Photo by George Lauby
Photo by George Lauby
Rep. Adrian Smith answered questions in North Platte for more than hour Wednesday morning about such things as the future of railroad retirement, the federal deficit, Attorney General Eric Holder and truthful statesmanship.
About 50 people turned out to see Smith at an 8 a.m. meeting at Heidi’s Restaurant.
Smith assured railroad workers that their retirement has not been cut under any bills passed in the House of Representatives. And, he said their retirement is mentioned as a topic of study of possible budget cuts, but is not high on the list of possible cuts under Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan.
Union officials and workers stressed that railroad retirement funds are paid by the workers and the management and are not tax subsidized.
Smith’s staff handed out a one-page written summary of where railroad retirement stands in budget debates on Capitol Hill.
A House Budget Committee report states that Tier 1 benefits or railroad retirement is supposed to mimic Social Security benefits, but they are more generous in many ways. Conforming Teir 1 to equal Social Security benefits would save taxpayers about $2 billion over 10 years, Smith’s handout reported.
Ryan is the chair of the House Budget Committee.
Smith said no House bill includes any changes to railroad retirement. If it were put into a bill, Smith promised to stand up and holler in Congress.
Audience members said they distrust Congress. Democrat Terry Sigler said the situation is dangerous if Republicans win control in the House, Senate and White House this fall.
A woman who said she’s always been a Republican is scared of what Ryan might do after the election.
Bill Holmquist, president of Machinists’ Local 180 at Bailey Yard, said too often party lines have become battle lines, and good ideas are shot down by the other party in a battle for political power.
He thanked Smith in advance for sticking up for the railroad retirement fund.
“I’ve been an American long before I was a Republican,” Smith told him, recalling that his grandfather was Democrat who coincidently feared he would lose his pension if Republicans gained control.
Smith said he and his grandfather had many disagreements but realized how important it is to stick together to do what’s right.
“We don’t want another disaster like 911 to be the only reason we come together,” Smith said. “We need to urge both sides to stick to the facts as much as we can.”
Smith criticized the power of the 1 percent wealthiest to buy attack ads, and advised everyone to discount scare tactics from both sides, which are bound to intensify as the election draws near.
Smith said the House of Representatives has cited U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt of Congress. He's not sure what will happen next.
The next step will be up to the House Committee on Government and Oversight. Smith said Congress has big issues to address, such as tax reform.
He called for fewer tax breaks and loopholes, to broaden the base of people sharing the tax load. He said the top 1 percent benefits from most tax loopholes.
Smith called for reduction of the corporate tax rates to 25 percent, from 35 percent. He said U.S. companies have $1.4 trillion in overseas banks so they won't have to pay U.S. taxes on the money. He said $1 trillion of that would come home if the top corporate tax rate was lowered.
A man asked where he got the figures.
“We need someone to champion accuracy,” the man said. Sometimes the facts are “buried so far” beneath opinions that the public doesn’t know what to believe.
“We don’t trust because we’ve been lied to for so long,” he said.
“Do you want the government to be in charge of that?” Smith asked. “It’s up to all of us to verify and confirm.”