Illinois 12th District Toss-up
Name: Randy Auxier
Office seeking: U.S. Representative — 12th Congressional District
City of residence: Murphysboro
Campaign website: randyforcongress.org
Why are you running and why should people vote for you? The most important reason is that I actually in a position to represent this district, to listen and to do what the people here need and want. No one would own me and no one except the voters here could tell me what I should do. I can bring jobs and investment. I can use the office to promote the interests of southern Illinois. I would put our region first. I think the two major parties don’t care very much about our district. I respect both Mike Bost and Brendan Kelly as people, but as candidates I believe, with no doubts, that they will simply do as they are told by their party bosses and those who have pumped millions of dollars into these campaigns. Those donors and who have never been here and never will care about what we actually need. The incumbent has shown very clearly that he will simply do and say what the GOP bosses tell him to do. He is a good marine, but he has sacrificed his district for the larger aims of his party, and then he has been AWOL. The same will happen with the Democrat should he win. He is ambitious. He will do what those who are grooming him for higher office say he should do. They give him over a million dollars and it isn’t from the kindness of their hearts. He will do what they want. So both of my opponents are bought and paid for. I am running because I no longer have confidence in the politics of the two parties that mismanage this country, and I could either sit back and complain or try to do something to change things. I am not a complainer. So I’m running and I aim to win because I know that more people feel like I do about this fiasco than agree with my two opponents and their party loyalties. I believe the 12th district is a place where this country can begin the change it needs, and I believe I can make this region proud of its Congressional representative. I am not like them, and people will like what I have to say and what I will do if they send me to Washington.
Were the steel tariffs the right approach in fighting foreign steel dumping? Why or why not? If not, what should have been done? The situation is complex and it will be quite a while before we see the actual results. I do not want to pretend to know what nobody really knows, but in my opinion is was a risky decision. Generally speaking it is better to negotiate with your biggest trading partners in good faith, to understand that something must be given in order that something may be gotten. Angering and trying to punish the people who can help you is an unwise way to go through life, and the same holds for nations. We need to protect our heavy industries so that we can keep the jobs at home. Canada and China need markets for their competing industries. It isn’t just steel. Making it all about steel mistakes the part for the whole. If we save the steel jobs and lose jobs in a dozen other industries because we have refused to negotiate in good faith, then our country loses. I would work harder to discover what win/win solutions might be placed on the table and then see whether some of the competition in heavy industry might be less damaging to us in light of other concessions China and Canada might make because of other things they want from us. This is not a new problem. It goes back at least to the administrations of Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, and William McKinley, and the McKinley tariff was much more far-reaching. I generally oppose protectionism and prefer honest competition, but there are situations in which protection for new and developing industries makes sense and can be negotiated with trading partners. Cooperation is the best model for business.
What should be put in place or done to ensure fair trade agreements and long-term stability for everyone in your district? Trade and stability are related, and I especially am pleased to see the phrase “long-term” in this question. I do not think that long-term thinking has been a pattern in the political leadership of our region or our state. In order to trade, we need something to trade. I think that we have to think about what our future will be as the availability of fossil fuels goes down and the price goes up. In fifty years we will not be driving cars that run on petroleum fuels. How will we get where we have to go? I favor building the infrastructure NOW that we will need, increasingly, as our energy sources change. I believe we need rail, both commuter and high-speed, to connect our people. Roads are expensive to build and expensive to maintain, and we can’t afford maintain the ones we already have. Rails cost less than highways, are cheaper to maintain, and are far cheaper to utilize than automobiles. The kind of economic development and investment that comes to places with good rails is exactly the kind we need in this region. Further, we have a good setting for building trains in this district, and a lot of trains are going to be built in the next fifty years. We currently have the space, the location (on the river), the labor force (adapted from the coal mining industry), and the types of industry right here to support a venture into building trains. We have a strong network of heavy rails in place and a good start on light rails in the Metro East. This is the key to the future. It is the key to saving SIUC as well. If we build trains here, it will be cheaper to sell steel in bulk here than to ship it anywhere. New train tracks require steel. Train manufacture requires steel. Local and regional trade is far superior to foreign or corporatized extraction of economic resources, with profits headed away from our district. The best way to insure fair trade is to bargain from a position of strength, which means keeping both financial and natural resources, as well as labor, as local as possible. That cuts costs while also strengthening and building local wealth. We need our business leaders to be committed to living in our region and moving among us. We need leaders with an investment in how well we are doing. That is another key to keeping trade fair and thinking long-term. Those who don’t live with us will not have our welfare among their first priorities.
Would you term limit yourself? If so, how many terms? I absolutely would. Two terms maximum. I would also donate as much of my pay as I could afford (after paying my own bills), to local causes. I have a successful career already. I like it. I don’t need to be a career politician and I would never do this for money.
The issues surrounding public housing in East St. Louis continue, even though the federal government returned it to local control. Was the federal government giving up control the right move? What needs to be done in order to help East St. Louis public housing? Local control is almost always to be preferred to federal control on most issues. The reason the federal government took control was that racism was so deeply embedded in the complex systems of zoning, loaning, building, selling, and regulating housing that local leaders were almost never in a political position to improve things even when they wanted to. So let us begin with this: shelter is a human right. Leaving any human being without adequate shelter is a human rights violation. If racism leads to inadequate housing and local authorities cannot and will not address it, the federal government must insure that safe and reliable housing is available to the people under its protection (including those who are here undocumented --they are still humans and they have rights). Yet, local leaders know best what is needed locally. They must be empowered to provide it. That means that the funds for addressing these problems may come from federal, state, and local sources, but the decisions must be made by leaders who can be held responsible for what they do by those who live with and around them. State and federal governments must regulate housing until we can honestly say that racism and other deep human problems no longer prevent our people from getting decent shelter. That will not happen soon. Therefore, local control can only be trusted where steps are taken to prevent the white power structure from ruling over the impoverished and blighted parts of our country with systemic racism in the background of its motives. Redevelopment is almost always possible and, if undertaken seriously, can work to raise the standard of living of places like Cairo and East St. Louis. What has been missing is the political will to direct the needed resources into these projects. Token gestures of redevelopment are not enough. We build weapons we don’t need but refuse to build the houses we do need. The amount of money we spend every year disposing of weapons we didn’t use would be enough to re-develop most of the blighted areas in this country. Our priorities, then, are misguided. I would push for massive re-development but with maximal local autonomy in decision-making processes. Concentrating poverty in particular parts of cities is not in anyone’s best interest. Re-development with an eye to affordable housing and favorable commercial conditions for start-up local businesses (and these must be done together) is in everyone’s best interest --even the rich people are better off when everyone has a decent place to live and money to spend there. So, to be specific, massive re-development. In the short-term, young people should be paid to build decent houses, in a manner done by the Civil Conservation Corps and the Works projects Administration under Roosevelt. Decent houses, built neighborhood by neighborhood, will impart the skill of the building trade to young people. When the skills have been learned, the same young people should be encouraged and subsidized to start construction businesses. Similar programs can address other infrastructure needs.
Has enough been done to address the ongoing opioid epidemic? If not, what else should be done? The opioid epidemic is just one of a million problems with our current healthcare system and practices. We must remove the profit motive from healthcare. Healthcare is also a human right. So long as people are profiting from other people’s illnesses, healthcare in this country will not be right. We have an opioid crisis because people are making money from prescribing opioids. We don’t have universal healthcare because insurance corporations and corporate healthcare providers are making money from people’s illnesses. In order to get adequate healthcare, you should not have to enter into a bet with an insurance company, where they are betting you won’t get sick and you are betting you will. That is not healthcare, that is a casino. With a single-payer universal healthcare system, there is only one purchaser of healthcare, the government, and the financial headaches belong to them. The opioid crisis could be addressed easily if we had a single-payer system. The drug companies would even benefit because they would not have to advertise in order to sell their drugs, and doctors would always be in a position to prescribe what is needed rather than what brings them revenue and favor from the pharmaceutical companies. Like education, healthcare is not and should never be a business. It is a human right and it is the duty of the government to insure that everyone, including undocumented persons, receives adequate healthcare and education. Just as we should not have police or firefighters who run their services for profit, we must not allow healthcare and educations to become targets for profit-takers. There are plenty of businesses that can generate profit, but healthcare and education must not be among them.
Was eliminating a fine for not having health insurance as required in the Affordable Care Act the right thing to do? Why or why not? What parts of the ACA should be changed? The ACA should be replaced with a single-payer, universal system. Every developed country has this, and we have the advantage of seeing which systems work well (like Norway, France and Japan), which ones work badly (like Poland), and avoiding the mistakes that some countries have made while learning from the good ideas we find in other systems. Healthcare cannot be provided on the basis of a profit motive, and that is what we have been doing. We pay more and receive care inferior to most developed countries, and meanwhile people are dying who could easily live and live better with a sensible system. Further, universal healthcare would give us a much healthier workforce and that would raise our competitiveness in a global market. If employers, especially small businesses, were not driven to the point of insolvency by the cost of providing health insurance for employees, we would have more and more successful small businesses. The ACA is just not enough, in any form. I would vote for HR 676, Medicare for All, but it still isn’t what we need. We must cut the insurance companies out of this system. Healthcare roulette isn’t even good for them, let alone for us.
Gun violence is a problem. What can and should be done to stop it? As with most problems, gun violence is best addressed locally. I support a national ban on assault weapons, bump-stocks and the like, but that is not where the real problem exists. Local officials must have the authority to ban guns within their jurisdictions when that is what the people want or need. Just as the local sheriff in the old west could tell the cowboys to leave their guns with him while they have a wild time in the saloon, our local authorities need the same sort of control over weapons in their jurisdictions. No one is going to take away a hunting rifle from a hunter in a place where people hunt. But guns whose only reasonable purpose is to kill human beings are very different from guns necessary for maintaining an organized militia for the defense of a free people. There is nothing unconstitutional about regulating handguns. I believe local authorities should be able to demand that no weapons intended for killing humans be allowed in their jurisdictions, where that is the will of the local populace. Sheriff’s offices remain the best seat of such decisions because most sheriffs are elected officials. That way the people can have control over the extent of gun presence in their own environs. Over time, we might be able to study and correlate gun violence more closely with gun presence. Such study would surely improve our ability to discuss gun violence and its causes. As for the federal role, we already have a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. If we can successfully control the movement of unauthorized alcohol and tobacco, we can also control the movement of unauthorized firearms. The ATF should have the same authority over firearms as it has over tobacco and alcohol. I believe in publicly funded elections. That would neutralize the outsized lobbies like the NRA that currently control our legislators.