Senator Claire McCaskill (D) held a town hall in Concordia, Missouri at the Community Center Gymnasium yesterday morning. Approximately sixty people attended.
Senator McCaskill stood in front of the stage for the entire event.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): ….Thank you all for being here. I appreciate it. We have an hour and I will try to get to everyone who has a question in that hour. Um, for those of you who have been to our town halls before, I know a number of you have, what we try to do is get all the questions that people have in a basket and we ask someone to draw the questions out, and we get to as many as many of them as we can in the hour. And we usually average between fifteen and twenty questions an hour. Um, so hopefully we’ll get, since this isn’t a very big crowd, hopefully we’ll get to everyone who has a question within the hour.
Um, I’m going to try and spend some time today talking about the budget. And the, as an auditor, the, the cash flow and the bottom line and the fiscal unsustainability of where we are right now in terms of this country and what our challenges are in the future. And, um, to begin that discussion I have a, we have a hand out that, that all of you will get that will have. Have we handed that out already? [voice: “It just got here.”] Okay. Um, that has these two charts on them , but a number of other charts that talk about the debt and the deficit. Let me start with one fact, uh, and I told some of the folks upstairs, the regional planning commission, that we just had a meeting with, if we took out all of the government spending for foreign aid, education, highways, economic development, agriculture, all of that, and we just decided we were not going to spend any of that money, we still have a debt going forward because of two things. Medicare and Social Security. And the reason we have that debt going forward is because the demographics of our country. First, we have health care costs that are going up by huge percentages over the last fifteen years. And that contributes to the problem of Medicare. But also, we have a lot more people that are gonna come into the demographic that are entitled to Medicare and to Social Security because the baby boomers are coming, which means we have a lot more people who are entitled to that money. So, obviously it’s important that we look at every single silo of spending in the federal budget…
Two large posters were on display on the stage next to the podium:
Senator McCaskill’s budget priorities?
Hey, we use that CBPP chart all the time!
This “fair taxer” is for you, RBH. I think he’s the same guy from Jefferson City last year. We had a pleasant conversation – he asked me if I’d read the Communist Manifesto. I replied that I had. It turns out that since I support the idea of a progressive income tax he considers me a communist. Go figure. He did give me a copy of his talking points.
…The discretionary spending, which while it’s not the crux of the problem, it’s a symptom of the problem- discretionary spending, both on the defense and the domestic side. Senator Jeff Sessions and I have worked very hard the last year to pass an amendment that would cap the growth of the federal government when it comes to discretionary spending. It exempts out the authorized conflicts we have – our wars that we have that have been authorized by Congress. But it includes the pentagon spending outside of the war and it includes discretionary domestic spending. And it would cap the growth for the next three years. I think that’s an important thing to do. All of the Republicans have voted for this and seventeen of us that are Democrats have voted for this. We are two votes short. I need to find two more Democrats that are willing to buck party leadership, like seventeen of us have, to vote for the cap on spending. I’m optimistic I’ll get two more. I spend part of every week going person to person, in to people’s offices and explaining to them why this is important and why we need to do this. That’s just one piece of it.
Obviously, we’re gonna have a fiscal commission that’s gonna report, this is a bipartisan commission. You have everybody from Paul Ryan and, and Irskine Bowles and everything in between on this fiscal commission that is meeting on a weekly basis right now. And it has to be a bipartisan recommendation because fourteen people have to agree to it. And I believe the breakup of the commission is eight and eight. So, the, the recommendation will have to be made by both Democrats and Republicans as to what we should do going forward as it relates to our entitlement programs in this country.
And I want everybody to remember one thing about the federal government and the way we’ve spent money over the last, well really, frankly, beginning back a long time ago. We have grown, we have grown what the federal government has done to the extent that we now have federal tax dollars going into every single segment of our economy. We have federal tax dollars checks being written in manufacturing, we have federal tax dollar checks being written in agriculture, we have federal tax dollar checks being written in oil and gas, we have federal tax dollars being written in energy, we have federal tax dollars that help support even things like the Internet. Because people who buy on the Internet don’t pay taxes, so unlike if you go down here to the store and you buy something and you’re gonna pay taxes on it, right? You’re gonna pay sales tax. You don’t pay them on the Internet. The government’s decided that we’re not gonna collect sales taxes on the Internet. So the government is trying to encourage that part of our economy by what they do or don’t do as it relates to federal involvement.
So, this notion that the problem with federal spending is all about unemployment insurance or all about food stamps or all about job training programs – that is a luxury we probably can’t afford. I think we need to, with very clear eyes, realize that we have been very, very generous in a lot of places with your money. And all of that needs a very hard look.
The best example I can think of is Medicare D. Do you remember when Medicare D passed? It was in nineteen, it was two thousand three. Does everybody know what Medicare D is, the program that you get help with prescription drugs? It was passed in two thousand and three. And it was all put on the credit card. There was no attempt made whatsoever to pay for it. None, none. There was no income coming in whatsoever to displace any of the expenditures that were gonna happen under Medicare D. The other interesting thing about Medicare D, there was no means test. So, Warren Buffet, he gets his drugs cheaper with your tax dollars. Does that make sense right now? Should we be writing taxpayer checks to anybody in America regardless of who they are and how much money they have? Can we afford that? Can we afford to be helping people that are billionaires and millionaires and hundred millionaires? Can we afford to have taxpayers help buy their drugs? I don’t know that we can. So, those are the kinds of things that we’re gonna
to have to take a very hard look at. Um, and I, I, uh, hope that you all have questions.
I think this one [poster on stage] is very interesting ’cause this gives you the deficit in trillions and it gives you the various categories of what is contributing to the increase of the deficit that we’re currently experiencing, beginning in two thousand nine and, and projecting out to two thousand nineteen. And the various colors give you the various things that have been spent. You can take a look at that and realize that some of it is spending and some of it is tax cuts that occurred back under President Bush, um, that has, that has, that is contributing to it.
So, why don’t, um…
Voice: Senator, can we just say something?
Senator McCaskill: No, we’re gonna do this very fairly. [crosstalk] We’re gonna let everybody have an opportunity to talk [crosstalk].
Voices: [crosstalk] Not everybody… …Can I just say something?
Senator McCaskill: Okay [crosstalk], let me, let me [crosstalk], let…
Voice: Your Internet says that you want to hear us…[crosstalk]
Senator McCaskill:Let me, uh [crosstalk]…
Voice: …hearing us…
Senator McCaskill: [to an aide] Give me the basket. Let me [crosstalk]…
Voice: …on a piece of paper…
Senator McCaskill : I [crosstalk]…
Voice: Why do you feel the need to control us, we’re all adults?
Senator McCaskill: Here’s what we’re gonna do. [crosstalk] Let’s take a show of hands, okay? Let’s try to do this fairly. We [crosstalk], and first of all, [name redacted] I hear from you every day, at least four or five times a day. I hear from you constantly. I have met with you personally. You’ve probably had more input [crosstalk] into my office than anybody in this room times a hundred. And I think it’s fine. [crosstalk] And I welcome it. [crosstalk] But I’m not gonna let you [crosstalk], I am not going to let you [crosstalk] to the extent of other people in here [crosstalk]…
Voices: That was an out and out lie, not four or five times a day… …I don’t see… …Come on…
Senator McCaskill: Okay, all right, I, I will be happy [inaudible]. Go on my tweet page, she’s [redacted] , [redacted] opinions are on there, it’s a public document, you can go on, look at my Twitter page. Here opinions are there. A lot. And believe me, I respect them, I appreciate your opinion [crosstalk] Let me, I absolutely read them. How do you think I know you do it? I read all of them. Sometimes you repeat yourself, but most of the time I read them. I read all of the tweets to me. Here’s what I’m really trying to do. I don’t want anybody to try and dominate this conversation today. That’s why I think it’s fair to draw [applause] , to draw the questions out and if, if everyone, if anybody thinks it’s really unfair for us to draw the questions out and get to as many as we can, please raise your hand. If you think it’s unfair. Anybody else besides these three in the front, four, think it’s unfair? Okay, and the rest of you, you think it’s fair we draw as many questions as we can out of the basket during the period of time we’re here? [applause] Okay. We’ll go with that.
Voice: Why didn’t you listen to the majority when they asked you to vote no?
Senator McCaskill: Well, I’m sure that will be a question, I’ll be happy to get to it. Um, I’m gonna, what I do is I call the, the name and then you’re free to stand up and ask the question that you’d like to ask, or if you would like me to read the question or someone else to read the question we can do that also….
Heh. Claire McCaskill has a lot of experience dealing with difficult people at town halls. What was interesting about the exchange was that the vast majority of the crowd was not buying the interruption and the rudeness, nor were they very happy with it. The instigator(s) backed off.
You can’t incite a crowd if they don’t buy your arguments and they don’t like your tactics.
These charts (and the two above) were distributed in a handout to all in attendance.
“Insidious Doctrine” – that works for me, but hypocrisy will also do in a pinch.
Transcripts of the press availability after the event and audience questions during the event will follow.