Democrats eye Congress

Democrats eye Congress

May 20th, 2012 in Opinion Times

Democrats haven't had much of chance to win the 3rd Congressional District since Marilyn Lloyd retired in 1994, leaving the seat to Zach Wamp and ascendant Republicans. The decennial redistricting following the 2000 elections further solidified the GOP's grip. That prompted state and local Democratic strategists to effectively bail on the idea of putting money and effort behind Democratic candidates who tried to take on Wamp.

This time around, Democrats in the 3rd District merit more attention. Chuck Fleischmann's undistinguished first term is coming to an end. A new decennial redistricting that shifts boundaries in half a dozen counties is a bit more fair to Democrats, or at least close enough for Independents to control the outcome. And two very well-qualified candidates have stepped forward to compete for the Democratic nomination in the August 2 primary election.

One is Dr. Mary Headrick, a Union County primary care physician who has worked in clinics and hospitals across East Tennessee. The other Democratic candidate is Bill Taylor, of Chattanooga, a CPA with a masters in business administration who has served in notable positions in the health care industry in Nashville and here for 30 years.

Both are astute professionals, family-oriented parents, and civic advocates engaged in a range of other areas. They are big-picture thinkers on the health care issues that cloud the nation's fiscal future, and the citizens and patients whose health and lives are at stake in the outcome of the health care debates that have riven Congress.

They also are well versed and deeply interested in the broad issues of education, job creation, tax fairness, and infrastructure and governance policies that determine jobs and the quality of life for families and their children, the survival and growth of small businesses, and the course of the nation's future.

Either candidate would be a welcome and constructive reprieve from the dismal direction of their myopic Republican opponents. More about Taylor's campaign can be found at www.taylorforcongress.org. Dr. Headrick's website is mary@maryheadrick.com

Dr. Mary Headrick

Dr. Headrick's commitment to medicine and quality health care doesn't end with her office practice: she takes it into the field as both a volunteer physician and as an advocate for health care reform and the principles of affordable universal care. She advocates a non-profit framework for universal health care which would plow vast savings from administrative overhead and insurance-industry processes into actual care-giving and preventive care. The result would simultaneously improve all citizens' health and dramatically lower the nation's staggering health care costs.

That tracks with results in every other advanced industrialized nation in the world. They all provide quality universal care and better health care indices for all their citizens, at half-to-two-thirds of U.S. costs, as a percentage of national gross domestic product.

Among Dr. Headrick's other goals are tax fairness and job creation at home, and curbs on the commerce and tax policies that give incentives for corporations and ultra-rich CEOs to off-shore their jobs.

Dr. Headrick comes prepared for in-depth discussions on the vital statistics of the counties in the 3rd congressional district. She studies, for instance, the numbers of family-wage jobs, average family incomes, educational achievement, and the indices of hardship for so many ordinary families. Her discussions there revolve around the reversible outcomes that are measured in such figures as 85.4 percent of students in Hamilton County qualifying for free-and-reduced price school lunches; lagging high school graduation rates (85 percent) and the low community average of college graduates (26.9 percent); rates for teen pregnancies and food stamp use, and rising and falling job sectors -- and how to improve job creation and tax equity.

She advocates national policies that generate living-wage jobs, better health care and quality of life, and the general prosperity that would both reduce federal debt and reinforce the nation's long term capacity for employment, leadership, innovation and principled national goals. We haven't heard any of that presented, in learned detail or with convincing passion, from her Republican counterparts.

Bill Taylor

Raised and educated in Collegedale and Chattanooga, Taylor left in 1982 to become the chief financial officer of a Florida hospital. He subsequently held the position of CFO and vice president at Meharry Medical College in Nashville before returning here in 1994 to establish a business, Physician Practice Resources, Inc., in managing and consulting for physicians' groups. Those credentials explain his unique expertise in the subject of health-care spending and how to reduce it while also broadening coverage.

Taylor got into the 3rd District race out of frustration with the partisan stalemate that has impeded constructive action in Congress since the last election. He was especially discouraged by the refusal of Congress to honor the country's bond agreements and raise the debt ceiling to pay the bills "for money they've already spent." His goal is to help bring Congress back to a sensible working center that can get something done.

He sees hope for election by voters who call themselves Republicans but discover they are independents when they talk about the core issues of tax fairness, infrastructure needs and job creation, which can only be improved with bipartisan cooperation. His chief interests are jobs, education, health care and tax reform.

Given his bent for economics as an accountant and a businessman, Taylor reasonably believes there are only three ways for the federal government to boost job creation: direct hiring, using tax credits as incentives for businesses to hire, and by public spending for essential national infrastructure improvements and research to spur innovation. He would focus on the latter two to generate the spin-off hiring in the general economy for manufacturing and infrastructure improvements. More jobs, coupled with tax code reforms to close loopholes and tax avoidance, he says, would generate new revenue to reduce federal debt. He also emphasizes intense focus on education to drive worker productivity and innovation.