Brian Burns: Candidate profile
Office sought: Congress, 5th District
Family: Engaged, fiancé is a doctor starting a fellowship at Northwestern. I have an older sister and was raised by a single mom on Chicago's North side.
Occupation: Chief Compliance Officer (interim) at Pangea Money Transfer
Education: Saint Ignatius College Prep (H.S.), DePaul University (BA, Political Science), University of Memphis School of Law (JD)
Civic involvement: Active in community during law school in Memphis. After the police killing of Michael Brown, attended a BLM march in St. Louis, then returned to school and organized a large forum to discuss the shortcomings of policing in communities of color. Drafted a revised and strengthened ordinance for the Memphis Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board ("CLERB") and worked with community organizers to get it passed by the city council. Engaged in local activist organizations since returning to Chicago two years ago. Received NVDA training from XR Chicago and risked arrest by unlawfully blocking an intersection for a recent climate protest. In December, gave a speech at an #OutNow rally entitled "A People's Impeachment" in which he outlined a strong case for impeaching Trump.
Elected offices held: None
Incumbent? If yes, when were first elected: N/A
Facebook: Burns for Congress
Questions and Answers
1. What have the past three years of Donald Trump's unconventional leadership taught us about politics in the United States? What is the best thing his presidency has done? What is the most significant criticism you have of it?
The unchecked power of the executive branch has been growing for decades, and the most important lesson that Donald Trump's presidency has been is that we can no longer rely on norms alone to serve as Constitutional safeguards against an imperial presidency. The Trump presidency has taught us that the laws of the United States, on their own, are not an adequate safeguard against creeping authoritarianism. Unless elected leaders have the political courage to stand up to Trump, he will continue to consolidate unchecked power and present a threat to our democracy.
The best thing his presidency has done is to galvanize a strong and united progressive backlash. American politics is best described by a pendulum, and the silver lining of the Trump presidency has been its awakening of a progressive movement that is energized and ready to win big.
Trump's separation of families at the border is grossly inhumane. His appointment of anti-LGBTQ people to his cabinet and federal judiciary will set back the fight for equality and is antithetical to American values of inclusion and fairness. His tax cuts to the donor class will saddle my generation and the next generation with ever-increasing national debt. His belligerence in foreign affairs makes every American less safe. But my biggest criticism of Trump is that his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement jeopardizes the entire planet's hope for a livable and sustainable planet.
2. What needs to be done to get Congress to work constructively, whether that be senators and representatives of both parties working with each other or Congress itself working with the president?
We need term limits and major reform of campaign finance rules so that we have new voices in Congress that are not beholden to the special interests that financed their campaign. The corrupt process of gerrymandering must be abolished so that citizens are choosing their representatives and not the other way around.
The House of Representatives was intended by the framers of the Constitution to belong to the people. They despised the English system of government where a king ruled with the help of an entrenched political aristocracy. In Federalist Paper #39, Madison wrote that, "It is essential to (a republic) that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class of it." Unfortunately, according to a study by Princeton and Northwestern, that analyzed 1,779 policy outcomes, "economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy," while average citizens "have little or no independent influence."
So how do we fix this? We start by recognizing that trying the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Whatever the prescription has been for the past ten years, it has failed. We need new ideas, we need new politicians, and we need them now.
3. What do you see as the most important issues to address regarding immigration reform? If you oppose funding for a wall, what steps do you support to try to control illegal immigration?
Immigrants are vital to the growth of our economy and the only thing more harmful to the immigration debate than Donald Trump's hateful rhetoric has been his implementation of cruel and inhumane policies at the border. The most important issue to address regarding immigration reform is simple: all human beings have a right to live in a safe environment, and the United States, as the richest country in the history of the world, must actively work to be a welcoming place for all.
I reject the implication that illegal immigration is somehow out of control. In 2000, there were 1,643,679 apprehensions at the southwest border, a figure that has been decreasing steadily to where there were only about 400,000 in 2016. This is despite a nearly fourfold increase in the number of Border Patrol Agents over the same time period. The United States has always been a nation of immigrants, and the percent of our current population that is nonnative is in line with historical trends. There is no crisis and there is no excuse for the inhumane treatment being done on our behalf by the Trump administration.
4. Please define your position on health care reform, especially as it relates to the Affordable Care Act.
I support Medicare for All both as health care legislation, but also as good economic policy. Our economy grows when entrepreneurs take risks, start businesses, and create new jobs, but high health care costs and employer-based insurance make entrepreneurship too risky and acts as a drag on innovation. Medicare for All is also the best way to reduce the cost of prescription drugs and provide coverage to more citizens. Reform of our drug patent practices and allowing the federal government to negotiate drug prices are essential steps in reducing drug prices.
While I fully support Medicare for All, as a pragmatist, I also support any policies that step in that direction, such as a properly implemented public option.
5. What is your position on federal funding for contraception, the Violence Against Women Act and reproductive rights?
I support federal funding for contraception, Violence Against Women Act and reproductive services that support every women's right to choose. With the right to choose under attack all over the country, I will do everything in my power to ensure every woman has access to safe, affordable, and legal abortions. Research suggests that the best way to reduce the number abortions is to provide free contraceptives to those who want it -- essential health care what would be covered under Medicare for all. The federal government should also stop funding "abstinence-only" sex education which has been shown to lead to increases in unwanted pregnancies.
6. What do you consider America's role in world affairs? What are we doing correctly to fill that role? What else should we be doing?
Democracies make the world safer and the United States should strive to support them wherever we can. We should do this by providing mutually beneficial trading arrangements, sharing our expertise where needed, and providing aid where necessary to help other nations build stable communities. We should lead by example at home -- taking care of all of our communities and welcoming those who have been displaced by war and domestic violence in their homeland. We should not view ourselves as the world police. We should not go to war without congressional approval. And we should not assassinate leaders of other countries absent a coherent long-term strategy that has been vetted by the legislative branch and communicated with our allies. War with Iran, in particular, would be a catastrophe and we must do everything in our power to demand peace now.
7. Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? What steps should government be taking to address the issue?
The most brilliant scientists in the world agree that climate change is caused by human activity. I trust their collective voice. Everything we do from this point forward must be seen through the lens of the climate crisis. We must act immediately to transition away from fossil fuels. We should utilize advances in nuclear energy to provide a bridge to a completely renewable energy infrastructure. We should tax carbon so that the market will be on our side in this fight. But we can't stop there. We should create a Climate Corps within the Department of Defense to mobilize an entire generation in the fight. This will provide good paying jobs and valuable training while citizens plant 1 billion trees, repair levees and dams, build green infrastructure, and upgrade our transportation network.