States need more power, Feds less, Mike Lee says
Senator Mike Lee visited Price on Tuesday morning and had a town meeting with business and political leaders in the area.
And based on his comments, it is obvious he feels the Federal government has over-reached itself in too many areas of people's lives.
Lee, who is known as a Constitutionalist, posed those views to about 30 people in the Price City council chambers. He told stories about his family and his time in Washington D.C. He also offered some solutions for the country/s woes on everything from the economy to Social Security to energy. He also largely talked about the bureaucracy that he says Washington D. C. has become.
"The government is on autopilot," he stated."We have people making laws that aren't elected. Government regulations did number 160,000 pages of material, and just recently they introduced another 82,000 pages. Right now the American people pay $1.75 trillion because of those regulations."
Lee said the federal government needs to provide some things, such as national defense, regulate the relations between states and some national laws, but that they should leave most everything else up to the states themselves. He said that he is introducing legislation that will cause government regulations to sunset at some point without a vote of Congress, so regulations won't be so overwhelming and onerous.
'Tyranny of expertise'
"We are staring at the tyranny of expertise," he said. "These people who run the government use that to make new rules and restrict lifestyles. Where I come from that's called tyranny."
Lee also made comments on a number of things that the audience asked about.
- Carbon County Commissioner Mike Milovich asked him about news reports that he supported Sanpete County in their bid to get the Gooseberry Narrows Dam built. Lee said he had studied the situation some but wouldn't "take a public position on it until it got teed up before Congress."
- Lee defended the use of coal for generating power.
"I've benefited every day of my life from coal," he said. "There are lot of people that don't like coal (in Washington D.C.). They are going to continue to regulate it in degrees until they are rid of it."
- Lee complimented the Utah State Legislature for passing the bill that is intended to take back all the federal land that he and others maintain should have been granted to Utah right after statehood.
Too much public land
"We'd all be nervous if one person owned even five percent of the land in the state because they would control so much of what could be done economically," he said. "East of Colorado the federal government only owns about 15 percent of the land. West of there the percentage is 50 percent and in Utah it is two thirds of the land. That makes it a lot more complicated. It's like having another sovereign government within the state. They can say you can't tax them. If you want to use the land for something it can take five to 10 years for them to do studies and resource management plans. And if they don't like what you want to do when all is said and done they can turn it off anyway. Win, lose or draw on this bill, we need to start a national discussion on this issue. If the East wants the land to remain fallow or to have it unused to make them feel all warm and fuzzy about it, that's fine. But then let them pay for it."
- When asked by Price Mayor Joe Piccolo about the possibility of turning the Carbon Power Plant (that appears to be subject to being closed in the next decade) into some kind of power generation research facility, Lee said he thought that was worth pursuing and he would like to stay in the loop on those developments.
- Carbon County Chamber of Commerce Director Ann Evans asked about health insurance and commented on how it is so hard for someone to get insurance after they have had cancer (even after five years of being clean) without some kind of government plan to aid them. Lee said that he was confident that the national health plan that was before the Supreme Court this past week would be struck down and that the national government shouldn't have anything to do with it anyway.
"Let the states handle it," he said. "A national plan takes into account the health and health risks of people all over the country, when the truth is that the health of people around the nation is different from place to place," he said. "A national plan blurs the lines and everyone is looked at the same way. There are a number of things that can be done including insurance exchanges where insurance can be purchased on the open market and the state will subsidize it."
He went on to say that the states should handle health care because they do all the licensing of doctors, insurance companies, etc. He stated that the average cost of health care used by an individual in Utah is $3,700 per year while in Washington D.C. it is $8,000 per year.
- Price City Councilman Wayne Clausing asked Lee about Social Security and what he thinks should be done to keep it solvent.
Lee said that Social Security would have been alright if Congress had not been borrowing from the trust fund for years. He said what is owed to that trust fund is part of the national debt and it will just get worse. He is proposing legislation that will not affect anyone with the benefits they should be getting that are beyond 55 at the time the bill becomes law. The new law would then adjust the retirement age a month or two every year for 20 years to help make the system solvent. He also says within that bill are provisions so that the wealthy would not get full Social Security payments.
- Carbon County Commissioner Jae Potter also asked Lee about getting environmentalists off the backs of local governments and businesses. Commissioner John Jones also brought up the fact that environmental groups can file lawsuits, and get support from the government for funding them.
Lee said that the Equal Access to Justice Act should stop being funded (the act allows for individuals or groups to sue the government while getting payment for the legal fees they might incur). He said it unbalances justice.
"This is not a Democratic or a Republican issue," he stated. "If government puts its thumb on one side of the scales of justice it unbalances that scale."
- Carbon County Economic Director Delynn Fielding asked Lee about the national debt and what could be done about it.
"Well there is a painful way to solve it and a more painful way," he said. "The less painful way is for Congress to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment that will keep them from borrowing money in the future. The more painful way is for us to keep going the way we are and then we will have no choices. If something isn't done in the next five to 10 years we will have to slash, burn and cut everything."
Lee also made comments about Congress as a whole and concerning their inability to avoid gridlock and to work together.
"We have a lot of people in Congress who if they can't get what they want, then they don't want anything."