US House of Representatives 11th Congressional District candidate Bill Foster answered Shaw Local’s election questionnaire for the US House primary election.
Voting ends for the primary election on the evening of June 28.
Full Name: Bill Foster
What office are you seeking? IL-11
What offices, if any, have you previously held? U.S. Congress 11th Congressional District
Occupation: Member of Congress
Education: Harvard University (Ph.D.)
University of Wisconsin–Madison (BS)
Campaign Website: https://billfoster.com/
What is your position re-establishing the Child Tax Credit at $3,500 per child as set in the American Rescue Plan?
I support it, and I voted to extend it through 2025. During COVID, the increase in the Child Tax Credit cut child poverty by 30 percent -- 3.7 million children—and provided assistance to millions of middle-class families struggling with the costs of raising their children. Every child deserves to grow up in a safe environment with adequate food, shelter, and time with their parents.
Do you believe that corporations pay enough in taxes?
No, especially large corporations who use offshore tax havens and loopholes to evade US taxes. When the Republicans passed their Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017, they repealed the Corporate Alternative Minimum Tax, thereby allowing dozens of the largest and most profitable corporations to avoid paying taxes. In contrast, President Biden was able to secure an international agreement for a minimum corporate tax rate, which avoids a global “race to the bottom” on both tax rates and compliance.
Would you support increases or decreases in the amount of taxes corporations pay? Why?
I would support an increase in the minimum corporate tax for large corporations as part of a strengthening of international agreements on international taxation. This avoids disadvantaging American small businesses and workers, while providing increased revenue that will be needed to pay down our national debt.
As a successful businessman, I understand that the real job creators are customers, and that customers come from the middle class. That is why I agree with President Biden that we should reduce the fraction of the tax burden that lands on the middle class, and ask the wealthy and large corporations to pay a larger share.
It is an empirical fact that providing tax breaks to large corporations has not increased business investment or caused them to provide new jobs. For example, the Trump tax cuts did not spur business investment beyond what was already occurring under Obama. Rather, it mainly created a spike in profits and retained earnings that were used for stock buybacks and bonuses rather than job-creating business investments – as can be seen by the fact that the rate of U.S. job creation did not increase after the Trump tax cuts.
Do the rich, defined as the wealthiest 1%, pay enough in taxes?
No. Our current top tax bracket is 37 percent, and many wealthy families use loopholes to pay a far smaller rate.
When my little brother and I started our business back in the 1970′s, our personal tax rate was low but the marginal tax rate on the wealthy was over 70%, so we knew that if our small business ever became extremely successful, we would be paying much more in taxes. That seemed like a fair deal then, and it does today – and it did not stop us from working day and night to get our small business up and running.
By returning to the same deal we had when I was young, we can avoid saddling young families with mountains of college debt, and give them the same chance to buy homes and start businesses as our generation had.
Would support changes in the tax code that would increase or decrease their tax burden? Why?
I would support increasing minimum taxes on the wealthiest Americans, especially the children of the rich who inherited wealth rather than to create new wealth through working at their businesses. The single most egregious provision I would eliminate is the so-called “basis step up” which allows unlimited inherited wealth in passive investments to pass untaxed from generation to generation.
I would also note that this type of proposal is unlikely to bankrupt the very wealthy. Since the start of the Obama recovery in Q1 of 2009, the wealth of the top 1% of Americans has increased from $15T to $46T, an increase of $31 Trillion dollars.
Do you support raising taxes on capital gains and dividends? Why?
I support raising taxes on capital gains for the wealthiest Americans from 20 to 25%, which I voted for as part of the Build Back Better Act. It isn’t fair that working families, who earn most of their income as wages, have to pay a higher tax rate than billionaires who simply live off of passive investment income. But I’m also committed to not raising taxes on any working or middle class Americans, who are already struggling with inflation and stagnant wages. The capital gains tax increase in Build Back Better would only affect families making over $450,000.
I also support proposals to have the very wealthy pay a fraction of their estimated capital gains taxes over time, rather than deferring all taxes until the asset is sold. This would accomplish many of the goals of a wealth tax on the ultra-wealthy, without adding great cost or complexity to the tax code for everyday Americans.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw a breakdown in this country’s supply chain. What would you propose to fix it?
Our supply chain has faced immense challenges the past few months, which has been a major driver of the inflation that’s hurting American families. Our main focus should be to return the supply chain for high-tech components such as electronics and pharmaceuticals to the United States and to the free democracies of the world. The supply chain for lower-tech labor-intensive goods like clothing and simple manufactured items should either be returned to the U.S. through automation, or if this is not feasible, returned to developing countries that are truly on the path to democracy and freedom. The fragility of our supply chains was amplified by tax and business policies that encouraged very low levels of inventory at all levels in the manufacturing supply chain – so-called “just-in-time” delivery. Rather than micromanaging the exact levels of inventory required in every area of business, the federal government should adopt tax polices that encourage holding somewhat larger levels of inventory than businesses currently do. I believe there should be a Federal role in maintaining stockpiles in some crucial areas like the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, maintaining stockpiles of PPE, and standby capacity for manufacturing vaccines and therapeutics. These will not be money-makers in normal times, but maintaining these as a public good is an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars. Excessive business consolidation in our distribution networks risks aggravating supply-chain crises, as monopolies or near-monopolies in manufacturing or distribution may be tempted to hold back supply or price-gouge during a supply chain crisis. We must actively enforce the anti-monopoly laws now on the books, and look skeptically at further business consolidation.
I was recently appointed to the Conference Committee for the America COMPETES Act; this group will be negotiating the final bill aimed at fixing our supply chain issues, competing with China, and investing in scientific research to make America an economic powerhouse for decades. As of now, America COMPETES includes $45 billion to strengthen our nation’s supply chains, including boosting domestic manufacturing and transportation. Additionally, I was proud to vote for the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which would alleviate the supply chain bottlenecks we’ve seen at many of our nation’s ports.
How would you bring back manufacturing jobs?
As someone who started a business that now provides over 1300 manufacturing jobs, and has kept those jobs in the Midwest, this issue has been important to me for over 45 years.
First, I believe America needs to focus on being a leader in high-tech manufacturing. An example of this is the advanced manufacturing of electric vehicles at the Lion Electric plant, which I helped recruit to Illinois. The Build Back Better Act, which I support, would make large investments in clean energy technology manufacturing, and create hundreds of thousands of good-paying manufacturing jobs. A key to success is the expansion of our STEM-trained workforce, and improving the immigration policies for high-skilled workers from abroad.
Secondly, we must recognize the reality that manufacturing of labor-intensive simple products, like clothing, is substantially cheaper to do abroad than at home. Bringing these jobs back to the U.S. is unlikely to provide large numbers of highly paid jobs, and any attempt to force these to be built in the U.S. will increase prices to consumers and drive inflation. However, we should be more proactive in restricting access to the U.S. markets to countries that do not respect basic norms of freedom, human rights, intellectual property, and democracy. This will cost US consumers very little, but have an enormous positive impact on the world.
What plans do you have to help the lower and middle class?
One of my main focuses in Congress is ensuring working and middle class families can achieve financial stability. Right now, I see the biggest threats to that as inflation, possible future waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the high cost of education. On the inflation front, I was recently appointed to be a member of the committee negotiating the final America COMPETES package, which would make substantial investments in our nation’s supply chain which has been a major driver of inflation. Additionally, as a member of the Financial Services Committee, I’ve been weighing in with the Federal Reserve on their inexpensive lending policies, which helped save us from a COVID-19 recession but are now fueling inflation. With regards to preventing further economic distress related to COVID-19, as a member of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, I’ve led and supported substantial investments in our nation’s vaccine and treatment research and distribution infrastructure; this way, any future waves can be more quickly addressed so we can avoid any painful economic shutdowns. I’ve also been a strong supporter of the Paycheck Protection Program throughout the pandemic, which gave loans to small businesses forced to temporarily close to ensure their employees continued to get paid. Finally, on the education affordability front, I’ve supported policies that incentivize states to re-invest in their public universities, which has been a major driver of the rising cost of college. I’ve also supported increasing the value of the Pell Grant and increasing protections for students against predatory lenders so that everyone, regardless of their family’s wealth, can get a college education if they so choose.
Do you support the idea that government can require immunizations against COVID-19 or other communicable diseases?
Vaccination against COVID-19 and other infections is critical because it doesn’t just protect the individual -- it protects members of the community around them. Constitutional history is clear that mandatory vaccination is an issue for the states, not the federal government to address, except in specific circumstances. For example, all state governments currently have vaccine requirements to attend public school, and I assume that as long as COVID vaccines continue to demonstrate the same safety and health benefits as other vaccines, that states will begin including them on the list of required vaccines.
I also favor limited requirements that benefit public health when there is an interstate or federal issue at stake. For instance, I support federal requirements for masks on airplanes in times of lethal pandemics, and I signed a letter to the FAA and Department of Transportation urging them to adopt mandatory vaccination policies on our nation’s planes and trains, as we do for international travel.
How do you feel about mask mandates?
Masks are an easy and effective way to keep yourself and those around you safe where COVID-19 can spread, and I support mask mandates in those circumstances. But, I also support our state and counties lifting their mask mandates as COVID-19 rates decrease. We must focus on getting the last segment of our population vaccinated so we can keep COVID-19 transmission low and keep mask mandates unnecessary.
Is America prepared for either another round of the current pandemic, or the next one?
We can never be perfectly prepared for something like COVID-19, but we are more prepared now than we have ever been in the past. Our government has invested in vaccine and treatment distribution networks that can now rapidly be stood up if another variant emerges. We’ve also robustly invested in research at the NIH and in partnership with private companies so we can quickly respond to new variants with updated vaccines, treatments, and public health guidance, if that becomes necessary.
I’m proud to serve on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis which is constantly examining how our country can be better prepared for future variants and pandemics. Areas that still need improving include our testing and reporting network, our ability to rapidly distribute fraud-free emergency assistance, and our ability to rapidly and scientifically test repurposed medicines (such as Ivermectin, Hydroxychloroquine, Vitamin D, Fluvoxamine, or others.)
Do you support new laws or regulations to safeguard people in the event of another pandemic?
I proudly serve on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which is now focusing on the lessons learned from this pandemic, and hearing from experts about how we can best prepare for the next one. I’ve also led efforts to increase NIH research into broader and more effective coronavirus vaccines and treatments, which would protect us against future variants of COVID-19 and possibly related viruses, like flu variants. Additionally, I am proud to cosponsor the Preventing Future Pandemics Act, which would make wildlife markets worldwide more sanitary; these markets are often where diseases can jump from animals to humans.
Should Medicare be expanded to include dental coverage for older Americans?
Yes. It’s critical for seniors to have access to affordable dental care because poor oral health has been linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pneumonia, and other life-threatening health issues.
What are the top two threats to our national security?
The most significant threats to our national security are the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the worldwide rise of autocrats like Vladimir Putin.
What should be done to eliminate them?
The Russian military’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine is a destabilizing threat to Europe and the entire international order. The United States, our NATO allies, and our international partners must hold Putin accountable for this unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation and the senseless death and destruction it will cause. Although we have no treaty-level obligation to defend Ukraine, we have a special moral duty to assist Ukraine because of its decision to give up its nuclear weapons at the end of the Cold War, in return for international assurances of its territorial integrity and I have been heartened by the solidarity NATO countries around the world have shown.
Throughout my time in Congress I have worked to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons. In 2015 I was proud to support the Iran Nuclear Deal and helped build support for it among my colleagues and I hope President Biden is able to reach a similar agreement. As the co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Nuclear Security Working Group, I work to educate my fellow members about the risks of nuclear proliferation and to push the US Government to adopt policies that reduce these threats.
What is your position on climate change and what should be done about it?
It’s beyond debate that climate change is real and largely caused by human activity. This is no longer a distant theoretical concept; we are already seeing the consequences with the spike in tornadoes and flooding in Illinois, the droughts out west, and the hurricanes out east. We must urgently transition to more renewable and zerocarbon energy sources to prevent further climate change.
Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar have made impressive cost progress in the last decade. However, if renewable energy is going to be more reliable, we need to invest in next generation energy storage technology. For several years I worked to pass the Better Energy Storage Technology or BEST Act which will create multiple public-private partnership projects to develop energy storage technology that is commercially viable and can adequately support the electrical grid. I am proud to say this bill became law in 2018.
What is your position on nuclear energy expansion?
As a scientist, I believe nuclear power can be made safe, and has been made safe in the United States. A typical nuclear reactor in Illinois is responsible for saving over 1,000 lives, due to the health and safety risks associated with the coal power plants they replaced. Waste disposal remains a technically possible but politically unsolved problem.
What is missing in the nuclear discussion is an accurate understanding of the costs of nuclear power compared to other low-carbon energy sources that could provide reliable baseload power. In the short term, it appears that low natural gas prices from hydro-fracturing technology may make the capital investment in new nuclear plants hard to justify – even at sites where the licensing and environmental permitting is already in place.
In the longer term, we should press ahead with advanced and inherently safe technologies such as High-Temperature Gas Reactors, small modular reactors, molten salt reactors, sodium cooled fast reactors, inertial and magnetically confined fusion energy, and accelerator-driven subcritical systems. I am proud that under our Democratic-controlled Congress we have finally begun funding prototypes of two of the most promising concepts. The balance of effort in these areas should be continually refined based on best available knowledge technical progress and projected economic feasibility.
Should America invest in other forms of renewable energy? Please explain.
Technological developments in hydro-fracturing underground formations have dramatically increased U.S. reserves of natural gas. This has encouraged a continuing shift from coal to natural gas that will persist over the next decade, which will have both economic and environmental benefits as long as the drilling is done in an environmentally responsible manner.
Ultimately, however, we cannot drill our way out of this crisis. We must continue to invest in clean energy alternatives like solar power, deep-drilled geothermal power, wind energy, and sensible biofuels. The recently established “ARPA-E” program – modeled on the DARPA program that produced the Internet and the GPS system – is already yielding promising new technologies such as grid-scale batteries that allow intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar to be used efficiently with variable consumer loads.
Should pregnant women have the right to get an abortion?
Yes. I believe that Roe v. Wade is and should remain a matter of settled law, and that women should decide what happens within their own bodies. It is a distressing commentary on the undemocratic nature and behavior of the U.S. Senate that Roe v. Wade is under serious threat, when polling shows that consistently since Roe v Wade was decided, less than 20 percent of Americans think abortion should be illegal across the board. This Congress, I was proud to co-sponsor and vote for the Women’s Health Protection Act, to put the right to an abortion in federal statute and prevent states from encroaching upon that right.
Is the immigration system a problem in this country? If so, what is your plan to fix it?
The United States is a proud nation of immigrants and we must adhere to the promise of the American Dream. Our diversity is what makes us strong, both economically and morally. Unfortunately, our immigration system is outdated, encourages actions outside the rule of law, and presents unnecessary challenges to immigrants who want to legally come to the United States.
I support the DREAM Act. I believe the 2013 Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill, which passed the Senate and would have passed the House if Republicans had allowed us to vote on it, was a good model for comprehensive immigration reform. It provided a strict but fair pathway to citizenship for those undocumented residents who were able to pay a fine, pay back-taxes, and pass a criminal background check.
As a scientist and businessman, I also feel that there is also a specific need for high-skill immigration reform, especially for students with STEM skills who have been trained for advanced degrees in the US but are being forced back home by our immigration policies.
Do American cities have a crime problem?
Violent crime is predominantly a rural problem in the US, with the top states (according to the FBI, as of 2020) being Alaska, New Mexico, Tennessee, Arkansas, Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, South Carolina, and South Dakota. Violent crime rates in the U.S. have dropped by a factor of two since it peaked around 1990. Nonetheless, some cities contain hot spots for violent crimes, predominantly in areas of high gang violence.
As the only Ph.D. physicist in Congress, I strongly believe that Congress should have the data it needs to make sound policy decisions to prevent gun violence and other crime. After decades of debate, I was proud to vote for the FY20 spending package which included federal funding for gun violence prevention research for the first time in decades.
If so, what is your suggestion to solve it?
Substance abuse is responsible for a large fraction of both property crime and violent crime. We are making great strides in treating addiction as a medically treatable condition rather than a criminal or moral failing. Scientific understanding of the nature of addiction is yielding to breakthroughs in medically assisted treatment (MAT). In Congress, I have been successfully advocating for increasing the deployment of MAT, and for further research into the biochemical nature of addiction and methods of reversing it.
It is also a moral shame that we have so many ways to prevent gun violence in this country, but we have a Congress who has failed to do anything to protect Americans. I support and have voted for numerous pieces of federal legislation to strengthen gun laws and keep weapons out of the hands of people who should not have them. Americans deserve to live, work, and play in communities, homes, schools, and workplaces that are safe from anyone who wants to turn them into places of violence. I support a ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines that are designed to kill as many people as possible in a short amount of time. We also need to support families and young people so they can achieve financial security without breaking the law, and increase community-oriented policing to work with -- not against -- communities to keep everyone safe.
Should police officers have qualified immunity in cases involving alleged excessive force or other misconduct?
Police who abuse their power and use excessive force against the people they’re supposed to protect should be liable for the harm they cause. An abusive police officer not only makes their communities less safe, but they make it harder and more dangerous for the upstanding members of the police to do their jobs. I was proud to cosponsor and vote for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which eliminates qualified immunity alongside other measures to make our communities safer, like banning lethal chokeholds and the transfer of military equipment to police forces.
Are there any limits to the Second Amendment?
Yes. It is obvious to most people that handheld weapons such as Javelin missiles, Stinger antiaircraft missiles, RPG’s, claymore antipersonnel mines, and backpack nukes are too lethal to be allowed in the possession of private citizens. At the time of our founding fathers, the line was drawn at muzzle loading cannons, which were not allowed to be in the possession of individuals because they could be used by a three-person team to kill as many as 10 people per minute. If we had preserved the founding fathers’ standards of lethality, this would allow individual ownership of hunting rifles and small capacity handguns, but not assault weapons or handguns with highcapacity magazines. I think the founding fathers got this standard of lethality about right.
The Second Amendment reads that people have the right to bear arms as part of a “well-regulated militia.” This means that while people do have some right to a gun, the government can still step in with common-sense restrictions to prevent gun violence. For instance, I support universal background checks, a ban on civilians owning military-grade weapons, requiring people to obtain meaningful firearm training, and requiring people with children in the house to keep their guns locked away.
Do you support any restrictions on gun purchases or other stricter gun control measures including citizens’ access to military style weaponry?
I cosponsored the Assault Weapons Ban Act, and oppose citizens having access to military-grade weapons. I also cosponsored and voted for the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, which requires anyone purchasing a gun to get a background check. This common-sense reform is supported by 94% of Americans, including 83% of gun owners. I also support other common-sense protections against gun violence, including the Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, better known as a ‘red flag law’, which allows someone to get a court order preventing a member of their household from getting a gun, if there’s reason to believe they may be a danger to themselves or others.
Illinois, along with many states across the country, have legalized marijuana making it legal for people to buy and use it. Marijuana, however, is still illegal at the federal level. Do you support legalizing marijuana nationally? Why or why not?
I support legalizing marijuana nationally, and I was proud to cosponsor and vote for the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, which does just that. The prohibition of marijuana, just like the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s, has done little more than create a black market for the drug, leaving generations of Americans saddled with a criminal record. The research is clear that marijuana, while not perfectly safe, has far fewer negative side effects or addiction risks than other drugs in its Schedule I class. Further, the criminalization of marijuana has prevented research into its medicinal properties, which have shown to help people with a variety of chronic health conditions. I have concerns about the effects of marijuana on young people, but I believe moving towards treating marijuana the way we treat alcohol is good public policy.
Did Joe Biden win the 2020 election?
Yes. He won 306 electoral votes in a free and fair election. He also won the majority of votes cast and a higher number of votes than any candidate in Presidential history.
Would you have voted to ratify his presidency?
Yes, I did vote to ratify his presidency.
What is your position on the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol?
January 6th was a deadly insurrection by an extremist group looking to overturn the outcome of a free and fair election. It was an attack on our democracy.
Was it an insurrection?
Yes. It was a deadly attack on our government in an attempt to overturn the result of a free and fair election. Had it succeeded in changing the result of the election, it would have been the first violent transition of power in our country’s history.
Should people convicted of a crime related to their participation in the riot ever be pardoned?
The pardon power was never meant to excuse the crimes of one’s political allies. It is meant to correct injustices that arise out of our legal system. I am a scientist, not a lawyer, but I have yet to see a case regarding the January 6th insurrection where that applies.
Under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, insurrectionists, or anyone who gave them aid or comfort, have a lifetime ban on holding office. This ban can be removed not through a pardon, but by a 2/3 vote of both the House and Senate. If given the chance, I would not vote to remove this ban.
Should voters be required to show an ID to vote?
I am not opposed to states requiring IDs to vote, as long as those ID’s are free and convenient to get, and that provisional ballots are provided for anyone turned away for failure to present an ID. The security of our elections, and the American people’s faith in those elections, is the most crucial issue facing our democracy today. The good news is that extensive studies have shown there is near-zero voter fraud from an individual person voting multiple times or on behalf of someone else. As the son of a scientist turned civil rights lawyer, I believe that we need to be careful not to put up barriers to voting in the name of preventing fraud that is exceedingly rare.
Would you, as a member of Congress, ever vote against certifying presidential electoral votes submitted by states’ official voting authorities?
Only if I had serious concerns about the integrity of a state’s election results, backed up by facts and data, would I consider voting against certifying a state’s electoral votes. The peaceful transition of power to the person elected in a free and fair election is the bedrock of our democracy.