Federal spending 'out of control,'
Chaffetz tells Chamber gathering
At a round table discussion group Friday in Price, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who represents Utah's Third Congressional District, said if there was a big problem in this country it is federal spending.
Then he went on to talk about many other problems as well.
Chaffetz, known to be outspoken in Congress and one who does not mince words, lived up to all that during his talk and question and answer period. It appeared that his conservative tone hit home with many of the 40-plus local business leaders who attended the function at the Tuscan Events Center.
"It's a big mess back there," was his opening statement, concerning the state of affairs in Washington D.C. "We have out of control spending going on. It's hard for someone to internalize how big it is."
Chaffetz spelled it out with some alarming statistics.
"How big to you think a trillion is?" he asked the audience. "They use that word all the time in Washington. You could spend a million dollars a day and it would take you 3,000 years to spend a trillion dollars."
He pointed out that almost a quarter of spending in the United States came from the federal government (23 cents out of every dollar) and that the country must spend $600 million a day in interest just to maintain its present debt.
"We can't continue this in perpetuity," he said. "And at the end of the day, raising taxes won't solve the problem."
Many of the issues he discussed throughout the hour and a half session had to do with money, but others were as much tied to politics and power, part of the side effects of money.
In his initial remarks he spoke about:
â¢ The Main Street Fairness Act. This act would bring Internet sales in line with those that sell out of brick and mortar store fronts in that both would have to collect sales taxes. He said the federal government should not get involved in it and that it is a states rights issue.
â¢ He said that the Environmental Protection Agency is writing too many rules and doing it without any input. He intimated that they could be usurping powers of Congress by doing some of what they are doing.
â¢ Land use issues and the possibility of the President using the Antiquities Act to name parts of Southeastern Utah national monuments.
"Rob Bishop (Congressman from Utah's First Congressional District) and I are working on a lands package. We have the idea that we can open more land to the public but still had wilderness too. We can't let the environmentalist take this over. At this time if the President should use the Antiquities Act there would be nothing we could do."
As he called for questions from the audience, the discussion on land use continued. Alan Petersen brought up the fact that Emery County has been working on their land use for years, in coordination with many partners.
"We should use Emery's process as a template of how to do this," said Petersen.
Chaffetz agreed, saying that if they can get all the counties in the southeastern part of the state to come together, it would be a great thing.
"It needs to be unified," he said. "Emery's plan is as unified as anything I have seen."
He said as he and Bishop have worked with environmental groups on a plan that they are very appreciative of the fact that is being done.
Price Mayor Joe Piccolo asked about water and the Colorado Compact, stating that it is obvious that the water on the plateau is over allocated. He wondered what might happen.
Chaffetz said that his present biggest concern was getting the Moab cleanup project finished.
"The funding for finishing the project has been reduced and I am very concerned about that," he said. He also responded to a question about why he supported construction of the Gooseberry Project.
"I represented Sanpete County until the districts were rearranged," he said. "This has been going on since 1933 and after all the studies and issues, I find that I still support building it. That hasn't changed."
Piccolo had also asked for the Congressman to comment on the United States Postal Service.
"Postal reform is needed, but I have to say that I wish all government agencies would act that way. I like the fact that they are meant to stand on their own. I think the challenge here is that they are not as innovative as they could be. They don't look at themselves as being an economic tool or driver. I think things will change. We well could see Saturday deliveries go away and some other changes," then he added that "It's sad that I think that is best agency in the government for moving ahead."
Petersen then asked about the Balotas Subdivision controversy where people had received improper titles to land, built structures and then found out a couple of years ago that the land their cabins and other buildings were situated upon was actually owned by the federal government.
"Senator Hatch is taking a lead on the bill to help cure that," said Chaffetz. "I will be championing it in the house. None of these people were trying to steal anything. Why should they be burdened by a screwup by the feds."
Kerry Jensen asked the congressman about tax reform and Chaffetz had a lot to say. David Funk added to the question by asking why there is such a hangup on the issue.
"I think we should be taxed on consumption, not on productivity," he said. "When people have to hire someone to fill out the forms on what should be one of the most basic functions of government there is something wrong. There are a lot of people in this country who have an interest in keeping the tax code the way it is; many pay no taxes at all. They are not interested in fairness."
He said he believes in a few deductions (like mortgage interest and charitable contributions) but that the tax code needs to be simplified so that "everyone has to pay some tax."
"I have associates in Congress who would never vote for tax reform because they have constituents that have no interest in the tax code being fair.
Wayne Clausing asked about immigration reform and what Chaffetz thought of that.
"I think we need to fix what is already there," he said and added,"And I have a hard time with amnesty. I can't see rewarding people that are here illegally."
He spent about 15 minutes on the subject pointing out that the government has no good entry/exit program because they do not keep track of those who pass over the border. He also talked about the way various people from different countries are processed differently, how long it can take and how those on indefinite stay in the United States affects the country.
He also spoke about welfare.
"I realize we have a duty to take care of certain people in our society that can't take care of themselves," he said. "But the system has grown so much. There are millions more people on food stamps than there were five years ago. We have so many more people on disability too. We have to look at things that have put incentives in the wrong places. I wish there were some magical answer for solving this, but there isn't."
He also responded to a question about prison privatization.
"As you know I am for privatization of most things," he said. "But there are some things that are core to government and I think prisons are one of them. Some states say they have found benefits by using private prisons, but I am not for that. We need departments of corrections, not prison systems. There are so many ways to reduce prison populations such as home confinement, ankle bracelets and other things."
Chaffetz added that people need to remember that that those in prison are human beings and despite their actions they need our help and a system that can help them come out of prison without substance abuse problems.
"If you let that continue what you end up with is the same person with a drug abuse problem, but they have learned to be a better criminal," he concluded.