I believe our forefathers, when they created our government, wanted Congressional Representatives to speak for the people in their District. A Congressional Representative must be independent and exercise good judgment in voting for the legislation that comes before Congress. That means at times voting against their own political party leaders and resisting the influence of special interests. A Congressional Representative must listen to all the people in their District and not consistently give preference to a single minority segment of that District.
Taxes and Discrimination Against the Middle Class
Over the last 25 years, Congress at the behest of Wall Street has shifted the tax burden from people who make their income from investments to the working men and women of the middle class. First, Congress reduced the tax rate on capital gains to 15% no matter how much income is earned. Then, Congress, as part of the Bush tax cuts, reduced the tax on dividends to 15%. This means people who never worked a day in their life, but inherited their wealth from their family, are paying taxes on what may be millions of dollars per year in investment income at 15% while working men and women who earn more than $34,500 are paying income taxes at the rate of 25% or more on earnings over $34,500. We need to restore equality to the working people of the middle class.
One of my highest priorities is saving Social Security as we know it today. Social Security as originally created was properly funded to last into the foreseeable future. However, Congressional borrowing from the Social Security Trust Fund and the aging population has put pressure on the ability of the fund to pay benefits. The Ryan Plan, presently advocated by many current members of Congress, would allow seniors to gamble away their Social Security on the stock market. We absolutely cannot do that. Social Security is funded through a payroll tax that is capped presently at approximately $110,000 of an employee's earnings (no further payroll tax is assessed); to save Social Security in its present form, we do not need to reduce benefits or increase the payroll tax, we simply need to raise the cap.
I believe that our Congressional Representatives should not be career politicians that clog up progress in Washington. Members of Congress should represent the people of their District, but when they stay too long, they get comfortable and stop listening. I believe that 4 two-year terms (8 years total) should be the limit and I pledge not to stay in Congress any longer than that. Anything more than 8 years encourages the Representative to sit back and simply collect pay checks.
The Northern Counties in District 1 receive far less than the national average for Federal spending. This spending includes all Federal payments that end up in the District including money for education, veterans, and family farms. We have in the District a persistent unemployment rate that far exceeds the national average and I believe there is a direct correlation between the high unemployment rate and the fact that the District does not get back its fair share of our tax dollars. If for instance Shasta and Butte Counties received just average Federal spending for rural counties, each of these Counties would receive hundreds of millions dollars more per year. That much more money flowing through these Counties should create enough new jobs to cut the unemployment rate there in half.
I supported the Senate Health Care Bill and its reconciliation, even though it contained many flaws. Something had to be done and this was the best that could be accomplished given the existing political environment. Improvements will need to be made in the future.
On Obamacare: I believe the Supreme Court got it right in their decision to uphold the Act. I supported the Act before it was passed by Congress, not because it was perfect, but it at least accomplished some things that needed to be done:
1. It allowed people with pre-existing conditions to buy health insurance. 2. It allowed adult children to stay on their parents’ plan longer. 3. It guaranteed that insurance companies use at least 80% of premiums on patient benefits. 4. It eliminates the cap on maximum benefits an insurance company is required to pay. 5. It eliminates health insurance discrimination against women. 6. It lowers seniors’ prescription drug costs. 7. It provides security to hard-working middle-class workers that they will have health care insurance. 8. It will cut Federal costs by $84 Billion according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
We do not need to go backwards and rehash the old political fight. We need to get to work fixing the law’s problems and adding provisions to keep health care costs down, rather than starting all over from scratch.
Regulation and Executive Pay
The long push for deregulation in the last decade has proven itself to be a total failure. This is particularly apparent from the economic meltdown in 2008 but should have been foreseen by simply looking back at history before the great depression. However, as adamant as I am about the critical need of government regulation of large companies, especially those deemed too big to fail, I am a strong proponent of staying away from regulating small businesses. Small businesses are the lifeblood of the U.S. economy, the primary source of innovation, and the main hope to create new jobs and lead us out of our present economic problems.
As an attorney with a Master's Degree in Taxation and who regularly advises clients of tax consequences, I prefer reform of excessive executive pay, which I believe to be one of the main causes of the recent economic meltdown. This can be done through increased taxation of unconscionable bonuses which have been designed to encourage employees who only look at the short term to justify their excessive compensation. Bonuses should be paid based on long term performance, rewarding decisions that are good for the long term health of the company and, in turn, the long term health of the nation. One way this can be achieved is to tax executive pay in excess of $1 Million per year at a rate well above 50%. However, I would also bring back income averaging that once was contained in the Internal Revenue Code, so that someone who works years for the success of their project and realizes the gain or profit in a single year should be able to average such amount over a minimum of 5 years so that in such cases the much higher tax rate can be avoided.
Rights and Privileges
GUN CONTROL: I am a strong proponent of the right to bear arms. Living in a small community with some people who violently dislike some of the legal cases I have handled for clients over the years, I have come to realize I need to be able to protect myself. If I called 911 from my house in the middle of the night, it is unlikely that any help would arrive for more than an hour. I have a shot gun that I keep handy. At the same time I also realize that there are people who should not be allowed to have guns such as convicted felons and others who have been legally found to have violent tendencies.
THE RIGHT OF A WOMAN TO CHOOSE: I firmly believe in the quote by Bill Clinton, “Abortion should be safe and legal, but rare.” I dislike abortions and if a woman came to me for advice, I would recommend any of a number of good alternatives to an abortion. But women have had a constitutional right to choose for many years, and I do not want to see any right taken away from a group of people, especially those who have not abused the right. I believe that a good education is the best way of avoiding unwanted pregnancies.
Conservation and the Environment
I advocate for clean water, clean air, and clean energy. I believe clean and non-dangerous nuclear fusion without nuclear waste is just around the corner based on reports coming from the USA lab in Livermore. Because nuclear fission reactors take at least 10 years to build commercially, I oppose this type of nuclear expansion in the USA because I believe fusion reactors will be commercially available in that time frame. I advocate for clean energy expansion now as a temporary solution until fusion becomes available and believe it will create jobs most quickly.
Finally, conservation of Northern California water and its aquifers are of my highest priorities.
Other than times of severe economic recession or during national disasters, I believe the Federal Government should pay for its programs as the costs are incurred. Furthermore the national debt should be required to be paid down during periods of economic prosperity. Interest alone on the national debt is capable of dragging the economy down and because much of the debt is financed by foreign countries, it puts the U.S. at risk of being held hostage to the whims of those foreign nations. After the financial recovery occurs, I believe any wars should be financed primarily at the time the costs are occurring.
If elected, I pledge to take no Congressional salary increases until the budget is balanced.
The Death Penalty
I believe in the death penalty but with reservations. First no one should be put to death if there is any doubt that the person committed a serious crime; DNA has repeatedly shown that some convictions should never have occurred. Secondly, I am bothered by the cost of putting someone to death; it is my understanding in California it is much more expensive to put someone to death than to jail the person in Prison for their lifetime.
I support a continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan because it is important to be in a position to take action if necessary against Pakistan, who has an unstable government, and not to mention, nuclear weapons. Our presence in Afghanistan exerts influence on Pakistan, which keeps that government to some extent in line. However, I do not believe the war in Afghanistan will ever be won as we think of winning wars traditionally. I do not support unrestricted spending on that war or the risking of American lives. I believe we should withdraw most ground troops soon and maintain only support and intelligence forces there.
I also pledge to do all that is possible to slow any future race to war without adequate analysis of the cost and probable benefit to the U.S. I am convinced that Congress failed to do this in its decision to declare war in Iraq resulting in costs, both human and financial, that far outweighed any possible benefits.
Although I may have disagreed with strategy in Iraq, I have never doubted the dedication and quality of our troops. We need to support our troops when they return from the war zone including treating their physical and mental injuries as well as educating them so they will be successful and productive citizens. I support reform of Veteran's Administration, as the length of time it takes to process claims is unacceptably long.
Balancing the Budget
I believe our national deficit can be reduced without raising taxes or cutting essential programs. Here’s how: First, we need to collect the taxes that are owed under present tax law. The tax gap – the amount owed in taxes versus the amount collected – is currently about $300 billion a year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Second, we must close the loopholes that benefit large multinational companies at the expense of American workers. These tax loopholes actually provide rewards for shutting down U.S. factories.
The amount of uncollected taxes skyrocketed beginning in the late 1990s -- a direct result of Congress slashing the IRS’s enforcement budget. The enforcement division lost 36 percent of their staff between 1995 and 2003. Then, the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 prohibited the IRS from conducting research on tax evasion. In other words, law enforcement was prohibited from keeping up with schemes to defraud our government. During this time the number of audits on poor Americans increased, and yet audits on those who make more than $100,000 per year dropped by 56 percent.
As for the loopholes, here’s just one example: When U.S. multinational companies save money by closing an American plant and moving production overseas, they not only take away American workers’ jobs, they get a tax benefit. They can defer paying taxes on profits until they repatriate those profits to the U.S., which they may never do. Companies remaining in the U.S. get no such favors.
If only 75 percent of the uncollected taxes and funds lost through loopholes had been recovered each year, they would have made up for the annual deficits until the onset of the 2008 financial crisis. The deficit this year will be much larger -- well over a trillion dollars -- largely the result of unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush tax cuts, and the recession, including the drop in tax receipts, the bank bailout expenses, increased unemployment payments, tax cuts in the stimulus bill, and other economic recovery spending.
Each annual deficit adds to the national debt. The national debt will represent 62 percent of the nation’s economy by the end of this year, the highest percentage since just after World War II. That generation solved its problem by maintaining a top marginal tax rate of 91 percent until 1963, the period now viewed as the golden age of the growing American middle class. The current top rate is 35 percent. I do not advocate any income tax increases except on those making over $1 million per year, but at the very least we must collect the taxes that we are owed.
Balancing the budget is so important to me that I have pledged not to take any yearly Congressional pay raises until the budget is balanced
No Voting Pledges
As a Congressional candidate I am often approached by various well-meaning special interest groups who urge me to pledge that if elected I will vote their way. These pledges have become common for legislators in Washington. It is tempting to sign some of the pledges I do support. But here is the one promise I will make: I will sign no pledge that will force me to prejudge any proposal. A representative to the U.S. Congress should be fair and impartial in looking at any proposed legislation.
Legislators traditionally have gotten important bills passed by making compromises that give up something less important to get something much more important. Any legislator who has signed a pledge is unable to compromise, which leads to gridlock. This is one of the greatest problems in Washington today: legislators have lost their ability to find middle ground with members of the opposite party. As a moderate candidate who refuses to tie my own hands with grandstanding pledges I will be able to work in a bipartisan fashion for the good of all my constituents.
We can all agree that no one wants higher taxes, and any candidate can look good by signing a pledge against ever raising your taxes. But there is currently a pledge that has backfired and is costing us jobs! We have a tax loophole that actually rewards companies for moving our jobs from the U.S. overseas to China and India. Those who wrote the “No New Taxes Pledge” now say that removing the tax advantage of moving jobs overseas is a tax increase. Those who signed that pledge now have their hands tied and are helpless to close the loophole. We can all agree that keeping jobs in the U.S in the current financial crisis is more important than giving corporations a tax break.
I will make no pledge to any special interest group or political party. I will not judge any legislation until it is in front of me. I will make legislative decisions based solely on what is best for my people in my district.
I will, however, make personal pledges to you, the voters of the First District: I pledge to abide by self-imposed term limits and not remain in office longer than 8 years. I pledge to limit my own pay and refuse the annual pay raise until Congress stops its runaway spending and balances the federal budget. These pledges I make will only affect me personally, and only serve you better in Washington.
I believe one way to help balance the budget is to make targeted cuts in defense spending. Washington has avoided the politically unpopular move of putting more troops on the ground. Instead, the Department of Defense pays private contractors 10 times the amount our troops would make for traditionally military tasks from food preparation to repairing and maintaining aircraft. Private mercenaries working for companies like Blackwater also charge astronomical security fees to protect civil servants working overseas. It is time we cut costs, stop paying exorbitant fees to private contractors, and return this work to our own soldiers.
This message is authorized and paid for by Jim Reed for Congress. 11 C.F.R. §110.11 (2 U.S.C. 441d)