Back to All Issues Page

An Economy That Works For All Americans

When it comes to the economy, Jim is working to ensure a fair and level playing field, while fostering growth in wages and productivity for families and businesses. We need an economy that reflects our values, not one that caters to the interests of the wealthy and well-connected. Millions of American families have been falling behind for decades, and desperately need a voice in Washington that will go to bat for them. Unfortunately, federal policymakers have failed families in the 14th district for far too long.

Investments to Grow Wages and Productivity

While the U.S. economy has recovered significantly from the Great Recession, that recovery has not delivered the growth in wages and job opportunities working Americans have expected. The productive capacity of the economy is far below what it should be due to lagging federal investment in programs that could help boost wages and create millions of new jobs, all while making the U.S. a better place to do business.

Expanding Infrastructure Investment
The United States’ infrastructure is in undeniable decline, going from what was once the envy of the world to ranking among the bottom compared to other developed countries. Congress should pass a version of the BRIDGE Act, which would establish a national infrastructure bank to help begin work on the backlog of needed infrastructure projects. Transportation experts say this currently amounts to over $2.2 trillion in work. The cost of failing to fund these infrastructure repairs and improvements will be drastic, both to the safety of Americans who depend on roads, rails, bridges, and dams every day, but also to the economy, which will suffer huge productivity losses as a result. Experts say that failing to invest in surface transportation alone is expected to cost over $3 trillion by the year 2040. Aggressively funding an infrastructure financing authority will close this gap in infrastructure investment and save the U.S. economy billions.


Increasing Research and Innovation - Keeping the U.S. as the World's Leader
The U.S. must invest in federal research with consistent, manageable increases in funding for scientific research in all fields through the agencies, including for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Energy (DOE) and many others. These investments yield life-saving and world-changing innovations necessary to to keep us safe, healthy, and secure. Failing to do so could result in an “innovation deficit” that would cost us our position as a world leader in research, and jeopardize these advances.


Protecting Social Security From Corporate and Establishment Attacks
Social Security is one of the most successful federal programs ever created, and many Republicans, including Representative Hultgren, are attempting to destroy it. Efforts to privatize Social Security will serve only the Wall Street lobbyists interested in profiting from the fees paid by seniors and working Americans saving for their well-earned retirement.

Contrary to statements made by corporate-funded lobbyists, politicians, and Washington think-tanks, Social Security is not going broke. The Social Security Trust Fund can pay out benefits in full until 2037. In fact, by simply eliminating the cap on income that is subject to payroll taxes, we can preserve the balance of the Trust Fund for decades to come – you can find more details on this plan in the section on Jim’s tax plan.

We must fight back against these malicious efforts to throw America’s seniors back into poverty by standing up for Social Security. If elected to Congress, Jim will oppose any and all cuts to Social Security, including raising the retirement age, adoption of “chained-CPI”, or any benefit cut. In all of the years that Social Security has existed, only three have resulted in a non-increase in cost of living standards used to decide the amount of benefits disbursed.

All three of those years have been since 2010. This means that in an environment where many seniors have lost their retirement savings due to Wall Street recklessness, the social security program has been less generous than at any point in recent history. For this reason, I believe we should expand Social Security benefits, so current and future retirees don’t have to live out their golden years in financial distress.


Climate Change & Green Economy

One of the greatest challenges we face is in climate change. I believe we already have the tools we need to combat the effects while also helping create jobs in the new green economy. Companies here in Illinois are already fighting to create good jobs in our communities, but they lack the support of legislators. A concrete step that we should take is to invest in a sustainable technologies financing program such as that proposed by the Sanders-Boxer climate legislation, while also eliminating the unfair and wasteful subsidies for the fossil fuel industry which cost almost six times the amount spent on sustainable energy technologies between 2002 and 2008. Americans can not afford to pad the pockets of fossil fuel companies while letting new job opportunities slip through our fingers and into the open hands of Chinese workers.

Related: Industrial Hemp


Allowing the Refinancing of Student Loans at Lower Interest Rates
In 2016, millions of young Americans now owe over $1.2 trillion in student loans, many bearing interest rates upwards of 8%. This is an unconscionable and unsustainable burden on America’s millennial generation, especially since these student loans are nearly impossible to discharge in bankruptcy. Allowing these Americans to refinance their federal student loans at lower rates will put millions of dollars back into the pockets of American consumers. It is immoral for the federal government to profit off of students, who are just doing their best to get ahead in a tough job market.


Allowing Medicare to Negotiate Drug Prices
Drug prices are out of control, and Medicare Part D costs are rising as a result. Congress should grant the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services the power to negotiate prices of prescription drugs, much like the Veterans Administration currently does. It is absurd that one agency of government pays one set of prices for drugs, while another agency pays far higher prices. A paper co-authored by the current HHS Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation offers a model for negotiating prices that would ensure the drug companies aren’t swindling Medicare, which would save the government billions.


A Tax Code That Works For Us

An effective tax plan that works for all Americans reduces the burden on working families, while ensuring that everyone is treated fairly. Reducing the number of loopholes and exceptions in the tax code is in everyone’s interest. The tax code should not be rewarding those who can hire consultants and experts to maximize their deductions. It should be simple and straightforward, rewarding those who play by the rules and work hard to provide for themselves and for their families.

Jim’s Small Business-Friendly Tax Plan
Jim’s plan simplifies existing tax rates and cuts taxes on small businesses, the backbone of this economy. He supports efforts to reduce the cost of tax compliance, so that employers can spend their valuable time and resources on running their business, and not jumping through unnecessary hoops. This is yet another way in which Jim hopes to reorient our economy towards real productivity and away from make-work tasks like tax compliance.

Taxable Income Current Tax Rate Jim’s Plan
0 to 50,000 15% 10%
50,000 to 75,000 $7,500 + 25% Of the amount over 50,000 20%
75,000 to 100,000 $13,750 + 34% Of the amount over 75,000 25%
100,000 to 335,000 $22,250 + 39% Of the amount over 100,000 25%
335,000 to 10,000,000 $113,900 + 34% Of the amount over 335,000 30%
10,000,000 to 15,000,000 $3,400,000 + 35% Of the amount over 10,000,000 35%
15,000,000 to 18,333,333 $5,150,000 + 38% Of the amount over 15,000,000 35%
18,333,333 and up 35% 37%


Jim’s “Work-for-Pay” Income Tax Plan
The current federal tax code imposes a heavy burden on working Americans. Jim’s plan increases the value of work, by allowing families to keep more of their hard earned money. As the table below demonstrates, Jim’s plan will reduce marginal income tax rates for the middle class, while asking the wealthy to pay slightly more.

Current Marginal Tax Rate Income Bracket (Using Head of Household Brackets) Jim’s Plan
10% $0 – $13,250 5%
15% $13,251 – $50,400 5%
25% $50,401 – $130,150 15%
28% $130,151 – $210,800 20%
33% $210,801 – $413,350 30%
35% $413,351 – $441,000 35%
39.6% $441,001+ 45%


Jim’s Capital Tax Plan
Jim’s plan for capital gains rewards long-term investments in the American economy while generating additional revenue to offset individual income tax reductions. Jim believes in the importance of a robust financial sector, but the backbone of the American economy is workers and small businesses, not wealthy bankers and moguls. This tax plan helps bring capital gains taxes more in line with taxes on labor, showing that investment and labor are both important components of this country’s economic engine.

Ordinary Income Tax Rate Current Long-Term Capital Gains Rate Current Short-term Capital Gains Rate Jim’s Plan
(Long-Term Rate)
Jim’s Plan
(Short-Term Rate)
10% 0% 10% 0% 5%
15% 0% 15% 0% 15%
25% 15% 25% 15% 25%
28% 15% 28% 20% 33%
33% 15% 33% 20% 37%
35% 15% 35% 25% 45%
39.6% 20% 39.6% 30% 49.6%


Wall Street Speculation Tax, or Financial Transactions Tax (FTT)
A financial transactions tax of 0.5% would be an instrumental tool to right-size the financial industry, reduce risk, and increase stability. Economic research on this tax shows it could raise anywhere from $176 billion to $350 billion per year. In addition to raising significant revenue, this tax would help protect the economy from dangerous “flash crashes” that pose a severe risk to working Americans.


Tax Inversions
Tax inversions are a morally unjustifiable effort by large corporations to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. When families are making hard choices to pay for food, medicine, and bills, these derelictions of civic responsibility are simply unacceptable. Jim would support efforts to crack down on tax inversions, when companies re-incorporate into foreign tax havens to reduce their taxes.


Payroll Taxes
Jim’s plan eliminates the payroll cap for incomes over $500,000 per year, to broaden the base of this tax and make it fairer and more evenly distributed. Additionally, we should pass a tax reduction 3.8% to provide immediate tax relief to working families for whom payroll taxes typically cost them more annually than their federal income taxes, while increasing the balance of the Trust Fund by at least $35 billion annually. It is simply wrong for billionaires to pay a lower percentage of their income in payroll taxes than kindergarten teachers.


Reducing the Burden of Tax Filing
Filing taxes is rightfully considered one of the most dreaded and time consuming tasks for families every year, but it does not have to be this way. Congress should consider what is best for the American people and not the big tax-preparing corporations interested in profiting off of the needlessly confusing tax code. This means adopting auto-populated returns – a voluntary program that would allow the IRS to send taxpayers their required forms with the likely fields they would need to fill out already completed for them, if they would like. This would save American taxpayers time, money, and the yearly stress of filling out confusing tax forms.


Rebuilding the Estate Tax
Jim believes that the estate tax is one of the fairest, and most American taxes ever devised. This country was founded on the principles of hard work and self sufficiency, in deliberate contrast to the dynasties and inherited wealth that plagued old Europe. Therefore, the best way to make sure America remains the land of opportunity is to impose significant taxes on large estates, so our nation’s wealth does not become concentrated among a handful of powerful families.

Over the years, Congress has whittled down the estate tax to almost nothing. Currently, only the very wealthiest estates pay the estate tax because it is levied only on the portion of an estate’s value that exceeds a specified exemption level, which is now set at $5.43 million per person (effectively $10.86 million per married couple) in 2015. Only the estates of the wealthiest 0.2 percent of Americans — roughly 2 out of every 1,000 people who die — owe any estate tax at all. This is because of very high exemption amount, which has jumped from $650,000 per person in 2001 to $5.43 million per person in 2015.

To make matters worse, the effective tax rate — that is, the share of the estate’s value that was actually paid in taxes — was just 16.6%, on average, according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center (TPC), even though the top rate is actually 40%. This is because many wealthy estates use attorneys and financial advisers to create and take advantage of many loopholes in the tax code to shelter much of their estate value from taxation. As your Representative, Jim would work hard to close as many of these loopholes as possible, and undo the cuts to the estate tax included in the Bush tax cuts.


Regulation and Trade

The American economy must be built on fairness, with regulations that do enough to protect consumers and workers but also remain simple and straightforward, so that businesses aren’t too burdened with the cost of compliance. A government that effectively regulates does as little as possible to intrude on the lives and operations of people and businesses, but does not hesitate to act in cases of abuse.

Slashing Corporate-Favored Regulations and Allowing the Importation and Re-Importation of Cheaper Prescription Drugs
The U.S. has some of the highest drug prices in the world. Celebrex, for example, is a drug commonly used to treat arthritis pain and costs over $200 in the United States but only $50 in Canada. We should pass the Personal Drug Importation Fairness Act to allow Americans access to affordable drugs imported and re-imported from countries with strong safety standards. People shouldn’t have to choose between their health or paying for groceries, and Jim will fight in Washington to make sure they don’t have to.


Giving Americans a Raise
Despite record profits for big financial firms, most American families have yet to receive any financial benefit from those profits. We should encourage states to raise the minimum wage to meet their residents’ increasing cost of living, while giving hardworking families a raise they badly need and richly deserve.


Dodd-Frank, CFPB, Financial Regulations, and Protecting American Consumers
Jim supports the improvements made by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank). Although this critical law is barely 6 years old, it is already under assault from Congressional Republicans and their Wall Street lobbyist friends who are seeking to roll-back many crucial provisions. For example, Title 10 of the Dodd-Frank Act created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which is a favorite target for Republicans. So far, this new federal agency has returned over $11 billion to American consumers who have been defrauded, ripped off, and deceived by banks, credit card companies, mortgage servicers, debt collectors, payday lenders, and other unscrupulous financial institutions. Through its tough new regulations and enforcement actions, the CFPB is working diligently to clean up the marketplace for consumer financial products in the U.S., and I will support their efforts in any way I can. My opponent on the other hand, has repeatedly criticized this agency from his position on the House Financial Services Committee. Representative Hultgren has voted for bills to weaken, tie down, and hamstring this agency to prevent it from adequately protecting America’s consumers.

When Wall Street’s careless behavior sent the global economy into a crisis, the US government acted forcefully and immediately to bail them out – Americans need protection and a strong discipline towards Wall Street to prevent a similar bailout from happening again.


A Federal Reserve That Works For Us
The Federal Reserve System is one of the most powerful institutions in the United States today. As such, it should clearly held accountable for its actions and be reformed to allow more input from the public.

Jim believes that examiners and supervisory staff of the Regional Federal Reserve Banks should instead become employees of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Currently, examiners are employees of the Reserve banks, which have supervised entities as shareholders and board members. Without necessarily changing the work stations of exam/supervisory staff, shifting their employment to the Board would reduce the potential for regulatory capture or conflict of interest, which would help improve the ability of the Federal Reserve to more impartially regulate the private banks in its jurisdiction and prevent future banking crises like the one that started the 07-08 crash.

Jim also strongly supports legislation introduced by Senator Jack Reed, which would require Presidential nomination and Senate confirmation of the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY). Currently, only the members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors are subject to this nomination and confirmation. Jim believes that since the FRBNY is the closest to the Board of Governors in power and responsibility, it should be overseen as such. This additional opportunity for public input is necessary because the President of the FRBNY is the only one of the 12 Reserve Bank presidents who has a permanent voting seat on the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). Further, since the FRBNY executes the monetary policy directives of the FOMC and supervises many of the largest bank holding companies in the world which are located in its New York district, its responsibilities are far higher than any of the other 11 Reserve Banks.


Criminally Prosecuting Financial Fraud
While Jim supports the regulatory reforms made by the Obama Administration, there’s no doubt that the administration has fallen short of adequately prosecuting the financial frauds the led to the financial crisis. While the regulatory agencies have successfully prosecuted civil cases that have brought several billion dollars in settlements, there have been astonishingly few criminal prosecutions. While fines and fees are important tools, big banks often see these penalties as simply the cost of doing business. These strategies fall woefully short of actually changing behavior in the financial sector, and need to be supplemented with criminal prosecution. If the U.S. government can throw thousands of people in prison for smoking marijuana, surely they can throw a few dozen bankers in jail for the fraudulent activity that cost the global economy tens of trillions of dollars and bankrupted countless thousands of families.

There is no debating that criminal activity occurred at all stages of the mortgage pipeline during the bubble years, all the way from the lowliest mortgage originators, to the largest Wall Street banks, which knowingly securitized and sold billions of dollars of these bad mortgages to investors around the world. We must forcefully urge the US Department of Justice to begin criminal prosecutions of these illegal behaviors. In the years after the Savings and Loan debacle of the 1980s and 1990s, the US government made 30,000 criminal referrals, which produced over 1,000 felony convictions by the Department of Justice. But in the wake of the recent financial crisis, which was at least 70 times more damaging, the US government has failed to make any significant arrests and prosecutions.


Stopping Predatory Payday Lenders
Jim supports the CFPB’s efforts to regulate payday lenders at the federal level. The payday lending industry, which has more physical locations than Starbucks, runs on a model of financial exploitation by trapping desperate borrowers into debt traps that they have difficulty repaying. By charging interest rates in excess of 300% APR, these lenders often do much more harm than good, and often deliberately target low-income and minority neighborhoods. Therefore, Jim supports strong consumer protections for payday lenders, as well as making it easier for small banks and credit unions to serve these borrowers.

Millions of Americans, especially those in rural and low income areas, suffer from lack of access to the banking system, These Americans often lack access to basic insured deposit account services as well as consumer credit. That’s why Jim would explore proposals from the USPS Inspector General and Senator Elizabeth Warren that would allow US Post Offices to provide basic banking services in these underserved areas, so our fellow American’s do not have to rely on expensive check cashers and payday lenders to conduct basic financial services. Expanding access to safe, low cost Postal Banking will help the most economically vulnerable Americans build their savings, improve their credit, and bolster their financial security.


Democracy in the Workplace
In order to rebuild America’s middle class, we need to rebuild our nation’s long tradition of labor organizing and standing up for the right to decent pay and fair treatment. One of the best ways to do this is to pass so called ‘card-check’ legislation, which would make the process of forming and joining labor unions much easier for our nation’s workers. That’s why Jim would support a modern version of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) with card check and first contract arbitration clauses. A card check provision would make it much easier for newer unions to be formed and recognized by the employer, and a first contract arbitration clause would ensure that any further organizational disputes are officially resolved in a timely manner. These provisions would help put workers on an equal playing field with management, which often has the upper hand during labor disputes.


Defending Rights of Job-Seekers
Credit agencies are unaccountable to the public, and serve the interests of financial institutions who depend on their product. As such, it is unfair for prospective workers undergoing rigorous application processes to face credit checks by employers when rampant inaccuracy, no-fault debts (such as crushing medical bills), and unaccountable appeals processes to correct errors exist within the reports furnished by these agencies. Furthermore, credit scores have not been shown to have a verifiable correlation to job performance. Jim supports the Equal Employment for All Act to accomplish the goal of restricting employers from requesting credit reports for potential hires.


Preventing States from Restricting Municipal Broadband Networks
Expanding internet access and increasing bandwidth for American consumers is a productivity-enhancing move that would spur innovation and help the U.S. catch up to the rest of the developed world in internet speed. In the 21st century, internet access is a requirement for success in the economy, not a luxury. Big industry lobbyists for broadband internet providers have successfully advocated for innovation and job-killing regulations and bans that prevent the growth of these networks. Jim supports passing a federal law guaranteeing the right of municipalities, counties, regional authorities, and states to create broadband networks as needed.


Legalization of Cannabis and Hemp for Manufacturing
Prohibition serves only one group – illegal drug cartels. Jim believes in regulation and legalization for recreational, private use so that we can collect a modest tax to support the people of Illinois, not foreign drug lords. Additionally, the growth and production of industrial hemp support manufacturing and family farms with a renewable resource source to help businesses in Illinois compete in a global market already embracing hemp as a low-cost resource.


Back to All Issues Page