ARGUS OBSERVER: Touching Base

Posted on Mar 16, 2012

Touching base

Posted: Friday, March 16, 2012 10:12 am

ONTARIO — Idaho Republican U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador visited several locations Thursday in the Payette and Washington counties speaking to residents on major concerns coming from Washington, D.C., and trying to instill a little bit of faith in the future of America.
Labrador spoke for less than 10 minutes at the beginning of a meeting with Payette County Chamber of Commerce members and later with the residents of Payette County at the Payette County Courthouse.

Then, Labrador opened the floor to questions.
The major concern at the meetings seemed to be the growing national deficit that Labrador said needs to be cut. No one is willing to make the necessary compromises to lower the debt, he said.
He said all parties need to be willing to put their “sacred cows” on the table. For example, Laborador said, Republicans’ sacred cow is the defense system.
“Why do we need so many people working at the Pentagon?” Labrador asked.
He also questioned the need for so many employees at the Department of Education but went even further to question the need for the entire department.
The trend, when discussing cutting the budget, is to not allow an increase in a particular budget, and call that the necessary cut, Labrador said.
Republicans and Democrats need to converge and be willing to put every program on the table and be willing to cut something from those programs, he said.
Larry Lundin asked Labrador what he feels should be cut.
“Eliminating the Department of Education and the Department of Energy would be a start,” he said.
Immigration was discussed at the meetings as well.
Labrador said immigration is among the top three problems America faces, besides job security. He said Congress needs to enforce the immigration laws put in place already. Additionally, law enforcement, and particularly the National Guard, need to be given the resources to carry out those laws.
Labrador said he would like to see the National Guard patrol the borders, and there needs to be enough jobs to allow them to patrol the borders efficiently.
Lundin also asked about illegal immigration and what could be done about it.
Labrador said he was an immigration lawyer for 15 years previously and he is on the Republican party and is for legal immigration.
When foreigners were using Ellis Island to immigrate into the country, Labrador said, three things were asked of them. Were they healthy? Did they have a job already set up? And would they be a burden on society?
Now the country has too generous of a welfare system, he said. People are taking advantage of that system, both immigrants and citizens, and those people in the welfare system are unwilling to work.
The welfare system needs to be reformed, Labrador said.
“The system your grandparents came here in is much different than it is now,” he said.
Labrador spoke about his supporting legal immigration. He wrote a particular bill that stated allowing foreign students who are completing or have completed their masters and PhDs in science, technology, engineering and math in America and wish to receive a green card should be given that right instead of waiting the 10 years it takes to receive that green card.
That way, he said, those students are not going back to their country and eventually becoming our country’s competitor in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
Finally, Labrador touched on Medicare and the inevitable crisis future generations will have paying for it.
Ten thousand people are added to Medicare every day throughout America, Labrador said.
In history, 17 people paid for every one person on Medicare. Now, it is one or two people paying for every one person on it, Labrador said.
The problem with Medicare, he said, is people in Congress do not want to fix the problem right now. There are more important things to worry about, he said. However, he said, lawmakers cannot wait until there is a crisis with Medicare to start to fix the problem.
“We need to avoid the catastrophe,” Labrador said.
For those who are 65 years old and older, the system needs to keep its promise and give those seniors Medicare. However, those who are not eligible yet may have to wait a little longer to receive it.
Labrador believes, since the debt is so high, one of the ways to decrease it is to raise the retiring age to 70 or 75 years old. People are living longer, and the majority of Americans are healthy and can work that much longer, he said.
“We can’t afford to not fix the problem now,” Labrador said.
Labrador ended with a positive ray of hope. He said the ’80s were all about concern with Russia. Students learned to go under their desks in case of a bomb. Americans were under the impression the national language would soon be Russian, Labrador said.
In the ’90s, it was all about Japan. Americans believed they would be trading in yen soon.
In the early 2000s, the European Union was a major concern. The dollar amount was deflating, and Americans thought the future was going to be trading in euros.
Now, he said, we fear China.
“I’m hopeful though,” the congressman said.
He said he believes the 30, 40 or 50 members of congress, including himself, who are firm in the belief that something serious has to be done about the budget will stand up and do the right thing and save America.
Labrador is a freshman congressman. He was elected to his position one and a half years ago and is now running for re-election.
Cherise Kaechele is a reporter at the Independent-Enterprise and Argus Observer. She can be reached at (208) 642-3357 or by emailing cherisek@qwestoffice.net. To comment on this story, go to www.argusobserver.com