Previous Political Experience

  • W3C HTML5 Workgroup, Invited Expert;;
  • HTML4All, Founding Member;
  • Grant Park Advisory Council, founding chair;
  • South Loop Neighbors Association, President;
  • Economic Graduate Student Organization, co-chair

The Chicago Tribune editorial board posed the following questions to my campaign. The following is a slightly corrected version of the responses you will find at the Chicago Tribunes Editorial Board Questionnaires.

Education

BA, Economics and Sociology from Roosevelt University in Chicago. PhD (ABD), Economics at University of Massachusetts, Amherst

The Energy Information Administration projects that fossil fuels will provide 78 percent of America’s energy supply in 2035, down from 84 percent today. Drilling in the Gulf of Mexico provides 30 percent of America’s domestic oil production today. What are your priorities for U.S. energy production? How can the U.S. reduce its reliance on foreign oil? Should the U.S. halt or expand offshore drilling? Should it subsidize, or not subsidize, the production of ethanol for fuel?

We face many energy-related challenges in the coming decades. As the Gulf oil disaster demonstrates, we are finding fossil fuels harder and harder to reach. We also confront many concerns over our damage to our climate caused by de-sequestering tons of carbon which has been trapped underground inside fossil fuels for thousands upon thousands of years. Despite these grave concerns, we also have many proven technologies to reduce our energy footprint and to harness the energy from the Sun through renewable energy systems (hydro, wind, solar, etc.). I have a comprehensive plan to wean ourselves nearly completely from fossil fuels well before 2035. The US can be a leader in showing the entire World how to harness renewable energy and how to avoid all of the ills associated with fossil fuels. We really can thrive and prosper if we escape the trap of fossil fuel dependence. At the very least we should pursue such a plan even as a precaution so our country is better prepared to withstand any energy crisis or fossil fuel price shocks.

How did you vote — or, how would you have voted — on the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program? On the $787 billion stimulus package? On extending jobless benefits?

I would have voted against the TARP bill without any hesitation. Relief should have been directed equitably to homeowners in the form of mortgage relief which would have created a gradual response to the problems of the housing bubble. I would have voted for the stimulus package and would work diligently to follow up such a shovel-ready stimulus package with a more carefully considered and comprehensive infrastructure modernization stimulus package. Such infrastructure modernization is sorely needed to meet our energy and climate challenges, but would have also restored economic prosperity by putting workers and other resources back into a productive state: resources which now lie dormant and wasted. Finally, extending jobless benefits is also the only responsible thing to do during a recession or depression. Our economic problems are structural problems which cannot be blamed on those unable to find work.

The recovery is weak and the outlook, in the words of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, is “unusually uncertain.” Identify three specific actions you would support to foster private sector job creation.

I would support: A) Firstly, a massive public investment in infrastructure such as 1) an interstate high-speed rail network to mirror our interstate highway system; 2) expansion, electrification,, upgrading, and addressing deferred maintenance in municipal and regional mass transit;, 3) nationalization, electrification and otherwise upgrading of our interstate freight railway network; 4) full funding of the Pennsylvania Transrapid maglev train project; 5) funding of a massive federal desert solar projects and pumped storage hydroelectric projects; 6) creation of a federal interstate high-voltage electrical transmission system; 7) nationalization and extension of faster broadband networks to rural areas. B) Secondly, legislation which fostered pervasive worker cooperatives throughout the US and required all other medium and large employers to collectively bargain with their employees. With the increased wage and salary incomes from collective bargaining and workers cooperative corporations, a new private wave of economic stimulus would sweep over the nation. Finally, I would ensure that the public commons throughout the United States were controlled in a disinterested manner by government rather than by for-profit private interests. Such a reclaiming of all public commons will foster private enterprise in ways we can barely imagine.

The 2003 tax cuts reduced the top marginal income rate tax rate to 35 percent and the maximum rate on capital gains to 15 percent. The Obama administration would let those cuts expire at the end of the year for individuals making more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000. Should these rates rise, fall or stay the same?

We should not be taxing capital gains income at a lower rate than the income of those who work for their pay. Such a system of taxation creates perverse incentives and rewards those who do not perform the productive work so integral to our economic prosperity. So while I support some of the graduated rates on capital gains aimed at easing the burden of those on meager fixed incomes, I would insist that capital gains be taxed at the same rate as the incomes of working men and women for the highest tax brackets. So our capital gains and dividend tax rates should rise substantially.

How did you vote — or how would you have voted — on the financial reform bill approved by Congress and signed into law by President Obama? Please explain.

I believe our laws should conform to the US Constitution. Therefore I would have voted against the proposed financial reform. The Federal Reserve act handed over powers of nobility to a private for-profit banking cartel: among these powers of nobility the power of seignorage where the Federal Reserve skims off earnings from money creation for its own profits and its own immense public relations apparatus. To grant any more powers – such as the power to ‘protect’ consumers – to this corrupt and unconstitutional banking cartel is yet another attack on the dignity of the people of the US. We desperately need sweeping financial reform which restores Constitutional law and creates public commons in financial services to equitably serve the needs of all business and not simply enrich those at the top.

Is U.S. policy too focused on increasing the rate of home ownership? Should the unlimited tax deduction for home mortgage interest be capped? At what level? What would you do with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

Worrying about home ownership versus home rental is basically rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. We should enact sweeping reform of the FIRE sectors of our economy (financial, insurance, and real estate). We need to separate out the natural monopoly components of this sector which constitute integral components of our public commons and operate those components equitably and transparently with tight Congressional oversight. Allowing private for-profit elites to operate this public commons is an unconstitutional granting a title of nobility to control the public commons. Our monetary system must be nationalized and taken back from the Federal Reserve banking cartel. SImilarly FDIC should not be made available to private banks because it creates a perverse adverse incentive to irresponsibly gamble with other people’s money. I would not cap mortgage interest rates, but I would provide a public credit intermediation system where rates were brought down naturally through responsible financial practices. Finally, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be replaced with a strictly public mortgage lending institution with transparency, equitable access to lending, and thorough democratic oversight. My campaign proposes a National Credit Union to provide publicly insured savings and make mortgage loans to homeowners and homebuyers and a National Credit bureau to serve as a credit history and rating agency for the National Credit Union.

What do you see as the U.S. mission in Afghanistan? Why do you support or oppose the administration’s troop buildup strategy?Do you favor or oppose an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops?

Like Iraq, Afghanistan represents a complete breakdown in our Constitutional republic in that the drumbeat for war was orchestrated to enrich a few elites at the expense of all other Americans and the people of Afghanistan. I support an immediate end to the NATO invasion of Afghanistan and a withdrawal of all US troops from the region. I support humanitarian aid to rebuild the infrastructure we have destroyed and UN involvement to ensure a peaceable return to domestic sovereignty for the Afghan people and a coordinated international effort to accommodate any additional war refugees.

Do you favor or oppose the administration’s education policy, with its stress on teacher accountability and student outcomes? Why do you support or oppose vouchers? Why do you favor or oppose eliminating teacher tenure and implementing performance pay for teachers?

I oppose such detached and deficient attempts by federal authorities to evaluate and control local communities. Obama’s educational program actually undermines the proper role for federal government in education by shuttling funds to those schools already doing better and therefore undermines the equal educational opportunities we hold so dear in the US. Vouchers have a similar influence and represent a misuse of public funds funneled to private institutions. We need to completely rethink and reform the way we treat education in the US. While I only support a limited federal role in education, I think the federal government should provide substantial support for such reform. Specifically, I propose a federally hosted intellectual product repository to help facilitate a public common in educational materials and curricula and allow all Americans to become involved in a continuing lifelong education process.

President Obama’s July immigration speech highlighted doubling border personnel and verifying immigration status of workers. What should Washington do about the estimated 11-12 million immigrants who are here illegally who have otherwise not broken any laws? Be specific. What elements do you want to see in immigration reform legislation?

Immigration is not an instrumental factor in any of the serious problems facing our nation. We know that undocumented workers are not causing our economic downturn: they have responded to it by crossing the border in fewer numbers. We know they are not responsible for rising crime, since crime rates are falling. And we know that undocumented workers were not responsible for the terrorist attacks on September 11th or earlier in Oklahoma City. A sober evaluation of the problems facing this country would leave migration completely off of the list except for one thing: the movement to stop immigrant workers is used to create hyper-exploitative conditions for those workers which then influences the exploitation of other workers who work in proximity to undocumented workers. The attack on immigrants is eerily similar to the scapegoating of Jews in 1930s Germany. This unseemly scapegoating will likewise be an unsettling mark on US history. I would support legislation which granted amnesty to employers and employees due to the incompetent and deliberate failures to enforce labor hiring standards in the past. However, I would then work to put enforcement back on employers alone. I would also work to renegotiate NAFTA to ensure the US, Canada and Mexico all guarantee collective bargaining for all workers who are not in a worker cooperative enterprise. I would also work to ensure NAFTA included genuine free and fair trade where any North American workers was free to seek fulfilling and productive involvement within any North American enterprise.

By 2020, Medicare/Medicaid costs could be one-fourth of federal spending. What have you done, or what will you do to control these costs?

The best way to get our medical costs under control is to implement medicare-for-all single-payer healthcare. Such a plan as HR676. The US has created enormous pools of monopoly power by allowing private corporations to control and skim money out of our insurance risk pools. Again these risk pools are a part of our public commons and have been privatized for the enrichment of an elite few of private for-profit corporations. These for-profit corporations have leveraged their control over this public commons to create monopoly power in hospitals and clinics to drive up the cost of medical care: all to enrich themselves and their Wall Street backers. So this is not only a problem facing Medicare and Medicaid. This is a problem facing every single American who is not a member of the medial sector cartel. On the other hand if we return the public commons to public control through mechanisms such as HR676 we can end this looting of the US electorate and bring down the costs of healthcare while raising the quality of our healthcare.

Would you raise the Social Security payroll tax on employers and employees? Would you raise the retirement age beyond 67? Would you change the benefit formula? Be specific and explain.

Social Security is an indispensable component of a retirement pension portfolio. The only glaring problem with Social Security is that we have a cap on the FICA payroll tax which is not indexed for inflation as it should be. This means that the revenue program – to be made static for over 50 years – had to be made overly taxing to compensate for the eventual falloff in real revenues as inflation rises. If we raise the cap on taxable income and index it for inflation we can actually reduce the age of retirement, reduce the tax rates and increase retirement benefits. We could easily lower the retirement age to 60 years of age and decrease the tax rate to under 6% by raising the cap substantially and simultaneously indexing the cap for inflation.

Do you believe the ethics laws governing behavior by members of Congress are or aren’t adequate?

I believe we need greater transparency in Congress and throughout government at all levels. I would therefore support new ethics laws which restrict the private conversations regarding pending legislation. Like attorney-client privilege only in reverse, these laws would prevent private conversations of pending legislation and require that all discussions be recorded in committee testimony or perhaps also in other recorded conversations. I would also like to see a Constitutional amendment which provided greater immunity to members of Congress, repealed the expulsion from Congress clause, and instead enabled voter and Congress initiated recall of Congressional members to be voted on in a special election within the member’s district. However, we must remain aware there is also a dangerous flip-side to ethics investigations: they can be used by powerful elites to manipulate and subvert the will of the electorate. I therefore believe we need to be very wary of the manipulations of our democratic institutions where elites can use their positions of authority to orchestrate and over-inflate ethics violations in pursuit of their own corrupt and extreme opportunism. In that case the remedy becomes worse than the disease. It is therefore essential to push for greater transparency, greater decentralized oversight, and a presumption that voters will decide given the facts from all sides. Especially for the Senate, a six-year term means the ability to recall a legislator is crucial. Though, even for house members, two years may be too long to wait for an opportunity to vote out a politician who has violated the trust of the electorate.