Photo by Joe Chitwood
Talking to the class.
Photo by Joe Chitwood
Photo by Joe Chitwood
Hershey Social Studies teacher Eric Sokol encouraged his students to write their congressman and ask him to visit the school. Third district Congressman Adrian Smith answered their requests Friday morning, when he talked to the senior class.
The meeting was held in the high school library. Sokol introduced Smith and thanked him for coming. Smith said he was glad they invited him. He told them that not everyone gets to come to Washington so he was grateful to be given the opportunity to speak to them while Congress is in recess.
“It’s important that I get out and meet folks in what I call the ‘frontlines’ of the economy,” Smith said.
He said that his No. 1 job is to insure opportunity. He cannot guarantee the outcome of his effort but works to make sure that students have options after graduation to go to college or pursue good jobs.
“Our country is seeing some challenges these days,” Smth said, noting that the country is $17 trillion in debt.
“If you divide that up by the number of people in our country, regardless of age, whether it is an infant or a senior citizen, we are talking over $50,000 per person.” Smith said. Although that figure can be discouraging, he believes that we can do something about it.
“I think the best way to go about it is to grow the economy,” Smith said. "When more people have job opportunities they pay taxes and that revenue can ultimately pay down the debt. We won't be able to tax our way into a balanced budget, I don't even think we are able to cut our way entirely to a balanced budget."
He wants to combine spending cuts and grow the economy. Doing so will create prosperity and increase tax revenues, he said.
Smith said the IRS has overstepped its authority. He said the Benghazi issue has not been addressed and no one has been able to answer important questions concerning the loss of our ambassador.
He spoke of how government agencies often do more harm than good. Using the OSHA as an example, he said although OSHA's purpose was to protect workers, it sometimes goes overboard and causes issues that hurt the economy.
OSHA says a contractor’s ladder must reach three rungs above the edge of a roof. If it doesn't, the contractor is subject to a $7,000 fine. Smith said everyone knows that two rungs above the edge is safe.
“Things like that constrain our economy.” he said. Smith said Obamacare is an even greater example of laws that hurt the economy.
“Going after employers who have 49 or maybe even 40 employees -- how anxious are they going to be to expand and add one or two or even 10 employees?" he said. "There are so many added expenses with the mandate from the federal government."
Smith finds the mandates on individuals offensive.
“If you don't have health insurance, you are going to get fined, so basically, it is turning you into a criminal.” Smith said. “That’s a problem; I think that goes against what America is about.”
Smith believes that health insurance is a good idea and people should want to protect their assets from major medical emergencies. He does not believe that the government should force anyone to buy insurance or dictate what company you buy it from.
Another example of government hurting the economy is unemployment benefits.
He said the program now extends benefits for 99 weeks, while people look for a job they like, creating a lack of incentive to find work. Instead of finding the dream job, he believes people should take a less desirable job while looking for their dream job.
Smith said one of the great things politicians can do is listen to constituents and use their suggestions to make improvements to the country. He mentioned that when the entire government wanted to go into Syria, but the American people stopped it. Americans flooded their representatives with letters, phone calls and e-mail demanding that our country not get involved.
Smith said that people must do that if they want the government to listen.
What he hears most from the American people is for the government to leave them alone. He said staying out of people's business seems to be what Americans desire most from their government.
He then asked for ideas or questions from the class.
Delta Elsasser asked why the government couldn't learn to budget like families do? She said when people have a limited amount of money to spend, they prioritize and cut back until they are out of debt. Smith agreed that the government needs to work on budgeting.
Smith was asked if he thought that illegal immigrants hurt the economy. He talked about immigration policies and said that amnesty for illegals immigrants who are now in the country is not the answer. However, he believes there needs to be a quicker path to citizenship for those who follow the law and come to America legally.
Smith touched on other subjects as time ran out. He encouraged students who plan to attend college to work hard. He told them that they should strive to pay for college without having to take out large student loans.
Smith said students need to realize that these loans can take years to pay off and become a burden.
He ended by telling students to seek a career and pursue it to accomplish their goals in life. Smith said “in the words of one great Nebraskan, 'get 'er done'".