BAXTER — Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn. championed Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget bill Monday in his first town hall meeting in the 8th Congressional District.
Addressing the crowd of nearly 50 that turned out at the Holiday Inn Express as the federal government reached its official borrowing limit, the retired U.S. Navy captain warned of dire circumstances if federal spending was not curbed.
“We hit the debt ceiling,” he said. “The caution light has now gone off.”
To ignore the consequences of further deficit spending would be unconscionable he said, and would set the U.S. on the same troubled path as such debt-burdened countries as Greece, Portugal, Italy and Ireland.
“This is future debt we’re going to hand down to our children,” Cravaack warned.
What he termed as a spending-driven debt crisis, cannot be fixed by taxes, he said.
“We can’t tax enough to get this under control,” the first-term congressman said. “It’s not that we are taxed too little. It’s that Washington spends way too much.”
Cravaack spent more than half of the one-hour session highlighting, through a Power Point display, the problems facing Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare and the consequences of having foreign-owned debt.
The Ryan bill, he argued would create jobs through pro-growth tax reform, strengthen the social safety net, fulfill health and retirement security and put the budget back on a path to balance and the economy on a path to prosperity.
“This whole Ryan plan is about jobs,” he said.
In the 25 minutes left for the audience to respond, Cravaack fielded a variety of questions.
He told George Brancato of Pillager that although the Fair Tax was a good system he needed to learn more about it before he’s ready to decide whether he would support it.
A 75-year-old man from Timothy Township in Crow Wing County said that taxes wouldn’t solve the nation’s problems completely but that “no taxes is a dumb idea.”
James Gordon of rural Brainerd complained of wetlands rules that prevented him from using a garden on his property. Cravaack noted that the Environmental Protection Agency is pushing restrictive guidelines and guidelines all to often become mandates as they have in the timber industry.
A Pequot Lakes man urged Cravaack and fellow Republicans to not give up their ace in the hole when negotiating with the Democrats on raising the federal debt limit.
Cravaack said after the meeting concluded that in order for him to support raising the debt ceiling he would have to see evidence of sustainable, long-term debt and spending cuts.
A Merrifield man who described himself as a Tea Party person offered advice to Cravaack.
“I just want you to act as a statesman,” he said. “Do what’s right for the country.”
Michael Hopps, a self-described liberal, sparked a brief outburst of laughter from the crowd when he stated that voter ID requirements were nonsense and that voter fraud was not a problem. Hopps said the power of government does good in people’s lives. He urged Cravaack to bring us together and criticized the Republican Party for dividing America.
Cravaack responded that he agreed that Americans were all facing this problem together.
“This is an American problem,” he said. “We all own this problem. We have to solve this problem because if we don’t the Chinese will solve it for us.”
Earlier Monday afternoon Cravaack hosted an open house as he officially opened his constituent services office in Brainerd City Hall.
MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5860.