Anger and frustration emanated from some members of a crowd of more than 40 citizens who came to a Town Hall meeting to hear Rep. Robert Dold (R-10th) speak Saturday (April 16) at the Buffalo Grove Village Hall.
While some contentedly listened to an explanation of the House of Representatives' efforts the last two weeks to reduce the nation’s financial deficit, others expressed their displeasure of the perceived privilege the wealthiest Americans receive from the Internal Revenue Code.
Eleanore and Bob Rathke of Buffalo Grove are concerned with America’s growing budget deficit. They came to hear what Dold was going to do about the proposal passed Friday by the House of Representatives, 235-193. Dold voted for it.
“What [Rep. Paul] Ryan (R-Wis.) did was OK,” Eleanore Rathke said of the budget passed Friday. “We want [Congress] to do what they were elected to do. They need to know what people want.”
Dold began with a Power Point presentation and explanation of the federal deficit. He discussed the growing national debt and expressed urgency to take action.
“The last two weeks have been critical weeks in terms of the direction of what’s been going on,” Dold said. “It’s really been revolving around spending. We are heaping a mountain of debt on future generations right now.”
As Dold was beginning, Jeff Rice of Buffalo Grove interrupted, demanding to know why defense spending was exempt from the last round of budget cuts.
“So of the $33 billion you cut, you couldn’t find a dime to cut out of defense spending,” Rice said. Dold responded that he led an effort to eliminate an engine from a proposed fighter jet and was willing to look at reducing the military’s appropriations.
“I think we need to be putting the Department of Defense up there (for consideration),” Dold said. “I think we need to talk about the Department of Agriculture. We need to be talking about things I think the Republican Party has said, ‘there are things we don’t need to cut.’”
That did not satisfy Rice. “What about the oil subsidies?” he said. “Why do we give billions of dollars to the people who are charging us through the tuchus (for gas)?” Dold recognized Rice’s frustration and gave the group an explanation of subsidies and their purpose.
All manufacturers receive a 3 percent tax break for producing goods in the United States, according to Dold. Oil companies are considered manufacturers and receive this benefit along with makers of other goods.
“We want to shore up manufacturers here,” Dold said. “There is a break of about 3 percent that is given to manufacturers who produce things here. Those are (also) considered oil subsidies.” Dold then explained the budget passed by the House Friday cuts the corporate tax rate while eliminating the subsidies for oil and agriculture.
With the frustration growing, it was Buffalo Grove Mayor Elliott Hartstein, a Democrat, who spoke of the need for the parties to work together. He asked Dold more than once to give specific answers to questions and make his position known.
“What are some of the things you think we could or should do and what do you think about those things?” Hartstein asked. “How and what are your views, so the people in this room understand what your views are.”
Before he could reply, Dold received a barrage of questions about increasing the contribution for Social Security and increasing the age before benefits are paid. John Riley of Arlington Heights specifically asked if the congressman would raise the cut-off from $106,000 to $200,000.
“I think it’s certainly something we would take (a look at) with raising the age,” Dold said. “(For) those at 55 and above, there should be no change. Then you go to those at 54 and say, ‘Will you work for us another month?’ Those at 53, ‘Will you work two months for us?” he added, describing his ideas for raising the Social Security age limits.
After the meeting, Dold said he would want to see a specific plan and calculations from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office before making a specific commitment on dollar amounts.
When Karen Loos of Prospect Heights had an opportunity to question the congressman, she shared her personal struggle. Recently laid off, she must draw money from her retirement savings to meet obligations she and the crowd agreed were conservative.
“My IRA is dwindling down and down and down because they tax me 10 percent when I take it out, plus they penalize me another 10 percent because I’m taking it out early,” Loos said. “I don’t even qualify for benefits or food stamps because I have an IRA. It’s not fair.”
Dold told the group the same topic was raised at his Town Hall meeting in Winnetka that morning. He indicated it was one solution to help people during these difficult economic times.
“I, frankly, agree with you. Times are tough right now. People are using it not only for health care, they’re using it for housing,” Dold said. “This seems to be an emergency-type situation. It makes a lot of sense allowing people to get by. This is something the government can do.”
After the meeting, Hartenstein said he was pleased with the dialogue. He said he understands the need for Democrats and Republicans to work together, and explained that is why he pushed Dold to give specific positions and hear the views of the people in the room.
“In the end, I wanted to prompt him to start to be open to other proposals,” Hartenstein said. “She’s (Loos) a perfect example. People are out of work and need jobs,” he added, echoing Dold’s call for economic stimulus and job creation.