It’s not every day that 50 print industry executives gather for the opportunity to listen to and ask questions of an elected member of the U.S. House of Representatives -- which is what made August 22 so special. At the request of NPES, the association for suppliers of printing, publishing, and converting technologies, Illinois Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth paid a visit to digital press OEM Xeikon America in Itasca, IL, a Chicago suburb near O’Hare International Airport.
In his welcoming remarks, NPES treasurer and Xiekon America president Michael Ring was quick to point out the print-centric business demographics of the area. “Illinois’ 8th [congressional] district boasts more NPES members than anywhere else in the United States,” Ring stated, speaking of Duckworth’s constituency. The Congresswoman was well aware of the heavy manufacturing presence in the district, particularly the industrial parks in adjacent Elk Grove Village.
“We need to reinvest in manufacturing in the U.S.,” she told Ring and others in the audience, citing such bipartisan activity on Capitol Hill as the Manufacturing Reinvestment Account Act (MRAA) of 2013, which was introduced in April. MRAA seeks to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow manufacturing businesses to establish tax-free manufacturing reinvestment accounts to assist them in providing for new equipment, facilities, and workforce training.
Duckworth also addressed postal reform, explaining that senior citizens and people with disabilities (see sidebar) are the main reasons why she opposed a bill that would end front-door delivery. “The ‘ranking member’s’ bill included rate increases, which have now been taken away,” she added.
Healthcare’s Impact on Small Business
Duckworth said she supports President Obama’s Affordable Care Act but also acknowledged that it has its share of problems, including medical insurance coverage for children with pre-existing conditions as well as shift-work implications. “In sectors where there are large numbers of employees, such as in retail [environments], there is an outrageous amount of cost involved,” she said. Duckworth noted that she and her staff are investigating to see if similar concerns apply to manufacturing operations in printing plants. “We will work to fix what it [the Affordable Care Act] is doing to small businesses,” she said. “We need to either find solutions or make them [small businesses] exempt. She has signed a bill supporting 40 hours as being representative of a full-time work week, as opposed to 30 hours.
When asked what else Congress is doing to help small, entrepreneurial businesses, Duckworth stressed two other types of reform: tax and immigration. “We need to separate corporate taxes from individual income taxes,” she urged, citing bad examples of companies with big dollars residing in European banks. The IRS stands to gain more revenue in the long run because “zero percent of zero is zero,” Duckworth noted.
The Congresswoman supports comprehensive immigration reform, too. “We have 11 million people not participating [in the system] and [not] paying taxes. This problem needs to be fixed,” said Duckworth, who is the daughter of an Asian-immigrant mother and a military father whose family roots date back to the American Revolution. “If you’re going to become a [U.S.] citizen, I believe you should learn English,” the Congresswoman said emphatically.
For smaller Illinois print firms and related vendors with no lobby representation in Washington, D.C., and limited financial resources to devote to political campaign donations, Duckworth encouraged people to call her office to schedule some face time with her. “Just call me, and I will come out and visit you,” she urged. Contact her office at 847-413-1959 or online: http://duckworth.house.gov/
A Proud Patriot
Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth does not try to hide her prosthetic legs. In fact, the double-amputee flaunts them in a patriotic way, with American flag and olive-green camouflage designs below the knees. As one of the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Duckworth lost both legs when a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) missile hit the Blackhawk helicopter she was piloting nine years ago as a member of the Illinois Army National Guard. She also lost partial use of her right arm in the explosion and was awarded a Purple Heart for her combat injuries.
Duckworth, who declined a military medical retirement and continues to drill as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard, is the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Since her recovery, she has taken up scuba diving, surfing, skydiving, flies as a civilian pilot, and has completed several marathons.