One year in, Rep. Cravaack believes major reform needed

Eighth District Congressman Chip Cravaack spoke to a crowd of about 75 people in Wyoming on Thursday, Jan. 26. Photo by Cliff Buchan

By Cliff Buchan, Forest Lake Times news editor—

When Chip Cravaack pulled off one of the major upsets of the 2010 congressional elections, he knew he was in for a big job. One year in, Eighth District Rep. Cravaack says he may have underestimated the seriousness of the situation.

“It’s worse than I truly expected,” Cravaack told a crowd of about 75 at Stars & Strikes Entertainment Center in Wyoming on Thursday, Jan. 26. It was the 20th town hall for the North Branch Republican who knocked off 18-term incumbent Jim Oberstar in a shocker.

Now Cravaack is preparing to run for re-election in a congressional district for which borders have yet to be set. Later this month, a panel of judges is expected to announce its decision on redistricting.

As Cravaack heads into his second year in office, he says the federal budget and growing national debt are topics that can’t be ignored and must be addressed.

“We all love this country,” he said. “We are all concerned about this country. At the end of the day, we are all Americans. This is an American problem.”

How the nation addresses the national debt and budget deficit will be critical to the long-term future of the country, he said. The federal government is running a budget deficit this year of $1.26 trillion and has a national debt of $15.2 trillion and both figures are growing.

“This is the cancer that is eating us — the debt,” Cravaack said. And the debt is a threat to national security, the congressman added.

How to Solve?

Cravaack says the only logical solution to the problem is pull back spending and increase the job base to help generate more tax dollars from income earners. He is not a fan of tax increases.

“We can’t tax enough [to solve the problem],” Cravaack said.

And budget danger looms for the future, he said.

The congressman said based on current models, Medicare will be insolvent by 2020 and Social Security will reach the same point by 2037. With an estimated 10,000 “baby boomers” retiring every day, the problem will continue to grow, he said.

Cravaack said  he would protect benefits for those currently 55 or older, but would favor means testing for Medicare eligibility. With costs soaring and the number of people paying in shrinking, costs to services may be needed, he added.

In 1950, for example, Cravaack said there were 159 workers for every Social Security beneficiary. In 2009 the number had dropped to three workers for every person receiving Social Security.

And the federal government has also been guilty of raiding the Social Security Trust Fund to help fund the government.

The revenue side is also complicated by the fact that 47 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax and that 70 percent of the federal income tax revenue comes from the top 10 percent of all wage earners.

Cravaack said he is also worried about the national debt. Some 47 percent of the national debt is held by foreign investors with China cornering 30 percent of the debt.

The congressman said the latter could translate to national security risk as China pumps money into military might. And the staggering debt also paints a dim picture for future generations, he said.

“This is what we are handing our kids,” Cravaack said of the debt.

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