By John Brown's Ghost
Today we continue with part 2 of my interview with Senator Randy Hultgren, who is running for the 14th Congressional seat. This portion of the interview will focus on social issues and the campaign in general. Part 1, which can be found by clicking here, focused on energy, the environment and commerce. Part 3, which will be published tomorrow morning, will focus on foreign affairs and security.
Ghost of John Brown (GJB): There have been recent reports that Social Security will start paying out more than it takes in by the year 2016. Part of that obviously, is the impact on the economy. What steps should Congress make to modify Social Security or how should Congress keep Social Security viable?
Randy Hultgren (RH): Yeah, it’s a huge question going forward. When we see modeling, if we don’t do anything, of how huge Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare become in our budget when in forty years they exceed all tax revenue just for those three benefits that are there.
First off, we need to abide by the agreements that we’ve made to retirees, so we need to follow through and we’ve made a commitment to them and they’ve made plans that a certain level of Social Security would be there. We need to do what we’ve committed to do for them and follow through on that commitment.
I do think that we need to look at those that are younger in the system, so those who are just starting working or middle aged working and Social Security was intended to be that safety net for people who didn’t have any other alternative. The best alternative or best hope I think is for individual responsibility. For myself and my family I want to be planning ahead as best I can for my retirement years and to once again get back to where Social Security isn’t the guaranteed retirement income for everybody. We made that commitment to those people who are retired and we need to follow through on that, but for younger people who are already questioning and realizing that Social Security most likely isn’t going to be there we need to follow that up with training them to be prepared for retirement. To take individual responsibility and to start preparation for that, and I think make some changes in Social Security law for young people to maybe have a higher retirement age. Certainly the life expectancy wasn’t nearly as high as it is now as it was when Social Security was instituted back 60-70 years ago, so we need to update that for younger workers who have a higher age level when they would have access to Social Security. I think we need to have some other private options for people, younger workers, to be able to invest for their retirement.
GJB: There are about a dozen States where either same-sex marriage is allowed or there is some form of recognized partnership allowed. Recently, the State of Maine had a referendum on the subject. What, if anything, should be done at the Federal level regarding same-sex unions or should this be a State’s matter?
RH: Well, I have been a consistent supporter in the State Legislature of the fact that marriage is between one man and one woman and that I would vote to support that. That marriage is a cornerstone of our nation and we need to protect marriage. So many of the good things that happen in our nation are when families are functioning well. Many of the struggles we have are when that nuclear family breaks down and so I’m a strong supporter of traditional marriage and would support making sure that we maintain, whether it’s through constitutional amendment to make sure that it’s very clear that marriage is between one man and one woman, but my votes are very apparent on that, that I’m supportive of that and will continue to support that in Congress.
I think that needs to be the position of Congress. Different states will, I guess do what they choose to do on that, but I’ve been pleased to see that most states, even states that are very liberal have been voting against the push to really cut down what marriage is and the importance of that nuclear family. Again, recognizing that many times it’s just not possible, families will break, there will be divorce and that won’t be that ideal situation. But the fact that may happen doesn’t mean we shouldn’t set it up as an ideal. So that’s my commitment: the ideal is kids being raised by a mom and a dad and if there is any way we can encourage that, that’s what I want to do.
GJB: What is your passion? If you were fortunate enough to be in the Congress for the next 10 years, what cause would you become known for aside from just supporting your District getting funding for this bridge or that road? What is your passion?
RH: My passion is to help people. It’s to make Congress responsive to the people once again. I really feel like this District, especially in the 14th Congressional right now and even in the past has not had a Congressman that’s here, that’s listening to them, that’s active. First and foremost, that’s what I want to do. I want to be here. I want to be in every part of this District. I want them to know that I’m representing them. That I have 700,000 bosses that I report to and that I have the privilege of being able to be their voice, their representative in Congress and I take that very seriously.
So, that’s the perspective that I would take on the job. The impact that I would like to have is to turn our nation around. I do believe it’s a pivotal time right now and feels daunting for one person, but I know there are many others. I think 2010 will be a great year. I would love to be a part of the class of 2010 that sweeps into Congress committed once again to traditional values, to smaller government, to less government intrusion, to making this the land of freedom and opportunity and faith and family. That’s what I’d like to work for.
The last thing I want to do is be the guy that brings back money for one more bridge. You know, I’ll do that, I’ll fight for my District, but what I would rather do is fight for you to keep your money. I know that your worst investment in the world is to send money to Washington, DC with some hope that your Congressman is going to bring back a little piece for you. If I can fight for people here to have opportunity, to have great jobs, to be able to raise their family as they choose to, to be able to pursue their faith as they want to. As they have that freedom and opportunity that’s really what I get excited about and why I think 2010 is as strategic of an election as has ever been in my lifetime. That’s why I’m passionate about running right now.
I’m also passionate as a husband and a father. We’re at a point right now where it could be, the first time in our history that if we don’t act now we could leave a nation in much worse condition than we found it, and all that has been fought for, for generations, for centuries to make America what it is could be thrown away. I don’t want to see that happen and I’m going to fight as hard as I possibly can to make sure that we return once again to that idea that our Founding Fathers had when they thought of this great idea of America a land of freedom, of people coming together from many different backgrounds and different places, and together having something that is so much better than these bunch of individuals just living together but an idea of the United States of America, the freedom, the opportunity, the ability to pursue your dream. All of that is exciting. It gets me energized, ready to go, ready to fight, and we need people who are ready to fight for what we believe in right now.
GJB: If you win the Republican Primary, you’re going to face Bill Foster. He had a primary opponent, but my understanding is that he has dropped out. Given that the Congressman has kept a very low profile, and is seen as a businessman and scientist, how would you distinguish yourself? How would you convince voters that you would be a better Congressman that Mr. Foster?
RH: This is a great question. I really think it is what sets me apart from my opponents. I like the people that I’m running against, they’re nice men, but I am the only one who has been involved in public service. I’m the only one that has run for any elected office, and I’ve run and won many times. I’ve run fourteen different times and won fourteen times, not because I’m the best candidate in the world but because of what I believe in, my character and the people that I can have around me to help me be successful. So, it’s through that help that I’ve been successful in the past and will be successful if I’m elected as the Republican candidate to run in the 14th Congressional District.
What really sets me apart, again, is that I’ve been serving in this role. We have a part time legislature here in Illinois. It’s been my public service to serve in the House and the Senate and before that I served on the County Board. My career is, I’m a financial professional for a company called Performance Trust in Chicago, and I love that work, and they’ve been very supportive of me and what I’m doing here. But, that’s my occupation; my service is in the House and the Senate and would be in Congress. So I want to take that service, the legislative victories that I’ve had, the idea of passing medical malpractice reform here in Illinois, protecting seniors from identity theft, fighting against Rod Blagojevich and his gross receipts tax, fighting for real efficiency and transparency in government making sure that citizens are able to see all government documents that deal with finances here in Illinois. Those are things that I’m proud of that we’ve been able to push through.
My entire time I’ve served in the legislature I’ve been in the minority party, and yet I’ve been able to pass dozens and dozens and dozens of pieces of legislation that I think really do help people and solve real problems that people are facing. I can bring that real experience, I can bring the victories that I’ve had at different levels of public service and I can also bring financial professional perspective to Washington, DC which I think is dearly needed right now, and is different than any of my opponents. So I have a legal background as well, and a financial background and all of that wrapped together is a very clear differentiation. The other thing, I think, is I won’t be invisible like Bill Foster is invisible. I’m going to be here. I’ve already heard people say “I can’t believe you are back, I just saw you last night”. But I’m going to be present because I want to hear from people. I want them to know me. I want to be accessible. I want them to feel like they can come up and share their ideas, or share their frustrations or share their successes and that’s really my hope is that we start hearing a few more successes rather than all of the stories of woe and hardship and we’re definitely capable of doing that as a community of having a wonderful, growing community. I want to see that happen and be a part of it as a Congressman.
So all of those things together set me apart from my opponents and allow me to be the candidate that I know can beat Bill Foster next November.
GJB: It’s interesting that Bill Foster touts his experience of being a businessman but in Congress he’s done most everything he can to destroy the businessman, which is somewhat ironic.
RH: Isn’t that something? I think the other thing too that’s important is that some people say “I don’t want someone who’s served in any office before”. Well, Bill Foster never served in any office before and we saw that didn’t work out very well. He claimed to be friendly to business. We’ve seen that he is not. He’s exactly the opposite of that. So, we need someone who actually has shown who they are by how they vote, and that’s how I am. You can go back and check my record and see that I’ve been 100% with the Chambers of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Businesses and other groups. I’ve been endorsed by Illinois Right to Life and Illinois Citizens for Life. So there’s real endorsements there that set me apart and votes that people can show that it’s not just talk for me. It’s real, it’s who I am, and it shows that I’m willing to stand up and vote for what I believe.
GJB: The most intense issue over the late summer/fall has been health care reform. There have been dozens of ideas about how to fix our rising health care problems and costs. I note that over the weekend there was another vote to continue the process in the Senate. What specific measures would you take to improve health care?
RH: First of all, I would be a no vote on what they’re trying to do out in Washington, DC in the Pelosi-Reid healthcare plans. I think it is exactly the wrong direction to go. The idea of reform to me means cleaning up, spending less, finding efficiencies. It’s baffling to me how the Democrats can think of raising taxes and spending another trillion dollars is actually saving money. It isn’t. Its more bureaucracy and waste. We’ve seen how those play out. Cash for clunkers, the failure of that. TARP, with over what, 20 indictments that are out there because of fraudulent use of TARP money. We see when bureaucracy and big government come in and try and address these issues, it fails. What we need to do is get back again to free-market. We need to empower consumers with good options.
We definitely need reform of health care and there are some things that I definitely do support. I would like to see restrictions based on pre-existing conditions removed; the system can’t just bar someone forever from having insurance. They need to have some way of getting back into coverage. I would like to see that happen. I also do want to find more ways for consumers to have more transparency with costs of health care. It’s so confusing depending who is paying the bill of how much something costs when you go to the hospital. That same aspirin might be $10 if one person is paying for it or $20 if another source is paying for it and $50 if another source is paying for it. It just doesn’t make sense. We need transparency there.
We also need portability so that people are able to know that they’ve got that health care if they move from State to State or from job to job. We also need to lower costs. One of the ways that we can do that, there are many ways we can lower costs, but one way is by going after tort reform and medical malpractice reform. That’s something I’ve been very active in, that again sets me apart from my opponents in this race; that I was the Republican spokesperson in the House on medical malpractice reform. I was one of the key Republican sponsors on that. I was the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, when that went through and we had dozens and dozens and dozens of hours of testimony from doctors who were fleeing our state because of the high costs of malpractice insurance and defensive medicine. We were able to pass that through a Democratic House, a Democratic Senate and signed by a Democratic Governor, all against the opposition of the very powerful trial lawyer lobby. So I’m excited about that, I’m pleased about our success there but its one success. I want to take that same fight to Washington, D.C. to recognize that the idea of defensive medicine cost people money. Not only with the litigation costs and high insurance costs, but also defensive medicine in and of itself when a doctor knows these four tests would absolutely determine what the right course of action is and yet, because of the threat of possible lawsuits, they’re going to do ten tests, that costs us money that all of us pay. So defensive medicine has a real cost that we need to address.
Last but not least health care is different from any other issue that we deal with because there’s personal responsibility to it. I make real choices that affect my health and the cost of care that I will eventually have and we need to encourage people to make wise decisions to take a personal responsibility for their own health care. When government comes in and mandates things, I’m opposed to that. It’s anti-American for them to come in and say everyone has to do this, especially when it comes to health care. But what we can do is educate people with the quality of life they can enjoy if they’re going to make wise, good health care decisions and as always I think people respond to incentives. So if there can be more incentives for them of knowing that they’re going to have more affordable health care afforded to them if they make wise decisions and how they care for themselves, and the exercise they receive, and the life-style decisions that they make that help them likely live healthy lives. All of those things together can address health care.
GJB: What is your position on abortion? Legal in any case, limit tri-mester abortions, limit all abortions, allow for rape & incest, etc.?
RH: I have consistently been for the protection of life and have fought for that down in Springfield. Recently I’ve been endorsed by the Illinois Citizens for Life and Illinois Federation for Right to Life here in Illinois. I’ve been leader of the pro-life caucus both in the House and in the Senate in my service down there. So, I’m committed to life whether it’s in the womb or whether it’s elderly which is a very real concern that we have now with the idea of rationing health care and if there’s determination of viable life at old age as well it concerns me when government starts getting into that. So my commitment is that life is precious and that we need to protect life. So, the only exception that I would have is for the life of the mother otherwise, I am supportive of life and would be opposed to abortion specifically very strongly opposed to any form of public funding. I would have supported the Stupak Amendment even though I’m opposed to the health care bill. Bill Foster voted against the Stupak Amendment and voted for the public funding of abortion. Clearly there’s no place whatsoever for government to be in the funding of the destruction of life.
GJB: Recently, we had the election of a Congressman in the New York 23rd Congressional District. This race brought to the forefront the issue of a “big tent” Republican Party that welcomes moderate to liberal Republicans in the party despite their views or a more “pure” Republican party that seeks candidates that are solid on core principals and will fight for conservative issues. Where should the Republican Party be?
RH: Well, I think the lesson from New York 23 is what happens when we get Washington’s meddling in local issues and it failed miserably. We need the local Republican Party to be energized to be active for people to be passionate to get back to the Republican Platform of smaller government, less government intrusion. I really think it is conservative principals when you read the Republican Platform it is, whether it is here in Illinois or at the national level it is conservative and we need to be committed and I am committed that it’s every single line in the Republican Platform, and that’s how I’ll run.
I do think we in the past have lost our way as Republicans and we need to get back to what it means to be fiscally responsible. I know for example earmarks grew from, I think it was 4,100 earmarks when Speaker Gingrich started and I think it was over 14,000 earmarks by the time Speaker Hastert left. That’s really a Republican legacy that I’m not very proud of. So we need to turn it back once again of saying Republicans are for the idea of smaller government, less government intrusion. Not using the idea of earmarks. It grew up to $53 billion that we as Republicans were putting in as earmarks and with every single dollar there was a string attached back to that Congressman who was getting it, and so that’s got to change. That is not core fiscal responsibility, smaller government, keeping money in the pockets of the taxpayers. That’s where we need to get back to and that’s what I’m going to fight for.
I want to energize the Republican Party here. I’m so excited about the tea party movement, many people who are upset, frustrated with the direction of our nation and wanting to see a change and again I think 2010 is our chance to send a message and I think the 14th Congressional District is maybe the best place in the nation to send that message of the failed policies of the Obama administration, and also failures of the past Republicans that we can do so much better that if we can get back to the idea of we are fighting for the people who send us to Congress. They’re our boss, we’re responsive to them, we’re listening to them, we’re active because they want us to be active. If we can send that message to the 14th Congressional District loud and clear to Nancy Pelosi, loud and clear to Barack Obama, loud and clear to past leadership, I think we have a great opportunity looking forward for the Republican Party and that’s what I’m going to be fighting for.