Leslie Coolidge: Candidate Profile
6th District U.S. Representative
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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.
City: Barrington Hills
Office sought: 6th District U.S. Representative
Family: Stepson, his wife and their 5-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
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 than our current Representative on how to accomplish that growth. I believe that government spending in a slow economy 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 hire and expand. For us to have a strong economy in the long term we need to be encouraging the creation of new businesses and industries that would bring new jobs to this country. After all, we have been the source of the ?next big thing? for at least the last fifty years and we must continue to reward innovation and invention. We should be building the infrastructure of the future through investment in initiatives such as those related to high speed rail and clean energy as well as continuing to support the basic research necessary to create the industries of the future. Investments in our transportation infrastructure are particularly important to the long-term economic success of the critical hub which the Chicagoland area represents. We must also insure we have a highly-educated and creative work force capable of excelling at the jobs available today as well as those of the future. Community colleges, in particular, can help with this task. Students will benefit greatly if community colleges expand their focus on programs which provide the advanced skills necessary for success in today?s workplace. Many technical jobs in the United States are actually going unfilled because of a lack of qualified workers. College of DuPage?s most recent newsletter features their programs in areas directed at advanced manufacturing, commercial trucking and other industries with labor shortages. These are exactly the types of initiatives we need to put America back to work.
Key Issue 2
I believe we need to focus on preserving Social Security and Medicare far into the future, for the long-term health of our economy and for the good of the American people. Many members of the Baby Boom generation -- turning 65 now at a pace of about 10,000 per day -- will not have employer provided pensions or retiree health insurance programs to draw on like their parents did. That means both Social Security and Medicare will need careful monitoring and adjusting to make sure they remain on a stable basis. For example, the plan to ?reform? Medicare and make it into a voucher program, contained in the Ryan budget, is 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 one of Congressman Joe Walsh?s town hall meetings to critique him for voting for the voucher program (a plan also supported by my opponent). 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?? As a CPA, I am confident that I can help provide Congress with an understanding of what we could do to adjust the financial underpinnings of these successful programs that keep millions of seniors from falling into poverty or having to buy expensive private insurance plans 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. As an example, the Ryan budget promises to save $700 billion in insurance reimbursements to private insurers who provide Medicare coverage (?Medicare Advantage?), as well as implement provisions to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse by hospitals. I agree that this is a good start toward making Medicare viable far into the future. That?s why a cost cutting provision, generating the same $700 billion in cost savings, was already included in the President Obama?s Affordable Care Act. 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
I hear from people all the time who wonder why Congress spends so much time advancing partisan viewpoints and so little on solving the problems that face us. We need to shift the focus of Congress in order to create the conditions for our future success rather than reversing our achievements in areas such as women?s healthcare, our environment and voting rights. To do this, we must shift the focus away from government interference into women?s health care decisions and toward workplace rights. A generation of women has grown up taking for granted that they would be able to control their own bodies and achieve success in the workplace just as men do. The current Congress and the incumbent in the 6th District, Peter Roskam, convey through their votes that banning abortions even in the case of rape and incest, making contraception harder to obtain, and defunding Planned Parenthood are top priorities. Congress has also failed to enact efforts to bolster equal pay for women, weakened the Violence Against Women Act, and the House has voted for the Ryan budget and its Medicare voucher program, which would impact women most, since they are the largest group of seniors. Just imagine being frail, elderly and fighting with your insurance company. Shouldn?t Congress prevent that from happening? In addition, our environment, including clean air and clean water, are under assault as never before by our current Congress. 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 polluting businesses to take into account the external costs of their actions when it came to the harm they were doing to the environment. With their attempts to gut the EPA and allow polluting 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. Current efforts at restricting voting rights are another example of a misguided focus. Some are even calling for the repeal of the landmark Voting Rights Act that essentially ended Jim Crow laws in the South. Laws supposedly designed to prevent virtually non-existent voter fraud have been passed in Republican-controlled states by the dozens. The effect is likely to be suppression of the vote among populations who will find it difficult to get ?proper? ID: students, minorities and the elderly. Is Congress outraged about this assault on democracy? The majority are not. The sentiment of the current Congress is captured in an amendment to a spending bill (HR 5326, passed in May) which prohibits the Justice Department from ?the use of funds to bring any action against any State for implementation of a State law requiring voter identification.? Rep. Roskam voted for the amendment and it passed, along with the bill. My goal in running for Congress is to shift the conversation back to what is important for people who live in the 6th District. We must do this through good faith and compromise, without resorting to politics and partisanship and finally get our house in order.
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 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. Tax breaks should be ended for the wealthy, however, since it has been shown that most of their increased income ends up in the personal savings and investments accounts of the wealthy, and does not create jobs. Some continued breaks should also be considered for small business owners, 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, roads and schools-- that private industry cannot provide on its own. I would also propose giving businesses incentives to create jobs, such as meaningful 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 that the R&D tax credit 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 the politicization of the issue. 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. However, we do need to look for places to cut spending because there is still a lot of waste in government. For instance, now that the war in Iraq is over, spending on military contractors should drop precipitously if Congress really believes in cutting government. Generating these savings will be challenging for Congress because military contractors will lobby hard to keep taxpayer dollars flowing into their hands. If elected, I will do what is in the best interests of the taxpayers and look for savings wherever possible. Congress can also raise taxes on people who are not paying their fair share, such as private equity firm managers, who are allowed by law to recognize their ordinary income as capital gains (known as ?carried interest? rules) thus costing our country millions of dollars in lost revenues.
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 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 admire the women in the Senate who meet together regularly for dinner and promote civility on a bipartisan basis. 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. What a strange thought process that dictates that we go to the brink of national financial ruin just to make the point that we have too much debt. Showboating on a formerly non-controversial issue like raising the debt ceiling to pay bills already incurred gets us nowhere.
Do you agree with the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the health care law and why? Do you support or oppose repeal of the law? Which parts would you change and why? If you are elected, how, specifically, will you work to achieve those changes?
I am against repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and I believe the Supreme Court was correct in upholding it. I believe that once people experience the benefits of the Act, most of them will support it. We went through this same implementation struggle and debate with Medicare and Social Security, and they turned out to be among the most popular government programs ever implemented. We are already seeing many more people covered by insurance, including children with preexisting conditions. The alternative is Americans having to wait until they are so sick they end up in an emergency room asking for help they cannot afford. These emergency costs are eventually borne by the taxpayers. As of August 1, 2012, the Act requires health care plans to cover, at no cost to patients, a wide range of preventative care for women including pap smears, other cancer screenings, contraception, domestic violence screening and wellness checkups which not only improve women?s health, but also put money back in their pockets that would otherwise have been used for co-pays and out-of-pocket costs. And just recently, many businesses started receiving refund checks for part of their premiums not spent by their insurance companies, a refund required by the Act when insurance companies do not spend enough of our premiums on patient care. Once fully implemented, the Act will help seniors pay for prescription drugs and let them get free annual checkups. Small businesses (under 50 employees) are already getting tax credits (which will rise after 2012) for their employees? insurance premiums. And, because it is designed to help physicians deliver care in the most efficient and effective way and provides for training of more health care professionals, many doctors and medical associations strongly support it. It is not a perfect law, though. Any changes to the Act should be considered in a thoughtful and bipartisan way. I do not think it has been a productive use of time for the U.S. House of Representatives to vote 33 times to repeal the Act.
How do you believe marriage should be defined legally? Should the law that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman be overturned or upheld? Why?
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 their religious sanctification of marriage. The law that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman should be overturned. The government should not discriminate against people in terms of marriage rights.
The Latino population in the suburbs is growing. What is the biggest challenge created by that growth? Do you support or oppose President Obama's directive to stop deportation of undocumented immigrants who are in college or the military and why?
We are a nation of immigrants ? it is one of the great sources of our strength and resiliency. However, throughout our history, some people have wanted to shut the door on immigrants who they viewed as not being sufficiently ?like us.? We should be providing opportunities for the hard-working children of immigrants to contribute to our prosperity rather than deporting them. We should start a discussion of the immigration problem by acknowledging that people are going to be drawn to the promise of America and will attempt to come here whether we welcome them or not. The growth of the Latino population in the suburbs has shown that newcomers are particularly attracted to our area. Of course, this has created increased demand for schools and other elements of our public infrastructure which need to be addressed. We need to focus on finding a path to legal status for hardworking people with jobs who are already here. Most would prefer to be paying taxes and buying homes, contributing to our society and helping our economy. Unfortunately, there is no realistic path to legal status for many of the workers in our economy. I think we can get a better handle on immigration by bringing illegal immigrants out of the shadows with a reasonable path to legal residency. I strongly support the President?s directive to stop deportation of undocumented immigrants who are in college or the military. I believe our nation will be stronger as a result. Immigrants who were brought here by their parents as children do not deserve deportation. If they are working to serve our country in the military or working to become productive taxpaying members of society by furthering their education, they should be allowed to pursue the American dream.
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