Name: Jon Ebel
Office Seeking: Illinois’s 13th Congressional District
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City of residence: Urbana
Why are you running and why should you be nominated? When I got out of bed on Nov. 9, 2016, I knew that I couldn’t sit on the sidelines of American politics any longer. Greed and ambition have warped our government, willful ignorance and viciousness are now shaping policy. We need a representative who will resist and root out these destructive behaviors, not enable them, and who is driven by an ethic of service.
My adult life has been defined by service. I served in the military. I served as an internet literacy teacher on Chicago’s south side. I serve now as an educator in our amazing land-grant university. I see the title of “Congressman” or “Representative” as two different ways of saying “public servant.” In my capacity as a public servant I have always been a listener. In naval intelligence, I listened to my sailors and tried to give them the help and the space they needed to grow professionally. As a teacher, I listen relentlessly to my students as I teach them and work with every new class to build a sense of community. In my research, I have made it my mission to listen for the voices of common men and women and to weave them into the history of religion in America. Someone who seeks to represent a district in Congress must be not just willing, but absolutely committed to listening to the voices of constituents, not those of entrenched elites or special interests. And listening to people’s voices is what I have done for the past quarter century. Additionally, I am the only veteran in this race, Democrat or Republican. I am the only candidate who knows what foreign policy feels like and has lived the cross-partisan life that the military requires of its officers and enlisted personnel. I was among the most politically progressive officers wherever I went, but I was committed, as were those with whom I served, to working together in spite of our political differences. We need this cross-partisan spirit in Congress. We need people who will fight for what is good and right. But we also need people who are committed to building consensus, building trust, and getting Congress working again.
What are your views on the nation's health care system?What needs to be changed, if anything? Congress should pass HR 676 and make expanded, improved Medicare for All the law of the land. As I think about the future of health care policy in the United States, I ask myself a simple set of questions: What is the right number of babies that can’t see a doctor? What is the right number of families bankrupted by a chronic illness? What is the right number of hospitals that go bankrupt because they aren’t being paid for the care they provide? For me, that number is zero. For those who want to tweak the ACA, to plug a few holes here and there, the right number of uninsured people is in the tens of millions. For those who want to repeal the ACA, the number exceeds seventy million. This is morally wrong. It also happens to be fiscally devastating. We spend more than any other nation in the world on health care and achieve results that are mediocre at best. The cost of those mediocre results extends far beyond the dollars spent. An unhealthy population, a population hindered from seeking medical care, is harmful to the economy and places unnecessary pressure on our social service networks and on the social safety net. Congress needs to recognize these truths and to act on them. We can recreate the system that we have, which is actually a sick care system, and create a true health care system, that is more efficient, more effective, and more just.
When reflecting on Social Security’s passage, President Franklin Roosevelt famously said: “We put those payroll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and their unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program.” When considering how to pay for healthcare, this attitude should at least be considered. This is why I would recommend a broad-based revenue source, such as a payroll tax or value-added tax. This would have to be coupled with some provision for the most vulnerable in our society, given the regressive nature of both taxes. For instance, the first $25,000 in payroll would be exempted from payroll taxation. In addition, some of single payer’s cost could be borne by income taxes, which are progressive.
If single payer is able to achieve dramatic-enough cost controls, taxes can be kept to a minimum. Families are likely to save money under single payer, in terms of annual payments to an insurer.
The federal budget is in deficit and the debt is growing. What should be done in order to balance the federal budget? For starters I would not have voted for a tax bill that added $1.5 trillion to the deficit. It is a spectacularly short-sighted bill constructed on a foundation of lies, discredited myths, and bad history. And the stated goal of simplicity, one thing that I thought was worth working for, has been discarded. What is coming next, as Speaker Ryan already indicated, is the argument that we need to cut “entitlements” and other budget items to pay for this $1.5 trillion abomination. That said, it is now the law of the land. Having watched the Republicans embarrass themselves for most of the last decade chanting “repeal and replace” every time someone mentioned the ACA, I am not eager to join a similar chorus. Rather, I think Democrats ought to fight to close every corporate tax loophole so that corporations pay the advertised rate of 22 percent. I believe we should also reinstate the estate tax – which recognizes that aristocratic extremes of wealth run counter to American values, and tax unearned income at rates equal to those levied on earned income. These moves would begin to right the wrong inflicted by the Republican party on our nation and our economy, and might move us toward a more stable federal revenue stream precisely at the moment when we need it.
What local issues do you want to work on in Washington, D.C. and why? Most local issues are best handled by the county and state governments, especially those that have a history of addressing local issues in a just and equitable way. But there is no question that federal resources can and ought to be available to improve local communities. I believe new investments in infrastructure are vital. While most spending on roads and infrastructure comes from local budgets, the federal government should work to get funds into the district for roads, bridges, and for the upgrades we will need for the green and renewable energy revolution that is already upon us. Finally, the 13th district needs to see massive improvement in rural broadband access. I would like to see increased investments in expanding broadband in to every neighborhood in the 13th district.
I would also like to see a farm bill passed that is fair to our farmers, incentivizes sustainable agricultural practices, and keeps SNAP benefits within its framework. Food insecurity touches 1 in 7 residents of our district. The farm bill is one way of recognizing the interconnectedness of food production and consumption. Illinois farmers need the same thing any business owner needs: a steady income. When we consider the huge amount of corn and soy that Illinois exports to Mexico and Canada, it becomes clear how important trade is to farmers in ensuring the existence of a steady income. We have to preserve some form of NAFTA if we want profitable farms. Additionally, we have to find ways to be at the table in trades in the Pacific so that our farmers can access those markets. The anti-globalization tack currently being taken by the Trump Administration is antithetical to this goal. Lastly, we have to ensure the lines of communication between farmers and Congress are open in terms of taxes. Due to the sheer amount of money that flows through farms, tax policy is hugely influential and, if done poorly, can quickly destabilize a previously healthy business.
Immigration into the United States continues to be a topic of debate. What changes should be made to the nation's immigration system? The Dreamers should be permitted to stay in the country with a clearly elucidated path to citizenship. Undocumented individuals who have been in the country for years, paying taxes and otherwise contributing to our society, should be provided with a clearly elucidated path to citizenship. Undocumented individuals who commit felonies should be eligible for deportation. There should be a system of temporary employment visas, analogous to the present system of student visas which works well, both for the visiting students and for our colleges and universities. The borders should be made secure, but not with a physical wall, which is third-century technology that will not be effective in the 21st century. Much more effective will be electronic surveillance such as drones, and leading-edge communication systems to coordinate the work of patrol agents along the border. Our immigration policies should be unbiased with respect to ethnicity, religion, race or national origin.