Thursday, August 25, 2011
Congressman talks face to face with Marshall Countians
By BARRY BURLESON
Marshall Countians questioned Congressman Alan Nunnelee Saturday about the national debt, the size of government, high gas prices and more.
Nunnelee visited the courthouse in Holly Springs for what was said to be the first ever “Town Hall Meeting” with a U.S. Congressman in the county.
“This is the first one we’ve ever had,” said Dr. David Beckley, who introduced Nunnelee. “They’ve been through shaking hands before but not meeting with us to hear our concerns.”
The upstairs courtroom was about one-third full.
Nunnelee said his job description and job title are one and the same – representative.
“And I cannot do that effectively if I don’t take time to listen – two-way communication,” he said.
He said Facebook and e-mail and cell phones are all important in the 21st century.
“But nothing takes the place of face-to-face talking,” Nunnelee said.
He began by asking members of the audience if they felt they were living a higher quality of life than their grandparents.
Then he asked if they thought their grandchildren and great-grandchildren would have a better quality of life on down the road.
“It’s always been the American dream to leave a better life to our children,” Nunnelee said. “That’s in jeopardy.”
The first question dealt with often ridiculous add-ons attached to bills.
“I think we’ve taken a significant step in fixing that,” he said.
“But keep in mind, a lot of funding for projects like I-22 is through earmarks. Sometimes the funding for legitimate projects filter out of this.
“The key is shining the light of the public on what we’re doing. We should set aside 72 hours and let the American people look at it. With modern communication, wasteful earmarks could be smoked out.”
Nunnelee was then asked why politicians cannot come together and get things done – like Americans have done during recent natural disasters.
“We’re living in an era of a divided Congress,” he said. “All have different ideas, and I believe that is what the people want – not one party controlling everything. It’s part of the American process. It is a far better system than to live under a dictatorship. The country is great because of debate, and then hopefully we can come together for a solution.”
The next question dealt with the recent raising of the debt limit, which the concerned citizen said “guarantees more economic decline.”
Nunnelee said the U.S. cannot continue on the debt path it is on, with no changes.
“We cannot pass this on to our children and grandchildren,” he said.
For fiscal year 2010, total spending was $3.5 trillion.
He said discretionary spending is about one-third of the total.
“We have to figure out how to get out of this mess,” Nunnelee said.
He said one option is to eliminate all discretionary spending immediately – like foreign aid, Congressional pay, Air Force One, all military, food inspection and air traffic control – plus under mandatory spending, cut Social Security and Medicare 15 percent.
Another option would be to cut all discretionary spending in half and cut things like Social Security and Medicare and military retirement in half.
Option 3, he said, would be the budget Congress passed, which includes immediately beginning to cut discretionary spending and making a commitment to those 55 and older that there will be no change in their Social Security and Medicare.
“They have paid into it and we need to honor it,” Nunnelee said.
“If we do nothing, Medicare will be bankrupt in five years. We need to look long term rather than immediately cut 50 percent.
“We did not get in this mess overnight. A more reasonable approach is how can we honor our commitment and fix the system and not pass on massive amounts of debt. I think we can do that but not in a few months or a few years.”
One in the audience urged an across-the-board tax for the American people.
Nunnelee said taxes are too high and too complex and he believes there will be efforts to simplify the tax code.
Another stood and said government is too massive and too intrusive in people’s lives.
Nunnelee said that problem did not start with the current administration – referring to recent legislation proposed to regulate the type light bulbs used in people’s homes.
“It’s imperative we begin steps to fix the problem,” he said. “The federal government’s interest in the type light bulb I have is ridiculous. There are hundreds of examples of ridiculous legislation.”
The congressman was asked about America’s dependence on other countries for resources like oil, natural gas and coal.
“Simply, we’re not recovering America’s energy,” he said. “We have enough oil, natural gas and coal under our own ground. We should not be dependent on countries that hate us to fuel America.
“By the end of the decade, we should set a goal to become energy secure.”
Those final comments received the loudest applause of the “Town Meeting.”
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