Congressman Lucas' Town Hall Meetings II
Congressman Frank Lucas (R – OK) held a town hall meeting at the Bristow Library on April 18, 2011. As in his town hall meeting in Hominy , he reported that: the war in Iraq is winding down, but that Afghanistan still continues to be a quagmire without a definite ending in sight. There is concern about our role in Libya, and in spite of the criticism, the President does have power to take limited military action without a formal declaration of war. He reported that the Legislature has become even more divided and partisan over the last year, and it is becoming very difficult to carry out the business of government.
When asked whether Social Security would go broke, Congressman Lucas explained that, over the years, the surplus collected has been put in U.S. Treasury bonds. Though the government has borrowed against the surplus, it must be repaid and will be available to make future payments. After the trust fund is exhausted, Social Security will pay benefits as money is collected, and benefits may be reduced by 20 to 30% unless the Social Security system is changed to extend the trust fund.
Comment: A little research after the meeting showed that the trust fund is expected to be solvent until about 2034 but that a few tweaks, such as reducing benefits, raising the retirement age, or raising the cap on FICA contributions, will make this trust fund solvent to about 2080. Americans overwhelmingly support raising the cap on FICA contributions over the other options.
One gentleman was upset about the cost of his health insurance and of Medicare. He noted that the creation of the Medicare Advantage Plans had added about 14% to the cost of the program. He described a recent surgery in some detail, the point being that Medicare was charged $3000 for one small piece of tubing because Congress had voted that Medicare could not negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies. His point was that Congressman Lucas had voted for both the Advantage plan and for the ban on negotiating prices.
One constituent complemented Congressman Lucas on the Tulsa World article where he defended raising the debt limit so that the U.S. would not have its credit rating lowered, which would be disastrous for the country. However, he also pointed out that Congressman Lucas had voted for extending the tax cuts for wealthy citizens, costing $800 billion, and also for the $610 billion in spending cuts spending cuts, which may cost 500,000 American jobs. The congressman commented that the mood in Congress was to cut taxes and reduce spending. There were several questions about agriculture, such as whether there would be a carbon tax, whether the EPA would limit dust, and about the animal ID program. Congressman Lucas, who will be the chairman of the Farm Committee next year, said those are all things that the committee would likely examine.
Comment: Climate scientists have pointed out that there is increasing evidence that climate change is causing increasing incidences of extreme weather, such as droughts and storms, which may put our farms production and food supply at risk. Congress has recently turned down a motion that the Agriculture Department examine the risk to our food supply and Congressman Lucas voted with the nays.
The discussion was lively and it was good that we could ask questions and express our concerns to Congressman Lucas. The third district covers a large area, the Western two thirds of the state, and we certainly appreciate Congressman Lucas taking time to visit with us. Some of his answers were of concern to the author, as you can discern from his comments, and further information will be provided about Congressman Lucas’s views as the 2012 elections near.