The nation's jobless rate might have dipped below 8 percent, but not in Illinois, where unemployment in Chicago and the suburbs hovers around 8.8 percent, according to the latest data.
Republican Congressman Peter Roskam and Democratic challenger Leslie Coolidge both say job creation is a priority. But in separate interviews with the Daily Herald, they differed on how to get people back to work. The two are running for the 6th Congressional District in the Nov. 6 election.
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Wheaton attorney Roskam says jobs will come if the government stops imposing costly regulations on business, builds the Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada to Texas oil refineries and reforms the tax code.
"If you raise taxes now in an economy begging for mercy where we have maybe 1 percent growth, it's going to have a very significant impact on job creation," Roskam said.
Coolidge, a Barrington Hills retired accountant, counters that "to make sure we get people back to work, you need to spend in an economic downturn to get the economy strong again and then you repay."
She advocates for investing in infrastructure, education and scientific research, citing Fermilab in Batavia. It's "important in terms of innovation and creating new jobs," she said.
Coolidge said the iconoclastic debt reduction plan spearheaded by Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson has merit. "I respect it, I view it as balanced," she said. "I need to spend more time understanding the details behind it."
The so-called Simpson-Bowles plan recommends eventual cuts to Social Security benefits, trimming Medicare and military spending, overhauling the tax system and axing certain tax deductions.
"I like the entitlement components to Simpson-Bowles," Roskam said. "I'm not in favor of the tax-raising component. We've shown you don't have to raise taxes," he added, citing GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's controversial budget.
Roskam backs the House's one-year extension of current tax rates and contends that "foundational" tax reform is necessary. He did not give specifics on what that meant.
"Once you start laying out absolutes, you're prescribing the nature of the debate," Roskam said. "No one can defend the status quo. Let's use that high level of dissatisfaction as a way to bring people together (after the election)."
Coolidge thinks the Bush-era tax cuts should be extended only for the middle class, saying the extension is important since that income bracket tends to spend most of its earnings.
She supports ending tax cuts for households earning more than $250,000 a year. "I think a couple making $250,000 can afford to pay more than a 35 percent rate, which is historically extremely low," Coolidge said.
The 6th District includes parts of northwest Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties.