Q. Most agree that higher education is key to having a strong country, yet in Wisconsin, the average student debt has skyrocketed in the last decade. The Institute for College Access & Success says it went up 74% from 2004-2014. What is the role of the federal government in ensuring that higher education is affordable and accessible?
I have given my life to the education of university students, I have seen close up and personal the hardship students experience trying to be full time students and full time workers. Many students are paying their own tuition while supporting moms and dads working at minimum wage jobs. Some have parents who have lost their jobs and are back in school themselves trying to prepare for a new career. There was a time when a high school career was a guarantee of a good paying job. That is no longer the case. As a society, it is time to redefine "public education" as preschool through grade 14. In grades 13 and 14 students can either choose to attend a technical school or a two year community college (in Wisconsin the UW Colleges). These years will be fully funded and treated as part of our public school system. Our students must be prepared for the workforce. A high school degree is no longer sufficient. My opponent Sean Duffy has voted repeatedly in support of cuts to education. Fewer Pell Grants are awarded to those in poverty. Loans can't be refinanced upon graduation. What is Mr. Duffy thinking? We cannot allow higher education to become a rite of passage only for the wealthy.
Q. How, in your desired role, would you help revitalize the economy, strengthen the middle class, create jobs and ensure fair taxation?
While the upper 1% in our country are doing just fine, the rest of us are in need of help. My opponent Sean Duffy recently received $300,000 in political campaign contributions from bankers. That should have posed an ethical problem for him. He chairs a banking oversight committee. How could he accept that much money from the same bankers he oversees? The point is--HE DID. Poverty is at a 30 year all time high in our state. Wisconsin ranks first among states with the most rapidly disappearing middle class. A living wage is crucial. Increasing our minimum wage will guarantee that our economy gets that jump start. People will have more money to spend on groceries, entertainment, vehicles, and homes. More taxes will be paid because workers are earning more. My opponent Sean Duffy opposes an increase in our minimum wage. Apparently Mr. Duffy thinks that $7.25 an hour is enough for hardworking Americans to live on. I urge Mr. Duffy to spend less time working for Wall Street and more time working for Main Street. Try spending 1 month of your life trying to raise your family on a full time job that pays $7.25 an hour. Then, Mr. Duffy, tell me if $7.25 per hour is a living wage.
Q. What would your office do to build and strengthen retirement security for all working men and women, including protecting employees' pensions?
At election time, my opponent Sean Duffy says he will NOT privatize social security. But his actions speak louder than his words. He has voted repeatedly in favor of privatization. I will be strong in my opposition to privatization of social security. My dad was killed when I was eleven years old. My mom raised my brother and me on the social security check that arrived each month. Without it, I don't know how we would have made it. Sean Duffy has voted repeatedly to allow Wall Street to gamble with money our seniors depend upon in retirement. I will oppose such legislation. How will I strengthen social security? I will support legislation that taxes every speculative transaction on Wall Street. That one tax increase on the wealthiest guarantees enough additional taxes to direct toward a social security program that is strong and viable.
Q. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has been roundly criticized for making routine health care less affordable for millions of people who already had insurance through their jobs. Deductibles, co-pays and out-of-pocket maximums have risen dramatically, coverage has been reduced and premiums are higher for many. At the same time, the act has provided coverage for millions of people who did not have insurance. How, specifically, would you change the ACA to make it better? Where would the money come from? And how would you ensure that no one 'falls through the cracks'?
The Affordable Care Act was a huge step forward in our effort as a society to make sure that men, women, and children don't have to die because they or their family can't afford insurance. Twenty million men, women, and children are now able to be insured thanks to the Affordable Care Act. But, the healthcare plan passed by our federal government is too costly. Many citizens simply can't afford it. Why is it so expensive? Private insurers want to make big money so the prices are high--but not high enough to make those private insurers happy. My opponent Sean Duffy has voted repeatedly to get rid of our healthcare program. Apparently he doesn't care that 20 million Americans would be left with no insurance. I ask, "Seriously Mr. Duffy? Would you demolish a new house because the heat bills were too high? Doesn't it make more sense to try to bring the cost down?" We can do that by offering a single payer plan. No more insurance through businesses. Every man, woman, and child will have a basic healthcare plan through our government. If you want to buy supplemental insurance, fine. But we start with one basic public single payer plan, federally operated and affordable. It should be America's way of saying to hardworking Americans that we value your health and your life.
Q. What do you think this nation's priorities should be during the next decade? If elected, how would your office advance those priorities?
I believe that this nation's priorities are in no way limited to but must include the following-- jobs in which workers earn a living wage, social security that is secure and strong, healthcare that is affordable, a strong education system from pre-K through grade 14, increased funding for the healthcare and welfare of veterans, the fair and equitable treatment of all--whether heterosexual or homosexual, black or white, male or female, Muslim or Christian. We must support cost effective alternatives to incarceration, enhanced broadband and cell phone coverage in rural areas, and a clean, healthy environment. Climate change is real and citizens who want to protect our world must act now. Clean energy alternatives must receive increased federal funding. My opponent Sean Duffy denies climate change. He has to. He's backed by the Koch brothers whose companies annually spew millions of tons of carbon into the air you and I breath. He earned a 0% rating on the National Environmental Scorecard. As a university professor, I know that 59% is a failing grade. Zero percent is something else--it means that Sean Duffy cares more about the health of Wall Street than the health of our planet.
We must elect men and women to Congress who are willing to act on the belief that all lives are valuable in America, not just the lives and interests of the wealthiest 1%.