Bill Foster: Candidate Profile
11th District U.S. Representative (Democrat)
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.
Office sought: 11th District U.S. Representative
Family: Wife: Aesook Byon Children: Christine and Billy
Occupation: High-energy physicist and particle accelerator designer at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory; co-founded Electronic Theatre Controls, Inc., a company that now manufactures over half of the theater lighting equipment in the United States.
Education: B.A., Physics from University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1976, with Honors, Phi Beta Kappa; Ph.D, Physics, Harvard University, 1984; Ph.D Thesis: An Experimental Limit on Proton Decay
Civic involvement: I am a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and an elected fellow of the American Physical Society. For many years I served on the board of the Batavia Foundation for Education Excellence, an organization dedicated to enhancing the public schools in Batavia, IL. I?m currently on leave from the Governing Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
Elected offices held: U.S. House of Representatives, March 2008- January 2011
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.
Key Issue 1
My top priority for the nation is getting our economy moving and creating jobs. As someone who started a small business from scratch, I know how important it is for families and for communities to have strong job creation. Since the economic meltdown of 2008, we?ve seen some economic recovery, but not enough. Wall Street may be coming back, but too many people are out of work and too many middle class families continue to struggle. It?s important that Congress stop the political bickering and get to work on policies that can help get our economy back on track.
Key Issue 2
Restoring American manufacturing is another urgent priority. In the last decade we?ve seen the decimation of one third of American manufacturing jobs, due to many factors including poorly negotiated trade deals, toleration of currency manipulation by China and other countries, and policies that actually rewarded companies for shipping jobs overseas. Policies that, I might add, that my opponent in this race supported down the line. I know that manufacturing can work in America, because the company I started still manufactures lighting equipment right here in the Midwest, and provides hundreds of good jobs with good pay and benefits. America cannot become just a service and financial services economy ? and to prevent that, there is no substitute for having people with successful real-world manufacturing experience in Congress.
Key Issue 3
There are two other priorities, which I think never change: Education, and taking care of our veterans. Education, because to compete in this new global economy we have to have well educated children. And we must always take care of our veterans, because they sacrifice so much ? sometimes sacrificing everything ? to keep us safe here at home. In both of these areas, Congress is unfortunately full of politicians who posture in support of veterans? issues or education, but then vote in ways that have badly hurt the futures of our veterans and children. They must be held accountable for these votes.
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?
I support extending tax breaks for everyone, but limiting the break to the first $250,000 in income, because our middle class is in trouble. It?s been squeezed and there?s not much more regular families can take. The growing disparity in this country risks the values that share: that hard work and good ideas are rewarded and that anyone can have a chance to succeed. I started my first business when I was 19 years old with my brother in our parents? basement. I am running because I worry that this opportunity might not be true now and in the future. And what we see coming out of Washington is frustratingly out of touch. Congress in the last year voted to protect tax breaks for billionaires and ends Medicare as we know it. My opponent and her Tea Party colleagues left Washington for summer vacation while holding middle class tax cuts hostage in order to protect tax breaks for corporations and billionaires. Washington is squandering the opportunity to rebuild our country to last and for the better. Federal policies must understand the linkages between economic growth, social mobility, and a strong middle class. Countries with very unequal distributions of income suffer from low rates of growth, due to the low return-on-investment for investments made by the wealthy compared to investments by the middle class. An aggravating problem for the United States is that wealthy people tend to make an increasing fraction of their investments offshore ? so that the net effect of the Bush tax cuts with benefits skewed towards the wealthy was to simply speed up the flight of investment capital and the deindustrialization of the United States. Finally, we need to focus on creating jobs and rewarding what this country is best at: innovation. Washington needs to make sure that promote small businesses and local enterprise. We can rebuild but it?s going to take our policy making a hard turn by making the middle class a priority.
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 don?t think we?ve ever seen Congress as frustrating and dysfunctional as it was this past year. Part of this is due to a large number of newly elected members in Washington that are philosophically opposed to compromise and whose views are unyielding, out of touch, and extreme. It?s also clear that many members of Congress, from both parties, would rather grind all progress to a halt rather than stand up to Party leadership or the special interests that fund their campaigns. Compromise was sorely, and sadly missing, and has been for some time. Members who take ?Pledges? never to compromise on various issues are probably the biggest impediment to bipartisan compromise. These members are simply abdicating their responsibility to use their judgment to reach a reasonable compromise. I was disappointed to see Congresswoman Judy Biggert take the Grover Norquist pledge never to compromise on the budget. I am afraid that gridlock will be inevitable as long as members that take these types of extremist pledges remain in office I support the mechanisms of the Simpson-Bowles plan to address our national debt: to start by negotiating a high-level agreement that the deficit problem will be solved by X% spending cuts and Y% revenue enhancements, and then to dig down into the details of the budget and tax code to share the pain equally and make the numbers work. I think we need a combination of spending cuts and revenue enhancements. The Simpson-Bowles compromise was 3 parts spending cuts to 1 part revenue increases; when Ronald Reagan had to re-balance the budget he compromised on 3 parts revenue increase to 1 part spending cuts. I was inspired in starting my own small business and in my career in science by a belief in the power of creative problem-solving, fact-based business negotiation, and common sense. I have built my work experience in every job I?ve had, including serving in the House, on prioritizing reasonable solutions and cooperation. I believe that Congress needs to come to the table and do the work that regular Illinois families are asking them to do?create jobs, reduce the deficit, and invest in our middle class?not succumb to politics as usual where only special interests and Washington insiders win.
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 voted for the health care law after taking hundreds of meetings with doctors, nurses, and business owners because it was the best step forward and I agree with the Supreme Court?s decision to uphold the health care law. I oppose repeal of the law. 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 forty thousand 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, and to drop people?s coverage when they get sick. The arguments presented in favor of repeal are contradicted by Massachusetts? experience with ?Romney Care,? which has been in place since 2006 and is both successful and widely popular with businesses, individuals, and health care providers. Now is not a time to go back. What we must do is to bend the cost curve or we will be drowned in an avalanche of health care related spending. Many provisions in the health care reform bill ? such as electronic medical records and bundled care payments ? are already starting to bend the cost curve in ways that will benefit both the Medicare program and health care costs for younger Americans, and must be allowed to continue.
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?
I support marriage equality and oppose legislation that defines marriage as only being between a man and a woman.
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?
The new 11th district has substantial immigrant populations including South Asians, East Asians, and Latinos. The most important challenge is to ensure that immigration takes place on a legal basis and that these immigrant populations are fully integrated in ways that ensure that all of these immigrant populations make a positive contribution to our economy. The essential step forward is establishing a workable legal framework for comprehensive immigration reform. I view the McCain-Kennedy proposal that was supported by the Bush administration as a reasonable starting point for that legislation. 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.