Rep. Pete Visclosky discusses budget woes at Radisson Hotel
By Christin Nance Lazerus firstname.lastname@example.org March 11, 2013 9:54PM
US Represenative Pete Visclosky welcomes everyone to his Balance the Budget event at the Radisson Hotel in Merrillville Monday night. Visclosky with the Concord Coalition presented an exercise to cut the federal budget. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 13, 2013 6:27AM
MERRILLVILLE — The challenge was seemingly simple: Identify a combination spending cuts and tax increases that balance the federal budget.
But for more than 100 Northwest Indiana residents gathered Monday night at the Radisson Hotel, the decisions were never easy. Discussions were civil yet passionate as residents debated missile defense, the Medicare eligility age, tax rates, and other priorities at the “How Would You Balance the Federal Budget” event, which was co-sponsored by Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, and the Concord Coalition.
Visclosky said the problem is not impossible, but “it is a problem of arithmetic,” to quote former President Bill Clinton.
Phil Smith, the National Political Director at the Concord Coalition, said it’s important to engage citizens how to solve the nation’s $16 trillion debt.
“As much as we try to depoliticize this process, there’s probably not a more political document than the federal budget because it reveals legislators’ priorities,” Smith said.
Valparaiso resident Pamela Hood said she was invited to the event after writing to Visclosky and other polticians about her concern about the nation’s financial state.
“He was the only one who replied and it was well thought out,” Hood said.
She enjoyed the budget event, though it was sometimes hard to cut a program without all of the details available.
“The numbers saved or lost also influenced us; it made some decisions easy,” she said.
Crown Point resident Bruce Johnston said some solutions such as increasing the maximum taxable earnings for the Social Security tax — which would save $457 billion — should receive more bipartisan support and attention.
At the end of the night, several groups identified in trillions in savings.
Valparaiso resident Roger Luekens said his group reached more that $3 trillion in savings
“When we talked and shared opinions, we would see the other perion’s point more clearly,” Luekens said. “We each had valid points. It’s very frustrating to all taxpayers that we have such gridlock.”
Visclosky lauded the participants for their time. Visclosky related a question that a Hobart elementary school student asked him last week about the colleague whom he works with most often. that one of the people he works with most often is Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla.
“(Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla.) is a good friend of mine even though I’m the ranking member on the defense appropriations subcommittee and he’s the chair,” Visclosky said.
“We don’t always agree, but we resolve our differences and move on. You should always be questioning your government but do not become cynical.”