Rep. James Lankford, Oklahoma's 5th District Representative held a community forum yesterday evening at the Eastern Oklahoma County Vo-Tech with around 60 people in attendance. Rep. Lankford took a few minutes to go over some basic budget facts and figures, then spent the bulk of the 90 minute forum answering questions from attendees.
The items discussed and asked about the most were the national debt, the deficit and the Bush tax cuts. There were three obvious liberals who attended and hammered Lankford hard on the Bush tax cuts. One man was extremely agitated and, after his own question was asked and answered, he continually interrupted Rep. Lankford while he was answering other questions and kept coming back to the same theme of taxing the rich; making sure they pay their 'fair share'. Eventually, others in the audience were getting visibly frustrated with this man and one woman finally let loose on him, saying "Why don't you stop trying to bully your way into other people's time. You had your question answered and you need to be quiet so my question can be answered." I heard light applause and a few people saying "yes!" The man remained silent after that.
Since the bulk of the questions dealt with the debt and deficit, Rep. Lankford had the opportunity to reiterate some points more than once.
- Tax increases do not create jobs.
- A balanced budget amendment is the only way this problem is ever going to be solved.
- The Senate might as well not even be there since they never do anything.
- The national debt situation is worse than most people realize.
Rep. Lankford related several stories from his time thus far in Congress; two of which I will note here. He was chairing a committee meeting on small business and was hearing testimony from four business owners. The business owners were relating how they wanted to grow their businesses by providing goods and services. Rep. Dennis Kucinich was on the committee and stated to the business owners that he felt government helped create jobs by adding regulations so that businesses would have to hire compliance officers to ensure the business complied with all the government regulations. Rep. Lankford said he then asked all the business owners would they rather have compliance officers or would they prefer to grow through providing goods and services. Of course, they all said goods and services.
The other story sounded very frustrating for Rep. Lankford and I have no doubt is a common occurrence in Congress. He briefly described the massive amount of redundancy in the federal government and that he had filed an amendment to eliminate the Council On Environmental Quality. The CEQ, he said, is a small office with a budget of $2.7 million that was created in 1969. Their chief function is environmental reporting, which is now done by the Environmental Protection Agency, making the CEQ's work redundant. The amendment was defeated, receiving 'no' votes from many Republicans as well as Democrats.
Rep. Lankford said he went to some of his Republican colleagues and asked why they did not support his amendment. He said some told him that, yes, the CEQ is redundant, but they couldn't risk voting no and being seen in their district as anti-environment.
I have read today of other Representatives (Paul Ryan, Ben Quayle, Chip Cravaack) who are charging people from $10 to $35 to attend events and be able to ask them a question. This is deplorable. Rep. Lankford is holding several public forums, all free of charge, and gives everyone fair opportunity to ask questions or, if you're a liberal, to take a crack at him. Representatives should give their constituents free access to them. They are there to serve us; not the other way around. Rep. Lankford made it clear he shares that attitude.