GALESBURG–On his deathbed after the foreclosure of their family home, Phil Hare’s father looked him in the eye and said, “Keep another family from going through what we went through.” Hare, the incumbent U.S. Representative from the 17th Congressional District, said this was his motivation for going into politics.
“When I see an injustice, I jump all over it. I just think of how hard it was on my father after the foreclosure,” Rep. Hare said.
“He’s a prideful guy so it hit him hard. I’m a common guy who just wants to make a difference for the rest of the people.”
As a Galesburg native and father of two, Hare, 59, is familiar with the economic worries and job competition in this area. Before 2006, when he won the Congressional seat of his retiring boss, Lane Evans, he had worked for almost 24 years as Evan’s district director. Hare is unopposed now in his bid for a second term. Hare says that education is the first priority in providing more opportunities.
“Education is an investment, not an expenditure,” he said. “I believe that no matter what your course of study is, every major can contribute to the community. When students graduate, they can use their skills to start new businesses, or provide information on how to create more jobs right here in Galesburg. I’d like to use Knox College and Carl Sandburg as a way to better train adults in the area. If we increase federal funding for educational institutions I believe we would see a huge increase in the overall quality of Galesburg and a rise in the number of jobs available.”
As a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Hare is working towards providing better health care for veterans. Part of his plan includes speeding up the rate at their which medical claims are filed.
“There are 800 to 7,000 backed up disability claims out there,” he said. “We are trying to start payment for those immediately. It won’t cost more money for the federal government, and vets can start receiving care right away.”
In addition to ensuring that the physical health of veterans is being handled efficiently, Hare is also concerned with the mental health of our soldiers.
“We have over 1,000 veterans a month who take their lives,” he said. “That’s a big number. My proposal is to start a vet to vet program; a phone hotline where veterans can call in and speak to other veterans. They can build a rapport with another person and encourage them. Sure, these people aren’t trained psychologists, but sometimes it’s better talking with someone who has been in the exact same place as you. They have a hotline like this in Minnesota and the veteran suicides decreased by 80 percent. I think it’s something that could definitely work.”
In addition to his work with veterans, Hare is hoping to create safe and equal work environments for manual laborers.
“Throughout my time in congress there have been three major mining disasters,” he said. “I think that’s three too many. People have the right to go to work and come home safely. I don’t think that’s asking too much. There are 47 million people in the United States without health care. I want to increase more outpatient claims, and increase the quality of life for all workers.”
Hare also believes the difference in the rate of pay between genders in the work place is unfair. When he was young, he saw how his family struggled with his mother only making $1 an hour working at the New York Store. After graduating from Black Hawk College in Moline, working at the Seaford Clothing in Rock Island for 13 years, and serving as the president of the UNITE HERE local 617 and a union leader, Hare garnered experience fighting for workplace equality.
“If a woman does the same amount of work as a man, she should get paid the same. It’s ridiculous that this is still happening in today’s world. I just think the pay difference is wrong.”
With the support of his wife, Beckie, and two children, Lou and Amy, Hare traveled throughout the Midwest last week promoting his views on improving the lives of those around him.
“I love my job,” he said. “They tell you when you’re new you should only focus on two main issues, but I have so many great ideas that will improve our community. It’s about helping people one day at a time, and that’s something I’m very passionate about.”