Candidate Full Name:
5th Congressional District
See web site
Greg Bedell for Congress
Campaign Office Mailing Address:
3530 North Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, Illinois 60657
Map of 5th Cong. Dist. Map of 5th Cong. Dist.
Please tell us about yourself, your background and why you believe you are qualified to hold this office.
I live with my wife, Jennifer, and our two children, Yvonne Lillian, who is 7, and Connor Martin, who is 4, in an apartment in the District which we have owned for almost 10 years. Our children attend school at our parish school, Mount Carmel Academy, on Belmont.
I am a 1982 graduate of the College of the University of Chicago and a 1984 graduate of Hofstra University School of Law in Hempstead, New York. I started my career as a Staff Attorney with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and then, in 1987, went into private practice, which was devoted to helping individuals and small businesses solve their problems. I helped start many of the businesses I represent and have worked closely with them as they grew. I also volunteered with the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services organization where I represented less fortunate individuals who faced the challenges presented by drug abuse, debt and broken homes. I am proud to say I received a Distinguished Service Award from the CVLS.
Our family also lived for three years in Paris, France. We moved there when my wife started working for the Chicago based company Navteq, Inc. I took this opportunity to follow a professional dream, which was to teach. I had the great fortune to do so and, for two years, taught Constitutional and Commercial law at several French universities, including the prestigious School of Political Science of Paris.
I believe my professional and personal experience, combined with my character, which calls me to listen to others, strive to understand the issues, and lead in finding a solution, makes me the most qualified person to be Representative for the 5th Congressional District.
Please tell us your general views about the role of government and some of the most important things you would like to accomplish in office?
I believe the role of government is first and foremost to keep us safe. It then must ensure a fair and level playing field so that all may have the opportunity to succeed. After this, the responsibility of the government depends on the level, Federal, state or local. Each has its own role to play; and sometimes they overlap and must work together.
Especially during times like we are experiencing now, the government must provide the "safety net" to ensure that our basics needs are satisfied. The government also has a role as the watchdog and referee to ensure our rights, especially to equal opportunity. I recognize both individuals and businesses can be prone to abuses. The government must act to restrain abuses and punish those who stray. To some extent, government can set a tone of what is right and acceptable and provide a voice to the People to guide business on what can and cannot be done in business, and society in general. The environment is an example of this; reducing carbon emissions through use of hybrid vehicles and use of other alternative energies for mass transit provides leadership in this area.
Above all, however, I believe in the strength and spirit of the individual and the power of a free market economy. It is a philosophy of not only government but of life. I fear we have become dependent on government to fix every ill. Government can't and it shouldn't try. We would also bankrupt the country if we did; that is in fact happening now. More importantly, if we try to fix everything, and financially we can't, we become prone to special interest politics, corruption, dependence and unfairness.
The current economic crisis is squeezing the middle class. What should Congress do about it? What specifically would you do if elected to Congress?
While I believe there is a lot of common ground between Republicans and Democrats in Congress, what we witnessed over the last several weeks was a true philosophical divide. Republicans, with whom I agree, see the free market as the primary solution to the economic crisis. For Democrats, it is the government which must solve the problem.
I applaud President Obama for his efforts to create bi-partisan support; I believe his outreach to Republicans was genuine. I also applaud his recognition that tax cuts are essential to stimulating the economy. However, the bill currently pending for conference resolution strays far from the President's call for discipline and bi-partisan spirit. Rather than adhering to his initial call for tax cuts and infrastructure investment (bridges, roads, power grid, etc.) it has morphed into a vehicle for big government spending on special interest programs. There is great doubt that this bill will create immediate relief. More than one defender of the bill has shared the sentiment expressed by Google CEO Eric Schmidt, that we should spend these hundreds of billions of dollars "and see what happens." This is not governing. It is gambling with our future for generations to come.
I credit the Republican Party for standing up for tax payers, now and in the future. If the other programs are worthy, let them be debated on their own merits, stand under the light of day and not be hidden as "stimulus" when the entire country knows this is not the case.
I agree with, and would support, the proposals of the Republicans in Congress. I believe the most effective and rapid stimulation comes from putting money directly back into people's pockets; I fear the waste and inefficiency that can come from routing it through Washington. I support an immediate suspension of payroll taxes; I would support a tax credit for home buyers and, perhaps, new car buyers; I would support an extension of the Bush administration's tax cuts as well as keeping the capital gains tax at its current rate.
On the spending side, I do support the infrastructure proposals of President Obama, recognizing, however, that their stimulative effects will not be immediate. I would support loan guarantees to companies investing in technological innovations and I would support the Federal Housing Administration and Federal Reserve programs which help qualified homeowners in mortgage trouble. And, because I believe that at times like this, government must provide a safety net, I would support extension of jobless benefits as well as any emergency funding for Medicaid and Medicare so that those in need of medical treatment can get it.
What are some of the main things you would do to help create jobs in Illinois?
The strengths of tax reduction, tax credits and temporary suspension of payroll taxes is that they provide immediately relief; money is put back into peoples' pockets now for their current use. More money every week for consumers, and not just a one time stimulus check, is the real stimulus to restart our economy and create jobs here in Illinois and across the Nation.
On the spending side, there are infrastructure projects in our community that will perform meaningful work under an appropriate government function. The flooding problem experienced in the Albany Park community, for example, is something that must be addressed at this time. I would fight for funding to resolve this problem, which would bring jobs to the community. Infrastructure programs, such as road and bridge improvement, will also help Illinois companies like Caterpillar. Investment in improving our electrical grid and fiber optic networks will also help Illinois' high technology industries.
What do you think can be done to bring short-term stability to gas and energy prices? Also, what do you think is the best strategy - to both affordably and responsibly - provide for the nation's future energy needs?
The government cannot micro-manage any part of the economy, no less energy. It can, however, use existing laws to see that markets are not manipulated to create shortages. Government should also act to increase current and future supply by allowing exploration. A predictable supply of petroleum products, now and into the future, will add significantly to price stability.
I believe that energy independence is a national security concern, it is a quality of life concern, it is an environmental concern and it is a concern for the health and future of our economy. As important as it is, though, we must also consider the day-to-day consequences on real people when we make policy here. We cannot sacrifice the current well being of our citizens based on an unfinished debate or ill advised policy. It sounds good to say we'll tax coal out of existence but who will pay the bill? The people will in higher costs for electricity and higher prices for products from manufacturers who are dependent on coal for their energy needs.
We cannot simply throw money at the problem or mandate our way into energy independence. The government must work with industry and the tremendously talented people in our research universities to identify what is viable now (or may become viable with more research) and provide incentives (direct through grants or the tax code) to pursue these options. We must end the vilification of those who have the resources and the market incentive to innovate; but the government cannot be afraid to lead industry when it fails to take the initiative.
We cannot be afraid of nuclear power. If safely designed and constructed, nuclear power can provide a significant, if not a majority, of our electrical power needs. Properly developed and delivered nuclear generated electricity could also provide a real alternative to fossil fuels in the very near future.
Is there anything that can be done to make health care more accessible and affordable in Illinois? If so, what would you do?
We must improve access to first rate health care and we must bring down costs. A universal plan is not the way to do this. I lived in a country with "universal" health care. After paying a national sales tax of almost 20%, a tax on my rental apartment, a tax on my TV and income tax, medical treatment was not free. There was no freedom of choice in selecting your doctor; if the doctor was not "in the system" I had to pay for the cost of treatment myself. People still needed private insurance because not all costs were paid by the government. Worst of all, there is no guarantee that, when you need medical treatment, you'll be able to get it. There are waiting periods and there are "gate keeper" doctors patients had to see before they could get the needed specialist treatment.
The American people are not being told the truth about the "universal" system. We must have an open discussion of experiences of other countries, and the partial experiments in the states, so the people can make a real, informed decision. I believe that, once the public gets full disclosure on what a "universal" system really means in terms of cost, access and quality, they will not want it. We must also anticipate potential consequences, such as the affect on the numbers of doctors we will have. If costs controls of universal health care lead to reduced payments to doctors, will this affect the number and quality of men and women who will endure the time and expense of medical training? Will we then have to create a nationalized medical school system? Would we face shortages as Canada has?
We can achieve the essential goals of access and affordability without threatening the quality and availability of our current system. I believe in providing tax credits for the purchase of health insurance and in increasing the bargaining power of individuals by removing restrictions on interstate purchase of health insurance and in supporting the creation of health insurance buying groups which would be allowed to attract members from all parts of society.
I would expect cost reductions from increased competition of insurers and providers as well as the efficiencies that this competition would bring. In addition, I would call on experts to investigate how we can reduce the inefficient antagonism between providers and insurers. Each employs an army simply to prepare and review paperwork. The switch to electronic records may streamline this process but we must make the system work better, from top to bottom, from the delivery of healthcare to its administration.
Please state your general views about the war in Iraq.
There exists now in the Middle East another democracy. The people of Iraq have peacefully and successfully gone to the polls several times, demonstrating that a real democracy has been established. This was achieved at a great price for both the Iraqi and American people. I believe that the mission of removing a dictator whose danger was proven many times, and who was believed by many to possess weapons of mass destruction, was a correct one; the United States Congress and the United Nations agreed. I also believe that it was part of a larger strategy to change, forever, the political geography of the region. This, to date, has been achieved, although the situation remains fragile and will require our commitment for some time. This achievement, however, is only a part of the resolution of the problems of the Middle East. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Syria's troubling influence in Lebanon and Iran's nuclear ambitions remain threats not only to peace in the region but to the security of the world.
Finally, I believe the Bush Administration made two grave mistakes in Iraq: it severely underestimated, and was unprepared for, the depth of sectarian animosity that existed. This led to untold violence; and, in the face of this violence, the Administration held on too long to a strategy that was not working. The surge, and the change in tactics that came with it, worked. I supported the surge in Iraq and support it now in Afghanistan, as winning the hearts and minds of the people is as important, if not more, than winning the battles.
What are your thoughts on how to deal with illegal immigration? Also, what do you think should be done about illegal immigrants who are already here in the U.S.?
Immigration is one of the most urgent and complicated challenges we face. In order to resolve it we must address the three critical parts of the issue: the integrity and security of the border; the economic hardships immigrants face in their home countries; and the just treatment of people who have come here to make a better life but who have not done so legally.
A fence is not the answer. This is a bad idea for both strategic and moral reasons. We should have by now learned the lesson of the Maginot line and, more recently, the failure of the fence separating the Gaza Strip from Egypt; static barriers don't work. Moreover, a fence goes against the spirit of who we are as a Nation. We are a warm and welcoming people. And, it must never be forgotten that this country is a country of immigrants; we would not have achieved our greatness had we closed our hearts, minds and borders to those who sought a better life.
Instead, we must commit to increased funding for border guards and technology, such as drones, cameras, sensors and satellites focused on guaranteeing the integrity of our borders. Granted, in some portions of the border a fence may help but it is not the answer. As a nation, we must commit to the integrity and security of our border like we've committed to the war on terror; indeed, border security is part of this war.
We must work with the countries from which the immigrants are coming to improve their economies so people will not be compelled to endanger their lives and break the law simply to survive. We have precious few resources to spare but wise allocation of economic development funds will ultimately lessen the burden on American taxpayers and create consumers for American products. NAFTA is in our Nation's best interest and must be left in place. The Columbia Free Trade Agreement must be signed; it is inexcusable that this has been blocked by Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic leadership.
We must create better temporary worker permit systems. Employers need to fill jobs that others do not seem to want. If we have open jobs and a willing labor force that desperately needs work, we must, as a fair and compassionate nation, put these two together.
For those who are here illegally, we are a nation of laws and these laws must be enforced. Yet, this issue can't truly be addressed until the other issues are resolved. We will have a continuous stream of people seeking a better life until we help make the life in Mexico and other Latin American countries better; and, until we prevent illegal immigration, it is impossible to fairly address the issue of those who are currently here illegally. Once we have addressed the other two, our nation, which is itself a nation of immigrants, must show compassion. We should consider each case individually, taking into account the person's contribution to American society, the person's family situation and other important factors, such as the length of time they have been in the US and, perhaps, their prospects upon return to their home country.
What ideas do you have for improving our education system and for making our colleges and universities more affordable?
The solution to improving our children's education must be based on choice and competition. I believe charter schools and school vouchers provide both. Every family should have the right to chose where their child is educated regardless of their ability to pay a second tuition. We all pay one tuition through our taxes but we have no choice for the money we pay. If we want a choice, families must pay a second tuition. This is not fair.
Choice and competition will provide many benefits. Educators will agree that the commitment of a family and the community to education is critical to success. Good, interested students should not be held back because those around them do not, for whatever reason, have the same level of commitment or support. Families with means simply chose a public school district where the community is supportive and the schools are successful. With vouchers, all - regardless of income - will have this choice.
I believe all would agree that nothing improves without competition. If public schools cannot compete and provide the excellent education our children deserve, they shouldn't survive. Sacrificing our future simply to preserve a failing system is inexcusable. Choice, increased by charter schools and vouchers, will force public schools to improve. Critics of choice suggest public schools would become a system for the less able and troubled students. Assuming this was true (which is essentially an admission that public schools cannot compete, which I don't believe) then resources should be devoted to make these schools the experts in special education.
One thing must be made clear: money is not the answer. Increased parental involvement, teacher professionalism and accountability are the keys. Competition and choice will provide these keys to success. However, I do believe that we must dedicate more resource to compensating our teachers. By increasing initial salaries and proving merit increased, we will attract more highly talented people into the teaching professional and give them incentive to stay.
In the reality of a Global Economy, job requirements change dramatically and quickly. Community colleges can serve a vital role in helping our talented work force adapt. Expansion and improvement of these institutions provides an excellent opportunity for public-private partnerships. Local businesses should be encouraged to become involved with program development and sponsorship; it is in their best interest to do so. To compete, they must have a talented workforce with knowledge of cutting edge technology and product development. Community colleges with real and relevant programs can provide these essential workers.
Access and Affordability:
Part of the American dream is a college education. This is right for some, but not all. Improved community colleges will give a choice to students who want a good education and marketable skills but who don't want to go to a four year college. For all who want to pursue higher education we should try to make it possible. The Pell Grant program should be evaluated to determine if it can effectively and efficiently be expanded. I, like many of my generation, benefited from government backed school loans. The effectiveness and efficiency of these loans must be considered and, if merited, expanded. I would also support a tuition tax credit for tuition, at both universities and community colleges. I can think of few better investments our government can make than in improving our Nation's opportunity for higher education.
What are your highest priorities for protecting the environment in Illinois?
I believe that businesses must be made to account for the "silent" "hidden" costs of their operations. Pollution from production in any form must be taken into account by the business that creates it. If it increases the cost of the product, the market will determine if the product is that valuable or it will force the producer to become more efficient.
However, the private sector is but one part of the problem that we must solve. We must re-examine our whole transportation network, public and private. Where can we sensibly add rail lines; where can we improve traffic flow with HOV lanes and other energy saving, environmentally sound practices. My experience in other countries tells me we can do much, much better if we simply commit to it.
Government can and should take the lead: it must evaluate the overall carbon footprint of its transportation systems and set the goal that no public bus should run on petroleum products by 2012. Electric, hydrogen and other emerging technologies should be developed as alternate soles source of power for public transportation. Current buses should be retrofitted, if possible, or otherwise phased out in a reasonable period. Vehicles used for official business should likewise run on renewable energy by 2012, using phased in replacement of older vehicles with green vehicles.
Taxis in big cities should be required to be at least hybrid by 2012. This should be phased in to minimize financial hardship on private business and the costs increase which will ultimately be passed on to the consumer.
Government must encourage and assist individuals. Efficient recycling programs must be developed and implemented.
Finally, as Representative for the 5th Congressional District, I would work closely with fellow Republican, Mark Kirk, who is a leader in Congress in working to preserve the Illinois environment, especially Lake Michigan. I would support legislation which addresses threats to our Great Lake from mercury pollution, invasive species, toxic pollutants, and decreasing wetlands to the Great Lakes ecosystem. Lake Michigan is one of Illinois' greatest natural resources and must be protected.
Tony Peraica, Cook County Commissioner and former Republican candidate for President of the Cook County Board and Cook County State's Attorney
Joseph A. Morris, former Associate Attorney General of the United States, former Republican Candidate for President of the Cook County Board and currently Partner in the firm of Morris & De La Rosa, Chicago, Illinois