Creating Jobs

With nearly 13 million Americans eager and able to work, but unable to find a job, we should have no greater priority than getting our country back to work. I therefore supported extending the payroll tax cut through the end of 2012, which will create approximately 400,000 jobs this year. I also support increasing aid to states to stop the layoffs of police, firefighters, and teachers, creating another 400,000 good jobs while making our communities safer and ensuring a brighter future for America’s children. Additionally, rebuilding and expanding our roads, bridges, and other public infrastructure through direct investment and an infrastructure bank would put tens of thousands of construction workers back to work and improve our global competitiveness over the long term. Finally, I support elimination of overly burdensome regulations and expansion of loan guarantees to create an environment where small businesses can thrive and create jobs. These steps and other common sense reforms will help get hundreds of thousands of Americans back to work in the coming months and years.

Modernizing our Transportation Systems

As too many families in Virginia know, our roads, bridges, and rail systems are stretched well beyond capacity, from Northern Virginia to Hampton Roads. Improving our transportation network means a better overall business climate, creating jobs now, and allowing thousands of commuters to spend more time at home with their families rather than in gridlock. I believe now is the time to expand and improve our transportation systems, including I-95, the VRE, and structurally unsound bridges throughout the district.

Protecting America

As we wind down our decade-long commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, we must not lose sight of the real threats American faces from bad actors around the world. From the diminished, but still dangerous, remnants of Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Yemen to evolving  nuclear threats in North Korea and Iran, to strategic and economic challenges from China and Russia, we live in a dangerous and complex world. Now is not the time to let down our guard or reduce America’s ability to defend itself.

If elected, I would staunchly oppose the trillion dollars worth of cuts to the Department of Defense and VA that were passed by our current Congress. These cuts, if implemented, would likely lead to the loss of two of our eleven carrier battle groups, one quarter of our fighter jets, one third of our long range bombers and a third of our Army Maneuver Battalions.  In addition to drastically reducing our military capacity, these cuts would also be devastating economically to Virginia’s first district, home to 13 military installations and thousands of active-duty military, civilians and small businesses which support America’s defense efforts.

Rather than letting these drastic cuts go through, we must put in place an alternate package achieving the same level of deficit reduction through improved economic growth, cuts to wasteful and unnecessary spending and tax increases on those wealthy Americans who can afford to pay a little more.

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Protecting Seniors

I strongly oppose attempts by Republicans in Congress to privatize and dismantle Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. While I believe we can make these programs more efficient and make sure we are getting the most bang for our buck, I will not trust our seniors’ security and way of life to the whims of the stock market or the profit motives of insurance company executives.

On this point let me be totally clear, I do not support and will not support cuts to Medicare or Medicaid benefits. We must keep our promises to the seniors of today and tomorrow.

Re-Building the Middle Class

For too long, middle class families have been squeezed between stagnant wages and increasing costs for everything from education to healthcare to gas prices. The middle class is the backbone of our economy and vital to our country’s economic growth over the coming decades.

To re-build the middle class we must first improve our schools. As the son of a teacher, I understand that we must give teachers across the country the resources and flexibility to succeed, and hold them accountable for the results. We should amend the No Child Left Behind Act so that teachers are no longer required to teach to the test, and can tailor their teaching style to the needs of their students. We should recognize and reward our most successful teachers while removing red tape and roadblocks which prevent us from improving schools across the country. Our kids deserve no less.

Having paid for college and law school myself with Pell Grants and federally-subsidized student loans, I recognize that we must protect recent graduates from the crushing burden of student loan debt. I therefore strongly oppose the Republicans’ votes to cut Pell Grants for working class and middle class students, and would instead expand and extend the Pell Grant program. I also support student loan reforms that would cap students’ repayment obligations at ten percent of their income for the first years after graduation.

We must also help our friends and neighbors who are struggling to pay mortgages on homes worth less than they owe. Responsible homeowners are suffering from the excesses of Wall Street bankers, who fueled a housing bubble and now threaten to destroy the American dream of home ownership. I therefore support program modifications to allow homeowners to re-finance at today’s lower interest rates and save hundreds of dollars on their monthly payments.

Finally, we must improve on the reforms in the President’s health care law to control costs and improve access to health care for all American families. While the health care reform law was flawed in many respects, I do not support returning to a broken system with skyrocketing costs and tens of millions of Americans unable to obtain health insurance.

By reducing health care costs, improving our schools, and helping those who are struggling with student loans and excessive mortgages, we can ensure that our middle class will weather this crisis and emerge as strong as ever.

Reducing our Deficit

When it comes to our obligation to reduce our national deficit, I reject an approach that asks for the greatest sacrifice from those who can least afford it. In particular, I strongly oppose the Republican budget that would that would gut Medicare and raise the average senior’s medical costs by over $6,000 per year, slash Pell grants that have been used by generations of disadvantaged students to achieve the American dream and drastically cut Medicaid funding.

Instead, I support a balanced approach to deficit reduction with three main components.

First, we have to get America back to work. We will never reduce our deficit as long as we have 13 million Americans unable to find work and relying on government assistance rather than paying taxes and contributing to our economy. Studies estimate that lowering unemployment to the levels experienced in the late 1990s would by itself reduce our deficit by over 300 billion dollars per year.

Second, we must reduce wasteful spending, especially in the health care sector that is the biggest driver of our long-term deficits. As just one example, Medicare right now pays 40% more for prescription drugs than the VA pays for the exact same drugs because Congress prohibited Medicare from negotiating the prices it pays. Doctors and hospitals should also be paid for treatment of each condition, not each procedure, to reduce the incentive for unnecessary tests and procedures.

Finally, a balanced and realistic approach to reducing the deficit requires that we ask at least as much from the wealthy and the special interests as we do from the middle class. Contrary to what you may hear from our professional politicians, there is nothing wrong with asking our fellow citizens who have benefited the most from the American system to pay a slightly higher tax rate in order to preserve that system for the next generation. Restoring the tax rate on income over $250,000 per year to the levels in place under President Clinton would reduce our deficit by $700 billion over the next ten years, while the so-called “Buffett rule,” which would make sure that millionaires pay at least as high a tax rate as the middle class, would reduce our deficit by another roughly $600 billion over ten years.

This type of balanced approach would quickly reduce our deficit without the kind of extreme and immediate cuts that would cost us jobs and further imperil our middle class families.

Restoring Faith in Government

Having served our country in Afghanistan, I have seen what America can do at its best. I know that we are capable of rising above petty squabbling, partisan games and short-sighted turf battles and coming together, as we have so many times before, to ensure that we leave our country to our children in better shape than we inherited it from our parents.

Unfortunately, while we all believe in America, too many of us have lost faith in our government and our elected leaders. In particular, the overwhelming majority of Americans hold our Congress in extremely low regard, and for good reason. Rather than a place where representatives of the people from every corner of the country come together to advance the Nation’s interests, Congress has become a place where too many career politicians put party over country and special interests over the interests of their constituents.

As a first step toward making Congress more accountable to the people, I support a common sense package of reforms to increase transparency and end the revolving door between our political system and the special interest lobbyists who control it. I would prevent members of Congress from cashing in on their connections and influence by supporting a lifetime ban on Members of Congress registering as lobbyists. Additionally, Congressional pay should be frozen for five years and members of Congress should have their pay withheld until they complete and pass the annual budget. We should also require complete, online disclosure of all donors to Super PACS to get the secret money out of our political system.

I recognize that these steps do not go far enough, but they are a start. I welcome your ideas on additional ways to hold Congress accountable and restore every American’s faith in their government.