EN: What are your ideas on Minnesota health policy and how do they differ from what everyone else is saying?
JS: Following the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) in Minnesota we have seen better than expected numbers in terms of people getting insurance through the MNSure program and a greater than expected drop in the number of uninsured people – a fall of just over 40%.
We need to continue the program to encourage further enrollment of people who need insurance and further reductions in lack of insurance, but we also need to move ahead in working on cost and quality of health care.
Implementation of these programs, along with quality assurance programs and fixing remaining glitches in the operating system purchased from private information technology companies, would put Minnesota in the forefront of providing maximum access to health care with best control of cost and quality.
EN: What the public wants and what is in their best interest can often be at odds with one another. How will you deal with that when you are in office?
JS: Unfortunately, the public often imagines that government can provide them with what they want and need at no cost to themselves and at no compromise of their own lives.
In order for people to understand this they must be well informed. Unfortunately, people are deluged with false information about these issues by news media due to either poor or dishonest reporting and the propaganda of the wealthy people who benefit greatly from low taxes. In order to be a leader, I will need to be an educator. Fortunately, that has been my career for the last 20 years.
EN: So much of politics involves compromise. How do you feel about some of the compromises you see being made in government today?
JS: Compromise is the essence of political leadership. The Affordable Care Act represents a good example, with Democrats developing a program based primarily on the use of private insurance, following a model developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation and implemented by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. Conservatives are dissatisfied because it is a government run program, progressives are unhappy because it is dependent on private for-profit businesses. But over 14 million people are now insured, at least 8 million of whom were previously uninsured. Costs of health care are rising more slowly than ever in the last four decades, and Medicare has seen its financial integrity improved to make it solvent for at least two decades more than was anticipated before the program.
Progress is evolutionary in our system, not revolutionary. In the words of Mick Jagger, you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.
As a representative, I will be a pragmatist, working for the goals I think are important but moving forward through the possible, rather than holding out for the perfect.
EN: What would you consider to be “adequate funding” for public education? Where are the shortages occurring and why?
EN: Where do you see unfairness occurring in our state tax policy and how do you hope to address this?
JS: The primary unfairness is lack of progressivity – the principle that people with high incomes should carry more of the tax burden than low income people. The DFL improved that during the last legislative session, but unfortunately we still have a system where low income people often pay a larger share of their income in taxes – income tax, sales tax, property tax, gasoline tax, and so on – than the wealthy. That needs to be fixed. Families in higher income brackets can afford to pay a larger percentage without suffering, lower and middle income people are more likely to put the money they have directly back into the economy by buying goods and services that drive the economy, and pure fairness requires that a billionaire should pay a higher tax rate than his secretary, not the other way around.
The wealthy are actually the greatest beneficiaries of government spending, receiving personal and business benefits that help make them successful. I just saw and article that noted that the federal government spends $15 billion a year on doctors’ training, reducing the amount they have to pay themselves, with the states pretty much doubling that amount. I do not think that is a bad thing – we need doctors. But I do think that doctors who benefit from that government largess should be willing to pay a fair tax when they finish training and earn six and even seven figure incomes.
EN: Who are you running against?
JS: My opponent in this election is Becky Hall, the endorsed Republican candidate and a founder and major leader of the Tea Party in Duluth.
There is a third party candidate, Kristine Osbakken, a Green Party member running on the premise that there is no significant difference between the DFL and the GOP. That premise was last tested in 2000, when a strong Green Party candidacy provided the margin of victory for George W. Bush over Al Gore. Bush went on to start wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, create the Homeland Security apparatus, gut environmental and labor protections, and appoint a Supreme Court that has devastated the rights of common people in favor of the wealthy and business. Al Gore went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming.
There is a huge difference between the DFL and the GOP, and between me and my Tea Party opponent.
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