Congressman Ryan's Racine Visit About Jobs, Economy
Residents unhappy with what's going on in Washington made their displeasure known.
Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) stopped at the Cesar Chavez Community Center on Oct. 21 to conduct a listening session for residents. Unlike his stops the day before in Muskego and Oak Creek, however, Racine was not as laid back.
Protestors did not line up as had been feared judging by the number of police officers present. There were a handful of residents holding signs, each one with a short sentence highlighting an issue about which they felt Ryan is wrong, but they left their signs outside and took seats in the elevated bleachers a minute before Ryan arrived.
For the first few minutes of his visit, Ryan used a PowerPoint presentation to summarize the problems in the country and put forth ideas for how to fix them. In summary, he sees two things impacting the US economy: Europe, a situation he admitted the US has no control over, and the US debt, over which, of course, he says we have all the control.
Before he could get really rolling, citizens sitting in the raised stands shouted, "This is a listening session. That means you listen to us, not we listen to you." The sentiment echoed and even got some supporting applause from the smaller crowd sitting in chairs on the main floor.
Racine Police officers quickly got the situation under control and Ryan continued talking about generating jobs through the exploration and harvesting of natural gas and oil reserves in the US, restructuring the tax code to eliminate corporate welfare and subsidies for the rich, and how if we do these things, the social service safety net gets stronger for those who need them.
"As your employee, I have an obligation to offer a better way of doing things if I don't agree with how government is handling things," he said. "I don't agree so I'm trying to provide a new direction."
While the majority of his 90 minutes went off without a hitch, Ryan was interrupted several times by residents and he shushed them more than once. There were calls and applause for taxing the rich and taxing Wall Street and when Ryan said plans in Washington aren't getting the deficit under control, someone shouted, "That's a lie."
"We can't just tax our way out of this," Ryan said in answer to allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire. "The tax code rewards loopholes for big companies where if we take away those loopholes and tax everyone the same, treat companies and people the same, it's a more equitable code."
"But you voted for these rules!" someone shouted. "You voted for them!"
One gentlemen stood up and said the approval rating for Congress is at an all-time low.
"Why aren't more representatives willing to compromise and do what's best for the country?" he asked.
Ryan didn't disagree and said he wishes more elected officials would propose solutions, but too many politicians vote with the next election in mind.
"You have to want to do this job so that if you're doing it right, you risk losing it," he stated to applause.
Also unlike in Muskego and Oak Creek, Medicare and Social Security were the focus of more than a few comments and questions, which was probably expected since the average age of the residents in attendance was over 50. He reassured them that anyone over 55 would see no change and that changes for anyone 54 and under would come gradually.
Free trade agreements were another question, with someone asking why Ryan supports new agreements with Panama, Columbia and Korea when he's said before these deals hurt the American economy and take American jobs.
It comes down to access, Ryan answered, and making sure the US gets a piece of the pie in those countries.
"When it comes to Panama and Columbia, they had free access to the American market, but it didn't go both ways," he said. "Now, it will." As for Korea, he said that is a massive market for US goods and services. There's also a backward policy on taxing exports but not imports that Ryan said he wants to change so that our trade policy mirrors that of other countries.
Alan Kinney got to have the final citizen word.
"Government doesn't generate jobs, but it can stimulate the private sector," he said. "I see an alarming dichotomy in this country. We need to step back and not look for the fastest fix, but focus on the long term solutions."
"Tax revenue growth is a direct result of economic growth," he answered. "We have to make businesses competitive by lowering the tax rate so we can put people back to work."