ELKHART — With the U.S. economic recovery still fragile, Democratic U.S. House hopeful Joe Bock sees two possible means to help fix things — extending federal unemployment benefits and boosting the federal minimum wage.
The would-be lawmaker traveled to Elkhart County this week, the first of a series of planned stops to meet with economic development officials throughout the 2nd District, and visited The Elkhart Truth along the way. During the stop, he touched on economic issues, the federal shutdown of last October, bipartisan wrangling and more, taking a few jabs at Jackie Walorski, the freshman Republican incumbent.
“The main reason I’m running for Congress is the dysfunction of our government, and the tea party seems to be the main culprit,” said Bock. “Congresswoman Walorski is clearly a part of that group.”
More generally, he said a key focus of Congress should be in helping communities create high-quality, good-paying jobs. Boosting the minimum wage — and allowing temporary tax credits for small businesses to help them offset the resulting increase in costs — would be a step in that direction.
“I think the bottom line is, it hasn’t even kept up with inflation,” Bock said. Currently the minimum wage sits at $7.25 an hour though there’s been a push among some Democrats in Congress to increase it to $10.10.
Temporarily extending federal unemployment benefits, he also said, is “the least” lawmakers can do to help those still without work. Federal benefits expired Dec. 28 and U.S. Senate moves to extend them have so far floundered.
SINGLES OUT THE SHUTDOWN
Notably, Bock, an administrator and instructor at the University of Notre Dame, cited the lack of stability in the federal government, alluding to bipartisan bickering among lawmakers and the uncertainty that conveys to business operators.
“The U.S. government is not providing the kind of stability that is needed for businesses to be able to feel confident to reinvest in the way that they would if the government was more stable,” he said. The top thing the government needs to do is “get its act together well enough to where there is stability.”
Bock’s case in point in instability was the Oct. 1-16 federal government shutdown last year, spurred in part by GOP House members’ moves to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Walorski was part of the anti-Obamacare contingent in the House, and Bock — as on prior occasions — singled out her involvement, calling it “irresponsible” to try to shutdown the government in a bid “to make political points.”
A northern Indiana GOP leader responded, putting the focus on Bock. Bock, who moved to the South Bend area in 2007, served three terms in the Missouri House of Representatives in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
“Playing the blame game might score points in Missouri, but in Indiana, Hoosiers expect more,” Sam Frain, chairman of the Republican Party for the 2nd Congressional District, said in a statement. “Instead, Missouri state legislator Bock, an ardent supporter of Obamacare, should be explaining to the 108,000 Hoosiers who lost their health care why he supports a law that is hurting Hoosier families and small businesses.”
Bock has expressed support for some aspects of Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, and has said other provisions need to be fixed. The 108,000 figure was a reference to the estimated number of Hoosiers who lost their personal insurance, at least as it had existed, per Obamacare dictates requiring more comprehensive coverage.
DCCC ‘VERY SUPPORTIVE’
During his Elkhart County visit, Bock met with Dorinda Heiden-Guss, head of the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County; Kyle Hannon, head of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of commerce; and Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman.
“I wanted to start here because there’s been such a dramatic turnaround,” he said, alluding to the drop in the local unemployment rate as the economy has recovered. “People here seem to be doing a great job getting businesses expanding at a great pace after having really taken a hit.”
Fundraising in his effort is ratcheting up, Bock said, and he’s making his way around the district, which covers Elkhart and St. Joseph counties and all or parts of eight other north-central Indiana counties. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a national group that works on behalf of Democratic U.S. House candidates, has been “very supportive” of his candidacy.
“They’re part of the team. We talk with them,” Bock said.
On Friday, Jan. 24, Bock’s campaign said that he’d report raising over $200,000 as of last Dec. 31 when filing his next campaign finance report, due Jan. 31 with the Federal Elections Commission.
Dan Morrison of Elkhart County also plans to run as a Democrat for the U.S. House seat held by Walorski. Primary elections are on May 6 and the general election will be on Nov. 4.