11th District Democratic hopefuls debate the wealth gap
Democratic candidates running in the 11th Congressional District disagree on taxing the rich.
The race pits centrist four-term lawmaker U.S. Rep. Bill Foster against progressive Democrat Rachel Ventura in the March 17 primary.
Ventura, 38, of Joliet, said many members of Congress illustrate the nation's wealth gap problem.
"Forty percent of Congress is made up of multimillionaires," she said. "Bill Foster is the 34th richest person in Congress. That's not a true representation of what we have in our country."
Ventura said Foster is out of touch with his constituents because he believes artificial intelligence and automation are the biggest concerns.
"The most pressing issue we have is the growing wealth gap in America," she said. "American families who struggle paycheck to paycheck, the climate crisis and the health care prices."
She said Americans need living wage jobs, a national $15-an-hour minimum wage adjusted to inflation and a tax on the rich.
Foster, 64, of Naperville, said while a wealth tax is a reasonable idea, he hasn't seen a "workable scenario." He said access to subsidized education is a greater equalizer for young people starting out in life.
"So they don't end up with these massive debts that are really crippling our young people's ability to get on with their lives and to purchase houses, participate in our economy," he said.
Foster said automation is one of the main drivers accelerating the wealth gap, the loss of manufacturing jobs, and causing wage depression.
Smaller banks' "bread and butter of issuing mortgages is being wiped out" as customers shift to online lending businesses, he said.
Ventura argued automation in some industries, such as recycling, could help create jobs, reduce costs, and improve working conditions.