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updated: 2/23/2012 1:43 PM

Leslie Coolidge: Candidate Profile

6th District U.S. Representative (Democrat)

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  • Leslie Coolidge, running for 6th District U.S. Representative

    Leslie Coolidge, running for 6th District U.S. Representative




Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.

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BioKey IssuesQ&A


City: Barrington Hills


Office sought: 6th District U.S. Representative

Age: 52

Family: Stepson, his wife and their 4-year-old son

Occupation: CPA, retired

Education: B.A. in Government, Harvard University, cum laude in general studies, 1981 M.S. in Accounting, New York University, 1983 -- received award as top student

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

Elected offices held: None

Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

In this economy, we simply need more good-paying, secure jobs.

My number one priority is job creation, as it should be for every member of Congress.

I just have a different philosophy on how to accomplish that growth than our current representative.

I believe that government spending in a recession actually contributes to the creation of jobs in the private sector by putting more money into the hands of people who spend it, thereby encouraging businesses to expand.

For us to have a strong economy in the long term, though, we also need to be creating new businesses and entire industries that would bring new jobs to this country.

Clean energy and high tech industries in particular should be a space that the United States profitably occupies.

After all, we have been the source of the 'next big thing' for at least the last fifty years and should give high priority to doing so in the future.

To do that, though, we need to have a highly-educated and creative work force capable of excelling at jobs not imagined when they started school.

Community colleges, in particular, can help out with this task, if they focus on the high tech jobs that require good math and computer skills,

where there are existing jobs in the U.S. now that are going unfilled because of a lack of qualified workers.

In other words, we must do everything we can to put America back to work.

Key Issue 2

I believe we need to focus on preserving Medicare and Social Security far into the future, for the long-term health of our economy and for the good of the American people.

The Baby Boom generation, which is turning 65 now at a pace of about 10,000 per day, for the most part will not have generous pensions or retiree health insurance to draw on like their parents did.

That means both programs will need careful monitoring and adjusting to make sure they stay on a stable basis.

The current plans to 'reform? Social Security and Medicare are supposed to reassure us that the benefits of older people are safe because the changes won't apply to

people over 55.

But I agree with the older gentleman who got up at a Joe Walsh town hall meeting to berate him for voting for the Paul Ryan plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program.

He said: "I know the Medicare changes won't apply to me.

But I worry about my kids and grandkids.

Shouldn't they be protected in old age, just like I was?"

Joe Walsh thought not.

"The country can't afford it," he said.

I disagree.

As a CPA and former auditor, I am confident that I can help provide Congress with an understanding of what we might need to do to adjust the financial underpinnings of these successful programs that keep millions of seniors from falling into poverty or having to buy private insurance from companies that won't want to cover them.

We must carefully examine the projections and assumptions on which Social Security and Medicare are currently based before doing anything that could undermine the safety net that these programs represent.

Adjustments to current programs, like raising the maximum income subject to Social Security tax or policing and eliminating the problem of Medicare fraud, would help preserve them, eliminating the need for radical "reforms'that will destroy these programs as we know them.

Key Issue 3

Our environment, including clean air and clean water, has never been under such an assault from Congress as it has been over the past year.

Our children and grandchildren deserve to grow up in an environment that will not poison them and with a climate that is conducive to health.

Congress seems bent on rolling back the environmental laws that were put in place to solve a very real problem we faced in the 20th Century: the inability of businesses to take into account the external costs of their actions when it came to the pollution they were introducing into the environment.

With their attempts to gut the EPA and allow businesses free rein to do anything they please, the Republicans in Congress have shown a disdain for anything that would protect our national resources from exploitation.

Through my service with environmental organizations, I have developed a good understanding of the impacts of legislation on the environment and can advocate for a more balanced approach that does not penalize businesses for acting in the best interests of the Earth.

The U.S., along with China and other big polluters, should be leading partners in global agreements to reduce greenhouse gases.

There are also several viable solutions that Congress can help implement which will go a long way toward solving this problem.

The most realistic solution is the market-based one almost implemented by Congress a few years ago: cap and trade.

This has the great advantage of giving industry incentives to reduce overall emissions, which is a big step in the right direction since industrial emissions are a greater source of greenhouse gases than cars.

Questions & Answers

What would you do to help ease partisan gridlock? Are you willing to compromise on sticking points including spending cuts and taxes to produce results' How can Congress move from being a "crisis-driven" institution?

I believe that I am in a unique position to be a leader in the effort to ease gridlock.

I am a CPA and CPAs are trained to be problem solvers, not advocates for a particular ideological position.

I have a lot of experience negotiating with clients on financial matters and resolving disagreements through dialogue and compromise.

That is not to say that I would never take a firm position, but it would be based on an understanding of the facts and the needs of 6th District residents, not on political orthodoxy.

We need more people in Congress willing to work together to solve problems.

I believe that 'sticking points' only become sticky when people stop listening to the other side.

We should be willing to consider all options to produce results.

You cannot compromise with people whose only response to Democratic ideas is to say no.

But I believe you can reach across the aisle to develop relationships with people who believe that finding solutions to our pressing problems should be our top priority.

I believe that reasonable people can craft sensible solutions to complex problems when we focus on the needs of the people we serve.

We can end the 'crisis driven' attitude by electing people to Congress who actually believe in planning ahead and governing, rather than political posturing and brinksmanship.

I got interested in running for Congress during the debt ceiling debate last summer when I saw the Tea Party freshmen acting like the idea of defaulting on our debt was a good thing.

In what possible world is it a good idea to go to the brink of national financial ruin just to make the point that we have too much debt?

Everybody gets that, but showboating on a formerly non-controversial issue like raising the debt ceiling to pay bills already incurred gets us nowhere fast.

Should tax breaks be extended? Why or why not? If so, for whom? What should Congress do to improve unemployment? Why do you support or oppose President Obama's jobs plan? What cuts or revenue increases do you support for deficit reduction?

The Bush tax breaks, set to expire at the end of 2012, should definitely be extended, but only for the middle class.

Just like the payroll tax cut, ending such breaks while the economy is still weak is short-sighted because middle-class people tend to spend most of their income.

They should be ended for the wealthy, however, since it has been shown that most of their increased income ends up in savings and investments.

One poll showed that 64% of the wealthy even believe that they should pay a fairer share of their earnings in taxes.

Some continued breaks should be considered for small business owners but only in the form of credits for creating actual jobs.

There are several steps Congress can take to spur job growth and lower unemployment.

Most immediately, Congress should promote investment in infrastructure, such as repairs to deteriorating bridges and roads, that private industry cannot provide on its own.

I would also propose giving businesses incentives to create jobs, such as generous tax credits for the salaries of first-year employees.

In addition, I believe the R&D (research and development) tax credit should be made permanent to spur American companies to develop new technologies.

A study by Ernst & Young shows doing this alone will add 130,000 jobs to the U.S. economy just in the short-term.

In fact, a focus by Congress on rewarding innovation can improve our economy over the long term by creating high paying jobs and making us more competitive in world markets.

I support President Obama's jobs bill and believe it should be passed immediately by Congress.

In fact, I wish it was more extensive because we need more money pumped into the economy so that businesses feel confident investing in inventories, new technology and equipment which will spur job creation.

I would argue that deficit reduction is not the most important problem facing our country right now, despite repetitious hammering on that issue by the Republicans.

Once we get the economy rolling at a rapid pace again, more people and businesses will be paying taxes on higher incomes and so the deficit will automatically fall.

We do need to look for places to cut spending, though, because there is still a lot of waste in government spending.

For instance, now that the war in Iraq is over, spending on military contractors should drop precipitously.

There is a likelihood, though, that that won't happen automatically, since those companies will lobby hard to keep the gravy flowing.

Congress can also raise taxes on people who are not paying nearly enough, such as private equity firm owners and employees, who are allowed by law to recognize their ordinary income as capital gains (known as ?carried interest? rules) thus costing the treasury multi-millions of dollars in lost revenues.

What steps should the country now be taking in the war on terrorism? What policy should the U.S. have toward Iran and North Korea? What is your view of terrorism policies that pit public safety against civil liberty?

I believe that the 'stick and carrot strategy' for combatting terrorism, first advocated by the Bush Administration, is the right approach.

But we have employed far too many sticks (wars, renditions) and far too few carrots -- approaches aimed at winning the hearts and minds of people in the countries that are sources of most of those who employ terrorist tactics.

I believe Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlined best what our main approach should be going forward in a speech last year: "We have also learned that to truly defeat a terror network, we need to attack its finances, recruitment, and safe havens. We need to take on its ideology, counter its propaganda, and diminish its appeal, so that every community recognizes the threat that extremists pose to them and they then deny them protection and support. And we need effective international partners in government and civil society who can extend this effort to all the places where terrorists operate."

With both Iran and North Korea, I believe we keep their ambitions in check by applying that internationalist approach, that is, getting other countries in the region to apply pressure to them to act responsibly on the world stage.

Economic sanctions seem to be working in Iran to persuade them to reconsider their nuclear program, although every day we get an indication (such as the arrest of an American 'spy?) that they are willing to try almost anything else to end the sanctions before putting the nuclear program back on the negotiating table.

On North Korea, we should elevate China as an equal partner in keeping peace in the region, in which they have a compelling interest.

By treating them with the respect due a rising superpower, we will be able to solicit their cooperation in helping us with our shared interest in keeping North Korea stable under its new regime and perhaps improve their situation now that Kim Jong-Il has passed from the scene.

Civil liberties cannot be trampled in the rush to protect ourselves from terrorism.

Such an impulse is understandable but we should not undermine our American values to do so.

I am, in fact, quite concerned about the National Defense Auauthorization Act signed into law by President Obama in December.

It allows the indefinite detention of American citizens who are suspected of terrorism by the Administration or the military, with no right to appeal to federal courts.

There has also been a broadening of warrantless searches, even in libraries.

We must be careful that we don't destroy our Constitution in an effort to protect ourselves.

And we must ensure that the methods we are using to protect ourselves actually work.

How should Medicare and Medicaid be changed overall to fix fund gaps' How should Medicare be changed for those currently enrolled? How should it change for the Baby Boomer generation?

According to the Congressional Budget Office, Medicare will continue to provide the current level of benefits for the next twenty years even if it is not changed.

So there need be no changes at all for those currently enrolled.

To absolutely ensure the soundness of the program for the Baby Boom and beyond, only a few modest changes will have a huge impact on the viability of Medicare:

1. Stop the widespread fraud in the system.

The Government Accountability Office estimates that $48 billion dollars of Medicare reimbursements went to ?improper payments' in 2010, for instance to shell companies posing as health clinics and unlicensed doctors.

That's 10 percent of what Medicare paid out in the year!

A provision in the Affordable Care Act provides a significant increase in policing for this problem.

2. Allow patients and physicians to choose treatments based on ?comparative effectiveness' of various treatments.

Study-based information would allow them to avoid high-cost/low-effectiveness treatments, lowering costs overall.

3. Give incentives to doctors and patients for choosing the most effective treatments or implement out-of-pocket co-pays for choosing less effective treatments.

Both Medicare and Medicaid would also be able to lower costs in the long-run if doctors and hospitals are given incentives to digitize medical records and use technology to share information about patients, their illnesses and their drug regimens.

Medicaid, in particular, is a huge drain on state budgets, even with the federal contribution and there is no consensus for how to fix it.

The Republican idea of block grants is a non-starter because states would be tempted to cut eligibility so dramatically that only kids and pregnant women would be eligible, as has been done in Texas.

(The Affordable Care Act mandates that everyone earning less than 133% of the poverty line must be covered by Medicaid but only by 2014.)

Better ideas for Medicaid include limiting coverage to 10 physician visits per year, eliminating coverage for ?overused? medical procedures (not yet defined by law) or withholding payments to hospitals with high rates of readmission.

What is your position on concealed carry gun laws' How do you believe marriage should be defined legally? What is your position on abortion? What, if any, abortion exceptions do you support? Should abortion clinics receive government funding?

I am not against guns.

As an environmentalist, I find that my interests and those of hunters are often aligned.

However, I am against concealed carry, as are many in law enforcement in Illinois, because it puts deadly force in the hands of those who may be inadequately trained to handle split second judgments in life-or-death situations.

There is no guarantee, either, that private citizens with guns are not impaired when they try to use their guns.

Marriage should be defined by the state only on a civil basis and, I believe, be available to anyone who wants to declare a lasting bond and enjoy the legal protections of marriage.

Churches, on the other hand, should have unlimited discretion about who may be given religious sanctification of marriage.

The abortion decision is one in which the government should not be involved.

It should be made by the woman in consultation with her doctor and her family, if she chooses.

There should be no exceptions to this.

We should be focused instead on preventing pregnancy to make the incidence of abortion as low as possible.

Clinics should receive funding because they give poor women a chance to control their lives.

Conservatives who believe that every fetus deserves a chance to live (an excellent ideal, by the way) need to make sure that they are also enthusiastic supporters of those children after they are born with generous expenditures for education, health care and the creation of good jobs to lift more people out of poverty.