The Edmond Sun

Local News

August 20, 2012

Candidates debate debt, entitlement programs

DEL CITY — Congressman James Lankford encouraged folks to pray for lawmakers in Washington, D.C., as much as they gripe about the nation’s leaders.

The biggest issue facing the United States is not its $16 trillion debt but that there is not a plan to get out of it, said Lankford, a member of the budget committee.

“We are a nation that will not recover from this quickly, and without God’s help, it will not be the same,” Lankford said. “With His help, we will recover and we will be sustained. So I ask for you sincerely to pray for us in the days ahead.”

Democrat Tom Guild of Edmond as well as two Independent candidates, Pat Martin of Jones and Norman resident Robert T. Murphy, are each trying to unseat Republican Lankford in his re-election bid to Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District. Voters will decide on Nov. 6.

The candidates spoke Friday at a Del City forum sponsored by the National Association of Retired Federal Employees and the American Federation of Government Employees. Guild has the endorsement of the American Federation of Government Employees.

A lot of people in Washington have tremendous spiritual needs, Lankford said.

“There’s not a day that goes by when we don’t walk into somebody with some issue, to say, ‘This is part of the reason I’m here,’” Lankford said.

Guild said he wanted to make it clear that he believes in the separation of church and state.

“I think government should be government and religion should be religion,” Guild said.

A former Republican, Martin said he bases his decisions on methodology instead of ideology. He votes for what works, not the political party that suggested it, he said.

“I support Social Security and I do not support its privatization. Medicare is the same way,” Martin said. “But one cannot ignore the fact that we have a $16 trillion debt.”

Both Lankford and Martin said they believe in living within their means. Lankford said it’s not practical to ask for a car loan without a plan to pay off that loan.

“If I sit down and I have a budget problem, and I realize I’ve got more money going out than I have coming in — I begin to make cuts,” Martin said. “But I don’t just start sweeping cuts across the board. I examine what I can do differently to minimize the increased burden I put upon myself.”

Taxpayer benefits are being reduced dramatically while Congress does little to address waste, mismanagement and redundancy, Martin said.

Lankford praised Congress for passing a transportation and highway bill this session. The bill provides more local decision making, he said. Congress had been depending on short-term extensions to fund highways. A decision is now made by the state if a project costs $5 million or less, Lankford said.

“You can’t plan construction of highways six month at a time. That’s a long-term project,” said Lankford, a member of the transportation conference committee.

The 112th Congress with a 10 percent approval rating has passed fewer laws than any Congress since 1947, Guild said. Martin said the IRS has a better approval rating than Congress.

Lankford voted in favor of sequestering funds for automatic budget cuts of about $1.2 trillion, divided between defense and social programs, Guild pointed out.

“Well now the chickens have come home to roost,” Guild said. “Sen. Inhofe and Sen. Coburn have actively complained about this.”

The House is unlikely to pass an appropriations bill by October after taking a five-week vacation and designated to be in session for only eight days in September.

Guild faulted Lankford for what Guild described as an effort to privatize Social Security, a program that seniors have depended upon for 77 years.

“I want you to know I will fight with every fiber in my body to make sure Social Security is never privatized,” Guild said.

He also criticized Lankford for voting for Wisconsin Republican and vice presidential hopeful, Rep. Paul Ryan’s, 2011 and 2012 budget plan, which would repeal the Affordable Care Act, a plan that Guild pointed out closes the donut hole for seniors with prescription drugs and provides free prevention care.

“We need to fire this Congress. Start over. Get rid of the polarization. Get the business of the American people done,” Guild said. “And we need to vote like our lives and health depend on it because they do.”

Murphy is for keeping down the cost of living for working man by opposing central banking, he said. The federal government is printing too much money, he said, while blaming the federal government for inflating currency.

“We need the United States government and most of the states’ governments to go bankrupt so we can start over,” Murphy said.

jcoburn@edmondsun.com | 341-2121, ext. 114

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