In four years or so, students at Madison Middle School will be old enough to vote, said Assistant Principal Scott Anderson. He spoke after a question-and-answer “town hall meeting” in the school’s auditorium Monday with Republican congressional candidate Andy Barr, who is seeking the seat now held by Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Sixth District.
“In four years, I hope you make that decision that you’re going to become a voter and you’re going to listen to both sides,” Anderson said to the students before the meeting adjourned.
“Have you ever heard about the American Dream?” Barr asked the students following a short summary about his career as a lawyer and his teaching job at Morehead State University.
One girl replied, “The American dream means that we have the best country in the whole wide world.”
Barr explained the American Dream is that “we leave the country better than we inherited it,” he said, and one thing that threatens that dream is the national debt, which is over $16 trillion.
“One trillion dollars is a thousand billions, a billion is a thousand millions, so that’s a lot of money. So there’s 16 of those that we as a country owes,” he explained. “If we don’t start forcing the government to live within its means and start paying down that national debt, that really will, I think, jeopardize the American dream”
Barr spent the rest of the hour answering questions from the students, who had the opportunity to stand and speak into a microphone.
Student questions and Barr’s answers
Who do you think will win the presidential election?
“I do support Mitt Romney, but I think there are a lot of good people in this country who support Barack Obama, too. I think as Americans, we’ve got good choices in front of us. We’ve got two well-meaning people who want to help the country. We have different ideas about how to fix our country’s problems, but obviously, there’s a lot of Americans on both sides of the issues ... I do support Mitt Romney and that’s not a secret. But I think whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, that we as Americans, after the election, come together and fix our problems.”
Do you support Obamacare?
“I do not support Obamacare ... Health care is an important issue, it constitutes one-sixth of the American economy. What we shouldn’t do is ram it through without bi-partisanship ... When you’re dealing with a subject that’s so important to so many people, we should do it in a way where there’s compromise and where both sides are part of the process, that was the first part of it I didn’t like ... I think it will compromise education in the states. This is exactly what I mean when I say we can’t impose new costs on states where they can compromise our commitment to public education ... It puts bureaucrats between patients and doctors. It sets up this board of bureaucrats in Washington, a 15-member board of unelected people to make decisions about whether senior citizens should get the health care that they need. I don’t think that’s right. I think the health care decision should be made between the patient, their family and that patient’s doctor.”
Why does Mitt Romney want to cancel Sesame Street?
“I don’t think Mitt Romney or anybody wants to get rid of Sesame Street. We all love Big Bird, I watch Big Bird. I love Big Bird [lots of applause]. I do think if we’re going to reduce our national debt, we need to be careful about how we spend money. Remember, we are spending over a trillion dollars a year more than what we take in. China owns most of our debt ... Whether it’s Public Broadcasting, or any other expenditure of money, we have to ask ourselves, is it worth the spending? We should never pay for things we can’t afford and pay for it by borrowing that money from China.”
I was wondering if those are real coal miners in your commercials?
“Those are real coal miners in my commercial. Those gentlemen who were in the commercial last week just came out of the mine ... The other coal miner (from a separate commercial), he’s one that I really, really admire. There’s some controversy about him, some people said he wasn’t a coal miner ... In his case, he first went underground when he was 18 years old ... He did such a good job, and he was so persistent, and he worked so hard that he was promoted. He moved up the ladder and eventually, Heath Lovell was named the vice-president of his coal company. That is the American Dream. That’s why I want to celebrate the people like Heath Lovell. He’s exactly the kind of person who is a role model for every one of you.”
How can you tell which commercials are telling the truth?
“These advertisements are so confusing, and its very unfortunate ... What I would like to see in these campaigns would be a more substantive discussion — where we have debates ... It would be much more enlightening and informative to the voters if Congressman (Ben) Chandler and Andy Barr could stand on the same stage and talk about our ideas and solutions for solving these problems and debate on which ideas are better, and then answer questions for people — like I am today. I have tried to do that. My opponent won’t do that. I’m sorry about that. However, I think that’s the way to go in the future. To have more debates, more discussions, more question-and-answer — that’s a lot more informative than all these attack ads on television, that’s for sure.”
What are your thoughts on the coal issue?
“Just to the east of here, we have a lot of coal mines in Kentucky. We have a lot of families in Eastern Kentucky that depend on those jobs. It’s not just jobs for the coal miners that are important to save. It’s also the fact that coal provides low-cost electricity ... There are some concerns about the environmental impacts of mining coal. There’s also some people who want to see more renewable sources of energy. We need that too. We need all kinds of energy in this country ... And we do need coal, because coal provides over 90 percent of the electricity in Kentucky.”
If elected, what would you do to make Kentucky a better state?
“I think that the key to being a good leader for Kentucky is to listen to the people of Kentucky ... We’re going to have an accessibility initiative. Once a month, our congressional office will have office hours in every county of this district. There are 19 counties, including Madison County, we will have office hours in Richmond once a month, so you and your parents do not have to drive to Lexington or Frankfort. You will know that your congressional office will be here to listen to you and your ideas once a month. I may not personally be able to be here every single time, but our congressional office and staff will be here to get your ideas, to get your feedback, to try to answer your questions, and to help you with whatever problems you may have.”
What are your plans for education funding?
“We have to do everything we can in Washington to make sure we don’t impose new costs on state governments that would in any way interfere with ability of Frankfort to adequately fund your education ... A problem that I see is that Washington is doing so many things to impose costs on states, that it makes it more and more difficult for the states to fulfill it’s obligations to schools ... A lot of times governments will waste money, we need to make sure that all the taxpayer dollars go to teachers and to teaching and less money on bureaucracy.”
Do you think the wealthy should pay more taxes than the poor?
“I think yes. They do now. The wealthy do pay more than the poor — and they should, because they can afford to pay more than the poor. In fact, I don’t think the poor should pay any taxes, and most poor do not pay any taxes. It’s hard enough for the poor ... But, as you move up and gain success, people should pay more and more. The key is not taxing people too much so it prevents economic growth.”
Are you supporting Medicare benefits or cutting Medicare benefits?
“I’m glad that young people care about Medicare. This is exactly the kind of issue that’s on the TV, and there’s a lot of misinformation out there. This is why Medicare is important to you: Medicare is a system that we have in this country where when you’re working, you pay into Medicare. In return, the government makes a promise to you. The promise is this: That you have retirement and health care security when you retire.
The concern I have, is that the government is about ready to start breaking its promise. In 12 years, if we do nothing, the government is going to start breaking its promise.
Now that’s not right, because the government has made a promise ... If you’re 55 years or older, nothing should change. But if you’re 54 or younger, then we have to make some reforms to Medicare so it is there when you retire.
There is one major difference between me and Congressman Chandler on this issue, I support a plan that makes no changes for people that are 55 years or older. Unfortunately, my opponent, does support making changes for those 55 years and older — and that’s Obamacare. Obamacare cuts Medicare reimbursements to providers and hospitals and doctors $700 billion dollars. I don’t think we should do that because I think it breaks the promise of Medicare. I think we should repeal Obamacare and put the money back into Medicare so that we keep the promise to our seniors, to your grandparents and to my parents.”
If you are elected, how are you going to help our job situation?
“The main this is — making sure the cost of doing business is as low as possible so businesses feel confidant on spending the money to hire a new person.
Another part of it is eliminating the uncertainty. There’s so much uncertainty because lawmakers and politicians are always changing the rules. When they change the rules, they make people nervous and uncertain about the future. We need to make sure that it’s predictable, that there’s certainty. When entrepreneurs and small business owners feel more comfortable about the future, they are more likely to hire more people. That’s the key to getting the American people back to work.”
For more of the interaction between Andy Barr and the students, visit www.richmondregister.com.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at cwylie@
or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.