Finally, I get a chance to reflect on Monday’s townhall meeting with a suitable multimedia presentation.
On Monday our Congressman, Andy Harris, culminated a day spent on the Lower Shore with a public townhall meeting at Chef Fred’s in Salisbury. Several dozen constituents took advantage of the opportunity to ask questions of Andy and otherwise say their piece.
His presentation began with a PowerPoint show which illustrated his main point of the evening: we have been “misled” for 20 to 30 years financially. Slides that showed the “reckless spending spree,” “tidal wave of debt,” “what drives our debt?,” and a comparison between the state we currently find ourselves in and the one in Greece before the EU bailout dominated his early remarks. One particularly interesting (and troubling) statistic: the foreign ownership that was just 5% back in 1970 is now 47 percent, with China the largest holder.
Against that stark backdrop, Harris told the group the aim of the House was to bring that debt under control. We “can’t be competitive with that amount of foreign debt,” he added. Their three-pronged approach was to trim spending without raising taxes – “increasing taxes is not the solution,” Andy said – and cutting regulation to “common sense” levels.
However, those cuts couldn’t just slash entitlement programs. “We have to establish a Social Security and Medicare system that’s viable,” stated Andy.
This took about the first fifteen to twenty minutes of the meeting. Most of the next two hours were spent answering questions on a number of subjects: among them the Federal Reserve, jobs and the economy, education, the PATRIOT Act, the Fourteenth Amendment, energy policy, and Medicare.
Perhaps my favorite question of the group was the one on education, which was asked as part of a soliloquy from a local teacher. It was a story from the front lines that lamented the amount of regulation placed on teachers, and Harris agreed that there was no federal role necessary in education.
I also thought Andy’s view on foreign aid was valid – we should require a country-by-country vote on foreign aid. This was friendly allies would be rewarded while those who oppose us would be first in line for cuts. Among those Harris favored retaining at least the present amount of aid for was Israel, our “staunchest ally” in the Middle East.
Andy also had a long explanation of his beliefs on the PATRIOT Act, a question asked by fellow blogger Julie Brewington of Right Coast. The process of resolving the act was “complicated” because of provisions which expired at different times and being of the belief that some parts of the PATRIOT Act were useful.
Of course, I asked a question, too. In short, what is wrong with the leadership?
Andy also revealed he’s a co-sponsor of a bill to clarify the Fourteenth Amendment doesn’t apply to “anchor babies,” which makes sense because the parents aren’t under our jurisdiction as non-citizens.
Quite a bit of the discussion focused on government health care.
As a medical practicioner, Andy eaasily explained some of the factors which allowed drug companies to sell drugs cheaply to Canadians as opposed to here in America. Technically, purchasing drugs from Canada enables drug companies to flout Canadian law, but the reason drugs are cheaper there is the formulary they use – in other words, their selection is far less than ours. Later, there was a question about Medicare doctor reimbursements where Andy made the point that cutting the payments to doctors was a form of “backdoor rationing” because limiting Medicare payments to doctors forced them to stop accepting Medicare patients. (How many people would willingly take a 30 percent pay cut for doing the same amount of work? That’s what they are asking doctors to do, as I understand it.) A more desirable effect could be had by increasing competition between insurance companies, Andy concluded.
There was a questioner who asked about the cuts to job services, but Andy reminded her that there were 47 programs out there which still had $1.5 billion to spend this fiscal year. Meanwhile, due to overregulation, the poultry industry was “on the brink of leaving the country.” We have the workforce to bring light manufacturing to the area, but needed to have a government which would allow businesses to thrive.
Term limits? Andy is a co-sponsor of a term limits bill. I also recall in 2008 he said he’d serve no more than 12 years.
NASA was a good program, but in a time of limited budget flexibility they needed to prioritize their missions.
“Energy independence has to be one of our top priorities,” opined Andy. I couldn’t agree more. He pointed out the Marcellus Shale formation under portions of Maryland and other neighboring states as a key untapped resource.
But, it can’t be an Andy Harris event without somebody protesting, whether in a chicken suit or not.
Mike Calpino, the Libertarian candidate for a County Council seat last year, mildly protested the direction the two principal parties had led the country by holding this sign out front before the event. However, no one disrupted the proceedings inside. Aside from an admitted RINO who thought the Republican Party needed to jettison its right wing, the dialogue was relatively friendly.
Two final quotes from the meeting:
Referring to our financial situation: “(There is) an unwillingness in Washington to face the music.”
“My philosophy is, that if we reduce the size of government, we free up capital and our American entrepreneurship to create jobs and business, to be the best in the world.” That was a reply to the self-described RINO.
Needless to say, the Congressman encourages input from constituents. His district office is downtown at 212 W. Main Street, right inside the Gallery Building.