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Freshman Rep. Cravaack Defends Medicare Vote

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(credit: Chip Cravaack)

(credit: Chip Cravaack)

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CAMBRIDGE, Minn. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack explained his vote in favor of a Republican budget plan to a small crowd attending a town hall meeting Wednesday night, saying he wants to protect future generations of Americans from massive debt.

The freshman Republican showed the 50 people at the town hall a number of slides in a Power Point presentation. They contained detailed financial information on Medicare, Social Security and U.S. debt.

Cravaack painted a grim picture of the consequences of current government spending. He said Americans don’t have enough freedom when the nation’s debt is owned by countries such as China.

He said if spending doesn’t change, the U.S. will end up facing the same economic issues as Greece and Portugal.

“This is what we’ll be handing off to our children or grandchildren if we don’t do something now,” Cravaack said.

Terry Bell, 62, of Cambridge, criticized the slides for being inaccurate. He asked Cravaack to point out the last time Republicans produced a balanced budget.

“Your party has added to the deficit ever since the Ford administration,” Bell said. “The only time you get the least bit concerned is when the Democratic Party gets in.”

Other audience members defended Republicans and criticized spending under the Obama administration. One audience member encouraged Cravaack to think about transportation funding for the state’s aging roadway system.

Cravaack said he wants to lower the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, which he said is the global average. That would attract overseas companies back to the U.S., he said. He said he wanted the same rate for small businesses.

“We hold the Minnesota work ethic,” he said. “You start increasing taxes on businesses, people are telling me, `You increase my taxes and I’m done.”‘

Cravaack voted in favor of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget bill. A series of ads accused Cravaack of voting to end Medicare. Other ads supported him, saying he voted to protect the program for future retirees. As Medicare currently exists, it will go bankrupt by 2020, Cravaack said. He said the budget plan he supports would sustain Medicare for future generations, as well as erasing the nation’s debt by 2050.

The bill would subsidize coverage as-needed for individuals, with the indigent or chronically ill getting more assistance.

“You hear the mantra `Make the rich pay more.’ That’s exactly what this plan does,” Cravaack said. “If you’re the Warren Buffetts of the world, if you’re the Bill Gates of the world, guess what? You’re going to be paying more money.”

The Cambridge visit was the third town hall meeting Cravaack has hosted in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District, which covers portions of 18 counties in northeastern Minnesota.

Tom Krueger, 73, of Cambridge, asked Cravaack what areas he plans to attack to cut spending.

“You’re voted in by this constituency,” Krueger said. “You need to take a stand.”

Cravaack singled out the Department of Education and the Department of Energy.

“It’s time we take local control of our schools,” he said.

After the meeting, Krueger said he was impressed by Cravaack’s work in Congress. He said he was struck by Cravaack’s claim that he would lose his job to defend his beliefs.

Cravaack won his seat by defeating 18-term incumbent Democrat Jim Oberstar last November. Former Democratic state Sen. Tarryl Clark said earlier this month she plans to run against Cravaack in 2012 for his seat in the 8th District.

“Whoever the DFL decides to run in 2012, I’ll run against them,” Cravaack told The Associated Press in an interview before the meeting. “I’ll stick with the issues.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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