In the first of three debates, Rep. Tim Walz and his Republican opponent clashed in Mankato on Monday night. They disagreed on much, most notably on Obamacare. Hagedorn called Walz’ vote for passing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) “the worst vote he’ll ever cast as long as he serves in Congress.”
Walz said he was not going to apologize for allowing adding millions of people to have healthcare. “I do not make any apology for getting rid of pre-existing conditions and lifetime caps. I do not make any apologies for the first time we’ve seen in a long time, holding insurance companies more accountable to how they go about spending and investing their money.”
Walz says Obamacare needs improvements and he’s been willing to vote for them. But he’s frustrated with Republican attempts to repeal the ACA instead of improving it.
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Opening Statements | Role Of Federal Government |Building Consensus To Govern | Your Top Priorities | How To Support Growth Of Agriculture | Healthcare/Obamacare | Educating the Workforce For The Future | Veterans Administration Problems |Closing Statements
PATRICK BAKER: Thank you Jonathan, thank you all for being here. I promise to try to get you all out to watch the second half of tonight’s football game, so we’ll get right into opening statements. There was a coin toss, the coin toss was won by Representative Walz. And he has decided to take the last closing statement this evening, so we will open with Mr. Hagedorn. Your opening statement of three minutes, sir.
JIM HAGEDORN: Thank you; it’s a pleasure to be here. I’m Jim Hagedorn of Blue Earth, Minnesota; a Republican candidate for Congress; and Congressman Walz, nice to see you tonight; looking forward to a robust debate on the issues.
I wanna share with you just a little bit of an interesting story that happened to me on the way here from Blue Earth. I was driving up 169 and I went to one of your local merchants in town; happened to be a former student of the congressman’s from high school. And ah we’re making the transaction and he kinda looks at my name and he says “Hagedorn, how should I know that name?” And I said, “Well, actually, I’m the Republican candidate for Congress here in the First District.” And he said, “You have my vote.” He says, “I gotta tell ya, I voted for Tim Walz twice before, but I’m voting for you this time.” And I said, “Would you mind explaining to me why?” I was curious. And he said, “I don’t know how to explain it, put it in words, except to say I think he’s become one of them.”
Now lemme tell ya why I’m running for Congress. I’m running for Congress because I think our country is in serious trouble. We face big problems that haven’t been addressed in the last 10, 20 years. Our country’s not being defended properly, our borders are insecure, and we’re bringing in far too many people from countries that hate America, and it’s causing us problems. I’ve offered bold solutions on those measures and I look forward to talking with you about them tonight.
When it comes to our economy, our farmers are struggling. The economy nationwide is in trouble; we’ve had massive stimulus for the last eight years under President Obama. And it’s left us with 1% growth and it’s left us with an ag economy that’s unfortunately so tight that the farmers and the agribusinesses in our rural communities are struggling. Struggling because of too many votes from the congressman, too many bad policies out of Washington. I look forward to talking with you about my reforms for our government, reforms for the economy, to get things rolling and to have high-wage jobs. I also think that, unfortunately, our veterans aren’t being taken care of as they as they should be, we need big bold solutions in those areas. We’re gonna talk about that.
And finally, our U.S. constitutional rights and protections. That, the Second Amendment, and our basic rights are on the ballot in this election because if Hillary Clinton wins, she will stack the court with radicals, she will replace Justice Scalia with people who will aim to take away for instance our Second Amendment as an individual right. I don’t think we can afford that; it’s a very critical part of this campaign.
Now my opponent, Congressman Walz, has been in Washington for 10 years. He doesn’t have a very good record of solving the major problems that confront our nation. In fact, the congressman has voted with President Obama on the key issues of the day to dramatically transform our country to the left and make things worse. Make things worse with a porous border. Make things worse with a foreign policy that is in chaos in the Middle East, creating the slaughter of Christians, the rise of ISIS and Islamic terrorists, and of course, a refugee problem that’s out of control.
When it comes to the economy, he’s voted for big government programs like Dodd-Frank and Obamacare. EPA regulations and tax policies that are hurting our small business farmers and our consumers. When it gets to veterans, yeah he promised us he was gonna do better. But unfortunately they’re worse off today than 10 years ago. And when it comes to our constitutional protections, we’ll talk about some of those things.
After, when you leave tonight, you’re going to know where Jim Hagedorn stands on the issues. I’ll be very clear about it, bold about it, you may not always agree, but you’re going to know where I stand. And I look forward to a robust debate. Thank you.
BAKER: Thank you Mr. Hagedorn. Representative Walz.
TIM WALZ: Well thank you. And thank you, Mr. Hagedorn, for being here tonight. Thanks to South Central College for for hosting, and more importantly, thank you for training the workforce for the 21st century, ah working with ah bold initiatives, Mechatronics and our GreenSeam initiative, put forward by ah Greater Mankato Growth. Joe, thank you for the work that you do, and for doing an important part of democracy, is telling ah telling the story to folks. And to Greater Mankato Growth, as always, thank you for hosting this, but more importantly, thank you for being instrumental in those economic numbers that were released last week.
It’s no surprise to those of you who are here and in southern Minnesota ah that that we know how to make things work. We know how to work together. When challenges come up, we approach them in a way that ah is is innovative, it’s bold, it’s ah – it’s problem solving, and I say this because many of you know me, I’ve spent my ah my career here teaching in the schools here at Mankato West and coaching the football team. I knew that wasn’t about me. That was about those students. It was about giving them the best capacity, the best ability to earn and live the life they want to live, as well as helping with the economy. Ah I spent my entire adult life serving this nation in uniform. Full time, and then in the National Guard. Retiring with a sense of responsibility that I have, I’m the highest ranking enlisted soldier in the history of the United States to ever serve in Congress. Ah spent my time here working in civic organizations. To provide quality of life enhancements to our community. Ah always understanding both of those things were not about me, they were about us. They were about what we could do together. Ah and I’m proud that for blissful, many blissful years ah I’m a husband to Gwen, who’s here, and you know her, because she works in our school district. And I’m father to ah to Hope and Gus, who go to our schools here in Mankato.
Ah that’s what this is about. This is not about the two of us. This is about what the future we want to see looks like. It’s about how we go about solving problems, it’s how we bring the values of southern Minnesota to try and change the narrative.
You know – you’re sick of this as I am. The partisan politics, the one liners, the pointing fingers. What you want is solutions. And I can tell you this, when people look at this from the outside, you’ll hear the you’ll hear the statements ah being made tonight. But you need to verify these by the groups that care about this. Whether it’s the American Legion or the VFW. Or whether it’s a group, the Lugar Institute, former Republican senator, Lugar, put together a group and asked, “What is wrong with our Congress?” And he found out that it is too partisan. It is too partisan. Then they went through and they ranked everyone. Not just by some voting record that’s that’s gamed by political votes, but by how many bills they actually author. How many they passed with the help of the other party, and how they talk about the other party in public. And they ranked all 435 members of the House and all 100 senators. I ended up fourth on that list. And I would say southern Minnesota ended up fourth on that list, because that’s how we go about solving problems.
So there’s no doubt, this nation has challenges – we’ve had them before. We’ve stood up to them, we’ve stuck to our values, we’ve moved things forward, always looking to a better future. Always looking to what’s possible. What’s not possible is not the way we go. So I’m looking forward tonight to talk with you a little bit, but I think it’s really important to thank all of you for taking time out to come here. You heard it – it may be football, probably it’s family, it’s other commitments that you have, but you came here for one simple, eloquent, and beautiful reason: you love your country, and you know democracy demands participation. It’s more than voting, it’s more than putting up a yard sign, it’s learning the issues and figuring out how together do we build a coalition to solve those problems. So thank you all for being here and I look forward to our conversation.
SPEAR: Thank you Congressman Walz. We’ll move on to the first question. And the first question actually ah Congressman Walz, you will give the first answer. So here we go. We’d like to start with a question that perhaps gets at the core of your differing political philosophies. Please describe what you think is the proper role of the federal government in today’s society, and what do you believe are the core responsibilities of U.S. representatives within that system?
WALZ: Yeah. Well, I think all of this, when you look at it, hear people talk about this. “Well, what’s happening in Washington? What is Washington?” Ah Washington is a collection. of people who were sent there by the voters. They look like me, they look like John Kline, they might look like Al Franken, they may look at – across this nation, and it’s a reflection of sending people there, again, not a platform for my personal ideology, but a platform for the hopes, dreams, and beliefs of what people can do.
There are certain things that government needs to do that collectively, we can do what we can’t do separately. We cannot build roads on our own. We have to collectively figure out a way to build infrastructure and transportation that’s multimodal. From airports to seaports. Making sure that in Rochester, the International Airport kept its status so that we could continue to grow and see one of the most vibrant economies down the road there. Ah, the federal government’s role in protecting our citizens and providing defense, both from the local level with law enforcement, up to providing for the military. Making sure that military is staffed correctly, making sure they have what they need to get things done, and making sure that we have a strategy in the long run that is in the best interest of providing peace for our people, and spread that to our allies and throughout the world.
And I think the proper role for the federal government is to be there, and I have said this since I had this job, my role is to be the deputy mayor, or an assistant to the folks on the local county commissioners. To listen to what they want to see done, and I can give you an example here, if this is working right, just what it looks like. This city knew they were growing, they knew there was an infrastructure shortage, a few years back when I first took office we knew we had to do something with County Road 12, out on 14, because of the growth near the airport and everything that was happening. We worked together with local funding, we worked together with federal funding, we put that together with the idea the private sector would come in behind that and they would build the growth and create the jobs as long as the referees were on the field and the federal government provided what it needed to provide.
Fast forward to today, we have thousands of jobs in the Walmart Distribution Center and the other businesses that have sprung up, we have got tax revenues that collect it back and paid for that, it was smart investment, it was safe investment for people, it allowed the private sector to grow, and that’s the role where the federal government can make sure those types of things that can’t be done individually, cannot be done by the states or the localities can get done. And I I think that’s where we’re trying to strike the balance. It’s it’s been forever since the beginning of this country, trying to strike that proper balance. And I think we’re moving in that direction. The frustration lies in that you see a Congress that is all or nothing. The idea of compromise has become a dirty word to many people, when it should be trying to find that. So that’s why when I quote the Lugar Institute, I’m proud that I’m one of those people who will reach across the aisle, knowing if I wrote the bill, it wouldn’t look like that, but knowing that together, we can find some common ah common ground to get things done.
SPEAR: Thank you Congressman Walz. Mr. Hagedorn, same question: federal government’s responsibilities, and the responsibilities of U.S. representatives.
HAGEDORN: Well I heard a lot of process in that answer, but I didn’t hear too many solutions and I didn’t hear too much about his record of 10 years. I can say this, that the first responsibility of anyone who serves in Congress is to defend the United States and protect the American people. That is the first responsibility. I don’t believe that’s being done today. Look at what’s been going on, just since two years ago when we stood here, things have shifted dramatically. ISIS wasn’t even an issue in that campaign. Refugee problems in Minnesota weren’t an issue in that campaign. But now, Minnesota has a terrorist recruiting problem from refugees that were brought here under the current system – that’s not Jim Hagedorn saying that, that’s Andrew Lugar, the U.S. attorney appointed by President Obama’s Justice Department from Minnesota. He’s the one that said that because of all the ISIS arrests we’ve had here, and the problems. We have 1,000 open ISIS investigations going on right now across the entire country! This is an exploding problem and it needs to be dealt with, it needs to be dealt with at the border. It needs to be dealt with in the Middle East, it needs to be dealt with our refugee policy and we’ll talk about that tonight.
So the first and foremost responsibility is to defend the country and protect the people. Secondarily, if you’re going to be a member of Congress, serving this predominantly rural district, we have Rochester and Mayo and the good things happening over there and some other medium-sized cities like Mankato. But this is predominantly an agricultural-based district. You have to vote your district. We don’t — we need to support our farmers, and make it easier for farmers and businesses to do business. We don’t need the federal government piling on new EPA regulations, piling on big government programs like Obamacare, which is a huge drain on the economy and hurting many businesses and consumers. We don’t need things like Dodd-Frank, which is just Obamacare for the community banks, runnin them out of existence.
So, all of those things that I just mentioned? Those were things that the congressman voted for, to make it more difficult for people to be successful in southern Minnesota. To have fewer farmers in the end. Talks about bipartisanship. Y’know what? There wasn’t anything bipartisan about Obamacare. Passed with zero Republican votes. There wasn’t anything bipartisan about the stimulus bill, where they spent a trillion dollars in 2009. That passed with all Democrat votes. Wasn’t anything bipartisan about Dodd-Frank. That passed with all Democrat votes. So y’know it’s one thing to talk a good game about bipartisanship and how you’re gonna make things different and how you can reach across the aisle and all that stuff. But when you put in motion so many of the bad bills and ideas that have moved our country far to the left, and have hurt our people, well, it’s it it comes off a little bit a little bit light, and not so much that serious.
SPEAR: Thank you Mr. Hagedorn. Congressman Walz, one-minute rebuttal if you’d like.
WALZ: Well – I think trying to find regulations that provide – I – Wells Fargo would be a great example of this, we see what happens if you don’t have the ability to be able to make sure that people are playing by the rules, so – the other argument on agriculture is simply false. ah I’m the only candidate in this ah race that has the support of agriculture groups. We’ve written two Farm Bills together and those groups support me.
Ah so – I won’t apologize for reaching across the aisle to get things done. And I’ll have to tell you, we’re going to have a more in-depth discussion, we’ll get the rebuttal on this, ah because folks wouldn’t do anything or help on these bills that no one believes that a bill is perfect when it’s done! And every piece of legislation, you should continue to build and work on. And you’re gonna hear about healthcare. And as Republican Senator Dave Durenberger always says, “Healthcare reform is a journey – not a destination.” The problem is, we’ve got a whole lot of folks that simply are unwilling to move or to do anything that will help folks ah continue to make sure they get healthcare coverage so they don’t go broke or they’re able to get their children there. So ah I’m proud of the work we’re doing together, I’m proud of the Farm Bills we’ve worked on, proud of the safety net we’ve put in there as a ranking member on risk management, and it shows by the support of those groups there are there for me. So.
SPEAR: Thank you Congressman Walz. One minute rebuttal, Mr. Hagedorn?
HAGEDORN: Well again, I didn’t hear much on policy, and if he wants to come up here and ah defend his vote on Obamacare, I’m lookin forward to that. But ah let’s just take another one. Ah people say we have to be bipartisan. I am bipartisan. There’s a neighboring congressman who represents a similar district to this one. It’s the Seventh District, Collin Peterson. He he he supports my position, which is to make sure the Congress should decide whether or not we’re gonna have big rules going into the economy. He also supports my position to get rid of the death tax, which is terrible. For southern Minnesota and our rural communities. He also opposed Obamacare. So if you wanna talk about bipartisanship, I would be a superior congressman to Tim Walz because I would represent this rural district in a way that the neighboring Democrat congressman is representing that rural district.
BAKER: Thank you. Both candidates have teed up this issue of consensus, bipartisanship, so let’s dig into that a little bit more. Ah recent polls show that the approval rating for Congress stands at near-record lows, and Americans are dissatisfied with the intense partisanship and gridlock that has plagued the institution in recent years. What would you do to restore the faith of Americans in their government, and how would you go about working with other elected officials of varying political affiliations to build the consensus necessary to govern for the benefit of citizens? And Mr. Hagedorn, you get the first shot at this one.
HAGEDORN: Well, I have a little, I have a little experience at this. When I was in my thirties, I had a very ah important job with the U.S. Treasury Department. I came up with an idea that we should reform government , we should pass something which we ended up enacting called the EFT 99 Act. And it forced the United States government to convert from paper checks to electronic payments. It also downsized my own agency, the agency that I was working for at the time as their director of legislative and public affairs. And so at that time, I went to Congress, I worked with Republicans and Democrats, I worked with the Clinton administration, at that time, I worked with ah interest groups – we brought ‘em all together. And we passed a little itty bitty change that saves about 200 million dollars a year for the taxpayers, closed four check-writing centers, eliminated 10% of my agency’s workforce, and improved service to the taxpayers. That’s what you’re looking for in Washington, is people that can go out there, identify the problems, see what’s going on and make it better.
And I happen to be one of those people that knows how Washington functions and dysfunctions. But one of the things that gets, I think a a bad rap here is this: the United States House of Representatives is an institution put together to to be of sheer power. One vote more than half and you control all of the committees, you control the agenda, you control the whole body. And ah one of the things that’s lost many times, we’ve brought this up at Farmfest is – the farmers and others should be looking for somebody to represent this district who’s going to be in the majority, in a position to take ideas and move them through the House, get them over to the Senate, and then you have the compromise. But what we talk about and y’know for instance with farmers: let’s let’s have that regulatory reform. Let’s replace Obamacare. Let’s make sure that we repeal the death tax. Let’s do the things that we have to do on on taxes. Y’know my opponent, he supports a carbon tax. What farmer in this district thinks that’s a good idea? What small businessperson? What consumer? Thinks that’s a good idea to have to pay more their energy?
So I’m I’m of the belief that you go to Congress, that you support what you believe, you fight for it, you get it as far as you can, and if there’s any opportunity to compromise and make things happen, sure we’re gonna take that and we’re gonna do it. But – first you have to stand for the ideas in order to try to make the country better.
BAKER: Thank you Mr. Hagedorn. Representative Walz,
WALZ: I would first say, if anybody tells you they’re gonna be in power, that’s that’s a red flag for you. Because the House of Representatives fundamentally, if someone who supposedly has this much experience, the House of Representatives is a collection of folks from each of their districts, and a fundamental piece of this, as we’ve been saying, is reform. If your frustrations, and that number, that low number, is directly correspondent to a group of folks who simply refuse to do anything. Yes, the Republicans are in charge. I respect that. They won, they won elections so they’re in charge of the House of Representatives. The problem is, the Republicans have a a process they call a Hastert rule. They won’t bring anything up to the floor unless it can get 218 Republican votes. The problem they have is, is they have about 50 folks on their right edge. And I do not doubt that Mr. Hagedorn believes when he sees and he tells you about me. When you’re on the far right edge, the middle where I’m at does look like the left edge. But what they do is, they do not allow those votes to come forward. So what ends up happening, every piece of significant legislation that has to get done, like last week’s budget, we were almost on the verge of another government shutdown, we needed to fund the SECA funding that we’d been setting on, we needed to fund Flint water, and we had the 50 folks on the far right edge that are in power, that they think, said “We refuse to do anything.” Speaker Ryan then has a dilemma, where he has to bring something forward, counting on Democratic vote. He’s done this numerous times, and there’s 30 or 40 of us who are willing to say “yes” for the good of the country. If I wrote the bill I wouldn’t do that.
Now again, you’re hearing this. I don’t ask you to believe or listen to me. I ask you to do the research on this. To look at what people are saying, to see what we’re voting on and getting done, and the frustration that you lie is, there is things that we could be doing to fix every piece of legislation or to move things in the right direction if we were simply willing to say “Y’know what? I’m not gonna get my whole way, but I do not doubt that every single person in this room wants to defend this nation. I do not doubt that every single person in this room wants to make sure there’s regulations to keep our food safe, to keep our money safe and banking situations so we don’t have another 2008, there’s just difference of ways to approach that! You’re not going to get your way in divided government. But we should be able to find those common grounds. And I’m proud of the reputation that I’ve earned, I’m proud of the support that I’ve had, I’m proud that when the Republican chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee stands on the House floor and says “No one knows the issue and is doing more to reform and help our veterans than Tim Walz.” And I can tell you this: I would say the same thing about him. He is being humble. That is an issue that draws us together. An issue that draws us together, national security. An issue that draws us together, our food production.
Don’t buy into the idea that things are broken and can’t be fixed. It’s our responsibility to fix it and it starts with the willingness to be bipartisan, to find the common ground with your neighbor, and understand they love this country just as much as you do. They just see it a little differently.
BAKER: Thank you. Mr. Hagedorn, one minute.
HAGEDORN: Well I don’t doubt that everyone agrees and all those things. But – what you heard again was two minutes of process. You didn’t hear any solutions. You heard a lot about “Well this guy out in Washington thinks I’m great” and “This interest group in Washington thinks I’m great.” Isn’t that the problem, the people in Washington, the interest groups, the politicians? The bureaucrats? They all think they’re all great, but somehow the country isn’t so great anymore, unfortunately.
We have serious problems. You wanna talk about yeah, does everyone want to defend the country? I hope so. Does everyone wanna step up and admit that we have an Islamic terrorist problem in our country right now? In Minnesota? Not so much. I haven’t heard that out of the congressman. We’ve had major problem after major problem, he’s either ignored it or done the politically correct thing where he won’t call it by name, hasn’t identified our enemy. As radical Islam. Thinks that my idea to have a refugee resettlement program timeout is Islamophobic? Or unMinnesotan? Or bigoted, racist, whatever?
Folks, we can have disagreements. But it’s about ideas and solutions. And when we talk about the issues, whether it’s the defense, the economy, veterans – anything. Whatever it is, I’m offering you solutions and ideas in order to take the job and do something, in order to help our country. He’s giving you a lot of process and runaround from Washington D.C.
BAKER: Representative Walz, one-minute rebuttal.
WALZ: Well first of all, it’s patently false because it’s on tape. Numerous times. Radical Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism is a problem. This, this is type of stuff you get and the and the fingerpointing. So now that you’ve called it that, you are no closer to solving it and no idea of how all of the processes that go involved with that, not just military – it’s one thing to try and get people by fear, and to cheerlead to send other people’s children into war, it’s another to try and find the root causes, to try and make sure that we’re getting at the heart of what is causing the radicalization. To make sure that we’re doing and building with our allies the networks necessary to make sure we don’t have the failed states, and then working to make sure, bipartisanly, to make sure that we have the military and the military force necessary to get that done. And if the special interest groups are our local farmers, or our local veterans, are the folks that understand this, then yes, I am guilty of being with those special interests and the local folks who get this.
But the problem you hear once again is, is trying to find the talking point and trying to divide us on the issue. No one disagrees that that’s a problem. But when you make the case you continue to put on, when I’m last week at my son’s fourth grade open house, he has American citizens, fourth graders in there, who are Muslim. Those little girls aren’t the terrorists behind this. And we have to strike the balance of how we make sure we secure this nation, we go after the radical terrorists that are there, and we hold true to our values.
Finding those solutions means working with people and respecting their position. It means having a lifetime of experience in national security issues, both in the military and in the private sector. Understanding that the problems that America faces are far broader than just one thing, and we can multitask, and how we continue to build the deep resources ah ah our allies, making sure that we have the coordination amongst agencies, things that I have been working on, and then have the ability to make sure we’re delivering it according to our values.
So ah I am optimistic on these things, because we have solved these things before. This nation has faced threats, but someone deciding they’re gonna misrepresent a position or try and think that they have a name, that that’s gonna fix it with no real working knowledge of how to fix this, other than trying to find a way to divide us. This country’s better than that. This country can find solutions. We’ve done it before and we’ll do it in the future.
SPEAR: Thank you Congressman Walz.
HAGEDORN: I’d like to address that.
SPEAR: All right, Mr. Hagedorn.
HAGEDORN: Y’know it it isn’t ah all this dividing this and dividing that – you you may have experience here and there, but your ideas haven’t worked. You supported President Obama’s bringing in about 800,000 people from around the world, mostly from countries that hate America, and we’ve ended up in Minnesota with a terrorist recruiting problem, which you have never acknowledged! I can’t find any reference where you said “Y’know, we have a terrorist recruiting problem. We have to do something about that.”
And then when you come up with an idea, it’s not a talking point, by the way. it’s a solution that I put out there over a year ago. To have a refugee resettlement timeout. Because the current system isn’t working. We have a terrorist recruiting problem right now, from people who came in through the existing program. So clearly, we need to make changes. We should take a pause and figure it out. So that’s not a talking point. That’s a proposal that I put out there before anyone else. Including even Donald Trump for that matter on that issue.
So I think we can we can talk about. Y’know you wanna hide behind the interest groups and other people, and tell us that you have more experience, that’s fine. But what are your solutions? And when it comes to the cause, the root cause of this problem, how did we get there? Congressman Walz supported every last bad idea in the Middle East. Starting with his opposition to the surge. Starting with then Obama’s withdrawal of troops without having a status of forces agreement that destabilized Iraq. Undercutting Libya, you were for Hillary’s war in Libya! You were on the House floor talking about that voting that way. Disaster with refugees! Disaster with chaos! And then all of a sudden we have all these problems and he says, “Oh, y’know, we shouldn’t have talking points and disparage other people.” I’m not. I’m just bringing up the fact that we have problems, I have solutions, I’m ready to go to Washington and address it. And frankly, he’s been there for 10 years and the problem has just gotten worse.
SPEAR: Thank you Mr. Hagedorn. Move onto the next question. This is about priorities that you would have in Congress. In the next session of Congress, what are the top two or three bills you will introduce or champion? And I believe this goes to you first, Congressman Walz.
WALZ: Well, I think the opportunity for us to think bold. We’re gonna, we’re gonna be in the same situation we’re in if we try to go down this road of ah that we’ve been on. I think one of the potentials is that I think there’s great agreement across the board, and I think it would start to move us in the right direction. And again, ah process does matter. How things happen. We have a democracy, you need to follow how things are going. But what I would say is that I think there’s great opportunity to do tax reform. Ah I think Paul Ryan, as the Speaker of the House, it’s something he’s championed. I think many of us in here – and that’s not code word, or dog whistling to one side or the other, it’s it’s an understanding that obviously, and if you’ve followed the news the last few few days, there’s there’s problems with our tax system. It’s too complex, ah most Americans are absolutely, they understand that it’s a responsibility to live in a democracy in a nation that builds roads and funds our military and funds their schools ah need to make sure that we have revenue to do so. And to do that, people just wanna make sure they’re fair, they wanna make sure that people are paying their fair share, and they wanna make sure that it’s being done wisely on how they’re used. And I think there’s common ground there. I think there’s the build you look at things, ah put everything on the table, come back, re- reform the tax system in a way that makes a difference for middle-class folks. That makes a difference to grow the economy like we’re seeing here in Mankato, like we’re seeing in southern Minnesota where we’re recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression, and we’re starting to get on a roll, those things can matter.
And then something we’ve been championing in a bipartisan manner, working on, is I think there’s some really solid solutions for the 21st Century VA. Ah they see 80 million people a year, the VA is multifaceted in the veterans that it provides, not just healthcare but in benefits to them, whether it be through injuries or whether it be housing benefits and education benefits, and we’ve been able to move many of those, many of us here are products of the GI Bill. Things that have worked, things that make a difference. But it’s 21st Century. Things need to be updated. We have siloed up Department of Defense, why you have two medical records, going from the Army to the VA, makes no sense. And we championed that, we’re on the verge of making it happen, in a bipartisan manner, that would ensure that everyone is immediately enrolled in the VA and is able to get the care that they need. I think those are things and solutions that the the start to streamline the way we do things. I think they start to deliver services, and they’re a place for common ground.
And then we can step back and agree that we do need to do something on our immigration system, Making sure that our legal immigration system works, and then making sure that we can do things to continue moving forward on the journey on healthcare reform. Keeping the progress that we’ve made, fixing things that we haven’t addressed yet. So I think I would champion those first two things, and it’s gonna take a compromise instead of digging in and saying “nothing will move.”
SPEAR: Thank you Congressman Walz. Mr. Hagedorn. Same question to you. Top two or three bills you will introduce or champion.
HAGEDORN: Well our country needs big bold solutions to make big change. Or we’re gonna lose it. Ah I think on the economy, if we want to get the economy rolling, which is very important, because if our economy doesn’t start to grow, very robustly, we’re gonna lose the American dream. We’re gonna lose it to our national debt. The debt, which has grown from 8-1/2 trillion dollars when the congressman was first elected, to almost 20 trillion dollars, by the time he leaves office next year. Hey folks – that is a ticking time bomb. And if we don’t grow the economy, we’re never gonna be able to address it. Unfortunately, the debt is now growing faster than our overall economy. So, one of the things, the most important things we can do to get economic growth rolling, is to is to get rid of these onerous regulations. We – if you talk to anybody across this district, whether it’s farmers, manufacturers, consumers and others – they’ll tell ya that these regulations – and they’re not just coming out of EPA, some of them are coming out of HHS from Obamacare and others ah out of the financial services industry. It’s a disaster.
The fix that I support, very strongly, is that the United States Congress should have to affirm all major regulations before they hit the private sector. Particularly if there are a hundred million dollars in ah in impact or more. That bill is called the REINS Act. That bill has been brought up repeatedly by the House Republicans. That bill has been supported repeatedly by our neighboring congressman, Collin Peterson, a Democrat. I support it. Congressman Walz has voted against it time and time and time again. He wants to keep the power with President Obama, keep the power with the EPA, keep the power with the FDA, and not transfer it to the representatives of the people so it’s closer to you. That would be one of the strongest proposals I would work on. in Congress. And I’ll, if we have time for rebuttal I’ll talk about one or two more.
SPEAR: Thank you Mr. Hagedorn. Congressman Walz, rebuttal? (Walz declines) Mr. Hagedorn. (Unclear response) (To Baker) Go ahead.
BAKER: Agriculture: We’ve talked about a little bit tonight. Ah Greater Mankato Growth, along with hundreds of businesses and professionals, rooted in agriculture from across the region, have been working since 2013 to strategically build on and connect the region’s extensive agricultural business assets in order to develop and position this region to now be known nationally and internationally as the GreenSeam. The place for talent, business, innovation and education in relation to agriculture. What should Congress be doing to better support the growth of the agricultural economy in our region? And Rep – ah Mr. Hagedorn, this is to you first.
HAGEDORN: Thank you for the question. We had a very short debate at Farmfest a couple of months ago. And we talked about these very issues. And as someone who grew up on a farm, in Truman, my dad and grandfather and great-grandfather were all southern Minnesota farmers. I have a deep appreciation and feel a good understanding for agriculture, and our way of life. I live in Blue Earth, it’s a rural community where I was born, grew up in Truman, a rural community, so I understand how important agriculture is for our smaller towns and communities.
Now: farming, right now isn’t doing so well. It’s tight, the commodity prices are low, the input costs are still too high, and we have a lot of burdens being heaped on farmers and agribusiness that’s put putting a strain on the system, a strain on our our producers. And – we get it. It’s agriculture. It’s up, it’s down – and it’s high risk. Sometimes not high reward, high capital. But what we don’t get, frankly, is why someone who represents this very rural district would go out to Washington D.C. and vote to impose massive regulation on farmers and agribusiness. Why would he vote for things like a carbon tax. And President Obama’s oil tax, which is gonna drive up the cost of energy, which is very important and very a very important part of a farmer’s farmer’s work. Why would our congressman vote for something like Obamacare, which is one of the big line items in every agribusiness now, as far as the cost. They’re paying twenty, $25,000, many of the farmers, and it’s a, it’s a big problem.
Why would our congressman vote to sustain the death tax? The death tax is one of the worst things that can happen in rural southern Minnesota. You have farm families, small businesses, in order to pay the IRS tax collector sometimes they have to sell out. When they sell out, chances are they’re going to be selling out to bigger operators. Bigger operators in agriculture are not bad people, don’t get me wrong. But we would like to have as many people holding the land and working the land as possible to keep sustaining our small communities, our rural communities, which is very important to Mankato, Rochester, all of southern Minnesota.
So on the other side are my solutions. Again, regulatory reform. Get rid of that death tax. Let’s make sure our, we have U.S. energy independence. So our price of energy, electricity, other products are very low, as low as possible. And ah let’s make sure that we replace Obamacare with free market reforms. They’re gonna put downward pressure again on the cost of insurance premiums and deductibles. If we do those things, we will help our farmers.
As far as the overall farm program, the congressman and I agree on the overall Farm Bill and the programs. I think the current one is very tough, and livestock, especially dairy, there need to be ah some changes made. But ah you’re you’re going to get somebody that that will be in the majority, in the Republican majority, and be in a position to deliver for ya on these key programs.
BAKER: Thank you. Representative Walz, on agriculture.
WALZ: Yeah, first of all, thank you to Greater Mankato Growth and all those partners including myself, our staff and others, who’ve worked on this idea, understanding that at the core of the economy in southern Minnesota, and we’re very diverse – we have one of the most diverse ah economies of all the congressional districts in America. From the healthcare at the Mayo Clinic and others, to manufacturing, ah to higher education, innovation, and then of course at the core of that, is agriculture. And what GreenSeam is is starting to align many of the principles that we’ve advocated for, understanding that Main Street goes as the farm goes. Ah an example of this is things that we can do, we were a couple of weeks ago out in Trimont—Trimont’s a small community down where Mr. Hagedorn grew up on his farm. And ah that community, because of economics was losing its grocery store, was losing its core, which meant a lot of its senior citizens would not have, would not be able to stay in their homes, and be able to stay there. So we came up with innovative solutions using USDA, the Department of Agriculture, rural development programs, that we had put in the last Farm Bill, to be able to make some low-interest loans to make some creative financing to have community leaders and visionaries create down there the City Center in Trimont. And I think those are the solutions, those are the ways that we ah we work together to ah to solve those things.
And you – I I I think the misunderstanding or – the idea of again, not understanding where people are. Let’s be very clear on this. That that our producers that feed, clothe and fuel the world, they are concerned about the issues of clean air and clean water as anyone. And they’re working to find those solutions. And when those things don’t line up, I’m there to work with them. But I think it’s disrespectful to make the case that they don’t care about those things while they’re simultaneously doing their job of feeding us and making sure that we have the most affordable and the safest food supply of any place in the world. We spent less of our income in this nation than any other nation in the world. On food. That’s because we have a healthy, robust, integrated agriculture system. We have a Farm Bill that has safety nets in there on risk management, and making sure that when you see a downturn on commodity prices, we’re there to make sure that all of us are in this together.
But asking folks ah – asking our producers to do this alone, they can’t do it alone. And that’s why collectively are able to make those make those progress. So I think ah again I’m a – it’s challenging, right now for folks, because of commodity prices, but I think ah staunch belief in ah renewable fuels, and the piece that we are getting at of the energy independence, that make sure that we don’t stifle innovative growth, that we don’t stop those biofuels that are moving forward, while yes, reducing carbon emissions and making the planet safer in the long run. It’s not a false choice: you can do both. You can create renewable energy, you can get energy impendence here at home, you can improve our national security, and you can create jobs if you have the will – the innovation – and the leadership that we’re seeing out of GreenSeam and that we’ve seen in the United States Congress.
BAKER: Thank you. (Motions to Hagedorn).
HAGEDORN: Well I think it’s wonderful that the Department of Agriculture wanted to put a loan out there so city of Trimont could have a grocery store and some other – I see somebody from the city of Trimont here tonight. That’s a wonderful thing. But if you could build a grocery store all day long – but if you attack the people that live around that grocery store, so they have to sell out of their businesses and sell out of their, leave their communities, there aren’t gonna be any farmers there or people in Trimont to buy anything at that grocery store. So, I think we have to have a a system in place where we’re, we are augmenting or we are fostering or we are doing everything we can to make sure that rural southern Minnesota has a fair shake. Now he has yet to address regulatory reform, and the problems we’re having with regulations coming out of Obama’s out-of-control administration.
Let me give you one example of something most people never heard of: the Veterinary Feed Dir Direct Directive. The Veterinary Feed Directive – I always get that last part wrong. But anyway, it’s a regulation coming out of the FDA, it affects livestock, and in this district for instance, it is projected that it could drive up costs for the pork producers by as much as 10%.
Well, you say “Well, gee, I, that doesn’t sound good.” Well, if if you have a billion dollars’ worth of pork production, and a hundred million is here in southern Minnesota, you’re starting to look at real money! You’re taking you’re sucking money out of southern Minnesota, you’re hurting our farmers, you’re hurting our livestock, people, you’re having less capital, less investment, that’s just one example. Is it a good idea or a bad idea? A lot of the producers would say it’s unnecessary. A lot of the producers would say it’s onerous. I think the Congress of the United States should have a vote on that: up or down. Is it good or not? We shouldn’t leave it to the bureaucrats in the Obama administration. The bureaucrats at FDA. Let’s bring the power from them and give it back to the people as close as possible.
BAKER: Want to follow up, Representative Walz? (Walz declines)
SPEAR: Okay, we’ll move on to the next question: Ah it concerns healthcare. A recent Gallup poll found that 44% of Americans support the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare. While 51% disapprove of it. The number of uninsured Americans has dropped since enactment of this law, but despite this success, health insurers are concerned about Obamacare’s financial sustainability. And Americans are experiencing dramatic increases in health insurance premiums. How would you improve healthcare? This goes to you first, Congressman Walz.
WALZ: Well first of all—set the stage for this. Ah before 2010, we had ah well over 35 million Americans uninsured. We paid twice as much as any other industrialized nation, and yet got results that were about 37th, right behind Latvia, in the major ah health outcomes. Ah the major cause of personal bankruptcies was healthcare bills. Most Americans’ insurance had a lifetime cap on it, you could be kicked off for pre-existing conditions, if you were a woman then you paid more, and very few of them paid for pre ah for preventative healthcare. Like mammogram screenings and things like that. Your children were left off your insurance the minute they left the house.
So – the Mayo Clinic made the case that the current system in 2010 was unsustainable. So an attempt was made to use market forces and to try and move forward to make sure that we can do better than that. And, the case that you hear on the ACA, an an example of this, most people get their insurance from employer-sponsored plans. (Unclear) Where they split a percentage of that. Those plans over the six years that the ACA has been in effect, have seen an average increase this year of 3.2%. Prior to that time, they were averaging between 14 and 18% per year.
Now – that is not to say that everything was fixed in this. The individual marketplace that you see these rates coming up, about 4 to 5% of your neighbors fall into that category, where they buy on the individual market. Those plans before were basically gift certificates. They did nothing for you – if you had ‘em, and they had about a 40% turnover rate. Well now, insurers are required to make sure they provide preventative maintenance, they provide neonatal, all of the things that you want to see in good healthcare.
Well – in rural areas, like southern Minnesota, the provider network is very narrow. The number of doctors to try and get there. So what you end up seeing is, the marketplace of where those folks were coming in, they they saw people with more healthcare issues, we see higher costs because we’re at a very innovative place with Mayo Clinic and others, and they simply made a business decision when they first came in, they set the rates low, and they said “We’re gonna step back out of this.”
Now – what’s happened in Congress is, we have had 70 votes – 65 – to repeal the ACA. We keep being promised that there is another plan to come in. Something more than just having Louisiana sell your health insurance. Or something, or health savings plans. Which can work, but they’re gonna be a small piece (unclear) healthcare economists say it won’t have anything to do with it. These are all ideas that have been floated before. But nothing is ever put forward. So it’s a repeal. Now keep in mind what repeal will mean. Repeal will mean those 26 million people that now have insurance will all leave. Your children that cannot stay on til they’re 26. There will no longer be, there will be a lifetime cap again, there will be no pre-existing conditions, they will put those back in, and we will be back in the boat of the unsustainability.
What I have encouraged and asked for is, why are we not taking votes to improve? And on the five occasions that they’ve offered things that improve upon it, I voted for those. To try and move those forward. .
(Unclear comment from Spear)
WALZ: This same debate happened with Medicare. Had we not improved Medicare, would the solution be repeal Medicare? Or improve Medicare like we did? And the ACA falls in that same category.
SPEAR: Thank you Congressman Walz. I’m sure there will be plenty of time for rebuttals on this one. (off camera laughter) Mr. Hagedorn.
HAGEDORN: Well, I I think I’ve seen a new low in politics, where you cast – that was the worst vote he’ll ever cast as long as he serves in Congress. Obamacare. And he literally blamed the Mayo Clinic for his vote rather than step up and take ownership himself. I don’t think the Mayo Clinic, when they said it was not sustainable, I don’t think they intended to have 25 to 50,000 pages of regulations to rain down on doctors and hospitals and insurance companies. Somehow I don’t think that was the fix they were lookin for in 2009 and 2010. I don’t think they were lookin to move millions of people from private insurance to government-subsidized insurance, which reimburses doctors and hospitals at 30 or 35 cents. On the dollar. I just, y’know I have a sneaking suspicion that that wasn’t the Mayo Clinic’s intention at that time.
As far as the scare stories about “Oh no, if we do any changes here we’re gonna go back to when nobody has anything.” The one thing the congressman is a little bit disingenuous with you about. The state of Minnesota didn’t need this. The state of Minnesota had a pretty darn good plan that was working for the people in Minnesota. Ninetysomething percent of the people in Minnesota already had health insurance. We had ways to deal with people with pre-existing conditions, or people with very expensive medical needs. As a matter of fact, I learned some of these things just a couple of weeks ago here in Mankato. When we held a town hall meeting on healthcare. And we had insurance people in, consumers, there were even a couple of ah Congressman Walz’s supporters. We had a nice talk and and it was an excellent excellent opportunity to engage on the issue.
I would let you know, that of the two people here at this debate tonight, only one of us in the last seven years has held a town hall meeting on the Affordable Care Act or health insurance. And that’s me. The congressman has avoided the issue, run away from the issue, and then he even wants to blame the Mayo Clinic and others for his vote. But let me we’ll we’ll have some rebuttals back and forth. And we’ll get into this, and I’ll share with you my free market reform.
SPEAR: Thank you Mr. Hagedorn. One-minute rebuttal, Mr – Congressman Walz.
WALZ: Well first of all, we’re 50 states. And there’s an inequality across the nation in many things, but we’re in this together. Ah we ah our strength comes out of trying to make sure that we’re solving problems that don’t pass the problem from one place to another. And that I think that Minnesota does have many good ideas, that’s why we incorporated many of those things into the reforms that were ah that were put forward.
But again, I go back to the point that – you’re gonna hear proposals that are out there, across state lines insurance sales or whatever, you can do that in some places anyway, the idea was, that was propagated back in the eighties and nineties, as a way for states like Minnesota that did have good healthcare regulations that said, “If you offer healthcare in Minnesota you’re gonna provide mammograms.” And so what they want you to do is go to Louisiana, where they wouldn’t offer those things, and then you could buy that insurance and you wouldn’t have those safeguards in there.
Insurance that doesn’t cover the things necessary is not insurance. And so the reforms went into that. But I’ll be the first to tell you that Dave Durenberger is exactly right. These are the first steps. There’s a whole multitude of things that we’re doing because healthcare, it shouldn’t be just about the insurance. People need it to protect their livelihood. They need it to make sure they’re able to get the care for their children and they’re able to plan for the future. But it’s about healthcare, too, and the state of Minnesota’s taken some bold initiatives where, of all the states, Minnesota has reduced the obesity rate by more than any other state.
Those things will have direct impacts, and the ACA has had a Venn curve to the cost of healthcare, the first time since the implementation of Medicare. Those things are facts. So – the the critiques of the ACA, and pointing out problems, some people are really good at pointing out the problems. The issue is, is how are you going to, as part of a deliberative body, because you are not running for emperor of the United States, you’re not running to wave a magic wand, you’re running to work with people, to find real solutions, to make sure that people are able to purchase in a fair way healthcare.
And again, think about this. There’s two issues, in fact, with healthcare. It’s both a moral issue, because I think this question should get asked. Whether you think healthcare is a human right, or whether you think healthcare is a privilege. That you’re able to get. You need to decide that in your mind, because that will determine which direction you go in, ah on where you’re going. And then how do we best deliver it in a way that makes economic sense, that allows the people involved in this, and I would say, again, when the insurance companies tell you “I don’t want to go back to a time when they’re making decisions,” or the manufacturer of EpiPen decides to jack up prices 4,000% on that, there’s got to be safeguards in there for the consumer to make sure that this works right.
Because again, when you’re being told that the insurance company can’t make it work, and yet the CEO makes 56 million dollars a year, we have to have an honest discussion in this country, how are we going to deliver healthcare to our citizens? Because again, it’s the personal side – but our employers count on healthy people who don’t miss work, and their kids don’t get sick, because they’re getting taken care of, so that they can contribute to the economy, That just makes good sense.
SPEAR: Thank you Congressman Walz. Mr. Hagedorn. How would you improve health healthcare?
HAGEDORN: Well – I I just heard a lot of stuff, but I didn’t hear any solutions. He said he had some ideas, but ah Obamacare’s been in play now for over three years. And ah I haven’t seen anything come out of him. Y’know he just, the congressman just admitted that he took a vote for the good of the Democrat party. He voted for the bill to find out what was in the bill, like Nancy Pelosi was commanding people. And it wasn’t good for his constituents. But he thought it was good for the country.
I don’t know. If you’re a representative of southern Minnesota, I think you have to represent the people. Now when he cast that vote, seven years ago or so, he made some promises to you that he didn’t keep. And he hasn’t come back and addressed those promises. He promised that if you liked your current doctor, you could keep your current doctor. Well, that’s not the truth. Thousands of people across southern Minnesota have lost their doctor/patient relationship, with sometimes Mayo Clinic physicians! Darian over in Le Center, an insurance agent, he has his own problem with insurance. He said, “This time, the choice is going to be between either being in the Mayo Plan, to have access to that clinic, or with his local doctor and hospitals. He doesn’t know what he’s going to do. Doesn’t sound like he can really keep his doctor if he wants to keep his doctor.
Then the second promise was, “If you liked your current health insurance plan, you can keep your current health insurance plan.” No you can’t! Here’s a letter from Blue Cross/Blue Shield. to Mark Fitzsimmons, a local farmer. “Cancelled: Blue Cross/Blue Shield cancelled.” He’s gotta go find a new plan. Along with 104,000 other Minnesota families. That’s on top of thousands upon thousands of families who’ve been cancelled two or three years in a row.
Then he promised, “Well, if you’re gonna save about twenty-five hundred dollars a year on your healthcare costs.” Really? Talk to Mary and Greg over in Sleepy Eye. Talk to Julene in Fairmont. Talk to others. They’re paying 15, 20, 25 thousand dollars for insurance premiums that are virtually worthless because the deductibles are so high they never get there. That doesn’t sound like they’re saving money. They’d probably be ecstatic if they only had to pay twenty-five hundred dollars more. Rather than being promised a big savings.
And lastly, the biggest lie of ‘em all: Congressman Walz said that if he voted for Obamacare, he would live under it just like you. Well, the congressman was asked about this in Rochester last month. And he promised the resident over there that he’d get back and talk to him about how much he pays for health insurance, and what his deal is. He never did. We’ve done some digging and to the best of our accounts, this is the deal. He and his wife and family make about 200, $250,000 a year. They receive a fat 75% subsidy from the U.S. taxpayers for their health insurance. His premiums are roughly $500 a month, with a deductible of $350 for himself and 700 for his entire family. That doesn’t sound like he’s living under Obamacare just like you. It sounds like there’s one set of rules for Tim Walz and his family on Obamacare, and another for everyone else. And that’s the stuff we need to end in Washington D.C.
WALZ: Well let’s clarify that, because this is where Mr. Hagedorn and I have something in common. Mr. Hagedorn and his family, he spent his entire adult life on the federal health insurance program. That many of you are federal postal service workers here and some of those folks, spent their entire career on. Not a word about that while we’re on it. But ah fast forward. In the ACA, it is untrue that we kept the federal health insurance program – we’re on the D.C. exchange. Where because it’s a different place than southern Minnesota, there is a lot of competition. There are 172 plans. To choose from. And you could go through. And like millions of Americans, just like when I was teaching at Mankato West High School, my employer paid a portion of the premium and I paid a portion of the premium. That’s how most of us are able to get that. I can go through and pick the premiums, depending I’ve got a 10 year old, who gets to the emergency room for a broken arm falling off the swing or those types of things, you can adjust it. That is a marketplace that is working the way it’s supposed to, and – if you take a look at, again the healthcare and the percentage of where it’s at to where we were teaching at Mankato West High School, the premiums actually a little higher from the ones we had, we would have a little better coverage with the negotiated price when I was teaching at Mankato West High School.
But what you hear is if someone who lived an entire career in D.C., had that healthcare insurance, and now makes the case that the rest of the people who are added to it, shouldn’t be able to get healthcare insurance. So ah I do not make ah any apology for adding millions of people to be able to have healthcare. I do not make any apology for getting rid of pre-existing conditions and lifetime caps. I do not make any apologies for the first time we’ve seen in a long time, holding insurance companies more accountable to how they go about spending and investing their money.
And again, you’re not gonna hear me say we don’t need to make improvements. Just like every piece of legislation. Ah there’s a favorite quote that I have, there’s a quote by a prominent Republican during healthcare reform, that said, “If you allow this bill to pass, you can say goodbye to America. And you can wake up to socialism and you won’t recognize the country.” That was then-governor of California, Ronald Reagan talking about Medicare. Fast forward to then-President Reagan, working with Medicare, working with Tip O’Neill and the Democrats, to improve upon Medicare, to make it the program that it is that so many seniors count on, and to move it forward. It did not do those things. You sat here two years ago and heard, the economy was going to collapse, jobs would go under, and we’d be at 10% unemployment for this. That did not happen.
But it doesn’t mean there aren’t improvements. And it doesn’t mean that there aren’t families out there that are in this individual market that are in an untenable situation. Many of these things can be done back to the states, and the state of Minnesota has tried it, but the same thing. The gridlock. The attempt at a special session. And nothing. Because – the first part of ACA was to set the fundamentals. Phase Two was to turn it back, in many cases, to the states and to those free market principles, to see if they could get there. We’re going to find like many things, some of them are not going to work, then we should go back at it. But this idea, thank goodness we didn’t make the decision to scrap Medicare when we had its first problems. Thank goodness we continued to move forward on this, and the ACA falls in that same boat.
BAKER: Okay, we’re gonna move on here. It’s obviously (Unclear request from Hagedorn). Y’know it’s an issue we could talk about all night, let’s move on. We’ve got four, five, six more questions here we need to get to. And I got a tableful of audience questions. (laughs) So. Ah let’s talk about workforce a little bit. Ah businesses across our region in the state report that they are having difficulty finding enough qualified individuals to fill open positions in their companies. Greater Mankato Growth estimates that our region will be short nearly 3,000 workers over the next five years as retirements accelerate while our economy continues to grow. What would you do in Congress to address the shortage of workers in Minnesota and the country?
And related to that, I have two questions from the audience that relate to higher education. Ah one is related to ah high student debt, and how it is impacting their transition from college into working life, and the other question is, should college be free to some extent ah for for certain income levels? So if you could address kind of workforce, and then higher ed, that would be fantastic, and Mr. Hagedorn, you are first up.
HAGEDORN: Well, in getting around the district we talked to a lot of especially small businesspeople who are having a heck of a time, the farmers and others, finding good quality workers out there, people who will hang in there once they start, and it is a problem. And and one of the things that I’d like to, I’ve always been working on, back when I worked for Congressman Stangeland in the eighties, work for welfare. That’s very important; we’ve gotten away from that. They’ve eliminated most of that in the stimulus bill in 2008, and we have a situation where there are people who would like to work, but frankly it costs them too much to go back to work, or they’re afraid to get back in the workforce in such a way because they don’t think it’s right. If if people are out there and able bodied, they should work for their welfare the same way the taxpayers work to make it possible. I think that would help.
We also should have a verifiable work program to bring people in from foreign countries, so people can fill needed jobs, they can go back and forth to their home countries or perhaps build up citizenship, have credits. That proposal, that should have been done many many years ago. But it’s being held hostage by the left wing, because they want everybody to be citizens who are here already, illegally, instead of just having a verifiable program and making it happen and getting started, they’re holding that as a bargaining chip. I think that’s wrong and that’s hurting our businesses.
As far as college education is concerned, no, I don’t think it should be free. In fact, I would go a little bit different. I I think it’s time that we have policies in Washington that affect everyone the same way. I don’t think it’s right anymore to say “If you do this, then you get money. If you don’t do this, you don’t get money.” Let’s let everybody be in the same boat. Every kid from 18 to 30, let em go out in the workforce, go to college, whatever they want to do, but through that point, they pay no federal taxes up to let’s say $50,000. And they defer, they defer that money, they keep it. They get to spend it for whatever they want to spend it for. They wanna go to college? Great. They want to start a business? Great. They want to – you know—whatever. It’s theirs; they can save it. That puts the incentive to the people to go out and work, get in the workforce, be motivated that way – it leaves the choice with them. And as far as other things that have to do with higher education, we should allow parents and others to use pre-tax dollars, That would make a lot of sense.
Now, let, lemme tell ya somethin, about where we were with him on Obamacare. No solutions, folks. No solutions. He’s been in office 10 years. It’s been seven since he voted for it. Three or so since it’s been in action. Where’s his bill? Where’s his bill to fix it? Where’s his bill to make the changes? We should have competition across state lines. To put the downward pressure. We should have health savings accounts expanded, because that creates situations where people shop, they hold their own money, they’re rewarded for healthy living. We should have pools for people with pre-existing conditions. We should have tort reform. We should have direct tax credits to people so they can have portable benefits. And we can do all this without a top-down Washington approach, which is dramatically hurting the people.
SPEAR: Thank you; Representative Walz.
WALZ: Yeah – this issue on workforce is is the issue when you go into businesses, of trying to make sure that we have the well-qualified workforce. We’re setting right in an epicenter of a collaboration of an institution that’s that’s addressing this issue right on. Making sure that our students have the technical skills to address, whether it’s using 3D printing, whether it’s a Mechatronic program here, understanding that manufacturing in the 21st Century requires computer skills, plus it requires all those things necessary.
But this issue is a broader issue in in southern Minnesota. I I heard this saying once, and I think this is true: people may not move here for our values, but they’ll stay here for that. I think when people think Minnesota, they think cold, they may not know, we know when people get here the quality of life is second to none, the opportunities are second to none, the schools are better than anyplace else in the country, we have ample opportunity to do the things we want to do. So what we need to figure out is, how do we make the case and how do we make sure that people are coming and and working in southern Minnesota? But that means keeping our kids here. Making sure that they’re able to stay and work here. And I think this is a conversation that starts with parents and then it goes to our issue on education. And as a lifetime educator, having spent countless decades in those classrooms, one of the things – and as a as a parent of small children now, making the case that we were told at one time that having technical skills was going out. That all those jobs were going to be outsourced, we weren’t going to have that ability and that you needed to get a four-year college degree, or you wouldn’t be able to get work. What we know now is, there are ample opportunities to join the workforce with good paying, middle-class jobs in noble professions that can go forward. That is one opportunity that we can get there.
The other issue that’s coupled with this issue before I do student loans, is the issue of housing. If we can get em here, we can attract ‘em here, and we can train ‘em, they still need a place to live. And workforce housing now means teachers – middle-class people, how are they going to find this? In Fairmont the superintendent told me they advertised for a fourth-grade teacher, they only got two applicants. And the one reason they got for many people was, there is no place to live. There was no housing that fell in that. So we convened summits, we’ve worked with Greater Mankato Growth and other organizations, to try and address this issue to make sure that we can ah make sure that local entities can make loans for these, making sure that we’re doing the tax credits and reauthorizing those things.
But again, many of those bills never see the floor because it’s about messaging. Many of those solutions never get a chance to get there because people are more interested in scoring political points than actually trying to solve the issue. The next issue on student loan cost is absolutely unconscionable that our generation, and those of us, are putting a burden on the younger generation. It makes no sense to me that we’re not getting them out, getting them in the workforce, making sure they have as low of debt as possible, to make sure they can start spending into the economy.
And if you think it’s just because this generation needs their cell phones and needs all this or whatever, here’s a statistic for you: if you would have taken a minimum wage job when Mr. Hagedorn and I graduated from high school, worked that minimum-wage job over the summer, you would have made enough money to pay the tuition for a year at the University of Minnesota. That is no longer true. So it’s coupled with the costs rising – and the inability of students to be able to pay for that. And we’re going to have to have that discussion in this country, how important is this to move them along? How important is it to get that qualified workforce? How important is it to start them off on the right foot? I disagree with the idea that we get money giving out on this. I think a great idea to make college affordable is the GI Bill. How, losing my father when I was a young man, having the GI Bill there and joined the Army, be able to get to college. I think you can expand that to national service. I think there’s some ways we can get kids giving back something, and then give that opportunity to earn that right to be able to go to college. It just makes good sense for us to get a handle on it.
So it’s multifaceted, it’s not because the workforce issue and the college issue is not because this generation doesn’t want to work hard, or this generation is not willing to give, or this generation is looking for something free, that’s not it at all. The the economics have changed dramatically, and we have to address that or we’re going to fall further and further behind.
SPEAR: Thank you Congressman Walz. We’re going to move on to another very important topic, because we’re running short of time here, it’s about Veterans Administration and healthcare. Ah VA Secretary Bob McDonald was quoted today ah talking about how he’s upset to see fiscal 2016 expiring with Congress having failed to pass up to two dozen pieces of legislation he labels essential for continuing to transform VA to better serve veterans. With faster access to quality healthcare outside VA, breaking ah what he calls a disgraceful logjam of disability claim appeals, shelving archaic statutes that handcuff staff and more.
What can we do to move the needle forward to correct some of these huge problems at the VA?
And in relation to that, there have been a couple of questions. The VA has been negatively portrayed by the media – is that deserved? And also, ah what ah are the candidates willing to do to ensure that veterans can choose their own physicians? I believe this goes to you first ah Congressman Walz.
WALZ: Well first of all, there are few issues ah – that draw Americans closer together than the care of our veterans. There are few issues in Congress that you’ll see very little daylight ah between folks there. The VA Committee still functions as you would like to think Congress functions, it is one committee, working together, sharing staff back and forth, and putting forward proposals to improve on veterans’ care. Now let’s first of all go back to that. Is the is the portrayal of the VA warranted? Yes! In some cases, it certainly is! And I’ve always said this, they they do 80 million visits a year at the VA. Countless millions of home loans, countless millions of education benefits in the GI Bill and all that. But here’s the thing. If one veteran falls through, and one veteran waits for care, for whatever reason, then we’ve failed. And we should continue to try and improve upon that. But veterans’ healthcare, ah if you take things, the number one if you go to a hospital, the biggest problem you can have, and the number one cause of death in an American hospital, is hospital-acquired infections. That is one of the biggest things, that’s why people say if you can stay stay away from hospitals, stay away in that case. The VA does a better job of that than anybody. The VA trains 80% of all of our physicians in the country. The VA does many things right in terms of research, whether it was the hepatitis vaccine or whether it was stents and things that they’ve done. So they they have a core mission: to provide care for some of the most difficult cases that would not be done in the private sector, because outside of industrial accidents, the type of injuries you see to to our warriors going there, ah are are are not seen somewhere else.
But, is there the potential to modernize the VA? Yes, the VA and its infrastructure, the average hospital age in America is eight years; the average age of a VA hospital is 50 years. I don’t think it makes sense to chase the brick and mortar side of this, and we’ve always had fee for service. We can create a new VA that streamlines the process by having one medical record between the DoD and the VA, you’re already in the system, making sure that if it makes sense and bills that I have championed put through, whether it’s dealing with mental health care issues, whether it’s dealing with modernizing the GI Bill, or whether it’s making sure that the care and accountability is there, we can do that – and it is starting to happen. The stalling of the bills that are there, ah in all fairness to Jeff Miller, the Republican chairman of the committee, he has pushed many of them forward. The problem we have on, there’s a great bill that Nina Titus and I authored, she’s from ah Nevada, that was coupled with another bill that if it would’ve been separated, which we asked for, it would have passed and would have an impact on that.
But they are making progress, it’s something the country wants, ah there have been problems throughout the VA maybe because, and I think this is one of the things, Americans want to get this right – but only 10% of Americans are veterans. So I always say, what I worry about, is that the VA gets things fixed, and they look like they’re on the right track, and people look away. We should never look away. We should have the strictest eye, we should stay there constantly, and we should continue to reform them. When the VA was built, hospitals were inpatient. They’re outpatient now. Why doesn’t the VA operate an urgent care clinic that stays open? Those are the types of things we’re proposing.
So. This is one – we’ve got no choice but to get it right. This is one where there’s absolutely bipartisan support amongst people. It joins us together on this, there’s not fingerpointing, there’s just a list of solutions that get put out. So I
SPEAR: Thank you Congressman Walz. Mr. Hagedorn, how do we improve the VA?
HAGEDORN: Well, this is a critical issue, and we talk about it all the time, and we’re very bold in our solutions. And I I first would like to say that I respect Congressman Walz’s service in the National Guard. I know that he has the best of intentions when it comes to helping our our veterans, our wounded warriors and others, ah but this is just a a situation in which his record hasn’t matched up with what we would have expected, and his ideas are just wrong.
Y’know in 2006 he said, “Send me to Washington, we’ll take care of the veterans.” Folks, the veterans are worse off today than when he went to Washington. That’s a fact. And he’s been working hand in hand with President Obama. President Obama’s VA. He had General Shinseki to Mankato some time ago, bragging about how they’re working together, and then we had that terrible problem where we had the waiting list and veterans dying at the hands of the U.S government. And General Shinseki had to resign in disgrace. It’s been one problem after one problem after one problem after one problem. And I don’t think there’s anyone who would argue that the veterans are better off today than they were 10 years ago.
Now. What are the solutions? We’re very bold in our solutions. First of all, we need to hold the VA accountable. The bureaucrats need to be held accountable. The civil service rules of this country need to be reformed and changed. Not just for the VA, but for every agency of government. If bureaucrats are making mistakes, they should be fired and demoted.
The bill that the Republicans brought up last year, and again recently, the VA Accountability Act, would say that if a VA employee ah does something wrong, that within a very short process, 30 or 60 days, they could be demoted or fired. The current process under civil service rules is something like 700, 800 days. I once tried to fire someone in that system; it’s almost impossible. So we need to hold the VA accountable. The congressman voted against that bill. At the time, in 2015, he said that it was a right-to-work issue. For the VA employees. And not so coincidentally, the big union bosses of those government unions give him tens of thousands of dollars for his campaign. That was wrong. It was a right-to-life issue. For the veterans. The congressman was just wrong on that.
Secondarily, I think we’re to the point where we can all agree: that every veteran deserves, has earned, the right to timely quality medical care. Every bit as much as Congressman Walz and the Congress, and everyone else. The veterans in this country should be empowered to choose their own doctors, and hospitals, and get the care when and where they need it. That’s my solution.
BAKER: You get 30 seconds, and then we’re going to try to get one more question in.
WALZ: That solution is rejected by every single veteran group who’s actually served: the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign War, the DAV, and others. I’m gonna end on this – no, I’m gonna say it – I I don’t take these things personal. This one I take personal. Ah Mr. Hagedorn and I have a beef over this, and I have a close personal friend who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam to a grenade. Mr. Hagedorn disagreed with his political positions, called him a half-soldier, and told him to roll away. So this one for me is personal. This issue of dividing our veterans over issues that are untrue, and trying to find a political issue on this is, we are united on this. Jeff Miller and I stand united. There is no difference, there is no arguments. Everything doesn’t have to be filtered through a partisan political lens. And this issue on – you’re you’re gonna care for veterans when you speak that way about someone who gave both legs and an arm ah is simply unconscionable.
SPEAR: Ten seconds, then we need to move on.
HAGEDORN: Well in this case, I mean just recently, we were in front of the Mayo Clinic, I was with Pete Hegseth, a veteran of Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo, Pete used to be the head of Concerned Veterans for America. He supports wholeheartedly our position that the veterans should choose their own doctors and hospitals. We polled on this issue in May; 93% of the people in southern Minnesota believe that. And when I crisscross the district, like I did when I saw Myron of Hanska after the parade, this is in May. And we sat down and talked about it. A Vietnam vet. And I said, “This is what we should do.” He says, “How come that’s not getting done?” I said “Well, because Hillary Clinton and others say it would hurt the VA.” And he said, “Well, the heck with the VA. We’re talkin about veterans here.” So. That’s that’s, that’s my position and that’s how I think we can best help our veterans.
SPEAR: All right. So, our signal people are telling me to move on to closing statements. So we’re going to do that. Ah Mr. Hagedorn, you are first up for closing statement, followed by Representative Walz.
HAGEDORN: Well thank you, thanks to the moderators, thanks to the school, everyone for – thank you for being here tonight. Congressman, nice spirited debate, good to see you. And I think we’ve talked a lot about the major issues confronting our nation. And I think that I’ve I’ve tried to laid out lay out bold solutions that I would take to Washington in order to make our country better, in order to help improve our lives.
Now, there’ve been a lot of disagreements here tonight. Ah mostly about process, not really about my solutions. Only one of us, by the way, talking about his record. But, here’s where we are. Congressman Tim Walz has been in office for 10 years. He hasn’t a great record when it comes to solving any of our nation’s major problems. In fact, the policies that he’s supported with President Obama have moved the country far to the left. And made things worse.
I don’t believe that there’s any better example than the Affordable Care Act vote that he took. And the promises that he made to the people. That he would live under it just like you. Y’know, I didn’t vote for Obamacare. I didn’t make promises to live under it just like you. And frankly, I want you to have the same deal that Congress has. So there’s there’s a solution that would make some sense.
But he’s not living under it just like you. He’s kind of acting like one of those inside the Beltway politicians. Then, you’re gonna save money. Clearly, that’s not happening. Just the other day, MNsure came out with their rates: 50, 60% increase and that’s after last year’s 40 to 50% increase. And then it was, “You get to keep your own doctor.” If you like your current doctor, and if you like your current healthcare plan, you get to keep your current healthcare plan. It all sounds very ominous and negative, but I do have some good news. Leaving you tonight. If you don’t like your current congressman, you don’t have to keep your current congressman. You can vote for Jim Hagedorn and a new direction for our country.
Now – what is that new direction? It’s a new direction in which we are going to defend this country. Secure America’s borders and protect our nation from Islamic extremism. We need a refugee program timeout. Y’know, my opponent at one point said that we were going to – he was open to closing Guantanamo Bay, and relocating the Islamic terrorists to Rochester’s federal medical center. The most ridiculous statement I think any member of Congress has made in the last 10 years, in fighting the terrorists. Like Khaliq Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9-11. Into the district. Folks, we don’t need to be giving Islamic terrorists Miranda rights. We need to give ‘em the last rites. And defend our country.
When it comes to the economy, we need to get the government out of it. We used to walk beans when I was growing up, to make sure that the weeds get pulled, that the plant would have the proper nutrients, water, sunlight – we need to walk the beanfields of the federal government. Pull out these excessive weeds. Regulations that are stifling. Big government programs like Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. All sorts of tax policy that doesn’t make sense. And then we need U.S. energy independence to put downward pressure and help us create high-wage jobs.
Lastly, I do believe that our veterans deserve the right to choose their own doctors and hospitals, and when it comes to our God-given rights, Jim Hagedorn will be with you there 100%. Defend the Second Amendment. Protect the right to life. Protect our God-given right to worship freely. Folks, please vote for me, I ask for your vote. Let’s take back this district; let’s restore America’s greatness. Thank you very much.
BAKER: Thank you Mr. Hagedorn. Congressman Walz. Your closing statement.
WALZ: Well thank you again to South Central, Joe thank you, thank you Greater Mankato Growth, and thank all of you for coming out tonight. Here are two very different visions. I hope when you leave tonight, that you recognize the Mankato that we know. Ah a place that’s inclusive, a place that leans forward into the future, a place that solves problems by working together, a place where if you’d been in their schools, these schools, if you had been in their National Guard units, if you had been in the civic organizations, if you had worked to solve these problems, you would see that there’s an optimism here. Fear is not a defining American characteristic. Courage is a defining American characteristic. Collaboration is a defining American characteristic.
And so, you you get enough of this. Go turn on the news tonight – that’s not what we’re interested in. It has been a singular honor for me to represent the people of southern Minnesota, develop a reputation of working hard, of looking for solutions, of treating people with respect, of trying to understand that we’re all in this together, and that this nation has time and time again faced crisis. It doesn’t, it will always change. Last time we set here two years ago, if we didn’t stop all trade and all planes coming in here, and if we didn’t take away Americans’ constitutional rights and detain them against their will, you were all going to die of Ebola. Remember that one? Four years ago it was, five dollar gas. (unclear) So I guess I get credit for one-ninety-seven gas.
That’s not how it works! It’s not about trying to find the divisions. It’s about finding the solutions. We are hopeful in this, we will educate our children, give them an opportunity to innovate, get jobs here, live in these communities where you have the right to worship as you see fit, whichever religion that is, work for a common goal, live the life that we have been so blessed to live, and take some stewardship for things of moving forward, not rejecting the science. That tells us the direction we need to go. But finding solutions that aren’t false choices.
So I ask you ah, let’s continue to stay optimistic. Let’s listen to what President Kennedy said: ah “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” Let’s light those candles, let’s work together to find those solutions, let’s continue to move places forward, and this city – Rochester, Austin, Albert Lea, all of the small communities stretched across this district – are shining examples of what can be, and we can do it together. So I ask for your support coming up in November. And I ask you to stay optimistic. That’s a defining American characteristic. Thank you, and go watch the game.
BAKER: Thank you Representative Walz. Thank you all for coming, thank you for being a fantastic audience. (applause).