U.S. Rep. James Lankford addressed a room full of Oklahomans who gathered at OCCC with hopes of having their issues addressed Sept. 4.
Lankford answered questions about the current direction and future of the nation.
Everyone was invited to write down a question for the Fifth District Republican congressman to answer. The cards were then put in a bucket to be drawn at random. Lankford started the show by answering questions from citizens who met certain criteria.
The first question came from the oldest veteran in the room. The 75-year-old Air Force veteran asked about the national debt.
Lankford said the national debt is currently around $16 trillion, and the problem in resolving the situation is the gridlock in Congress over two differing philosophies involving the role of government.
The next question came from the person who had traveled the farthest to attend — a man from Edmond asked a question about the Medicare voucher plan put forth by vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan.
Lankford called the voucher system a premium support plan, much like the Medicare part D already in existence. “This is not passing you a check and saying good luck on finding insurance.”
Next, Lankford asked who had the oldest running car and gave the floor to a woman owning a 1928 Ford. She started with a statement:
“The biggest mistake of health care reform is starting with the opinions of the insurance companies. You talk about death squads. You talk about panels deciding who gets the care. The insurance companies have been doing it for decades.”
Part of Lankford’s response was, “I’m not recommending deregulation of insurance, but I am saying that it’s far better in a free market system than central controlled health care.”
Lankford then received a topic from the youngest person in the room, a 13-year-old named Ian, who asked about support for families with kids who have disabilities. He responded with a two-part answer.
“One is, nominally, that is a state issue, and number two is, that is something the federal government has done extremely poorly.
“We have to decide, in education, are we going to run all aspects of education from the federal level based on our mandates and funding or will our funding be focused on children with disabilities.
“My preference would be that our focus is driven towards children with disabilities, and allow states to have greater control and more freedom in mandates on a local level for the rest of the population.”
The first question drawn from the bucket focused on the General Motors automobile bailout.
Lankford said his personal struggle is with saving large corporations but ignoring smaller companies.
“President Obama is traveling around the country saying we bailed out General Motors and saved jobs, but neglected saving many small and medium businesses.”
In addition, Lankford said, there is a prevailing mentality that a company disappears after going bankrupt. He said bankruptcy laws were established to prevent just that. He cited Delta and American Airlines as examples of bankrupt companies still being in business.
Next, Lankford was asked if he had heard economists say that since the Internal Revenue Service began collecting taxes, there has been five instances in which the income tax for the wealthy has been lowered and all five times the economy improved.
He said that is true.
Lankford referred to the Laffer Curve — an economic principle indicating a tax rate that is too high or too low will fail to produce sufficient revenue.
“You tax so much that people start to slow down in how much money they make or they find other ways to get tax shelters.
“If you tax everyone 80 percent, they suddenly find ways to not have income, to do it all by cash or to do it all overseas. They find some way to be able to move their money. Not to be cynical on this, the absolute best at it are the wealthiest.”
Lankford gave the example of children studying the American Revolution. Second graders were the Americans and fifth graders the British.
The fifth graders would impose one cent taxes on the second graders for things like sharpening pencils or going to the restroom. The second graders would try to avoid the taxes by sharpening their pencils at home or only using the restroom at lunchtime when the fifth graders weren’t around. The point, he said, is even grade schoolers will find ways to avoid being taxed.
Then a question came concerning the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act — specifically how and when it would benefit those in need.
Lankford said it would take two years, because lawmakers don’t want to do it all with one large bill, but rather a series of smaller bills that will give citizens an opportunity to have input and to promote bipartisan compromise.
Lankford was then asked if he would pledge not to increase the debt ceiling and make Congress live within its means. He said this would force them to balance the budget now and cut $1 trillion dollars from the budget in a single year. Lankford said he would be all for that if someone could come up with a way to do it.
The next issue was about current sanctions placed on Iran, and how it hurts the people rather than the Iranian government. Lankford said Iran seems to be pushing toward a nuclear weapon program. The man who posed the question related the Iran situation to when Iraq was wrongly said to have weapons of mass destruction but had none.
Lankford countered, saying Iranian leaders have declared a desire to destroy Israel. For this reason, he said, the Iranian government cannot be allowed to obtain nuclear capability.
The congressman closed with a statement about how the American people will have to resolve this in the upcoming elections.
“The issues we deal with as a nation are not simple. Anyone who says to you … ‘if we will only do this, it’ll fix it,’ doesn’t understand the difficulties we all are facing. Because there are no simple issues that we are dealing with at this point with this amount of debt and the complexity of what the federal government has become. But that does not mean we can back off.
“Now, this is for me personally. You might have a different perspective and a different background. I have not lost hope.”