Building a Path to Success for the 15th

Cognitive Dissonance Hot Zone

I think the point of the Open Moultrie signs, next to the Pritzker Sucks signs, cozied up next to the Trump 2020 signs is to clearly paint a bright arrow to show passersby that this is where cognitive dissonance has taken root, could be airborne, and efforts are underway to make it hereditary.

If anybody wants to have a frank, honest conversation about reality and solving the myriad of problems that we all face together, they should definitely turn themselves around and drive 100 miles away in any direction … because that conversation is most likely not possible in this Cognitive Dissonance Hot Zone

In other words, “Don’t even bother!”

(Pictures: Featured:, 2 on Left, Courtesy Kevin Gaither, 1 on Right, Courtesy of Kaitlin Cordes)

(Graphs:, 31 May 20)

The WHO Wears Face-Masks

The World Health Organization (WHO) has led America on COVID-19 throughout the year. As new information and data poured in from across the globe, the WHO has been paying attention and adjusting guidelines appropriately.

President Trump has plenty of ‘fall guys’ for his flock to give him a pass on his COVID-19 failures. The WHO received their blame and bill at the end of May. 

For too many of the world’s developing countries, the WHO is the first and only line of defense against a pandemic/endemic threat like COVID19. Now that America has stepped backward from its a leadership role, its role is even more critical.

Of course, Trump has eliminated essential, vital funding and resources from the WHO when the world, including America, need it most. 

It is almost as if Trump is trying to sabotage the world COVID-19 response moving forward in order to increase world COVID-19 infections to make his failures not look so bad.

I am not going to be distracted by Trump, by haters, by anything. 

That is why when I saw Fox News sharing WHO guidelines, today of all days, regarding face-mask guidelines that are different from our CDC, I had to take a fresh look.

I have been busy inundating myself with scientific research, scientific journals, scientific commentary, public health data, public health commentary … I think you get the picture.

Also, for the last month or so, I have traveled while social distancing across central and southern Illinois, crossing into Indiana and Missouri. I was examining the way each community, municipality, each business and their employees as well as each individual interacts with the state and federal government response to COVID-19.

This face-mask issue is an essential piece in the public health fight against COVID-19 in this new phase of the endemic. It is a difficult pill for many to swallow.

That is why the intense over-politicization of this single issue has led to more political and divisive trenches being dug than new ditches to help with flooding along our waterways and rivers.

That is not how you nor elected officials should be making decisions about your health, the health and safety of your family and friends, the health and safety of your neighbors and community members, and especially the health and safety of the most vulnerable people in our society.

The WHO guidelines for healthy members of our community make the most sense to me given the breadth of all of the science, the public health data and all of the commentary on both sides, with a minor additon. 

We should be primarily be using face-masks when we are symptomatic and when we are in zones where social distancing is impossible. 

In this transitional period as outdoor socializing begins in public, use of face-masks would fall under ‘use at your discretion’ for customers.

Employees and employers would be wise to protect themselves, their customers and the public as much as possible.

Now, anyone who has worked in the restaurant industry, the bar industry or any customer service industry know how vital eye contact and facial interaction is with customers. 

Balancing employer liability, employee risk and access to healthcare, customer satisfaction and safety, and the public health risk with that vital customer interaction to me is a simple equation. 

Reports from Georgia, which completely ignored the CDC, the WHO, and any other intelligent source of information, have had many of their restaurants and bars close down permanently after opening way too early and with few if any precautions or mitigating strategies, economic or otherwise.

I’ve been happy to see business owners personally thrilled with the opportunity to open their doors to their loyal customers again while remaining vigilant and mindful of the COVID19 risk without losing their minds.

What most of us are doing is the best that we can do with the information that we have available to us from sources that we trust and rely on to protect the public from threats and real risks.

We have to remain open to new information, new experiences and to change course when faced with evidence. This principle has been largely missing in Americans for much of my life.

Personally, I know when I deliver information to people, I have sources for literally every bit of it and not just one source but multiple sources. 

I am elaborate, methodical and relentless in my pursuit for challenging the status quo, including my own.  We all are in this together. We cannot change that reality without each other and 64+% of the nation.

The political parties aim for 50% + 1 to win an election . . . not one percentage point . . . one person. America, as a nation, a government and as a people, are incapable of the transformational reforms necessary without an additional 14% not just agreeing but fighting for those transformational reforms.

(Roughly, 14% is the percentage size faction of the minority party in the House and Senate that can signal a major shift in direction without garnering the necessary votes for an override of the President’s veto)

When COVID-19 is classified as an endemic virus, we as nation need to have already prepared for it. The structural reforms necessary to successfully and consistently tackle a 5th endemic virus are extensive and should have been accomplished decades ago.

For this reason, I am hopeful that with America’s renewed vision, we will lead the world through this endemic into a better, stronger and healthier future where the economy doesn’t work against the people but builds upon success and community.

This is a vision for a better future that propels me forward in innovative and challenging ways.

If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with COVID-19 or in an environment where social distancing is impossible.

  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.
  • Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • Cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
  • Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not re-use single-use masks.
  • To remove the mask: remove it from behind (do not touch the front of mask); discard immediately in a closed bin; clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

Picture: Action News Now

Killing George Floyd: Pleas and Protest

The video is far worse than I think the media has actually told the public in lead-ins, transitions and other major statements regarding the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department. 

When you watch the full video, be aware that it is deeply troubling, potentially traumatizing and you may need the number of someone supportive or a hotline number.

  • The officer is demanding George to get into the vehicle.
  • The officer is making these demands while George repeatedly gasps for breath, telling the officers he cannot breathe. 
  • The officer is making these demands with his knee in the back of the neck of George.
  • The officer is making these demands with George’s face in the pavement with the same force that is being applied to his neck.

I guess the officer got carried away with trying to slap on a “resisting arrest” charge.

Counterintuitive orders are often difficult to resist. This exposes the meaninglessness of ‘do what I say, even if I am literally stopping you from following my orders.’ 

Counterintuitive is a function of what this officer was attempting to accomplish, not some bug, not an accident and who knows how many others have not resisted and have been abused in this way. That is the lingering turth.

We know how important it is to have a felony charge on an arrest report. It increases the likelihood of conviction without trial of a lesser charge, but any plea will include the least charge.

Pleaing to a a greater charge than you are guilty of means more potential jail time, more fines and fees, more disruption in any work or family schedule. 

Part of probation is to have a job, to have a schedule, and to pay fines and fees. 

All of these are more difficult to do when you’ve just lost your job, you just missed appointments and now you have more bills to pay.

George lost his life. His life isn’t more difficult. It is over.

The people protesting the lost life of #George, at least they’re not protesting against public health guidelines that help protect the lives of other people, at least there is hard, cold and decaying evidence that real harm, real loss, real threat, and real trauma have actually occurred here.

And, there’s real hard, cold and mounting evidence that the line of lost lives, pinned to their ends with the knees of government, will never find an end, or even a working resolution toward that goal.

If someone doesn’t believe there is an element about this that is connected to race, let them believe what they need. 

You will note I have not mentioned race once, yet, for many, it is staring this murder directly in the face.

The murder of George is about many systemic, structural, marrow-poisoned issues, ranging from individual, to family, to group, to government, to authority, to systems and to nothing at all being done to fuse these together more effeciently and effectively. 

If you share any commonalities with George which separate you from the ‘majority,’ what should be clear is that this could happen to you whenever you walk out the door, or even when you can’t face opening that door at all.

Those commonalities, one of which is race, is something that millions of Americans simply don’t have an adequate education nor have any shared experiences that would assist in delineating a more than sympathetic connection to the heartbreak, the trauma and the ongoing struggle of those who feel they must protest and tear life down in the aftermath.

I feel like protesting. And, I have and will again.

When in doubt, generate patience. 
When confused, attempt understanding. 

As for compassion . . . at least have enough compassion that if both patience and understanding momentarily escape grasp, you have already begun to heal and forgive yourself for not always living up and out.

George, his corporeal life as he knows it, is over.

It is up to those who have enough understanding to connect their compassion directly to the suffering of people at the heart of the people’s struggle against it, and to have enough patience with both themselves and others to never relent or give up on finding those paths to resolution. 

We made some progress in Illinois on criminal justice reform. Not nearly going the distance, but at least taking some steps along that path.

For those who are currently witnessing, both progress and success are not always synonymous with awareness, acknowledgment and working together to strengthen, reform and refurbish both rules and guidelines to increase the longevity of that successful progress.

There will always be folks that cannot absorb or accept reforms that primarily benefit someone that isn’t themselves. They will work mental and emotional gymnastics to demand others fight to overturn this progress. 

That is why we must always press forward with the understanding that we must never assume anyone will understand the importance of any idea, action and any person in the short or long term.

The effort, the struggle and the persistence of perseverance to protect, strengthen and make whole any such progress is vital.

The effort should be a true gift, given freely, as fighting to protect what we have achieved for others cannot be transferable.

The effort, the fight, and our awareness: may these always be in mind, assist in focusing the body, and free the spirit to tackle any and all obstacles that stand in our way.

Photo: Offices of Ben Crump Law, courtesy of NYT

Stardards Doubled, or How Many Asterisks Does It Take?

President Trump, like growing numbers of most elected Republicans and supporters of this administration I’ve been blessed to know, have extreme double standards when it comes to the U.S. Constitution and any form of definable ideology when it comes to government and how it interacts with the American people, business, the states and healthcare.

For those of us on the other side of a Republican talking point, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

These are the Republican tools of government when it suits their purposes:

‘Regulate it. Control it. Stamp it out. Starve it of resources. Deny it access to the markets.’

And, make sure that no one sees yourself as the double standard, few discernible values, questionable ethics, loose moral standing person, party and movement that you happen to be part of at this moment.

The Republican Party has only been heading in this direction my entire life. That’s not to say that y’all aren’t good people.

Good people like Republicans and Trump supporters are very willing to cut food stamps (SNAP) while increasing tax cuts for the wealthiest corporate farms in America.

When the economy literally goes where it hasn’t gone since the Great Depression, it’s a struggle to get food stamps back on the bargaining table for many Republicans. And, food stamps literally is the most successful government program in existence.

I don’t care about people whining and complaining about people buying whatever food they want with food stamps. Yes, listening to these people whine and complain is the biggest cost to increasing food stamps and feeding hungry people in America.

Imagine how lucky it is. At any moment, we could have a new administration take over the White House, and willy nilly cut the food that helps feed the family, all because someone has a shitty story about seeing someone use food stamps to buy something they could eat.

Imagine if I had a job, had the skills and the training to do that job, had the education provided not by public schools alone but by a family and community that actually made certain I knew what I needed to know after every year. Imagine that.

Imagine if I hadn’t been hungry when I went to school every morning, and to bed every night. Someone is always coming in to eat our food. Food is always shared by good people.

That’s what makes throwing it away so painful and such a loss when the government could pay these farmers and construct an efficient system that would transport that food to hungry people, since apparently the private sector cannot figure out something sensible on its own.

We haven’t paid to make an efficient government system in this country in decades. That’s why most agencies use such ancient computers. That’s why it often seems as if these agencies don’t work well with one another for our benefit.

And, yet, Americans love telling shitty stories about their neighbors, apparently.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we started giving a damn about them instead?

We care enough about farmers to give corporate farms nearly all the bailout money, and we should care about farmers. We should care more about farmers to get the bailout right.

There is no reason a corporate farm should get the same percentage assistance as a small farmer. It doesn’t make any sense.

Smaller farms have higher costs, can’t negotiate prices, can’t purchase suppliers, I could go on. It’s why small farms have been disappearing for decades. Income inequality comes in many forms. It’s not just about individuals. It’s about business.

Anyone else notice all the farm bankruptcies forcing auctions across our lands over the last 3 years? That’s new.

No one was looking for Rauner’s ass during all of that? Nor were they looking for Trump’s either.


But, a pandemic happens, and all of a sudden, everybody around here is a public health expert, a doctor and doesn’t need to respect the law, the order or each other.

I will not like when those lessons come back to bite us all. 
And, they will.

The problem with double standard living as a nation is that no one respects our word, no one respects our work, and no one respects our nation.

That’s what we have now.

It was never more clear than it was when Trump blew up because Twitter gave him an asterisk.

If Trump didn’t know he deserved the asterisk, then the 25th Amendment should be invoked.

It’s a difficult world for a lot of people, including President Trump. He’s got a tough job, many jobs, actually.

Especially after getting rid of the pandemic response team in 2018 didn’t work out so well for so many.

One of Trump’s jobs shouldn’t be lying to us.

Our top job should be to make sure we’re not lying to ourselves.

(Image: Graphemica)

Illinois: What Has Gone Missing

There has been one person in the state legislature that has received more ink than just about any person in state government and one person that has received more attention than any single issue facing Illinois residents during this difficult and conflicted time.

Yes, this person is State Rep. Darren Bailey, the likely next state senator for the 55th district in Illinois,.

He’s got more ink than the special session has bills. 

Am I correct? 

DPI, that is the Democratic Party of Illinois, could be mobilizing a petition drive; they are not. 

County parties and interested individuals are doing this work instead. Would have been far easier during the primary.

DPI could be mobilizing a fundraising drive based on this highly predictable behavior; they are not. 

How is it that Republicans can roll into a fundraising extravaganza nearly the next day after someone does something embarrassing?

DPI could unload the double standard canisters; they do not. 

It’s not like there aren’t countless videos online, statements made on social media and in the press, as well as votes made during the short time he has been in office to expose him for what he is.


Maybe, they figured they might have underestimated his ability to mobilize groups of politically, economically and informationally isolated folks across the State of Illinois.

I doubt that’s the isasue. 

He flaunts disrespect of others, of rules, of authority. Demands total respect by everyone else for his position.

It is not stunning that more folks would join him in these behaviors.

He’s done this for years. Most of the new brand of Illinois Republicans are all in the same vein.

Without any real Democratic voices, consistent messages and messengers for decades, Central and Southern Illinois have cross-pollinated their Republican strains into what we see today.

Darren Bailey is just one distillation from this destructive process only made possible by the vacuum created by the Democratic Party.

Democrats applauded retiring state senator Dale Righter’s rebuke of his likely successor, not realizing that this letter was obvious evidence of how out of touch Righter had become with the Republican electorate.

Likely, Righter felt or was forced to retire after overriding a Rauner veto, just like his colleague former state rep. Reggie Phillips appeared to do so two years prior.

And, who replaced Reggie in the 110th? 

It wasn’t the small business owner with answers to questions at debates. 

No, it was the Oakland farmer, Chris Miller, whose wife from Oak Park and Naperville, is poised to walk into the open seat from retiring 25-year incumbent U.S. Rep. John Shimkus. And, she will do so without much of a fight from the Democratic Party, either.

It’s not like Bailey and the Millers are unknown quantities. The threats they pose to American tradition and to the respect of all of our rights and all of our people are very real. 

Yet, the Democratic Party did not manage to get someone on the primary ballot to challenge the open seat left by a retiring state senator. 

That’s not just a failure in strategy, even as citizens band together to muster the signatures necessary on petitions to get a candidate on the ballot.

That is what we call a failure in believing.

This failure in believing is that the 15th District and any and all of our people are worthy of having someone and any political party fight for and with them by their side.

The Democratic Party of Illinois just is not with us. 

Now, the Republican Party isn’t either. 

Republicans have had decades to muster some form of economic, education, and healthcare policy to benefit rural residents. 

They completely failed.

They completely abandoned any sense of responsibility and accountability for their own failures. It is easy to point fingers in a binary system.

Voters completely abandoned any sense of holding these elected officials accountable.

How could they when there was no one consistently on the other side of any issue raising the debate, sharpening the ideas, and making the policy and the legislation better for our rural communities?

If any candidate was on the ballot, would local media even have the resources or will to cover a challenger responsibly?

Finally, as the legislature and many Democrats applaud kicking out a proclaimed hater of taxpayer bailouts, subsidies and tax-breaks . . . someone who receives all of the above in numbers that tick into the millions . . . 

What has gone missing are the countless citizens of Illinois that have less food on the table . . . less money to spend on that food . . . because prices at the stores have been increasing throughout the pandemic . . . and the U.S. Congress will not take up increasing food stamps because Republicans cannot cross punishing people that are hungry and out of work.

What has gone missing are the countless workers of Illinois that have less ability to find new work . . . less comfort in the job they do have . . . and more concern for the future of their families. 

What has gone missing is any hint of a strategy by either political party to build change in America for her people and her workers. #DemandBetter


COVID and You

Pretty ****ing typical American model for governance.

Businesses violate, let them skate. Individuals get sick, indict. Businesses will be able to operate which is great for them since they have no legal consequences. Individuals having a gathering? Not so much. That would violate the state COVID19 guidelines. 

Does State’s Attorney Danley’s policy violate equal protection under the law?

No one wants to go through what we’re going through as a nation, but it is an opportunity to see how public servants prioritize and balance our rights and safety with their responsibilities and actions. 

Unfortunately, lives are on the line as well as a further disintegration of our American values and systems of government. 

We must not only observe but respond. Too many are allowing anger and resentment to guide their reaction and obstruct any new information.

It is understandable for people to have questions and to have real concerns about the virus and about the decisions that are taking place here.

Currently, as a nation, we are struggling to find a proper balance between public health risks and economic consequences, federal and state rights and responsibilities, local and state control, and specifically here in Coles County, business immunity versus individual legal responsibility.

America was already highly polarized heading into this pandemic. It is important that we do not let our fears and anxieties overwhelm our empathy and ability to see another person as a human being. This is especially true when we have profound disagreements.

When criminal lability and viral testing both are involved, the best example that still is in place today, is HIV.

I worked in the HIV/AIDS field in some degree for over 20 years. 

HIV is a completely different kind of virus than COVID19. However, HIV does expose the best and the worst nature in people, just like COVID19 has done in 2020. We have wonderful groups that have contributed their time, efforts, and materials to making PPE for local healthcare clinics, nursing homes and neighbors while we all waited for COVID19 testing to become more available.

Testing is a key in the treatment and prevention of HIV. Once you know your status, you can make different choices that protect yourself, protect others and increase the longevity and quality of your life, regardless of the outcome of the test.

What state’s attorney Jesse Danley has done here is similar to what happened with HIV in the 80s. That mistake still keeps at risk people from being tested and getting treatment for HIV.

Danley’s policy places all the criminal liability on the individual. Workers are not given immunity from prosecution, just their boss.

Having an unelected attorney make policy that impacts both public health and our short and long term economy exposes the lack of leadership on these issues from the White House. 

It is dangerous when public health is predicated on fears and anxieties. That is not a way to best serve the public good. In fact, a number of the laws on the books about HIV are still counterproductive to public health and are predicated on fears and anxieties and the need for someone else to be responsible.

HIV disclosure laws make common sense, but they don’t make psychological sense. 

Disclosure laws actually predispose at risk people to not get tested for HIV so they don’t have to disclose to potential sexual partners and be rejected. Not being tested allows these at risk people to continue about their sexual life without any legal or ethical issues. Meanwhile, they are putting at risk every sexual partner.

The actual science says people who know their HIV status, are on HIV drug treatment and are undetectable don’t transfer the virus to anybody during sex. 

So, does anyone revoke all of the HIV disclosure laws? No, they do not. 

‘It’s not my responsibility. It’s their responsibility.’

People would prefer to live in the dark and blame others later.

What these disclosure laws have done is place all the responsibility, legal and otherwise, on the individual that already has all the weight and all the responsibility for keeping themselves alive in a government and social system that does not work efficiently, effectively and at times appears to be out to be rid of them entirely. 

This allows everyone else to just carry on while people that have to disclose their status also have to absorb the piling on of other people’s fears and anxieties, often which appear as toxic hate and rage. 

Why does any of this matter to COVID19? 

When businesses reopen while COVID19 cases keep increasing, employees have no choice but to go back to work. 

I’m certain the vast majority are very glad to get back to work, but they have no choice or they lose their job.

Under the the Coles County policy, the business has no responsibility for COVID19 only employees do. That is not equal protection under the law.

If an individual comes into that business, that individual has the responsibility. In addition, those employees that potentially could get infected now have the responsibility if they become infected. 

How about the entire household where the employee calls home?

Businesses aren’t taking names and addresses.

But, the legal responsibility only exists if someone knows they have COVID19. So, workers are the only ones to be legally responsible, because no business is going to go after a customer.

It’s not like the customer is going to take any responsibility for coming in a store during this interim period where rogue counties are doing whatever they want and hope no one in the community ever responds in kind to local law enforcement.

This is the most concerning dynamic and precedent and is why SA Danley’s policy is so dangerous. Our local law enforcement already got hit with COVID19 on the chin having been on the front lines interacting with the public.

Why would anyone get a COVID19 test in Coles County now? 

A business owner might try and sue you for their business not becoming successful again because you got sick with COVID19 while working and the public found out about it. 

The employer isn’t responsible any longer. Only the individual has legal responsibility in Coles County. 

And, I’m sure, Danley will say this was not the intent of his policy. The intention behind his policy is clear. Individuals aren’t a priority. 

He claims his policy has no impact on civil liability. Many people know a criminal complaint makes a civil case a slam dunk. 

The workers take all the responsibility. If you don’t show up, you are fired. If you show up sick, infect others, know your status, you’re to blame for the lives of your fellow workers going to hell, and you’re likely fired, or you or your loved ones could die.

There’s literally no plan for the people or the workers, except they’re to blame for anything that happens.

This is just a reactionary policy for folks that are freaking out about COVID19, the shelter in place orders and face mask guidelines.

Yes, these are frustrating and require discipline and patience.

It is not easy being in a position to make policy and implement it.

The most important people to think about right now are the people that are sick. 

What about if a person is sick:

Especially if they don’t have health insurance.

Especially if they have to pay massive co-pays and deductibles for healthcare.

Especially if they don’t know the answers to any of those questions. 

Now, thanks to Mr. Danley, they also have to fear criminal and civil prosecution in the Coles County state’s attorney office if they seek treatment and have COVID19. 

Mr. Danley has proven, yet again, if you’re a business and breaking the law, going against rules and regulations . . . who cares if anyone gets hurt, you can blame it on an employee or someone else. There’s always Madigan, JB, or anyone else but Trump. 

Most people already knew that this is the way our system worked. It’s who you know and how much money you have that matters more. 

This same ideology is why no one went to prison after the financial collapse.

We just had a former National Security Adviser, a convicted liar, someone who had admitted his guilt, have all charges dropped. If that is not clear evidence that our system protects those at the top and is not for workers and individuals and folks with no influence, I don’t know what is.

We have people in these positions that might be doing their best but are so beholden to something or someone else that they are breaking their bond to place the people and the public good above all else. 

When you look at Congress and the White House, they aren’t doing any better. 

People might ask, who am I to talk? I’m not a perfect person by any shot. My own PTSD has been extreme for months. 

Yeah, that doesn’t negate one fact, one logical argument nor American value, principle or truth that I’ve said. 

And, Danley has a tough job. Putting away murderers is something I’ve helped to do. It is not easy work. 

The police are only doing as they are directed and trained. They have the toughest job during COVID19, and the testing proves it. Every moment they are out serving and protecting the public, they are opening themselves, their families and their households up to COVID19 infection.

Danley also has an election coming up. He has wealthier and more well connected members of our community and every person they can get to harass and pressure him to go against the public health executive orders of Governor JB Pritzker. 

There are people that have a political agenda that are likely pushing him in many directions. When folks attempted to push me in one direction or another, my mentality was simple. No, I’m focused on listening to people, gathering all the facts, information, history and background, and then, decide where to set the vector. 

That is the fundamental issue here. What is the vector, the direction with force, that Danley and others are signaling here?

The entire country is experiencing something they’ve never experienced before. It’s a lot of stress, it’s a lot of intense emotions, and as a public official or anyone, we all have to make choices and live with the consequences . . . not just for ourselves but for others. 

Even if you’re not doing anything different, you know you’re not doing anything different. That in itself alters your brain neurochemistry and your thought process. 

And, regardless of whether we agree with JB, Trump or not, we’re in this together. Your choices impact my life. My choices impact yours. We can deny that. Our government did for two months, and we’re living with the consequences.

It’s a policy like Danley’s that furthers an ideological pattern that separates out businesses and corporations from individuals, making those entities a special class above people. Does that not trouble anyone? 

The people get screwed while businesses and corporations screw us. They get a golden parachute and get to do it all over again with millions of taxpayer money. 

That certainly is the way this ideology has framed their approach.  

Why pit business versus the working class?

Those that push this ideology have been at this for my entire life. It has led to wages stalled out at the bottom. It has led to working people pitted against one another. It has led to working people pitted against those that barely survive. 

Where are the beneficial results for any of those groups of people that is in any single metric comparable to the wealthy and established? 

It doesn’t exist.

I’m just shellshocked that public servants cannot breathe new life into public service at a time that America needs it most. 

We are blessed to be in this country. There is so much to be thankful for in every single day. 

The struggle is very tangible and is staring many of us directly in the face, and we all see something different when we stare in its face.

The way we perceive differently is America’s greatest strength. We need to harness our capacity to adapt and innovate, not return to what wasn’t working before. 

It is vital that America, starting with our community, begin seeing each other and correcting these mistakes that we’ve already made before. 

That is what I urge Danley and us all to do. Thank you. 

What security role should the U.S. play in world affairs?

Since World War II, America has played the preeminent role in international affairs. Our presence has stabilized regions, allowing for prosperity and democracy to flourish. 

In the age of terror, Western democracies are under threat as refugees flee regions rife with violence, terror and poverty, much of which arguably began with our mistaken invasion of Iraq on false pretenses.

American leadership, both from the Oval Office and Congress, has lurched from too much involvement with no strategy to win, to too much caution to a confused amalgamation of the two under President @realDonaldTrump. #Gaither15IL

America needs to return to a strategy focused on economic and global security with a light footprint. The pathway back to this approach after four years of retreat and Tweet will be difficult. 

There are no global leaders with our track record of bringing together coalitions to tackle disease, pandemics, terrorism and tyranny. The price tag of not taking on this vital role in the world and leaving it to others is much higher. The reciprocity that comes from American global leadership cannot be underestimated. 

A Pro-Growth Investment in the Future of Sullivan

There are rumors that Titus Manor, after being purchased by the City of Sullivan, will be tore down, as well as the Civic Center, to be replaced by a larger, better facility. 

The Civic Center should have been replaced a decade or more ago. Titus Manor, although a historic building, has serious issues after being the home of hundreds and hundreds of our seniors over 50 years. In fact, the estimated cost to taxpayers to fix the Manor are upwards of $1 million dollars.

I do know that multiple permanent fixes were made to the Civic Center over the last few decades, and multiple contractors had the opportunity to finish the job. None of those permanent fixes were really permanent, as so many of us know. To fix the problems at the Civic Center as it is today are upwards of millions as well.

Over this last winter, the Civic Center facility was basically shutdown due to a broken boiler because there were no parts available because it was so old. The water was warmer than the air, I heard.

Simply put, we need new facilities in Sullivan, for our changing population, for our changing economy and for our changing needs. Seniors, retirees, veterans, and those living with chronic illnesses utilize both spaces, which is also why it is so difficult to even begin having this type of conversation, let alone start developing plans for the future of our community.

These spaces and facilities could work much better for all of the people that utilized them before while being an even better resource for our children and their children after they decide to remain in Sullivan after graduation.

If this complex is designed with larger community and economic set of attainable goals in mind, it can:

  • Help lure new business to the area.
  • Provide better opportunities for current small businesses to flourish.
  • Create a better environment for new small business start ups.
  • Grow families from children that decide to stay in Sullivan.
  • Bring in new families that want to become part of the Sullivan community and call this area home.

Immediately after hearing this idea, I see real opportunities to house specific agencies there, like Central Illinois Public Transit. This is a lifeline for so many residents in Sullivan. I used it myself when I first moved back to town, especially during the winter months.

Connecting the facility to The Little Theatre on the Square only makes sense. We have theatre education and dance classes already happening on the square. Being a bridge between our public schools and the community, I could see this facility playing an essential role. 

Collaboration helps build more opportunities. And, let’s face it, Sullivan needs more opportunities, for the town and definitely for our children.

With pro-active, forward-leaning leadership in both Washington and Springfield, there could be real linkages to federal and state monies and resources to decrease the cost to Moultrie County taxpayers while providing more opportunities for local, reputable contractors, high school students and workers wanting to learn the trades. 

If we’re going to rebuild our country, why not start in Sullivan?

That’s why the community has a robust Sullivan Area Chamber, which has inspired the Sullivan Spark initiative. I think we’re ready for this. I know we’re ready for this.

Sullivan is missing a U of I Extension Office, which provides ag education and other training throughout Illinois. Offices are currently offering new resources in industrial hemp education and training

I would love to see EIU and Lakeland get their foot in here as well. The EIU dual credit program offers students real opportunities to get their foot in the door of the university experience. Lakeland offers CNA, nursing and skilled training and trades coursework and certifications. 

Why would we not offer these two blocks from our high schools, connecting students directly to better paying jobs and careers when they get their high school diplomas, if not before?

My dream should be the reality, where motivated students walk down the aisle, pick up their diploma, and attached to it is CNA license or an apprenticeship. 

These are ideas that will make Sullivan and other towns growing, thriving communities where children graduate, stay, buy a house, and later on build a house. We would all be better for it when we invest in each other.

Let’s think about what Sullivan needs to make life better for those who are here and for those who are growing up here as well. We need to make it even better for those who are children so that we give them reasons to plant root and seed here. That is how communities grow again.

Rural America is my home. Sullivan is my hometown. I deeply cherish my upbringing, our culture, and see brighter, more productive, more prosperous days ahead. We need only invest in that future to make it a reality.

We won’t get there by doing the same things and expecting different results. 

I Will Never Forget

On this World AIDS Day, as I do every day, I remember so many friends, loved ones and people around the world that have died after being infected with HIV and succumbing to AIDS.

In America, despite having the best research and development efforts into HIV medications and prophylactic treatments for AIDS, the prices continue to rise annually.

When access to vital medications is denied, people die. 

That is why when I lived in Indiana I worked on federally mandated boards alongside the Indiana State Department of Health to support, protect and in many cases defend these programs and vital services for those most in need.

When I left to return to Illinois, Mike Pence, now our Vice President, took over as Indiana’s Governor with a Republican supermajority in the Indiana State Legislature.

People that I love died because of choices that Gov. Pence and Indiana Republicans enabled.

Not in America they say. 

I’ll never forget the phone calls. He couldn’t get approved for medications in time because they had gutted the med program in political retaliation to President Obama. He died. He wasn’t the only one.

This happens in America when people deny science and reality because of their ideological and extremist beliefs that are most definitely not pro-life.

Gov. Pence, with these same enabling policymakers, also eliminated vital needle exchange programs, creating an HIV outbreak in Southern Indiana. 

I’ll never forget the road construction signs flashing on I-65 saying HIV Outbreak Ahead (picture courtesy of HIV Plus Mag).

This is especially heartbreaking and devastating when you’ve fought alongside so many others to protect the lives of your fellow citizens. 

All of those years of dedicated work flushed down the toilet by ideological and extremist beliefs put into policy by so-called pro-life politicians that don’t care about all Americans but only about inshrining their indoctrinated, cynical beliefs into public policy.

It still makes me sick.

Republican policies kill Americans.

I won’t shy away from that reality. And, neither should any one else.

Our current state representative in the 110th district in Illinois, Chris Miller, is one who shares many of Vice President Pence’s beliefs. His millionaire wife wants to be our next U.S. Congresswoman. 

Rep. Miller voted “Present” on a bill this year to mandate insurance companies to provide insulin injectors to children. How is that pro-life?

It should concern all of us that we have elected representatives that deny science, facts and objective reality, not to mention our American values and principles of protecting people that are alive and breathing.

I will never be that kind of representative because I understand what is at stake: people’s lives and well being.

As I fought for those who couldn’t fight for themselves before, I continue to fight alongside others again.

Join our campaign as we aim higher in America and in the 15th District. 

We use our values and principles to make good policy, not to harm our fellow citizens.

We focus resources where the need is the greatest, and in the state of Illinois, the need has been the greatest in the 15th District since Republicans have been running it. Republicans just refuse to do anything about it but give it lip service. Tax cuts for the wealthiest are just too damned important.

We deserve better than lip service legislators and those who don’t understand the gravity of the policies they enact.

You can’t say you’re pro-life when the policies you support deny people access to healthcare.

Currently, there’s an upsurge in HIV infections in Macon County, just outside the 15th District.

With the increase in injection drug use throughout America, we need more needle exchange programs to better protect the public, save money and above all save lives.

There are life and death consequences to ignoring reality.

We simply cannot afford to ignore reality nor failed policies any longer.

Join our campaign as we aim higher in America and in the 15th District.

Rep. Shimkus is Retiring

Rep. John Shimkus is retiring. Many good wishes to him and his family.

Rep. Shimkus reached the same decision as many other Republicans have been making.

Ask most farmers, they’re over President Trump’s Trade and Tariff War.

Ask businesses, both small and large, the growing uncertainty in the Trump economy is making life more difficult.

Ask working families, they’ve not received much if any of the benefits of the Trump-Republican massive tax cuts that have created historic Trillion Dollar Deficits.

It would be difficult for anyone to defend let alone to fight to prolong these failing economic policies for our rural communities.

After Labor Day, I’ll be making an announcement as to our plan and strategy for raising up the 15th District.

Have a safe and wonderful Labor Day Weekend!

Challenging Extremism at Home

There is so much mistaken in “Jesus Made Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve.” It appears this statement was intentionally crafted to be political, divisive and discriminatory.
That’s a great deal of ignorance and damage to pack into only nine words. Heaven help any child who reads such a hateful message.
If we rely on Genesis, Adam and Eve were created by God, not Jesus. If we’re also going by the Bible, God made Adam, Eve and Steve.
Aren’t all of God’s creatures worthy of compassion, understanding and love?
Jesus even mentions homosexuality in Matthew 19:11-12, referring to those “who have been so from birth.” He goes further saying, “Let anyone accept this who can.
Apparently, some modern day churches struggle with accepting people for who they are. We see this in the recent decisions by the United Methodist Church.
Jesus was clear that the judgments that we use against others will be the standard applied to ourselves.
I’m fairly confident that critics of my opinion will pull out various scripture to defend their belief that discrimination and judgment of homosexuality and even race is acceptable Christian practice.
Based on that standard, no one should be casting stones, as most of our modern lives could never live up to all of the rules written into the Old Testament.
This begs the question, why do these select churches focus on discrimination of homosexuality to continue to rally their flock against others in their families, congregations and communities?
Fear and anxiety is a potent motivator as is hate and animosity. Isn’t it time to focus on our unmet needs as opposed to how we can rip each other apart through judgment and discrimination?
It is stunning that in an area struggling with poverty and suffering that some churches focus on divisive messages instead of actions to bring about relief from suffering.
These churches have become arms of the Republican Party, pushing an agenda that is abusive to children, breaks apart families as well as creating animosity between neighbors. Those weren’t the Christian values I was raised to believe were vital to both faith and service.
It’s time to challenge this sort of broken orthodoxy that has led to suicide, depression, anxiety and disability.
There’s a reason we have Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion in this country. It’s because any one religion and any extremist approach to its religious texts is dangerous, especially when it uses our government to punish family and neighbor alike.
I believe we are a stronger nation when we come together with common purpose. Some believe the days of working together are long over. I’ll never give up faith in our country, her people and our dream of a more perfect union.
Remember, “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Sensitive President, Party Flails in Europe

Senator Lindsey Graham and President Donald Trump are upset by the remarks by President Macron of France Sunday to honor the fallen soldiers of World War I, which also marks America’s Veterans Day. I highly suggest watching the full speech, as it is an important perspective regarding global and our national security.

Considering the unfortunate state of our international relations with our longterm allies, the frayed nature of the alliances that have helped prevent a third World War continue to be stretched under the Republican Trump Administration. 

After World War I, nationalism persisted throughout Europe and around the world, despite efforts to counter it. This ultimately led to the rise of the Third Reich and World War II. These same nationalist energies are rising once again, and we must be vigilant and recognize what’s happening around us. The stakes are extremely high.

On one hand, you have the President demanding our NATO allies to step up to the plate with more money and forces. On the other hand you have both the President and Sen. Graham complaining about these same allies discussing setting up such an army while they increase funding to the alliance. It’s not easy to see through the hyperbole and double standards.

  1. We have a President that is quite sensitive with an extremely thin skin. He can’t even bear a light rain for Veterans Day events with world leaders commemorating our fallen soldiers in Europe. 
  1. We have a sensitive GOP that is bereft with double standards. Even when Europe steps up and makes enforcement and funding a priority, they elect to defend our weak President instead of holding him accountable for his words and deeds.
  1. We have a Political Party and a Political President that chooses to weaken our alliances and disregard our agreements that have helped to protect both our country and the world.

Instead of focusing on legislation and actions that will both protect our national security through both soft and hard power, the Trump Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress have increased military budget while slashing diplomatic efforts.

All of this will only increase our dependence on hard power, helping to fuel the military industrial complex, which both parties support. 

All of this will only increase the dependence on our young men and women in military interventions abroad. 

All of this will only increase our budget deficits and national debt, leading to higher interest rates, a drag on the economy, and diminishing capacity to make the investments necessary to rebuild our country, invest in education, and prepare for the future.

As a country and as Americans invested in our communities, our national security, and in our future, we must demand accountability and responsibility from our elected officials, regardless of party.

Subservience to a party over the people is a road paved in good intentions without checking in on the results.

When our national security is at stake, it’s crucial we get it right.

A Campaign About People and Policies

This campaign was about people and policies for an economy that works for everyone, education that prepares our children for the jobs of today and tomorrow, and a healthcare system that is both affordable and accessible for our residents. 

Despite coming up short in votes during this election, the message we delivered resonated with voters across the 33 counties of the 15th District. Party loyalty and money remain stubborn forces in American politics. 

If we’re ever to dig out of the morass that our district finds itself within, we must see beyond party.

We must work to be rid of big money in our political system as it is as corrosive as it is deafening.

I urge all elected officials to make themselves as accessible to their constituents as possible. Being afraid to show up and answer the tough questions isn’t an excuse when you’ve been hired to do the job that the public is paying you to do.

We have to have tough conversations and be able to hear from those that feel they have profound disagreements with us. How can we live in a country where hearing something you don’t agree with prompts you to make threats of violence?

Our country must start working together.

That means we’re all part of the solution which is a sustaining force in our lives. 

Solidarity After Anti-Semitic Attack

In the wake of the worst anti-Semitic attack in American history, the country is in need of healing and of leadership that brings us together. Hatred and bigotry never dies, and when it turns into violence and killing we must stand in solidarity against it. We can only do this together as a nation not by furthering the divisions between us.

The mass shooting in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life synagogue is a tragedy, and one that is deeply felt by our own Jewish community in the 15th District. The Mattoon Jewish Community experienced anti-Semitic attacks back in 2001, which incorporated the same hateful message as the shooter was spewing on Saturday. Our local Jewish community locks their doors during services so as to protect those who attend services. 

It’s a painful reality that too many live with day in and day out in America. The fear of being attacked and killed for who you are and for your faith is something no one should have to experience. It is the experience of many Americans.

We can do better. We do that by working together, standing up to hatred and bigotry in all of its forms, and not turning away when those in our own families and communities use divisive and hostile rhetoric that we know is against our American values.

(Picture Courtesy of USA Today)

The Saudis, Arms and American Values

Any attack on the media is an attack on American values. Let’s be clear.

When someone resorts to bullying and killing their critics, you know there’s something wrong. America has a long history of standing up against such bully tactics. All of our American values and strategic interests are under threat.

Most information seems to point to Saudi Arabia killing an American journalist in their consulate in Turkey. We have strong strategic ties to the Saudis. What we do in response matters.

We should never condone the killing of any American, especially one that is working to report on actual news. The danger and threat to journalists abroad is real. Without them we would not know what’s happening inside war zones and brutal regimes.

What do we do?

We have a $110 billion arms deal on the table with Saudi Arabia. For the President to remove this deal from negotiations shows weakness and allows both allies and adversaries alike to move against our national security interests. That is simply unacceptable.

Oil per barrel is increasing. That hurts Americans who will also be hurt by the Trump Administration Trade War. OPEC currently wants to maintain their production level and most importantly will be meeting this December in Austria. That means we have leverage when we choose to use it for both our economic and national security objectives.

This arms deal is as crucial for American workers as it is for the Saudis. The proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran is brutal for civilians. Our American values and our national security interests are on the line.

Both Russia and Iran are dependent on the price of oil. As prices decrease, they’re less capable of working against our strategic interests abroad. We should press every bit of advantage and leverage we have to achieve a safer world and a stronger, more robust national security.

We have to stand up for our American values and our national security interests, making certain our brothers and sisters overseas have an all-in strategy that ensures their sacrifice and effort is focused on our longterm strategic objectives. 

When we have a government that doesn’t have their strategic eye on the ball, we’re shortchanging our military, diplomatic, and economic efforts. It is critical we utilize every bit of leverage we have on the global stage, especially when we have a Congress that abdicates their responsibility daily.

As your representative, I will fight to end the abdication of the Legislative Branch. We need stronger and more independent oversight of the Executive Branch that challenges and holds the President and his administration accountable, regardless of party.

Social Security Fairness Act

When we work in America, we make a contract with Social Security and Medicare that earns us benefits throughout our lives and into our retirement.

It is critical that we protect and strengthen these programs for all Americans. Some professions, public sector jobs, and the military in some states and throughout America are treated differently, leading to a breach of that contract.

If you or your spouse pay into Social Security and Medicare, you should be able to receive those spousal benefits regardless of where you’ve worked. Teachers and their spouses in Illinois, however, are getting screwed because of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO). 

Under the WEP and GPO, workers who have paid into Social Security and Medicare have their spousal benefits dramatically cut, sometimes eliminating their Medicare coverage late in life when their spouse passes away. We must protect these spousal benefits for all Americans because these are earned benefits. It’s the right thing to do.

I would support the Social Security Fairness Act of 2017, which has broad bipartisan support. It’s one of the areas where my opponent and I are in agreement.

Unfortunately for our teachers and spouses, this bill has been sitting in the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security since March of 2017. It is not even listed on the Subcommittee’s website as a bill introduced in the 115th Congress, so the GOP is not serious about solving this problem.

That is why we need a Congress that will move this legislation forward instead of letting it die in a subcommittee for over a year and a half.

I will push for this reform as your representative and voice in Washington.

Early Childhood Education

Early Childhood Education is the key for our nation’s economic future.

If we don’t create equity in the early education system in the 15th District, many of our communities will never catch up in the modern global economy. We all know that funding education through property taxes is a failing policy for businesses and families alike. Rural school districts suffer while booming communities are able to fund robust education programs. Our children deserve better. 

The reality is that our brain develops the most dramatically in the first years of life. Therefore, the federal focus must be directed where it can do the most good.

If we don’t give every child in America the same solid foundation, we’re shortchanging not only their future, but the future of their family, their community, and our country.

This year in yet another massive Omnibus Bill, more funding was secured for a few early education programs, but not nearly enough focused where the need is most. We need funding, teachers, support staff, and facilities for preschool through 2nd grade. This is where many of our rural communities are falling behind, forced to increase class sizes, layoff support staff, and rely on a ‘hope for the best’ mentality with the dedicated teachers that remain.

In Illinois, a day care provider can only care for 8 children on their own. Meanwhile, teachers care for 15, 20, 30 and more children at a time and are required to educate them in 50 minutes. How does this disparity make sense?

Through more consistent, dedicated funding sources for early education, local school districts will be able to reallocate these funds and resources toward curriculum focused on education and training for better paying jobs in their region.

Vocational programs, training programs, and increased dual credit courses from local community colleges and universities will give students more options. 

A greater percentage of federal education grants should go directly to local school districts instead of block grants to the states. This will help avoid waste and administrative costs while giving property tax relief locally. The goal is to give our local school districts more control, creating more of a role for the public to engage directly with their school boards, teachers, and administration.

We have to forge better community relationships that bring back accountability, trust, and results. 

Finally, food insecurity is an increasing problem throughout the 15th District and rural America. As wages continue to stagnate and bills increase, especially in the face of rising tariffs while Congress sits on the sidelines, working families putting food on the table is a serious concern. As a result, children come to school hungry, making it difficult to learn. Programs like the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) have been filling the gap.

We should increase funding to CACFP, offering more locally sourced meal programs through our schools for our children throughout the year. This can help offset SNAP program cuts that will likely be in the Farm Bill this year so that American’s children and their education and nutritional needs don’t suffer at the hands of Congress. It will also create jobs and boost family farms.

Early Education is the foundation on which a child’s future is built. With a renewed American investment in our children, we will better compete in a global economy, halt the brain drain, and bring better paying jobs back to the 15th District. This is what having a broad, generational vision can bring to America. It is long overdue.

9/11: Loss, Mourning, Solidarity

September 11th. A time of loss and mourning for our country. 

It was also one of the last times our country came together in solidarity. 

Shared pain and suffering has a way of bringing people together. How could we do anything but coalesce as a nation and a world after such an attack?

What has led us so far astray after that show of togetherness? 

So soon do too many forget our shared humanity, our common values, and what binds us as a nation. It’s far too easy to see our differences in the form of culture, race, policy, and political party. When an agenda is placed before progress for others, the nation falls behind.

When the first plane hit the World Trade Center, it was tragic. We knew people had died. When that second plane hit, that was something entirely different. This was no accident. Our nation’s capitol and the heart of our defense was next.

What stands as an American triumph on that tragic September day is Flight 93 where passengers thwarted the hijacking. Since then, an American on his way to Paris helped to thwart another terrorist attack on a train in 2015. 

Our nation and her people have a history of standing up to violence and injustice. Sometimes, we do lose our way. We always find our way back to those strong American values because that’s what our country was founded upon: standing up for others, especially those who are in harm’s way. 

To this day, our nation is at risk from threats, both foreign and domestic. We face many other challenges today, as well, and yet, we face them divided. As we do so, we have less of a chance of being successful over the short and long term. 

The opportunities for collaboration and coordination are endless.

When America decides to come together around common purpose, we shoot for the moon and succeed, we end world wars, and we end global pandemics.

Our American values are those that bring out the best in one another. We must focus on solving problems, not creating more. We stand up for our brothers and sisters, as well as our neighbors. These are the American values that make us stronger.

When we stand alone and divided, we’re not in solidarity. We’re definitely not as we were 17 years ago today, one nation with a common purpose.

I remember.

I take that memory and focus on what I can do to make our country and my community better.

That is the least I can do.

A Testament to Public Service

Senator John McCain will be missed.

As many of us have witnessed over the last few days since his passing, he has many loud critics on both sides of the aisle.

That’s what happens when you stand up to your own party and stand up for what you believe in, regardless of the political fallout.

His life was one of public service that is a testament to what it means to be an American. 

Throughout my life, I remember disagreeing with Sen. McCain many times. This did not strip away what we had in common, we put people over party.

We’re Americans striving to make a positive difference for others, our country, and to help pave the way for a better future for our children and our children’s children. 

None of us are perfect people, but all of us are capable of doing so much more for others than we usually put forth the effort to achieve.

That is the real lesson of the life of John McCain. He always wanted to be better, do better, and make this country a better place. That’s a path of public service we all should be encouraged by because we each can walk it as well.

My condolences go out to the McCain family and his many loved ones as they honor and remember him. He will be remembered.

Gaither Speaks Out on Ballot Referendum

I had the opportunity to speak out on the Coles County Board referendum on the Second Amendment. Thankfully, four of our elected officials decided to put county over party. That takes guts in a party that increasingly puts party over country. Seven that are or will be running for re-election decided to bow down.
My position on the Second Amendment has remained consistent.
I will never support legislation that bans firearms.
What we must do is hold people accountable.
This referendum was requested to be placed on the ballot by the Coles County Republican Party. They are the masters of most of our local county officials because those officials delivered tonight.
The Republicans need this ballot referendum because they have no positive agenda or results on which to run this November. 
  • Trillion dollar deficits for the next decade
  • Mounting national debt
  • Increasing out-of-pocket healthcare costs
  • Increasing prices
  • Decreasing wages
  • Crumbling infrastructure with no plan to fix it
  • Increasing conflict with allies and trade partners

The Illinois Constitution is clear. Any referendum by a county shall be adopted by the County Board.

Here is the language of this referendum.

”Should the Illinois General Assembly pass legislation protecting a citizen’s right to bear arms as defined by the 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution?”

It is impossible to adopt this referendum because the question is about the General Assembly doing something, not the County Board.
Do we really want Cook County to make policy for Coles County?
I doubt that very much, but the current leadership of the Coles County Board is opening that door.

We need leaders, not lemmings.

Tired of Falling Behind

Our nation’s political system is broken. Both parties have been unable to address the big issues successfully for decades. This has deepened polarization, helping to eliminate common ground approaches that combine the best of our American style of democracy. 

Currently, the GOP has control over both the White House and Congress and cannot even pass immigration reform, infrastructure, healthcare, and so much more despite having criticized the Democratic approaches for a decade.

The only issue that seems to unite the GOP is being in opposition to the Democratic Party, especially when it occupies the White House.

The GOP has become unable to do anything but pass massive tax cuts without paying for it. Our grandchildren will be footing the bill. Not exactly fiscal conservatism. And, before the trade war, GDP growth was predicted to decrease annually after these tax cuts, not increase growth. Does that make common sense?

The Democratic Party has its own issues. It has never resolved the divisions exposed during the 2016 presidential election, not recognizing it as yet another false binary choice. During the Great Recession, the Democratic Party chose to tackle healthcare instead of tackling immigration and addressing long term infrastructure issues. 

Like all major reforms, healthcare wasn’t perfect. Far from it. Then, there was no legislative way to fix it without Congressional partners looking out for the best interests of the American people. Does that match up with our common values?

Due to the extreme polarization of our political parties, we now sit with even larger and worsening problems than we did in 2008:

  • Trillion dollar deficits for the foreseeable future. 
  • Higher healthcare costs for Americans. 
  • Crumbling infrastructure issues that have real costs for Americans. 
  • A broken and worsening immigration system.
  • A self-created border crisis that has been made worse by bureaucratic decisions. 
  • A self-created trade war that is increasing costs and prices for American farmers, businesses, and consumers. 

It seems clear that the American economy will get worse on our current trajectory, not better:

  • Making deficits rise faster. 
  • Making wages more stagnant, even decreasing more than they already have over the last year. 
  • Decreasing out of pocket money faster as prices continue to increase. 
  • Increasing unemployment. 
  • Increasing local, state, and federal budget concerns further. 
  • Forcing cuts to vital services which will decrease more revenue to local businesses and economies. 

Do we see the issue with our current trajectory?

We need a new direction as a country. That starts with a new direction politically.

Instead of electing career politicians who rely on big dollar donors and offer rubber stamps and excuses, we should be focusing on what will build an economy, rebuild our infrastructure, and deliver education that provides for a better future. 

I’m tired of falling behind. Aren’t you?

That’s why I decided to run against a 21-year incumbent who I saw as being out of touch with the hardworking people of the 15th District. They deserve someone that will listen to their experiences and concerns and act upon them in Congress.

That’s what I will do as your representative and why I am fighting to earn your support and your vote this November.

Separating Families: Broken Immigration

Separating children from their parents is not just a tragedy, it’s traumatizing. That isn’t just a belief, it’s backed up by research of millions of children. Sometimes, it is absolutely necessary to remove a child from an abusive or violent parent in order to protect the child. That’s not what is happening here.

When I examine what’s happening on our southern border, I’m concerned about many issues.

The top priority should be protecting these children from harm, especially harm created by the decisions made by our government. That includes the trauma created by our decision to separate them from their parents. 

If Mary and Joseph came across our Southern Border, we would have torn Jesus from their arms. Does that sound like an American value?

I’m also concerned about our broken immigration systems, as many Americans are. This has been a problem for decades and something that both parties have failed to address.

Many people aren’t aware that the majority of illegal immigration is not from border crossings but from visa overstays. Our current system isn’t able to track those visa overstays.

Does it make sense to focus all of the attention on the border, especially when we’re traumatizing children in order for some politicians to get their way?

And, finally, we have serious economic and budgetary issues in our country. Throughout our history, an influx of immigrants have become part of the rich fabric of our great nation, enriching it with their work ethic, their families, and their culture. No other country on earth assimilates immigrants better. Why should we stop now?

Many factories and industries aren’t able to fill the positions they have available. We need new workers to fill these jobs.

We should be welcoming hard working people into our country because they will be paying taxes, paying into Social Security and Medicare which helps to keep these vital programs secure for the next generations, and contributing to our communities.

Do we need to let just anyone into our country? No. 

But, we need to fix our broken immigration system so that people can come here legally, so that those seeking asylum can do so safely, and that we can grow as a nation and provide for hardworking Americans that have spent a lifetime working hard for their own families and communities.

Doing nothing has led us to where a few politicians decided it was better to traumatize children than to solve our broken immigration system problem. 

I’d say there is plenty of common ground, common sense, and common values on this issue.

  • Who wants to harm children?
  • Who wants to continue doing the same thing, which is nothing, and expecting the problem to simply go away?
  • Who wants to ask future generations to answer for our mistakes?

I certainly don’t, and I don’t believe most people do either.

Let’s come together and solve our nation’s problems.

People Over Party.

“Are you for the party or the people? Both parties have wrecked IL. It’s “structure” is currently in a “state of disrepair” (has been for decades). With an estimated $8B deficit and growing, over 35k net loss of people—how will you standup to the Madigan’s and Edgar’s of IL? You won’t! They will not support your re-election…you’ll be ostracized.”

First, I agree that there are serious problems in Illinois caused by both sides of the aisle, especially when it comes to downstate.

Second, I’m running in a federal race to represent the 15th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, not the State Legislature.

There are great Democratic candidates running for State House and State Senate races throughout downstate. I would urge you to find yours and listen to what they have to say because they want to listen to what you have to say.

“IL can’t even climb out of the cellar in this historic economy?”

About “this historic economy.” It is historic, but not in the right way for the vast majority of people. And, that’s not just about Illinois. Wages have been stagnant for decades, in some industries wages have actually been decreasing. Many 70-80 year olds are working 6 or 7 days a week to help foot the bill for two or three generations. These working class people have been left behind by the economy, especially in rural America and rural Illinois.

“We sold our land in S.IL a few years ago—we were going to build our “dream” home; dumped the plans to retire in IL from the military—why bring our $ and entrepreneur ideas to a state with the top tax burden?”

If you want to examine the real drivers of our high tax environment in Illinois, look no further than our regressive flat income tax. This places all the burdens on working people and true small businesses. It also lands the burden of paying for education, infrastructure, and local government on property taxes. This is why the economic environment is so hostile to both workers and especially to business.

It will only get worse when the economy slows, and it will—tax receipts will decrease and state handouts will uptick.”

Calling assistance to families “handouts” is an easy way to not appreciate the real needs as well as the real economic benefits of this assistance. Under our current system, working while poor is punished. We should be incentivizing work instead. If you have any health condition within your family, these issues are compounded greatly.

The reality about monetary, healthcare, shelter, and food assistance is that all of these go directly into our local economies. When we cut these resources, we’re robbing our small businesses of much needed revenue. And, without eliminating the disincentives and punishments for getting back to work, the bridge to self-reliance is non-existent. We can work on this from both a state and a federal level.

“Why would an IL politician be concerned with people staying or leaving IL? Politicians do well in IL, get that state “gravy-train” (golden parachute) retirement plan to the tune of $72k off the backs of workers. For what? Nation leading deficits, taxes, state gov criminality, etc. When outflow outpaces inflow, maybe people will learn?”

When you examine downstate politics, the Republicans have one mantra. “Madigan.” That’s all they run on mostly, adding in one or two social issues that divide and separate as opposed to build and boost our local economies. I know that the People are exhausted by that boring, tired playbook.

Republicans have also ran nearly every county board, city council, state house, and state senate district for decades. What do the People have to show for it? Mass exodus.

There is plenty of blame to go around, but doing the same thing and expecting a different result . . . there’s a phrase about that, isn’t there?

  • I’m focused like a laser on changing the conversation.
  • Moving beyond this blame game.
  • Finding common ground, using common sense, and utilizing common values to move our district forward.
  • That is why I’m showing up, standing up, and speaking out everywhere I go. 

The People deserve to be heard, they deserve to be believed, and they deserve someone to stand up and fight for them everyday, both in D.C., in Springfield, and in their communities.

  • I’m open to solutions while sharing the innovative solutions I know have worked and that will work here.
  • We’re working together with anyone that is willing and open to do so.
  • Most people are too.

Voting Rights, SCOTUS and You

In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled today that states can purge voters from voter rolls when they haven’t voted in awhile. Thankfully in Illinois, it’s fairly easy to vote.

However, if you don’t vote, you can now be kicked off the voter rolls.

In 2016, that would mean millions of voters who haven’t voted in decades would have been turned away at the polls, many of which who came out to vote for Donald Trump.

There’s are simple solutions to this:

  • Check your voter registration.
  • Start voting.
  • Become engaged in your local, state, and federal government.
  • It matters.

Other than that, the people are going to have to elect different representatives that fight to change the 1993 Voter Registration Act to protect your rights to ballot access.

Throughout my life working to register voters, get out the vote, and listen to the people, I’ve always fought to connect all voters, regardless of political affiliation, to the right to vote.

If we live in a country where someone who wants to vote cannot,

does democracy still exist in America?

I’ll fight to protect your rights, all of them.

Memorial Day: Sacrifice and Service

Each of us has something to offer our country. What we remember on Memorial Day are the sacrifices of our brothers and sisters. 

This sacrifice means everything to protecting our freedom, our liberty, and our capacity to be of service to our country and each other.

This sacrifice was given so that we can offer something significant and worthwhile to our community. 

So few on earth have what our democracy offers. And, fewer seem to relish the opportunities given from the sacrifices of these brave troops because of perceived differences.

Every single day I remember what has been lost. This is the motivation that leads me to do something more with what has been given by the sacrifices of others.

That is what Memorial Day means to me. It is with me every day. 

The Time for Accountability with Firearms is Now

In Texas, if a child takes a firearm of their parent or guardian, the parent or guardian is responsible. However, there is a rather large loophole in this law. If a child is 16 or under 18, the parent or guardian is no longer responsible. Also, minors cannot purchase firearms in Texas under most circumstances. 

Yet again, it comes down to personal accountability and responsibility of firearms. A ban on weapons would have not stopped this terrorist act, as this was just a shotgun. 

At some point, all of the people supporting the Second Amendment and all of the people that want to minimize gun violence in America, especially at our schools, must come together. I stand with both. Some people refuse to do so. Those that do not aren’t really in the conversation. 

  • For many Republicans this is a difficult choice as they fear going against the NRA, the angry base, or being primaried, forgetting the lives of the children and families they represent.
  • For many Democrats it is a difficult choice to not get everything they want and risk upsetting the base. 

For me it is very simple.

The status quo continues to grow the number of body bags in our schools.

Doing nothing, the NRA and gun manufacturers approach, has not worked. 

The time is now to stop listening to special interest groups and start working on simple measures that can give law enforcement the tools to make those who aren’t responsible with their firearms to be held accountable.

The time is now to start listening to each other. Those that own guns and are responsible are not the enemy. Those that want to do something about gun violence are not the enemy. We’re actually on the same page. 

Let’s work together and stop listening to the most shrill, loud voices on this issue and get down to the business of the American people and start working to solve our nation’s problems.

Gun Sanctuaries and Broken Immigration

Part of my job is to create new options that can bring people with seemingly disparate positions together.

We have to acknowledge that for many people the fear and anxiety are real and work within that reality. The people matter and their voices haven’t been heard in too long.

Many have bought into the NRA propaganda, which is relentless. Also, the politics on Second Amendment rights and how it parallels to broken immigration policy cannot be ignored.

These types of politically toxic policies are an outgrowth of our increasingly divided nation.

Instead of discussing options on how to move forward together, our country and state are falling further and further behind.

Meanwhile, actions like gun sanctuaries and sanctuary cities are sowing more division and derision into both our communities and our politics. This is because there is no constructive debate on reasonable reforms on either guns or immigration in Congress.

Working families are financially stressed and have been enduring wage stagnation for too long.

Rural America hasn’t had a voice in Congress in decades.

With few choices on the ballot, there has to be someone or something to blame, so incumbents often use divisive issues to excuse their lack of results.

Enough is Enough.

I’m tired of the excuses. I know you are too.

It is high time we started understanding why we react so strongly to issues and figure out how we can begin to respond instead. 

Aren’t we ready for our immigration system to move into the 21st century? 

Aren’t we ready for people to be held accountable for their own firearms?

It’s utterly clear that one size does not fit all. However, if the two sides can’t even sit down and discuss these issues in a responsible manner nothing will ever improve.

Under the current broken system, wages are depressed because some employers can pay starvation wages to those who are living here illegally.

Under the current broken system, some firearm owners aren’t being held accountable when their firearms are used by children and others in violence. 

We don’t have to ban weapons to better protect people. There are real common ground approaches the majority of Americans have wanted passed in Congress for decades.

We don’t have to have an open door policy to fix our borders and immigration system securely, compassionately, and affordably. There are real common ground approaches the majority of Americans have wanted passed in Congress for decades.

Instead of every group remaining entrenched,

let’s get to work and solve these problems together. 

Aren’t we sick of the partisan bickering, the pundit speculating, and the status quo strangling us all?

I know I am. That’s why I’m running for Congress because I’m sick of both parties doing nothing but make our problems worse.

My objectives are simple.

  • Bring different perspectives to the table
  • Stop kicking the can to the next generation
  • Stop making excuses as to why nothing changes
  • Begin solving our problems together

Nothing great is accomplished in America without us working together. That is how we landed on the Moon, how we stopped Ebola in Africa, and how we’ve been that beacon on the hill for over two centuries.

We’re not perfect, but we strive to become a more perfect union. It’s about time we get back to that hallowed goal.

(Photo Courtesy of Chicago Tribune, Rich Saal/AP)

Fiscal Failure Under Shimkus-GOP

Yes, our 21-year incumbent representative in Congress, John Shimkus, did vote for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would have allowed the federal government to raid the Social Security trust fund in order to balance the budget.

The bill was masked as a balanced budget amendment, often popular among budget hawks. This is ironic considering this Republican Congress has racked trillion dollar annual deficits for each year of the next decade. And, they’ve achieved this in less than a year and a half in control of both the Legislative and Executive Branches.

Here’s the play-by-play. 

We’ve seen this playlist time and time again with a GOP-controlled government.

Out of control spending, tax breaks without any benefits for workers and the economy, and ultimately the American people will get hit when the bill comes due.

It’s about time we throw them out and get back to work.

Failure is not an option because our communities are on the line.

Middle East Diplomatic Vacuum

Now that the dust is settling after the military response to the chemical weapons attack in Syria, it’s a good time to examine the elements that would help and that are hindering progress in the country and the region.

The lack of a diplomatic presence in the region is harming our efforts considerably.

Regardless of the results of the missile strikes, without a diplomatic strategy there is no chance for success.

Add to that reality 25% budget cuts for the State Department and a mass exodus of career diplomats, the damage being done to our ability to bring to bear all of our tools is significant.

The ambassadorships in Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are all vacant with no nominees even slated. This signals disinterest in the diplomatic process as well as the region.  This is fostering a laissez-faire environment that Assad and Putin have been capitalizing on for well over a year, much like Putin did in Crimea and the Ukraine. 

A sadistic cycle has been churning in Syria for years. The Arab Spring saw hope flourish only to be met with violence, terror, and a vacuum that allowed ISIS to break ground. With years of patience and dedicated efforts by two administrations, the hold ISIS has there is nearly gone.

13 million Syrians are refugees, and no end is in sight for the civil war and violence that has become their daily lives. Barred from entering America, the burdens being placed on our allies in the Middle East and Europe are growing. 

Thankfully, our military always rises to the occasion when given achievable, short-term objectives. They deserve our respect and gratitude for always doing what is asked of them.

It would be better to only utilize our military as a last resort.

Increasingly in the Middle East, it’s our only resort. 

We have to change that by reinvesting in diplomatic efforts, reconnecting with our allies, and having Congress actually do their jobs instead of using every opportunity to avoid accountability and their constitutional responsibilities. 

  • Let’s actually have a robust debate on the House floor.
  • Let’s have our representatives go out into their districts and listen to what their constituents have to say.
  • Let’s have our elected officials listen to veterans who still aren’t receiving the care they deserve. 

We need all hands on deck instead of shortchanging our troops and expecting them to carry the load every single time.

By not even slating nominees for ambassadorships throughout the Middle East, we’re setting ourselves up for escalating conflicts and less communication.

It’s about time Congress stood up and demanded action.

From the hollowing out of the State Department to the continued struggles at the VA, when are the People going to hold Congress accountable?

Responding to Syrian Chemical Attack

This is the centennial anniversary of the armistice ending World War I, where chemical weapons were first used on a large scale.

And, 100 years later, the Syrian people have become victims of another chemical weapons attack.

The Assad regime has done this too many times.

When Assad did this during the Obama administration, I thought military action was justified. Congress flinched as did the President. When this happened last year, the Trump administration waited too long, allowing Assad to move his air force units elsewhere, making the strikes less effective.

As someone with a degree in Chemistry, I can attest to the destructive power of chemical weapons. I’ve seen firsthand what can happen when a bromine vapor cloud is unleashed in a laboratory. Chlorine gas is far more deadly.

There is a reason the use of chemical weapons is prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention. These weapons are designed to injure, kill, and terrorize people.

In the lab, the bromine cloud came right out of a flask. I’ll never forget it. Someone screamed, we all ran, and they had to go back in wearing suits to disarm it. It was intense.

Chemical weapons are far worse. These are designed to kill. You can’t breathe, you begin to choke, foaming at the mouth. If you’re lucky, the gas will penetrate your blood brain barrier. Why would this be lucky? Because then you enter a coma and might just survive.

It’s deeply disturbing to know this has been allowed to take place again on our planet to civilian populations.

By allowing these regimes to use these weapons without exacting an extremely high cost, we’re sending a message to other hostile regimes that we will look the other way while their innocent civilians are tortured and slaughtered.

This is not about politics. This is about safety and security. 

We don’t have to decapitate a regime. We don’t have to further entrench ourselves into Syria. We can unleash our Air Force and Navy on Syrian Air Force targets, decimating them, eliminating the threat to the civilian population. 

Image Courtesy Reuters

Waterways, Economy, and Mental Health

These are questions I was asked recently on the campaign trail.

Q: “Hillary Clinton said she wanted to invest $30 billion in the Coal Belt for clean up efforts and to restore the water quality in the Ohio Valley watershed.  What do you think about that idea?”

$30 billion isn’t going to do much if there aren’t standards applied throughout the region. The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission is likely to give up its responsibility on managing the river, which is a huge concern for me as this would leave the care of this vital resource to individual states. We need to provide stability and support to the Commission, be actively working with community members, officials, organizations, and businesses, and promoting this publicly to reverse this decision. 

Q: “What do you see as (the) greatest opportunity for economic development? What other opportunities do you see for economic development for (the) region?  What specifically would you do to help (southeastern Illinois) recover economically? What future do you believe the Progressive movement and the Democratic Party has in the United States has without the Coal Belt?”

After the deregulation of the coal industry in Illinois, we can’t compete with other states. Automation, bad business practices, and lack of union coal jobs all play a part in the decimation of coal in Illinois. However, under President Obama, coal production rose to 10% below 1970 numbers. Coal jobs did not correlate with the increase in production. Layoffs have been occurring not only in Illinois but in Western Kentucky as well. We need new industries.

Coal is vital for energy production as well as steel production. The technology has greatly improved, and America does it better than anywhere else. I wrote on this subject last November,

Small energy companies as well as family farms don’t have a level playing field with their larger competitors.

The regulation and fee schemes are designed to squeeze them out of the market, and actually support bad behavior by the biggest companies. We have to correct those problems in order to keep more money and jobs in our communities.

Solar and wind farms are great industries that can create investment and job creation opportunities.

However, it’s not near enough to combat the job losses and unemployment numbers.

With all of our farmland, we should be growing hemp as we did during WW II.

25,000 products are made from hemp. We should be making these products here,  exporting these to other states and around the world, and become a new economic center in the Midwest. Currently, hemp oils are being sold in Illinois made from hemp grown in Kentucky and Massachusetts. It also combines with products we have here, like honey.

Another opportunity is to create new tourist destinations to drive money back into Southern Illinois.

Art communities have been very successful at creating linkages between farm and town, giving the square a facelift, providing artists housing, work, and a place to sell their work. Combined with our National Forests, State Parks, lakes, and more, these can create circuits for summer camping groups. Also, opening up the empty storefronts in our town centers can give property owners access to potential investors.

Q: “Mental health is a huge problem in rural areas.  The southeastern counties (are) no exception.  What, specifically, would you do to address rural mental health issues in those counties in Congress?”

This is a major priority of mine. I was recently the only Democratic candidate at a forum in Highland. The Republicans were all running for state representative and state senate seats. All of them wanted to cut the budget but were all for increasing access to mental health treatment. It didn’t make any sense to me how they could do both while cutting taxes, and I said as much.

There are a series of issues that we have to address here.

Providers and Access

There aren’t enough counselors, therapists, or social workers to meet the needs. Wait times are too long. If someone needs to see a psychiatrist, the wait times multiply quickly if a psychiatrist even is in the county.  Some counseling centers have the ‘Doctor in a Box’ option, but this simply doesn’t replace having the face-to-face interaction.

States are poaching our health professionals by offering free housing during the days and nights while they work there. The pay is better in these other states.

We have to be able to better compete as a region with pay, benefits, and housing. If we’re going to keep our brightest here, we need to pay them for their dedication. This will help bring specialists and other professionals to downstate Illinois.

High Costs, Health Insurance, Universal Healthcare

The high cost of healthcare in Illinois is part of the reason why we can’t better compete for the best and brightest, helping to stop the brain drain. There are a number of reasons for this.

The backlog of Medicaid payments is a serious concern for community healthcare and hospitals. As a state, we have to make healthcare a priority, especially for low income, people living with disabilities, seniors, veterans, and the chronically ill.

The current system is a broken bureaucracy that punishes work, creates undue amounts of paperwork for both clients and the state, and doesn’t serve the best interests of taxpayers or those who need these services. We have to fix this system, either by the state (which seems unlikely) or with federal guidelines and oversight. When states are unable to manage their Medicaid programs or unable to care for their citizens that these programs are funded to protect, Congress has a role to play.

We’re still not negotiating prescription drug prices. We’re still not dropping state borders allowing insurance providers to go national. We’re still not protecting people from high deductibles and high premiums, both in the individual marketplace and from employer-based plans. The fee for service model is broken, and it is time for a new approach. We can do something about each of those issues on a bipartisan basis because there is broad bipartisan support.

Meanwhile, we can work to pass a public option where there are minimal choices for people. Universal healthcare won’t be a slam dunk before the 2020 election and will be difficult to get over the finish line afterwards. We have to fight to make healthcare more affordable and more accessible every day until we achieve that goal.

Education Pipeline

The way we help increase the number of in demand healthcare professionals is by increasing the size of programs that educate them. We have great colleges and universities throughout downstate Illinois that have counseling, social work, and other degrees focused on graduating professionals. Many of these programs have limited cohort sizes at any given time due to accreditation constraints, which are vital to maintain.

We must provide additional grants and scholarships for students as well as more funding for the programs themselves in order to increase the size of these departments, increasing the size of graduating classes. Linking grants and scholarships to staying in the region is useful in keeping that talent from fleeing the state.

On Tariffs and Trade

I’m all for a reinvigorated American-based steel industry. We need these jobs to come back to America. Our Union workers do a better job and our environmental standards have decreased emissions dramatically. Chinese steel doesn’t abide by such restrictions.

My response to any of these knee-jerk tweet and administrate actions is to remain cautious, keeping watch on actual implementation.

Certainly, this will increase the price of steel and aluminum. It will also increase the prices of anything made from both. Not only does that increase inflation risks but it could lead to layoffs in the manufacturing sector.

I discussed these very concerns with a machinist in Bond County last night.

These hard working Americans haven’t received wage increases in years and this will make certain they won’t for the longterm. 

Trade is vital. Making certain our trade policy is targeted in the best way to protect American jobs, grow good paying jobs, and increase wages is vital. These tariffs were not crafted with precision and a strategy to protect American workers.

Congress too often chooses to sit on the sidelines of trade, giving fast track authority to the White House.

We need to elect representatives that listen to workers, stand up for workers’ rights, and start doing their jobs. The people deserve nothing less than that. 

Firearms, Rights, Action

In the last two weeks and wherever I go, the issue of gun violence has been raised. It’s a serious problem in our country. We have to be honest with ourselves as a Democratic Party as well as with the members of the communities we visit.

For a few, some types of firearms are simply more important than children.

That’s just a reality that has been pounded into them by organizations supporting gun manufacturers and not the Second Amendment.

And, I’m a supporter of all of our rights not special interests.

To the majority of Americans, universal background checks should have been made law at least a decade ago. Yet, nothing meaningful can pass Congress.

To the majority of Americans, allowing assault-type rifles to be purchased by teenagers doesn’t make sense. Yet, nothing can even pass the Florida legislature where 17 just lost their lives in a school shooting. The shooter obtained his firearms legally even after threatening to shoot up the school repeatedly.

Before that, 49 people lost their lives in Florida in the Pulse nightclub shooting by someone who had threatened to shoot up a school in 2007. Also, red flags were raised when he pursued a career in law enforcement. Yet, he was still able to legally purchase a semi-automatic rifle.

People love their firearms. And, they have a right to own firearms.

Do they have a right to own any type of firearm?

That should be an open debate.

Some types of weaponry should have higher classifications, require more training and background checks, and have some sort of liability insurance attached to ownership.

There is even new 3D print technology that is able to reproduce the parts of some of these firearms. People can purchase many of these firearms without any registration and without any background check. Does that make any sense?

However, the majority of Americans may agree on what should have been done for years, they just don’t stand up and speak out about these issues in public and on social media. I get it. It’s not easy. The gun manufacturing lobby has done an amazing job using not for profit status to push propaganda that many have bought wholesale and perpetuate everywhere boastfully and loudly.

That doesn’t mean we sit down and shut up. 

There’s little Congress can do if they don’t hear from each of you. I’m not talking about party affiliation. I’m talking about Americans.

Call your local elected officials.

Show up at county board meetings and city council meetings.

Demand action. 

What are the chances that Congress is going to get its act together on guns when so many are in the pockets of the gun manufacturing lobby?

Start locally. Call your federal and state representatives.

Change starts with each of us. 

That’s why I’m running for U.S. Congress. To be the change I wasn’t seeing in Washington, D.C. and the change each of us deserves. Representation is for the People and by the People.

Your voices matter. It’s about time your voices are heard.

Focused on the 15th District

Some have been asking why I’ve not received any official endorsements. My answers to questionnaires aren’t copied from someone’s talking points. They’re my responses based on decades of experiences in seeing a problem and getting to work.

More than that, I’ve been listening to the experiences, the knowledge, and the wisdom from every county and community within the 15th District. My dedication and perseverance is to each and every citizen here, not some committee in Springfield or Chicago. Not some group that came up with a talking point list for politicians to regurgitate on command.

I respond to and for the constituents of my district. That’s what they should expect from their representative, and that’s what they should demand from any candidate seeking their support and their vote in any election.

School Threats and the Gun Debate

A number of our schools in Central and Southern Illinois have been receiving threats or rumors of threats in the wake of the Florida school shooting.
School administrators are working with local law enforcement, and parents are often left with little clear information. This obviously leaves them concerned for the safety and well-being of their children.
This is why instead of this onslaught of one side pitting neighbor against neighbor, party vs. party about gun rights and gun control we should be finding some common ground on how to move forward to better protect our schools and communities.
I’m tired of the ‘for or against’ culture in America
because it doesn’t serve anyone.
Special interests and the loudest, most belligerent voices
end up winning instead of the American People.
Isn’t it about time we do something different in America that serves our future?

Immigration and Economic Insecurity

Last night I had a conversation with a woman at a charitable fundraiser. She was very upset about illegal immigration, even to the point of sending repeated letters and emails to President Trump about his new positions on the issue. She’s mad at him too. Her husband has been a dedicated union worker for decades.

We talked for quite awhile.

The anger and anxiety that people feel about this issue is tangible.

I’ve heard these similar comments across the district. Some Democratic and independent voters believe that the Party only stands for illegal immigration and not for workers. That’s a huge concern for me as candidate, as I’m dedicated to making a difference for all of our residents.

This is about depressed wages,

fewer opportunities for Union workers, and

lack of fairness for taxpayers. 

She’s a mother. That’s when I realized something that resonates with me about why I’m in the race.

I’m fighting like hell to help the citizens of this district, no matter the personal cost.

Just like this mother is fighting for her family’s future,

these families are fighting for the future of their children.

That’s why they fled their countries that are steeped in violence and upheaval for what they saw as the only place that could give their children an opportunity to survive their childhood. That place is America.

I saw the lightbulb go off in this woman’s mind. It was one of those ah-ha moments.

We have to rethink how we discuss these issues with those who think we disagree with them.

This is all about the deep economic insecurities that so many of us have felt for decades, just as many are now responding to the deep insecurities regarding gun violence in our own schools.

We have to realize that everyone is fighting for their future, for the future of their family, and the future of their community. 

Failure is not an option.

‘Pray the Gay Away’ Still a Threat

“Tonight the (Madison) county board will be voting to appoint a proponent of “pray away the gay” Christian counseling to the county mental health board.”

– Madison County resident

This sort of ilk is why I got involved in politics at Rose-Hulman and in the Terre Haute community back in the 90s.

To stand up to bigotry and oppression in all its forms.

This is not the Christian faith I was raised to believe. 

There are some that strive to demonize, castigate, and perpetuate subclasses of humanity in order to raise their own stature above others. This behavior is the reason why children, adolescents, and adults are traumatized, roughed up, and killed. This behavior is why Ryan White was cast out of his home when he was suffering from HIV and AIDS.

There’s not one aspect of Jesus Christ, his compassion, the way he lived and certainly not the way he died that matches up with this style of virulent rhetoric.

We must stand up to this extremist version of Christianity because it’s not helping anyone. It’s dividing our communities when we should be coming together. Poverty is increasing. Hunger is increasing. What are we going to do about those issues?

Jesus reached out his hand to those in need, to those that society had cast aside, to those deemed undesirable and most vulnerable. Where has that brand of Christianity gone to in some American churches today? He lived and died to benefit the lives of all beings. Why aren’t we doing more to help others today?

That’s why I’m in this race, to do something about our common struggles. To stand up to the politics of division and hatred. 

Enough is Enough!

Building a Better Campaign

I want to thank every single contributor, every single person who has donated time, resources, and their experiences to this campaign. Our End of Year financial report defied all expectations! It means a great deal to me, but it means more to the People of the 15th District.

We’re Fighting for the 15th because we know we deserve better!

Better wages, better healthcare, better schools, better infrastructure. 

We need more opportunities for students as they graduate. We need more support and revenue for our small businesses, farmers, town and county governments. We need new industries, new innovation, and we need more of you to become involved in this growing movement to not only transform our district but our politics as well.

The reason I ask for your support is that I’ve not only cared about our common struggles but I’ve fought to change the status quo throughout my life.

I’ve also been a frugal politician that has run my campaign like a business. That’s what you should expect from your representative.

We’ve raised nearly $6,000 in just 6 months. That’s not a lot when compared to Rep. Shimkus’ special interest money, but it is more than our opponent in the primary has raised in a year.

We also have more cash on hand as well, because I spend only the money necessary to reach the citizens of this district. I also spend campaign monies at great Illinois union businesses that do amazing work every day.

One thing I will never do is loan our campaign any money. My primary opponent has loaned his campaign over $12,000. That’s nearly triple what he’s raised. We all make choices, but that’s just a bridge too far for me.

I would never want the hard working people who have contributed to our campaign to bear the weight of campaign debt.

Our team is working hard to reach workers, families, and citizens wherever they are because we care deeply about the issues that you care about.

Our communities have been left behind by both parties for far too long. We are working hard to change that course.

We offer a transformative approach to campaigning and policy that will improve the lives of the People of the 15th District. We’re doing this by listening to you, learning from your experiences and the amazing wealth of knowledge and wisdom that hasn’t been heard in Washington for too long.

I’ll stand up for you and be your voice as your representative.

Join us as we move this district and this region forward! 

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Shimkus’ Rhetoric Doesn’t Match Reality

In Rep. John Shimkus’ recent WJPF interview, he offered the usual GOP talking points demonizing Democrats. What he failed to mention is that the legislation he helped to craft and push through Congress will ultimately end up increasing deficits and debt and hand the responsibility to pay the bills to our grandchildren and great grandchildren.

The reason the Democratic Party voted against this tax scam bill is simple; the tax cuts for working people were not permanent and there were no guarantees for workers, wages, and jobs for the corporate tax cuts. The 14% tax cuts for corporations, one out of five of which currently don’t pay anything, are permanent.

That equation is backwards and citizens in the 15th District know it.

Property owners in Illinois know that dropping property tax deductions will harm too many families and farmers because of the high tax burden in Illinois. Yet, Rep. Shimkus lauds this tax scam bill as a tax cut.

He promotes his role in helping to open up of oil leases off the coast of Alaska. This actually will harm small oil and gas companies in the 15th District but benefits his largest campaign donors.

That Rep. Shimkus would vote to benefit his largest contributors should come as a shock to no one who knows the record of our two-decade incumbent representative. 

And, he’s equally proud of helping to usher in even higher premiums and deductibles for healthcare, something the 15th District absolutely does not need nor can afford.

I do appreciate his views on the news and social media. However, this legislation was not crafted as good policy for the American people or our 15th District economy. It was crafted to benefit corporate donors.

When I visit with communities, families, and workers across our great district, I’ve grown to know the diverse set of strengths, struggles, and issues that exist for all of us. I wish our representative had openness to his constituents. He just doesn’t.

If a business owner is successful here, they stay here. When workers and families are paid for their hard work, they spend that money in their communities.

This continued obsession with the failed trickle down economics model has left Central and Southern Illinois behind.

It is time for a change.

As your representative, I will always be open to listen to your concerns, I will represent every citizen in the district, and I will not support legislation that doesn’t benefit these citizens.

I’m so exhausted by the party politics that too often leave rural Illinoisans behind. I know that you are too. Our communities, our families, our businesses, and our children deserve better.

That’s why I ask for your vote in this primary.

Let’s change the direction of the 15th District and send a message to both parties that we’re tired of being underserved and ignored.

A New Year, A New Direction

2017 was a year of tremendous change for our country. For many, that change was concerning. For others, there were signs that their voices were finally being heard.

So many of us have responded to this change by standing up and doing something about the problems our families, our communities, our state, and our country face.

I’ve been so blessed to have listened and got to know so many great people on the campaign trail throughout the 15th District. Too many communities and families are struggling and have been for far too long.

I see so many hard working and good people that deserve to have someone fight for them every single day. And, as we’ve all witnessed throughout the last year, there is the potential for tremendous change.

As the drivers of the change we deserve,

we can lift our families and communities up.

We can only do that together. 

I appreciate each and every person and look forward to even more conversations as we approach the primary on March 20th.

There are many ways to get involved. Check out our campaign schedule on the campaign website. Every contribution matters. Every phone call and conversation you have with others makes a difference. Keep up the good work!

Together we can move the 15th District in a better direction.

Happy New Year!

Ending Net Neutrality

What does the end of Net Neutrality mean to you?

The claim by the administration is that it will lead to greater competition. I think we’ve all heard this mantra a bit too often to buy it so quickly.

Saying greater competition equals lower prices is cheap when regulations, fees, and other special loopholes squeeze out small businesses and allow big companies to gobble them all up, leaving less competition.

Under the Obama net neutrality protections there was a leveling of the playing field for consumers. We didn’t get screwed as much by providers. Also, municipalities like Chattanooga could make the best choice for their cities and create their own broadband access. So, this lack of competition argument rings hollow.

With the ending of net neutrality, providers can make consumers pay for faster speeds. They can limit what sites we have access to unless we pay more.

Many of us see the inherent problems this creates. 

It’s actually the same dilemma workers often face when negotiating with the boss, which is why collective bargaining is such a crucial right for workers. Individually, they have little power.

Together, we have much more influence and power

to negotiate a better deal for ourselves.

When we consider how this will impact schools, healthcare, ordering of supplies, applying for jobs online, the picture becomes even more complex.

There are reasons why consumers see rises in both their prices and the profits of these companies. We have few mechanisms afforded to us to protect us from the decisions of companies and government.

One of those mechanisms was just taken away.

What Makes Me Different

As I’ve traveled across the district, voters often share with me their concerns about electing another politician. ‘What good will it do? How will it change anything? What makes you different? Both parties are to blame.’

I’m not one to blame our problems on one person or one party.
I also don’t believe that one solution will solve any of it.
Throughout much of my life, when I see a problem I do something about it.
I don’t complain, I get to work instead. 

When I was in high school in my hometown of Sullivan, the elementary school where I was taught was in disrepair. With a classmate, I wrote a six-page exposé about the issues, the costs, and the solutions, one of which would be to pass a referendum to build a new elementary school. This was so well received that it was reprinted and sent to every registered voter in the district. The referendum passed, the school was built, and many of my relatives were students there.

This is just an example of how I don’t just talk about problems, I find solutions for them and work with others to achieve results. 

It’s absolutely accurate that both parties play the blame game. This has created a situation where the status quo is maintained.  The vast majority of Americans have been left behind.

Downstate Illinoisans have been left behind by both parties. Rarely has the Democratic Party even offered alternatives to Republicans and that has allowed Republicans to not have to work for the People that elect them to their positions.

I’m different from most of these politicians because I’ve lived through struggles and know how it is to be left behind, how it is to need services, and how it is for those services to not live up to the needs of the people. I’ve also fought to protect programs and strengthen services throughout my career.

I’ve seen bureaucrats make cavalier decisions that negatively impact people’s lives without much of a thought. I stood in the way of those decisions many times. When I was not there, those decisions became a reality and people I know died.

That’s what makes me different. I know the costs of failure are real.

We can’t just have a solution and think that’s good enough. We have to keep fighting to make life better for people, for all people. Often, a solution seems great at the beginning but in its implementation it isn’t all its cracked up to be. That’s why competent public officials check in on the results and ensure the programs and services are working as intended and fix any unintended consequences.

That’s what makes me different in this campaign and why I ask for your support in this vital primary. Our futures are on the line. It takes someone who knows what’s at stake in order to fight for the people of this great district in the way in which they deserve.

The Reality of the Shimkus Tax Plan

Our current over two-decade incumbent Representative John Shimkus is now sitting on the House-Senate conference committee responsible with hammering out the final tax reform bill to be sent to the White House to become the law of the land. (Source: The Hill)

If his rhetoric online and in public is any indication, this bill will be as bad or worse than what was passed in either the House or the Senate. He often talks about the median when discussing the tax bill and how it will benefit taxpayers in the 15th District.

The unfortunate reality for the 50% under the median is that they will be hurt by this tax bill. That’s what happens when you focus on one point along a continuum in order to obscure the massive tax cuts for the top 50% and permanent corporate tax cuts that we all know won’t be used to increase wages but be given to stockholders instead.

Also, these tax cuts he gloats about expire for low income earners. The cuts for corporations, the ones that will increase the debt by trillions, do not.

Those corporate welfare cuts are massive in scale compared to the shortchange being thrown at hardworking citizens in our district. 

What we really need in the form of tax reform are targeted tax cuts that will raise wages, not just a massive corporate give away and hope it magically happens. I know I’m extremely tired of hoping people do the right thing, especially our representatives in Congress.

What’s also missing from the Shimkus tax proposal are the massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare that many within the Republican Party have already mentioned as being the next steps in this plan to transform our country.

Our seniors are already hurting enough the way it is. They don’t need further cuts.

They need more money every month to pay their ever increasing bills.

It’s painful to have to choose between medication or food.

Also missing from this discussion is the assault on healthcare. As much as I and anyone else find faults with Obamacare, what the Shimkus plan does will further increase premiums and deductibles and decrease choices for citizens within our district.

We need real relief from the high cost of healthcare, not an all out assault to increase costs for people.

So, the net gains will actually be a net loss for most citizens within the 15th District.

Oh wait, we’re missing the worst part of the tax bill. In the State of Illinois, we have one of the highest property tax burdens in America. Rep. Shimkus is planning to take away the ability of small businesses and families to deduct those high property taxes.

So, there are ZERO gains from this bill for the citizens of the 15th District, only losses.

The winners are just for campaign contributors, and, ultimately, for the campaign reelection fund.

Enough is Enough.

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Say Never to Privatization of VA

Privatization of the VA means less accountability, less ability to do anything about problems, and less results for veterans.

Putting business in charge of veterans healthcare will result in less healthcare. In Indiana, privatization of Medicaid was a disaster for enrollees, and that was under Governor Daniels, not Mike Pence. They had to reverse course there, and we shouldn’t even consider doing this to veterans.

What we should do is the following:

  • continue repairing the damage of decades of denial and decay
  • have representatives show up and hold the VA accountable in hearings
  • have representatives show up in their districts by listening to veterans and the groups that serve them
  • increase assistance to hard hit areas like Danville and Vermilion County
  • open VA sites within community health providers where VAs hospitals don’t exist
  • make the pipeline bigger for people going into healthcare specialties
    • increase grants and scholarships for students
    • increase money to colleges and universities
    • increase faculty and staff that educate and train these specialties
  • actually stabilize funding for Medicaid, Medicare, and local healthcare providers instead of starving them of resources.

I’m talking neurology, psychiatry, LCSWs, etc. etc. There are so many communities that have no access to too many of these specialties or have waiting lists that are excruciatingly long.

The GOP healthcare and tax plans are in exactly the opposite direction of where we should be heading as a country on all of these issues.

The GOP healthcare plan cuts healthcare for veterans, Medicaid, and Medicare. 

The GOP tax plan raises taxes on students receiving tuition waivers. 

All of this to give the wealthiest, a massive tax break. To give corporations a massive tax cut when 1 out of 5 of them don’t even pay taxes currently. Lowering the corporate tax rate will allow even more corporate welfare in order to gut more services for veterans.

This is not how you run the healthcare of those who have served and defended our country.

You Serve. You Deserve.

I will stand up to this backward thinking, campaign donor giveaways that hurt our veterans.

(Photo Courtesy of Greg Nash, The Hill)


Allegations, Realities, and Standing Up

These allegations and realities from the past and present are as disturbing as they are common. We have to do better.

We have to stand up for others so more can stand up for themselves. It’s not easy, it’s not simple, but it is a necessity.

It’s vital for us all to learn and grow from this period of exposure so that we can move forward as a stronger society that respects one another.

Really listening to one another and really paying attention to others can really go a long way toward protecting and fostering a better community.

None of us are perfect people. We can’t go back in time and rewrite history.

What we can do is acknowledge past wrongs, learn from our mistakes, and strive to do better. 

There are legal lines that are too often crossed and nothing is reported. Statutes of limitations make it more difficult for many victims to ever hold their abusers accountable.

What we can do is to take the politics out of the equation, focus on the facts, and respect one another without ignoring the reality staring us in the face.

Some people are open to investigations being done to ascertain the veracity of claims and the extent of the damage done. That matters. 

Openness isn’t a blank check. Openness can be the beginning of a conversation that can lead to healing and greater understanding. I think we can at least start there.

Infrastructure: All of the Above

I wanted to share a Letter to the Editor regarding a crucial economic and safety issue throughout the 15th District. If we don’t invest in infrastructure instead of just talking about it, we’re going to be struggling in new ways. I think we’ve struggled enough.

  • Infrastructure means protecting our water from lead, which is being found in some schools’ drinking water. 
  • It also means funding to fix the problem. 


  • Infrastructure means diversifying our energy economy by creating and protecting jobs in all sectors. 
  • It also means investing in renewables, like solar, wind, and biofuels.


  • Infrastructure means actually funding roads and bridges instead of just making more excuses as to why we can’t.
  • We don’t need ever increasing costs of wear and tear on vehicles due to inadequately funded roads.


  • Infrastructure means extending trails, protecting parks, lakes, and other destinations with real resources that drive tourism and new revenue throughout the area.
  • We should be a tourist haven for people from upstate, Chicago, and every state in the Midwest. 


  • Infrastructure means funding education, from pre-K through higher education, helping to stop the brain drain and keep jobs and families right here in downstate Illinois.
  • Resources earlier mean less wasted money later as the majority of brain development occurs before the age of 5.


  • Infrastructure means telecommunications and broadband.
  • The lack of broadband access in many rural areas limits economic and educational opportunities. This will create jobs, both in the short term and the long term.


  • Infrastructure means investing in freight and rail.
  • Freight and commuter rail needs an overhaul helping to bring tourists into our region for both tourism and business. We should be building rail and railcars here.

The costs of rebuilding America are high.

The costs of doing nothing are much higher. 

I will fight to rebuild this District on every level and on every day. We can only do this together and by creating jobs, in the present and for the future.

Are you with me? Are you with the people of the 15th District?


Medicaid Work Reqs a Costly One

Anyone who has utilized the Illinois Medicaid program in recent years knows how difficult and broken the system is. Often, they make decisions without informing clients, sometimes leading to massive bills for low income workers, the disabled, the elderly, veterans, and parents. 

Enter the GOP plans to ‘overhaul’ the Medicaid program nationally by imposing work requirements on recipients.

I would call this effort an attempt to disrupt healthcare for millions of working Americans, veterans, the chronically ill, and many others. 

Waiting for Medicaid to respond to your application or submission of materials cannot only be extensive, it can lead to real damage to your health and bottomline. It also can leave you without healthcare coverage for the better part of a year which also leaves you with a whopping tax fine you have to pay. 

Now, imagine being disabled, chronically ill, a veteran, or elderly and adding another layer of red-tape to an already overstressed bureaucratic system that can’t handle the job it’s doing today.

It’s not just a terrible idea, it’s a deadly one.

Add to that the difficulties it would be to manage and oversee these new work requirements, these wait times for people who need healthcare extend from half a year to 9 months or longer.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m sick and in need of medical attention, I can’t wait around for someone to check to see if I’ve been looking for work. I also don’t want to be forced to go to the ER for a simple cold.

We have to do better. 

Under the current system, if you are disabled, you work, and you receive Medicaid, you have to meet a spend down every month. Sounds great, right? That would be the case if the system worked efficiently and effectively. It doesn’t. 

Too often, the burdens of meeting the spend down requirements are so high and time consuming that many don’t work in order to avoid losing the healthcare that keeps them alive and breathing.

People need more certainty when it comes to their healthcare,

not increased uncertainty.

That’s why cavalier and emotion-baiting proposals like this GOP proposal will only make it more difficult for the disabled, for veterans, and for the chronically ill. Also, these proposals will cost more money for states and the federal government to manage.

I want to make it easier for people to work

by getting the government red tape out of the way.

It shouldn’t be terrifying for these groups to get back to work, but it is. We can do better, and we must.

That’s what I will fight for when I’m your representative in D.C.

Fight to protect your healthcare, fight to get you back to work, and fight to stop cavalier actions that negatively impact the most vulnerable amongst us. 

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Picture Courtesy of Pete Marovich/Bloomberg, Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

2016 Primary Redux

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that President Trump and the GOP would take any opportunity to take the negative attention and focus off of their inability to govern and produce real results for the American people and turn the pundits and media on divisions within the left.

So, yet again, with information offered by someone who was accused of offering debate questions to one campaign, which she denied, is now offering another account about the primary in order to sell a book.

Is any of it true? Who knows? How could anyone know?

Donna Brazile has changed her story on so many issues throughout the last few years it’s difficult to know if she even knows the truth.

What is stunning is how some within the Democratic Party would use this opportunity to further discord and divisiveness within the Party, progressives, and independents.

All of this in a time where healthcare is on the line, tax cuts for the wealthy that will explode deficits and debt are being rushed through Congress, and threats at home and abroad are on the rise. 

We’re heading into the primary season where we will nominate those who will go against GOP incumbents across the country in gerrymandered districts that are exhausted by this style of politics.

I’m tired of some Democrats using President Trump’s own tweets and deflections for their own presidential ambitions. I’m tired of those obsessed about winning a fight that was over a year and a half ago about a primary involving two members of the Democratic Party and an independent.

Not only is the 2016 primary long over, we all have similar goals that we want to fight to achieve for the American people.

  • Better more affordable healthcare for all Americans.
  • Improved & affordable education providing opportunities for all Americans.
  • Sustained job and wage growth for all Americans.
  • An economic, judicial, and system of government that works for all Americans.

These old squabbles are as counterproductive as they are useful for Trump and the GOP to continue avoiding accountability and responsibility for any forward leaning vision for all Americans. 

Unless you have a time machine,

what good does this continued looking backward actually accomplish?

Terrorism, Immigration, & Precise Action

The terrorist attack in NYC is a tragedy. NYC officials are confident that this is an isolated incident by a lone wolf and there is no ongoing threat. And, yes, we must do more to protect people. How we do that is crucial to do with precision.

Enter the Trump Administration to take advantage of tragedy to sow further division regarding immigrants. He called for slashing immigration while blaming the Democratic Party for being obstructionist.

The contradictions are as ironic as the underlying fallacies behind it all.

First, it was the GOP that stood in the way of immigration reform just four years ago, not the Democratic Party. This reform package would have modernized our antiquated immigration systems, allowing for better tracking of those with expired green cards, opening up resources for more thorough screening, and creating a more safe environment for Americans.

Second, the extreme vetting and Muslim bans that President Trump and many within the GOP have been promoting have been found to be unconstitutional, ineffective, and used in online propaganda to recruit more terrorists like this lone wolf terrorist.

Finally, after the deadliest mass shooting in American history in Las Vegas, many people declared in the aftermath of the tragedy this was not the time to discuss doing something about terror, especially involving firearms. 

If you’ve not been paying attention, we’re still waiting for that debate and shouldn’t be holding our breath for one either. More than likely, the inability for Trump to face what happened in Las Vegas is due to a white man using firearms. He has no problem jumping to attack someone with a different color of skin. Both attackers terrorized Americans.

I’m tired of the double standards. Aren’t you?

  • I believe we should be talking about real immigration reform, not immigration deform. We need to be focused on real threats to our country, not some expensive unfunded Trump Wall that would be ineffective at stopping ladders and tunnels. 
  • I believe we should be debating how better to track visa overstays, not hyper focused on people who’ve been here for most of their lives, working, paying taxes, and living their lives for decades free from violent crime. 
  • I believe we should be talking about real policies that protect people instead of dividing the country on cultural and racial lines. 

That’s what we need in America today. Not more scapegoating, big talk designed to divide and deflect over a failed agenda and no results for the American people.

We need better wages for all Americans. We need more, better paying jobs. We need better schools and to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.

We need policies that will actually benefit Americans, not further divisions.

That’s what I will stand up to support and fight for in Washington.

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Savings Drain, Wage Stagnation Major Concerns for Economy

Signs of strain emerge in the Trump-GOP economy, says Chandra and Golle of Bloomberg. When savings are drained, it limits consumer spending. This is especially troubling ahead of the holiday season and the all important 4th Quarter where many companies make it back into the black. 

The real problem here is stagnant wages in the era of record profits and record stock market numbers. It’s as confusing as it is wrong.

When the CEO and administrative class receive annual pay raises (sometimes in the millions) and laborers, union workers, and former union workers receive none, that’s a red flag for me. It should be for anyone who’s invested in their community and the broader economy. 

And, this elite group who has yet to pass on their record profits to their workers will receive the largest share of tax cuts from the Trump-GOP tax-cut plan. This is yet another already tried and failed approach that will bankrupt the Middle Class and Working Class, leaving the bill with our grandchildren. 

That’s unacceptable to me and will not lead to wage growth, will not rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, will not help our schools, workers, increase the number of good paying jobs, nor will it boost the economy. 

I will fight for better policies that will . . .

  • boost the earning potential for workers
  • create more opportunities for small businesses to thrive
  • remove barriers for small companies that are invested in their communities
  • rebuild our country’s infrastructure, creating jobs

As representatives, we have to fight for the People, not for big business and special interests. Tax cuts always feel good and make sense on a guttural level, especially for those of us in Illinois who pay too much in property taxes.

“If only they had more money, these CEOs and big companies could give you a raise and create more jobs.”

If this were the case, where were all the jobs and pay raises during the Bush tax cuts? Where are the jobs and bigger paychecks right now with record stock market closings?

Tax cuts for the wealthy have literally never helped the Middle and Working Classes.

Actual tax relief targeted and specific for workers and small businesses, that would be great! I can get behind that. But, for these massive companies and these multimillion dollar CEOs? No. 

I’m tired of waiting. Aren’t you?

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Applaud Opioid Talk, Verify Actions

It was good to see the President come out with policies that may help alleviate the opioid crisis. This crisis has expanded from opioids and exploding into heroin use. That adaptive expansion as access to opioids is decreased is even costlier public health crises like blood borne pathogens and STDs.

Putting forward government resources to fund research into non-addictive painkillers is something much needed, and, frankly, something the GOP often sacrifice to fund tax cuts for the wealthy.

Let’s applaud the talk then verify the resources and actions.

It’s also great to see the President be in favor of mental health treatment for those in the throes of addiction, as well as those within the criminal justice system.

Let’s applaud the talk then verify the resources and actions.

Attempting to eliminate some of the worst opioids on the marketplace and to limit patients to 7-day prescriptions can help decrease overdoses.

Let’s applaud the talk then verify the resources and actions.

Also, the focus on drug courts being a pathway forward for those caught up in addiction and the criminal justice system was a welcome one.

Let’s applaud the talk then verify the resources and actions.

The President chose to declare this a national public health emergency over a national emergency, which is unfortunate. That means there will be no additional funds without Congressional legislation. We all know how difficult it is for this GOP-controlled Congress to pass anything.

What was sorely lacking from Trump’s proposal was a national needle exchange program coupled with outreach programs.

Needle exchange programs might be controversial for some, but these have prevented HIV, Hepatitis, and other blood borne pathogen outbreaks. Vice President ended access to needle exchange programs in Indiana and created an HIV outbreak while Governor of the Hoosier State.

That level of shortsighted and reactive policymaking leads to costly chronic conditions that spread across communities and regions, usually under the radar. The threats of blood borne pathogens inside high risk groups can go unnoticed, undiagnosed, and untreated for years or even decades.

These types of public health crises are devastating to a region’s healthcare, social welfare, and community infrastructure. It creates division, prejudice, and animosity about complex health risks that aren’t tangible to many.

So, yes, I applaud the President coming forward today and talking about policies that might put a dent in the opioid crisis. I will be here watching for the funds and the actions to make their way to rural areas like the 15th District.

Here, we have more of a rolling heroin and opioid crisis unfolding. We have to tackle all, through prevention, maintenance, mental health, healthcare, and drug courts.

We can make real progress on this national emergency. We need real resources, real funds, and real actions, not just talking from a podium. 

Let’s applaud the talk then verify the resources and actions.

Photo Courtesy of Michael Reynolds/Pool via Getty Images

Opioids, Marijuana, & Economy

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Trump to End ACA Subsidies

President Trump used the power of the pen to issue executive orders to take away the healthcare of the poor this week. He did this by removing subsidies offered to enrollees that couldn’t afford the high premiums and deductibles that are currently available in the marketplace.

Instead of working with Congress to provide increased protections for Americans from excessively high premiums and deductibles, the President has decided to throw the health insurance exchanges into chaos, which will undoubtedly cost people their access to healthcare.

And, to make matters worse, the health insurance companies have been making record profits as their stock prices have increased steadily since the passage of Obamacare. (See the above graph)

Without significant protections for Americans and any capacity to bring down the cost of prescription drugs, it’s the American people that will be footing the bill for this misadventure.

Yes, these subsidies are paid to these very health insurance companies. However, without these subsidies and without sufficient protections applied to the companies, the health and wellbeing of the country is at stake.

That’s unacceptable to me and should be to any member of Congress. 

Some people want a single payer, or Medicare for all plan. Others want to repeal Obamacare altogether. Both of these approaches don’t solve the impending crisis facing real people that need their healthcare today. 

We have to fix Obamacare today and work toward better solutions for the long term. That’s what Americans have deserved for decades and haven’t seen in far too long.

Unions, Wage Stagnation, & Labor

It’s time to balance the power between workers and employers
Lawrence Summers is a professor at and past president of Harvard University. He was treasury secretary from 1999 to 2001 and an economic adviser to President Barack Obama from 2009 through 2010.
The central issue in American politics is the economic security of the middle class and their sense of opportunity for their children. As long as a substantial majority of American adults believe that their children will not live as well as they did, our politics will remain bitter and divisive.
Surely related to middle-class anxiety is the slow growth of wages even in the ninth year of economic recovery. The Phillips curve — which postulates that tighter labor markets lead to an acceleration of wage growth — appears to have broken down. Unemployment is at historically low levels, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that average hourly earnings last month rose by all of 3 cents — little more than a 0.1 percent bump. For the past year, they rose by only 2.5 percent. In contrast, profits of the S&P 500 are rising at a 16 percent annual rate.
What is going on? Economists don’t have complete answers. In part, there are inevitable year-to-year fluctuations (profits have declined in several recent years). And in part, BLS data reflects wages earned in the United States, even though a bit less than half of profits are earned abroad and have become more valuable as the dollar has declined relative to other currencies. And finally, wages have not risen because a strengthening labor market has drawn more workers into the labor force.
But I suspect the most important factor is that employers have gained bargaining power over wages while workers have lost it. Technology has given some employers — depending on the type of work involved — more scope for replacing American workers with foreign workers (think outsourcing) or with automation (think boarding-pass kiosks at airports) or by drawing on the gig economy (think Uber drivers). So their leverage to hold down wages has increased.
On the other hand, other factors have decreased the leverage of workers. For a variety of reasons, including reduced availability of mortgage credit and the loss of equity in existing homes, it is harder than it used to be to move to opportunity. Diminished savings in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis means many families cannot afford even a brief interruption in work. Closely related is the observation that workers as consumers appear more likely than years ago to have to purchase from monopolies — such as a consolidated airline sector or local health-care providers — rather than from firms engaged in fierce price competition. That means their paychecks do not go as far.
On this Labor Day, we would do well to remember that unions have long played a crucial role in the American economy in evening out the bargaining power between employers and employees. They win higher wages, better working conditions and more protection from unjust employer treatment for their members. More broadly, they provide crucial support in the political process for programs such as Social Security and Medicare that benefit members and nonmembers alike. (Both were passionately opposed by major corporations at their inception.)
Today, only 6.4 percent of private-sector workers belong to a union — a decline of nearly two-thirds since the late 1970s. This is the one important contributor to the decline in the relative power of labor, especially those who work with their hands. Workers seeking gigs on their own are inevitably less secure than a group collectively representing their interests. The decline in unionism is also a contributor to the pervasive sense that our political system is too often for sale to the highest bidder.
What can be done? This surely is not the moment for lawmakers to further strengthen the hand of large employers over their employees. Sooner or later — and preferably sooner —
  • labor-law reform should be back on the national agenda, especially to punish employers who engage in firing organizers.
  • We should also encourage union efforts to organize people in nontraditional ways, even when they do not involve formal collective bargaining.
  • And policymakers should support institutions such as employee stock ownership plans, where workers have a chance to share in profits and in corporate governance.
In an era when the most valuable companies are the Apples and the Amazons rather than the General Motors and the General Electrics, the role of unions cannot go back to being what it was. But on this Labor Day, any leader concerned with the American middle class needs to consider that the basic function of unions, balancing the power of employers and employees, is as important to our economy as it has ever been.

Working Together, not Fighting Allies

Instead of fighting amongst natural allies, we should be working together.

There is nothing wrong with moderate and centrist political language as the vast majority of voters are moderates or independents. Pitting the center against the left and progressives is a concern, especially in rural America. It also doubles down on false beliefs about the Democratic Party not being about rural and midAmerica. It also doesn’t help reconnect the Party with conservative Democrats, broadening our big tent party.

Our causes and policies are aligned with the political center and voters of all stripes because they’re designed to improve the lives of American families and the vulnerable, to increase equality and opportunity for all, and to give all of us better education, healthcare, and better paying jobs.

We actually have an agenda that doesn’t gut services, schools, and healthcare in order to give tax breaks to the wealthy.

We may have different views on how to achieve these goals, but that’s where communicating respectfully and compromising to make real progress for Americans is not just necessary but vital for the future of the country. Don’t we have enough disrespect coming from enough elected officials these days?

We have to work in the short term to provide immediate relief as well as fight together to reach our long term goals. We can’t do that from the far left or from the center alone. It takes all of us persevering together for years and decades, voting in every election for decades, and making an effort to not only communicate our principles and values with others but listen to their principles and values as well.


Fundraising Highs & Lows for Dems

In a year with many special elections, the most expensive House race in American history, and much frustration with the direction of the country under the leadership of President Trump and a GOP-led Congress, most would believe the Democrats would be outpacing the GOP in cash and fundraising.

The reality is not clear.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has $40 million less in the bank than the RNC. That doesn’t tell the whole story. DNC has nearly $6.9 million in cash on hand. With two quarters left until primaries begin, this should be a warning sign to all Democrats, Progressives, and Independents to not remain complacent in the midterms.

Beyond those bleak numbers, the RNC has doubled the DNC in the amount raised from small donations. Bernie Sanders was able to garner amazing amounts of small donations in 2015 and throughout 2016. These donors might be sitting on the sidelines or have moved to supporting Trump and the GOP.

However, this isn’t the entire picture.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has the opposite fundraising numbers of it’s Republican counterpart, the (NRCC). The DCCC’s first quarter was a record in contributions, spurred on by special elections and reaction to the Trump-GOP agenda.

So far this election cycle, the DCCC has raised $66 million and currently has nearly $23 million in the bank. There is hope for fundraising within the Democratic and Progressive sphere.

Perhaps after the controversies surrounding Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and other issues raised during both the primary and general election about leadership and management of the DNC, more donors are focusing efforts toward the DCCC.

Regardless, the DCCC is not funding many longtime conservative House races. Currently, there are plans to pump resources into the 12th and 13th downstate races, but not into the 15th District.

As many people throughout the 15th District realize by knocking on doors and listening to voters, conservative and independent voters are not satisfied with Rep. John Shimkus and how he has represented their interests for the last 22 years in Washington, D.C.

The People of the 15th deserve opportunities, immediate relief, and new approaches that will make a difference in their daily lives and their bottom-lines. They deserve practical and pragmatic solutions and above all someone who isn’t burdened by special interests and personal businesses that could benefit from their agenda.

Together, we all do better.

When those that struggle have more to spend, local businesses and governments benefit.

When those that work hard but can’t pay their bills earn more money, their lives improve and opportunities open up for them, their families, and their communities. 

When we all come together with a common goal of shared prosperity, affordable healthcare, the best education for every child, more access to your services and absolutely to your representation to Congress, we all learn more about each other and how similar we truly are.

That’s what I intend to do. Come join me!

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We Must Stand FOR the People

I continue to see so much animosity and outrage pouring out on social media and in public regarding the President. This is not all that helpful in the upcoming midterm elections. The Democratic Party becoming the anti-Trump party is not a good political move, nor is it a good move for the People. It doesn’t win elections and it’s not polling well either.

The vast majority of registered voters don’t believe Democrats support anything. That’s a huge red flag for me. If you recall in the Clinton era, Republicans ran aggressively against Bill Clinton in ’96, both in Congress and in political speech/ads. How did that turnout for them? The same can be said in ’04 with George W Bush.

Anti-the-other-candidate campaigns most often fail. The latest campaign that ran on that message was the Hillary campaign. She had great policies that would have made a difference, but how many voters actually connected with those policies? That campaign simply ran against Trump and thought that was good enough to win the election. It was ultimately a losing message in downstate Illinois, throughout much of the Midwest, and rural America.

I want to caution anyone that goes full tilt in anger-outrage mode against President Trump. It might make some feel better and that you’re in solidarity with one another, but it’s not going to change these House district races. We have to set out a real vision for the People and the country.

I’m dedicated to making policies that will make a difference to the People of the 15th District and throughout downstate Illinois, both in the short term and the long term. The People here haven’t had a real advocate or a fighter on their side in the House for far too long.

Most of the people I talk to on the campaign trail don’t care about the Russian investigation. Of course, those of us that have been linked into politics and history are deeply concerned about every detail, but it doesn’t mean anything to the daily lives of regular folks throughout the district.

That’s why I’m focusing on what will make a difference in the lives of real people in my campaign. I’ve never been one to be against someone but to be for others instead, regardless of their beliefs, their gender, their religion, their background, or anything else about them.

Everyone deserves a shot at the American Dream. They deserve better representation than they’ve received in decades.

Let’s change that together!

A Different Take on ‘Conservative’ Illinois

RoadSnacks just made a study that declared the 10 Most Conservative Cities in Illinois. This can be of great concern to those living in or around any of these cities.

I have a different take.

Most of this, in my experience, is due to Democrats not playing hard or at all in these areas for decades. Vacating has led to dominance, intimidation, and more by the GOP. 

I’m not dissuaded by those factors at all. I’m a natural fighter, though.

A cool head, applying respect (something the other side doesn’t do), and listening to voter concerns are the first steps. After I listen, I apply what I’ve learned and connect it directly to my message and vision for the 15th district. 

Believe it or not, all of us have the same basic concerns for our families and communities. We want better economies, higher wages, more jobs, more affordable healthcare, cheaper prescription drugs, safer communities, and better schools for our children. 

Most people haven’t heard from a state rep or state senate candidate in years. Rarely are these races challenged in the general election, either. They’ve never heard from a congressional candidate directly. 

If you come with all the answers, it’s often a lost cause. Each of these Americans deserves to be heard. And, they haven’t been heard in far too long.

They’ve not had someone fighting for their families and their communities in a long time. The Democratic Party is the party of the People. We must be their voice, on city councils, county boards, in Springfield, and in Washington.

We can do this!

The damage of the vacuum of the last few decades takes time to heal, and we all have a vital role to play in rebuilding the trust with working families and the most vulnerable.

I’ve never been more hopeful. Let’s get to work!

Student Loans: My Ideas vs. GOP/Trump

The GOP-controlled Congress, led by President Trump, has already targeted student loans, loosening protections for students as well as discussing moving loan servicing from Department of Education to Treasury. Their new plans are far worse.

They want to eliminate the ability to defer or lower monthly payments due to inability to pay or hardship as well as eliminate protections against predatory for-profit colleges. These are the same colleges that have taken advantage of veterans after serving our country. Some of these ‘universities’ have defrauded students, taking their money and not providing an adequate education that can be used to land a good job. Universities like Trump U.

Student loan debt currently is over $1.3 trillion.

When the government messes with that much money, those changes should not harm Americans trying to better their families, lives, and livelihoods. None of us should tolerate that.

Currently, our government charges students more interest on loans than they do banks. That doesn’t sound right or fair to me either. The government also doesn’t allow these student loans to be refinanced at lower rates.

When I was growing up, I saved a lot of money and actually made money from interest. I was punished for doing so by having zero access to financial aid. Families and individuals can’t save money and make reasonable levels of interest any longer. When interest for savings is less than interest accruing on student loans, there’s something drastically wrong with the equation.

We have to do better. We deserve better than this.

The representation we’re receiving is debilitating.

Our congressional reps should be working for us, not against us. 

Let’s fix student loans, not destroy them.

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