issues that will cost lives and extreme heartache if not approached successfully. On guns, even with deep divisions we the people have found common ground on bump stocks and background checks for mental illness. We have large majorities on those issues. Why have we seen no action? Because of an overbearing and powerful special interest: the gun lobby. I will oppose the gun lobby. The second pressing issue is children of undocumented immigrants. Their deadline has passed. Yet the courts see fit in preventing the end of DACA. I will side with the children. The third is what I perceive as our greatest crisis, but slightly less urgent — to fix or replace the ACA. I believe it is time for us to join the modern world with universal healthcare. Britain did so in 1948, Canada did so in 1968, and while I believe it is our time, we will need a Democratic Congress.

Walorski: My top priorities are to further strengthen our economy, support our troops and veterans, and fight for commonsense solutions for Hoosier families.

As a result of the historic tax cuts passed last year, workers are seeing bigger paychecks and businesses are hiring, expanding, raising wages. We need to keep this economic momentum going so manufacturers, small businesses, farmers, and workers can continue to thrive.

I am working to rebuild our military and provide our servicemembers the resources they need to keep us safe, and I am committed to holding the VA accountable so our brave veterans get the care they deserve when they return home.

And I am working toward commonsense solutions to help Hoosiers achieve the American Dream, including innovative ways to help people build a bridge out of poverty. I am also committed to helping communities combat combat the opioid epidemic through treatment, prevention, and law enforcement efforts.

Congress recently overhauled our tax system, raising the standard deduction, changing individual and corporate tax rates, and exempting more people from the estate tax, and scrapping the individual mandate for health insurance. Do you support the new law? Why or why not?

Carpenter: I do not support the new law, It will lead to the Affordble Care Act falling apart with nothing in its place.

Hackett: I do not support the tax law passed by the Republican-controlled Congress. The tax bill will not increase growth and jobs. Instead, the Nation’s deficit will explode. Estimates place the increased debt at between 1.5 and 2 trillion dollars. Wealthy shareholders of corporations and wealthy individuals and their families by inheritance receive permanent benefit. The majority of Americans, however, including the upper and lower middle class, working poor, the elderly and those in medical need have been injured. (For example, the tax bill removes the mandate from the Affordable Care Act. It is estimated 13 million Americans will lose their health insurance.) Substantial decreases in Medicare will occur. Taxes will increase over time for most Americans, and Republicans in Congress including Jackie Walorski, now will have an exploding deficit they will use to disassemble the earned security of American citizens found in Medicare and Social Security.

Hall: The GOP Tax Bill was the largest change to the U.S. tax code in over thirty years. Unfortunately, it was just another way for Republicans to give corporations and the wealthy a tax break. Instead of providing much-needed middle class tax relief over the long term, like we were promised, this bill gave millions in tax breaks to corporations and the ultra-rich while working class Hoosiers only saw marginal increases in their paychecks.

Hoosiers deserve a raise, but not in the form of a tax break to the top one percent. We need to provide tax relief to Main Street, not Wall Street. Sadly, this bill only looks out for Wall Street.

Joshi: The recent GOP tax cut was supposed to be for the middle class and small businesses, but is really for large corporations and wealthy people. I will introduce true and permanent tax cuts for average, hard-working Americans and small businesses. I will encourage corporations to create well-paid jobs by tying their tax cuts to employee wages and benefits, including paid annual leave and family-friendly policies. The higher the wages and the better the benefits, the higher the tax cut they will earn. Only 1% of people pay the estate tax and, thus, the exemption must be reversed. The individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act makes sure that healthy people as well as the sick are paying into the system. To make the system economically-viable, everyone must contribute regardless of their health status for the benefit of all. Although the individual mandate seems like a burden, it is not because of these long-term benefits. We must invest in the common good.

Leech: I don’t support, because they had to raise the national debt for new tax system. The next time the Republicans want to cut the national debt they will look at Social Security or Medicare for the cuts.

Petroff: I do not support the new law. The tax cut is predominantly for the rich and corporations. My personal taxes actually went up this year. I have a very different perspective than our current administration. I believe in times of prosperity our tax laws should provide a surplus of revenue to pay down debt. This tax law adds around a trillion dollars per year of deficit spending. That’s insane. If or when we hit our next recession, depression, or major war or crisis, we will have a very little maneuvering room. Deficit spending adds a boost to the economy and is needed in poor economic conditions. This is not a poor economic condition. Bill Clinton raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans and ran surpluses in 4 budget years. Obama lowered the deficit to around $400 billion when he left office. The Republicans in both cases chose to blow up the budget inroads. We now face disastrous deficits. These deficits are the greatest single threat to national security.

Walorski: I strongly supported the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which cut taxes for Americans at all income levels and overhauled our tax code for the first time in more than 30 years. Our top priority last year was getting our economy growing, and that’s exactly what we did with these historic tax cuts. The House Ways and Means Committee on which I serve worked to draft a commonsense bill that would make taxes simpler and fairer for hardworking Americans and make America more competitive in the global economy.

As a result, hardworking Americans are seeing bonuses, new benefits, and bigger paychecks. Hundreds of businesses have announced bonuses and expansions. A record number of small businesses say now is a good time to expand. and 9 out of 10 workers are seeing bigger paychecks. Now we need to keep this economic momentum going, which is why I’ve stood up for Hoosier jobs by working with the administration to ensure trade actions do not harm Hoosier manufacturers, farmers, and other businesses.

What, if any, gun control measures would you like to see enacted into federal law? Why these? Please be specific. If none, explain why.

Carpenter: Measures need to be taken to ensure the integrity of the backround checks. I support the Second ammendment.

Hackett: I support responsible gun laws designed to protect the health and safety of this Nation, especially its children. Nothing in the Second Amendment prevents responsible gun regulation. I support legislation that bans weapons of war that are designed to kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, by delivering the most lethal injury. I support:

1. Bans on automatic, semi-automatic weapons. 2. Bans on Bump stock and high capacity magazines. 3. Universal background checks.

 We need to close internet, private sale loopholes. We must keep guns out of the hands of persons convicted of domestic violence, and terrorist activities. We must also keep guns away from hands of persons with particular mental illness which can lead to violence. I will also not accept money from the NRA. Safety measures should be funded as we de-militarize our streets and schools. Unregulated gun violence is an example of outside money controlling Congress.

Hall: Sadly, our country has fallen victim to our lax gun laws. Our students don’t feel safe in our schools and our kids don’t feel safe in our communities. We must do better.

We need to enact sensible gun laws that don’t infringe on the Second Amendment. Responsible gun owners — like my son, an avid sportsman — are used to living within certain restrictions. I know that we can protect the rights of law-abiding, responsible gun owners while also keeping our communities and our schools safe.

In Congress, I will work to ban any modifications, like bump stocks, that turn semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons. We must strengthen our existing background check system by closing loopholes that allow felons, domestic abusers, and criminals to purchase guns without a background check. I will also work to increase the minimum age to buy a weapon, extend waiting periods, and ban the use of high-capacity magazines.

Joshi: We must allow the Center for Disease Control to study this public health emergency in the interest of public safety. Like any crisis, finding solutions begins with data. For example, take motor vehicle crashes. We studied a range of costs, such as property damage, physical pain, and lost quality of life. We didn’t seize everyone’s cars, but used we used this data to redesign automobiles, increase safety belt use, revise drivers training curricula, and other strategies to address human and economic tolls. We need to not only solve the problem of mass shootings, but all gun violence. Guns are used in 70% of homicides and more than 80% of suicide attempts with a gun are successful. In addition, 93% of women who are murdered are killed by their intimate partners and 54% of these are gun deaths. Every day, 46 teens and children are shot, seven of whom die (four from murder and three from suicide). We must address gun violence in order to save lives and make our communities safer.

Leech: I would support a ban on AK15, a ban ghost guns, a ban bump stocks, a ban magazines over 20 rounds, better background checks and stronger mental health issues.

Petroff: There are three I think we need enacted immediately. First, a bump stock ban. A bump stock is simply a way of making a legal weapon an illegal weapon. Second, a raise in the minimum age to buy a semi-automatic rifle to 21. A person is not old enough to buy a beer but they are old enough to buy a semi-automatic rifle? Give me a break. and third, we need to find a way to prevent people with mental illness from purchasing weapons. If we do any one of those three we will save lives. Also, there are only three countries that have constitutions that allow gun ownership: the US, Mexico, and Guatemala. Of those three, only one country doesn’t have any constitutional restrictions on gun ownership. That country loses about 32,000 lives a year to gun violence. Can you name the country? The Second Amendment now comes firmly between the people and safer gun laws. It is time to look at repealing the Second Amendment.

Walorski: The Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right of law-abiding Americans to bear arms. Congress recently passed legislation to improve the background check system and give students, teachers, and law enforcement the tools to identify warning signs, improve school security, and stop violence before it occurs. I will carefully consider any legislation that comes before the House to ensure existing laws are fully enforced, address gaps in our mental health system, and protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans.

What is your plan to preserve and strengthen Social Security and Medicare? Are increased age limits and/or decreased benefits required to keep these programs solvent?

Carpenter: Benifits should not bet decreased. There should be more flexibility for future recipients along with increasing the age limits may be required.

Hackett: The best way to protect Social Security and Medicare is to flip Congress, so that Republicans who do not believe in Social Security and Medicare and who plan to pay for their recent tax gift to the wealthy by reducing or ending Social Security and Medicare no longer control Congress. Rather than increasing age limits or decreasing all benefits, we should first continue to increase the social security cap and even eliminate it completely. We should also lower benefits on the wealthy before lowering benefits on most Americans.

Hall: If you work hard your entire life, you should have the resources to retire with dignity. That’s why we made a promise to hardworking folks that Social Security and Medicare would be there for everyone when they’re ready to retire. I am fully committed to protecting Social Security and Medicare.

In Congress, I will ensure that these programs are not used as bargaining chips or as a rainy day fund in budget negotiations. I will fight any and all efforts to end Medicare’s guaranteed benefits or to privatize Social Security. Our current representative cannot say the same. We made a promise to our seniors, and I intend to keep that promise for current and future generations.

Joshi: Our communities are greatly enriched by our senior citizens. Their contributions strengthen our families and add to the vibrancy of Indiana’s 2nd District. We must support and strengthen Medicare. We must do more to help seniors stay in their own homes and communities rather than be forced to move into nursing homes. We also need to expand the Medicare/Medicaid program known as PACE or the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly. This is the “the gold standard” of care that offers comprehensive medical and social services for people requiring institutional care. PACE has been found to reduce hospitalizations, nursing home use, and mortality. Thus, program not only reduces costs, but is people-centered – as all quality care should be. As noted above, by allowing negotiation of drug costs, we can reduce spending and apply savings to provide additional subsidies to seniors for their medications.

Leech: I could see starting social security at 63 1/2 or 64 1/2, rather than 62 1/2.

Petroff: Increased age limits or decreased benefits are not a solution. If we are a good people they will not be required. The easiest and most straightforward solution is to raise the cap on taxable income. Right now the cap is set at $118,500 per year which means income earned above $118,500 pays no social security tax. If you earn a hundred million dollars you still pay no additional tax. Why not have a higher cap? There can also be different tax thresholds where income from $118,500 — $250,000 are taxed at a lower rate, perhaps 3/4 of the original tax, and another threshold from $250,000 to $500,000 at perhaps 1/2 the original tax rate. Another solution is changing who pays social security tax. If you incorporate as a real estate agent, for example, you avoid social security or self employment tax altogether. This is really a way of cheating the system. As a real estate agent I knew agents that did this. I didn’t do it as I considered it cheating.

Walorski: Medicare and Social Security are sacred commitments we have made to our seniors. We must protect these critical benefits for those in or near retirement and strengthen these programs to ensure they are available for future generations. Medical decisions should be up to patients and their doctors. That’s why I am pleased Congress repealed the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which was a panel of unelected bureaucrats created under Obamacare to cut Medicare benefits.

We need to preserve the Social Security safety net and make sure the program remains solvent for future generations. Solutions to Social Security must meet core principles: The system should not be “privatized.” Benefits should be protected. The retirement age should not be raised. Taxes should not be increased.

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