Minnesota’s first congressional district is on the surface a conservative rural area, which is why many were surprised when Democrat Tim Walz ousted Rep. Gil Gutknecht in 2006. Since then, Walz has handily defeated a string of Republican opponents.
Jim Hagedorn, Walz’s opponent this year, lost the race for the Republican Party endorsement, but then went on to win the August primary – a rare event in Republican circles.
This is the second debate between Walz and Hagedorn, but the first to be live streamed.
Video above: full debate
Video below: Reaction after the debate from Hagedorn
Video below that: Reaction from Walz and audience after the debate
Click here for sharable version of this video
Debate transcription by Susan Maricle
ANNCR = Jonathan Zierdt
JS = Jim Santori, Moderator
PB = Patrick Baker, Moderator
TW = Tim Walz, incumbent Representative, Democrat
JH = Jim Hagedorn, candidate, Republican
ANNCR: Good evening and welcome. I’m Jonathan Zierdt and I’m President and CEO of Greater Mankato Growth. And I want to thank all of you for joining us this evening, for the forum between the candidates that are vying for the First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. This forum is presented this evening by Greater Mankato Growth, the Free Press, and South Central College Student Senate. I also want to thank South Central College for serving as our host this evening, and allowing us to use this space.
Additionally, there are a couple of other folks I’d like to thank. I’d like to thank KSMQ Public TV for broadcasting this evening’s forum. And also I’d like to thank The UpTake for providing livestreaming online of tonight’s forum.
Before I address a few housekeeping items, I want to let you know about another forum that Greater Mankato Growth will be hosting next week that’ll be of interest to some of you. The Mankato Mayoral Forum with Mayor Eric Anderson and Bukata Hayes will be held on October ah next week ah at 7 p.m. at the Verizon Wireless Center.
Finally, there are some framing remarks I’d like to share with you for tonight. Ah first to set a few expectations for you as an audience to help us present an engaging and a civil dialogue this evening. First and foremost, when you came into the room tonight, you should have had an opportunity to pick up a slip of paper that you could write a question that you might have for the candidates that you’d like to see asked this evening. You can write that question down and just wave your hand, signal. And there are student senators that are around the room. And they’ll come by, someone waves their hand, they’ll come by and pick those up, those questions that you write up. They’ll bring them down to our moderators, and they’ll try to work those into this evening’s questions.
Clearly, we probably won’t have enough time to ask all the questions that you might want to ask. So to help us get through as many questions as we can tonight, I’d like you to hold your applause until we’re completed with tonight’s forum. And of course, in addition to that, let’s be on our best behavior. No shouting, no heckling, no other types of jeers or cheers from the crowd this evening.
Ah the format will be like this. Each candidate is gonna be allowed 3 minutes at the opening and in the closing to make their own remarks. They’ll also be asked questions throughout the evening. Their responses to those questions, they’ll be asked to try to limit those to 2 minutes. There will be followup questions and discussion, and that will be at the discretion of our two moderators this evening.
Let me introduce each of our moderators tonight. First, Jim Santori. Jim is the publisher of the Mankato Free Press. And he also serves as the chair of Greater Mankato Growth Public Affairs Steering Committee. Second, Patrick Baker, and Patrick is the Director of Government and Institutional Affairs for Greater Mankato Growth. I want to thank both Jim and Patrick for the time they spent preparing for this evening, to lead us in an informed candidate forum.
Finally, the two folks that we came to listen to this evening, I’d like to introduce our candidates for the First Congressional District. First, Representative Tim Walz, the DFL candidate, and Jim Hagedorn is our Republican candidate.
Now I’d like to turn the forum over to our moderators.
JS: Thank you Jonathan. Well, to prime the pump, we’d like to start with a question that perhaps gets to the core of your differing political philosophies. Please describe what you see as the role of the federal government in today’s society.
(Inaudible exchange with PB)
JS: I’m sorry, I’ve jumped ahead. So yes, let’s have the opening statements. (off camera laughs) Trying to get through the night (laughs)
(off camera: We’re good then?)
JS: We’re good.
JH: I’m Jim Hagedorn and it’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you for the opportunity, thanks for putting on this debate. Congressman Walz, nice to see you tonight.
Folks, I’m a product of southern Minnesota. Born in Blue Earth, Minnesota. where I reside today. Grew up on a grain and livestock farm, just outside of Truman. My father, Tom Hagedorn, grandfather and great-grandfather all Minnesota farmers. And it’s that perspective and appreciation of agriculture that I would take to House of Representatives, serve on the Agriculture Committee, and sustain family farming and our rural way of life.
Now, I’ll also have some legislative experience at the national level that’s going to help me. I worked for Congressman Stangeland in Minnesota for awhile, and I moved bills through the Executive Branches of Legislative Affairs Officer with two Treasury agencies. So I know how Washington functions and dysfunctions, I know where the bodies are buried out there, and I’d be able to be a good advocate for you in the House of Representatives moving legislation and attending to your needs.
I’m running for Congress because I believe the country is in serious trouble. That these are critical times, and that we need to make bold changes to save our country. Now there’s a big difference between the two candidates tonight. President Obama said the other day that his policies are on the ballot. And Congressman Walz has voted for every last one of those policies that is hurting southern Minnesota, and hurting our country in my opinion. Policies like Obamacare. Policies like cap and trade energy. Policies like Dodd-Frank. All the spending, and of course the porous borders.
I’m on the other side. I want to go to Washington D.C. and take the power from that place and bring it back to the states and the people. To make you more relevant in your life. To make the states more relevant. And to take the power from Washington.
One of the big issues in this campaign that frankly I don’t think has gotten a lot of attention, but is in the news lately, is defending our country. Not just with military men and women around the world, not just with weapons systems, defending the United States Homeland. Defending you. Our borders are open. We have passport and visa systems that are broken. We don’t know who’s in this country. We don’t even deport the people we apprehend anymore. It doesn’t take too much imagination to think what would happen if some ISIS terrorists went over the border and tried to disrupt our life. We don’t have to think very long because that’s what happened on 9-11. Just 19 people disrupted America, loss of life, loss of economic – changed our world forever.
Folks, we can’t allow that to happen. We need a government that’s going to protect you. Just recently, President Obama again said he wants to close the Guantanamo Bay Prison in Cuba and bring the Islamic terrorists into the United States. That’s not acceptable. There are bipartisan legislators in Washington who have gotten together to say “Stop that, we’re not gonna let it happen.” Unfortunately, Congressman Walz supports that policy. And he took it one further. And said, “Hey if we bring the terrorists into the country, we can house them at the Rochester medical facility.” Folks, that’s reckless. We can’t be doing that. We need to protect our country. I don’t know if the Congressman understands what would happen if that happened. People that would come visit, those terrorists, not gonna be Billy Graham and a Pope, it’s gonna be some of the worst people in the world.
You need a member of Congress that’ll go to Washington to defend this country. To defend you. And if you give me the honor, folks, I’ll do it every day of the job. Thank you.
TW: Well thank you both and thank you South Central College and Student Senate for putting this on. More importantly, thank you for being here and caring about your democracy. Thanks to the Free Press and Greater Mankato Growth. And a special thank you, and I know this community, there are literally tens of thousands, ah thanking Jonathan Zierdt for being ah I think the way he’s standing up and I think the way this community sees his courage and dignity during this time when all of us are with him is something quite inspiring so I thank him for that. Ah and to each of you, thank you for coming tonight. It might be the most beautiful night of the year. I said if they hold up time cards for me, they can also hold up the JM – West score that we’re all very curious about going on down there. We’ve got a Big 9 football game going on down there. It’s a beautiful day out there, and you chose to come here because you understand that those beautiful days and those wonderful children down there and those activities that we do amongst ourselves come with, come with a price. And while we have wonderful privileges, we have wonderful opportunities, ah there are some responsibilities. And that responsibility is being engaged in the decisionmaking that happens in your community. So you came here tonight to do that.
Ah I want to thank you for the privilege and the honor of being able to represent you. That’s a job description as well as the name of the job you’re applying for. And I’ll tell you, we have much to offer, not just not just this country, but the world. Ah we have the most productive agricultural base in the world. We have farmers and ranchers feeding, clothing and fueling the world. We have a biofuels industry that is innovating, that is making America not only more energy independent and creating jobs in southern Minnesota, we’re reducing carbon emissions and making sure that our portfolio of energy is not dependent on the proclivities of dictators in the Middle East, but on the farm communities in southern Minnesota.
We have some of the most innovative and forward leaning medical institutions in the entire country. Between the Mayo Clinic and the Hormel Institute, which some of you may be familiar with, if you’re not, trust me you will someday, when the story of the cure for cancer is written, it will run through Austin Minnesota and the things that are happening there. Ah we have a vibrant and a resurgent, at a thirty-year high, manufacturing base. In fact when they launched the Virginia-class nuclear submarine, the U.S.S. Minnesota, the battery boxes were made in Mankato. We have a composite industry second to none in Winona. And so all these things are happening, and they’re tied together with a vibrant public infrastructure. Institutions like South Central College. like Minnesota State University, like Winona State. Working together to provide that one thing that people in America ask: opportunity.
You’re not guaranteed equality of outcomes. But in this country we said, ‘If you come from a small town in southern Minnesota, you come from New York City, we’re gonna give you a world-class education. Because what we know is, that’s the promise of this country. What you take and do with it then, is what made this country great.
We have those opportunities. We have that ability to move forward. But you and I both know, many of the simplest things are not happening. Because we have folks that decided that it’s an either-or. That if you don’t agree with me together you’re not for this country, you’re not with us. I ask you to look at the people you came with right and left of you and tell me, how often do you agree 100% with them. I think that those of you who are married here, you know how it works. You understand that you build compromises, you build towards a common goal, and this idea that we are defined as a people, solely by our political labels, is nonsense. I said I get that. If you come up and say “You’ve got a Republican and a Democrat,” I would say, “I’m also a father and husband to my wife, Gwen who is here. I was a football coach and a teacher at West. I’m a retired soldier. I’m a bad golfer. And now, since the other day, a bad shot at pheasants. (audience laughs) But it’s the things we do, and that togetherness, and you know what’s broken. It’s not about that you have all the right answers. It’s not about eliminating the ideas. Good ideas come from all sides of the spectrum. What you’re seeing happening is, we can’t move the simplest things. Like road construction. We can’t move the simplest things, like funding to NIH to start working on these things.
Imagine a world when we can cure Alzheimer’s. When we can cure cancer. When we can cure those things. And I would give you and ask for this, ah my pledge to you. I’ve represented you with passion. I’ve represented you with integrity. And I’ve represented you with dignity to do this job. I’ve respected my colleagues and I’ve worked across the aisle. Give me the opportunity to do two more years. What’s right with southern Minnesota can make that in Washington better. So thank you.
JS: Let’s try this again. To Representative Walz first. 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?
TW: Yeah. Well first of all, again, this idea that it’s the public sector versus the private sector is absolutely false. It’s part of that false choice. We’ve understood what made this country great. Be very clear about this. Democracy is very very difficult. When Winston Churchill said, “This democracy is the worst form of government except for every other one,” what he understood was is trying to organize people, let alone 320 million diverse people across a massive landscape, is very very difficult. So our Founders understood that it had to be about compromise. And they understood there were certain things that we did collectively that we could not do alone nor the private sector. And they were very clearly articulated into the Constitution. Things like building roads. Like the national defense. Those types of things that we would do towards building towards the common good. And towards a more perfect nation.
So the role has always been, the fear is true on this. Excessive intervention by government, whether it be in marketplaces or in individuals’ personal lives, is a depression of liberty and the ability of businesses to work. That’s why it’s not the false choices. It’s not about no regulation or all regulation. It’s about smart regulation that makes sure the playing field is kept fair. Because the flip side of that coin of excessive regulation are monopolies. They have the same exact effect of distorting the market.
So the role of federal government, especially in business and trade, is to keep a fair playing field. Make sure that the folks who decided, the speculators who decided to risk this country’s future on Wall Street, and bring this country to its knees and the world in 2008, that you have smart regulation. Making sure that you have things in there that segregate those funds. That have the stops that are in there. That those are the proper roles.
And this idea of equality of education: making sure that we don’t get a situation of separate but not equal. Making sure that we have the ability to innovate but making sure that we don’t have pockets of disparity. Because it hurts all of us. That old adage that Minnesotans are very aware of, “We all do better when we all do better,” our role is to be the referees on the field, to protect this nation, ah and protect its – through the use of the military, to protect our economic interests, to protect our ah diplomatic interests, and then to make sure that the markets work the way they’re supposed to. That they provide opportunity.
Once again, it’s not the role of the federal government to ensure equality of outcomes. It is the role of us to ensure markets are fair, equalities of opportunity is there, and that we continue to move forward. And and I think, and when we see this, we’re coming back from the deepest depression we’ve seen since the Great Depression, we have deficits at the lowest and the fastest decrease since World War II, at the lowest levels since 2007, we’re starting to see some stability but most of us understand this: it will not work unless those protections are kept in place, it will not work unless we have a well-qualified workforce, and that is the role of our public schools, making sure we’re able to do that.
And and I think for most of us, it’s not that false choice. There are wonderful things that can happen in both in the public space and in the private space. When we get into the argument that it’s an all or nothing, that’s where things go awry.
JS: Mr. Hagedorn.
JH: Well, I’m a conservative. I admit that. Freely. And I believe that government’s role should be limited. That the things in the Constitution that are spelled out that should be handled by the federal government should be handled. We just talked about one in my opening: defending this country. The problem is, the federal government’s into so many things, it’s not doing the stuff it’s supposed to do all that well. For instance in the homeland, protecting our country.
But the Congressman and I, we’re on opposite sides. He’s a liberal, I’m a conservative. He thinks that after 6 years of Barack Obama, and the big power grabs in Washington D.C., that now that everything’s just all, all perfect. I don’t see it that way. I see that the government is far too involved at the federal level in healthcare. Obamacare was a mistake. Obamacare is top-down government control of healthcare that’s rising people’s premiums, rationing care in the long run because we’re gonna underfund medicine. We’re moving people, I’m sure we’ll talk about Obamacare, but we’re moving people from private insurance into government insurance. In the long run that’s a disaster.
Other things: why is the federal government now going to be controlling our energy policy with cap and trade type energy policies. And we talk about fair-minded good regulation, my goodness what’s coming out of the EPA in the form of bankrupting the coal companies? That’s a disaster, gonna drive up your electricity rates. The Dodd-Frank Act, which he voted for, a disgrace! Folks, that was a twenty-eight-hundred-page bill, it’s 800 pages longer than Obamacare! It’s Obamacare for banks. It’s hurtin the community bankers. It’s limiting capital to the people that need it. The farmers, the small businesspeople, the consumers. And then we get the role of government? Spending 17-½ trillion dollars that we don’t have? Doubling the national debt under his watch? That’s a calamity that could unravel our American way of life. And it will hurt the people on fixed incomes, and everyone that the Democratic Party says they’re for.
We need to get back to what works: solutions-based limited government. Free enterprise. The rule of law, not the rule of Barack Obama. And move these powers back down to the state. Back to you, the people, where they can be better administered.
PB: Recent Gallup polls show that the approval rating for Congress and Americans’ trust in the federal government stand at near-record lows. Further, a plurality of Americans state that their dissatisfaction with Congress is a result of 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, we’ll start with you.
JH: Well, I had some experience performing government in Washington and working with both sides and it can be done, and I’ve built relationships over the years and know how to do it. But I have to say that this is kind of a false argument, this question. That somehow, if we had partisan thinking, that’s all wrong. That’s not necessarily wrong, folks. When the other side that is doing things that are hurting the country, sometimes you have to stand your ground on principle and fight for what you believe.
Now, I look at this a little bit differently. I’m not so sure every time that the Congress gets together and hold hands and compromises, it’s worked out for us. There was a partisan bill – a bipartisan bill – put together recently for veterans. That bill didn’t do much for veterans. But everybody in the Congress thought they had done something in the right direction. And they didn’t do anything to reform that system in a meaningful way, to make sure our veterans get the quality, timely care the members of Congress get!
I’m one of those people that thinks that, every once in awhile in Washington, you need some new blood. You need some new thinking. You need someone that’s gonna go out there and challenge the establishment, not just Democrats but Republicans as well. And start doing what the people want. And that’s taking me in different directions. I’m an, I’m an honest Republican who said at the beginning of this century, that Republicans didn’t get it right. Under President Bush and the House and Senate controlled by Republicans, we spent too much money and doubled the national debt. We expanded government in areas that it didn’t belong. We got ourselves into two wars of diminishing returns and did nation building, which President Bush promised we would never do. We didn’t secure the border after 9-11. We didn’t handle healthcare issues that we should’ve at that time, and left a vacuum for the Democrats to pass their big liberal bill.
I understand that when my party is wrong, you stand up for it and you tell ‘em. And you, and you do what you have to do, and I think that that’s the advantage we have. I would have liked to have seen for instance in the Benghazi situation, we don’t need to have a partisan back-and-forth to try to find out what happened there. It would have been nice if leaders from the Democratic Party had stepped up and said “Mr. President, military people were killed there. An ambassador was killed. I want the answers. I don’t care if I’m a Republican, Democrat or in between. I want the answers.”
What I’m saying folks, is you stand up to power when you’re right, no matter who’s in charge.
TW: Well first of all, it would it would be funny if it were not so sad that Congress’s approval rating is 12%. I often say, “Who are the 12% that think things are OK?” You’ve witnessed it, you’ve watched it, and and I’m there, and and I think it it it’s the frustration we feel. And what’s really interesting about this is, is ah – there’ s certainly going to be differences. Again, there are differences amongst your family. There’s different political ideology in this country. Those differences have served us well. Because they’ve tended to act as barometers to pull us from the extreme edges and pull us back to a place we can compromise.
Now I think the thing that people have to recognize is, what’s so challenging about democracy, it’s meant to be cumbersome, and it very much is. You’re not running for the Presidency. You’re running to be one of 435 voting members. and you can have the best idea in the world, if you can’t get 218 votes, it doesn’t go anywhere. And if you’re in the minority, if you can’t get the Speaker of the House to bring it forward, you don’t hear it at all. You could have the Cure for Cancer Bill, you could have whatever it would be, if it’s not heard it doesn’t matter.
So what it has to be is about building trust based on respecting the differences of ideas. And the issue is you could talk about it or you could actually deliver it. I’d say I think that there are a few of us ah that have been working hard to try and bridge that gap. I’m very proud of the work that Chairman Jeff Miller of Florida has done, the Republican on the VA Committee. The Republicans over the last 4 years have had continued to try to move things forward. It’s a challenge, certainly everyone is is disgusted and aggravated. If one veteran is left out of care it’s one veteran too many. If there’s care getting delivered to others that is good, we have to continue on with those things. But you’ve got to build the relationships to be able to move something through. It’s a democracy. It has to be done that way. It has to be passed together, and if you try and do it alone, and what we saw was, we had a good Farm Bill, ready to go, 60 people, 60 on the edge, 60 people that John Boehner had said are not interested in making the country work, they’re interested in their own extreme agenda. Well, they can have that, and there’s a place for it. It’s probably talk radio. And I’m not saying that it’s it. But if you can’t come with the idea, or the idea that partisanship is a direction to go, I’m not asking anyone to compromise on their values. I’m not making them passing a judgment on someone because I disagree with them. I don’t disagree with my Republican colleagues because they’re Republicans. When I disagree with them I believe they’re wrong. They feel the same about me. But I have to be willing to see that.
So whether it was about being on the Conference Committee on the Farm Bill, when the Republicans asked to put me on there because they know they will get compromise on things that we need to get done. Or moving things forward to fix a veteran. Because the easiest thing in the world is to complain about things. Right now I said they’re down there playing, those of you old school people in here know this, when I came to Mankato, we were in the midst of a 36-game losing streak at Mankato West. Everybody in town had an opinion on why they were bad! The issue was, how could you put enough people together who wanted to fix it and move it forward? And tonight they’re down there playing for a conference championship and they’ll probably win a state title. That’s because differences of opinion and different things work together. So, I’ve proven to do that, I’m not been drawing on the partisan firebombing, you don’t see me on one of the shows on either extreme, complaining about my Republican colleagues, I will call them out and stand on principle when I believe they’re wrong. But I do not disrespect their point, and I’m willing to compromise if it moves things forward for the country.
PB: Any followup, Mr. Hagedorn?
JH: Well again, I think what we have to think about is what are the results? Our country’s in trouble. Almost every aspect of our nation’s governance is really not looking so good. I don’t, that’s why you don’t hear the Congressman talking about a lot of his accomplishments out in Washington, as far as these big government bills that he’s voted with President Obama on. As far as being partisan or bipartisan on the Agriculture Committee, folks, I support the Farm Bill. I support agriculture, I support sustaining family farming. And the one benefit you get from me, I’ll be in the majority and in a position to do things. I agree with the Congressman, he’s in the minority. He’s powerless; that’s the way that institution operates. One vote more than half, you have the power. So I’ll be in a very strong position to deliver for you.
JS: We’re going to move from the generalities to the (inaudible) we’re going to move now from the generalities and we’re going to start sliding into some of the specifics. So, and ah we’ll start with Mr. Hagedorn. In the next session of Congress, if elected, or in case of Mr. Walz if re-elected, what are the top two or three bills you personally will introduce or champion?
JH: Well, the first the first thing I think we have to do for our country is to defend it. We have to protect the borders and we have to protect the people inside our nation from terrorism, from disease, and from crime. And we haven’t done that. And we need some advocacy in Washington for that. As far as the the primary bill that I would be looking to do, would be working with the Speaker of the House to put together a committee to reform the government and reform these big bills that President Obama and the Democratic Congress passed in a very partisan way.
So first of all, I think every agency in government should have a top-to-bottom review. We should be reforming every agency of government, and during these next two years, when President Obama is there, and he won’t want to move those bills, we should be preparing those bills for when the next President comes in, hopefully it would be a conservative, like-minded person that would help us reform government, right-size it and do things that way.
Otherwise we have to prepare the bills and to advocate for the American people why we need to have private sector reforms for healthcare. Why we need competition across state lines. Why we need to have health savings accounts expanded so people hold their own money and shop. We need to talk with them about building this Keystone Pipeline. Getting back to what works on energy independence. And of things of that nature. That means drilling on federal lands for oil and gas. Because there is no route to energy independence that does not mean that does not match with more domestic oil. We need to get and draw a line through Dodd-Frank and let the country know why we’re going to repeal that when we have complete power of the government once again.
And then start right-sizing our government in such a way, taking the power from Washington and sending it back to the states and the people. Budgetary reform is very important. We need zero-based budgeting. Congressman Walz has been there 8 years, you’ve never heard him mention that I don’t believe. Zero-based budgeting means that the agencies decide what their, er justify what their budgets are gonna be for the next fiscal year. Based on starting at zero, moving up. Not last year’s inflated numbers.
So those are the types of things that I would advocate for and support. A personal one: I worked with Congressman Stangeland in the 80s on Work for Welfare. It’s a concept that works. It drives down the cost of welfare and gives people dignity. We’ve gotten away from that in this in this country. It’s been repealed by the liberal Democrats and by President Obama and Congressman Walz. We need to have Work to Welfare and that’s something I would take, especially with record food stamps, we had it looks like 46 million people collecting food stamps, we need to have reform in that program and I’d be working on the Agriculture Committee on that.
JS: Thank you. Congressman Walz?
TW: Well first of all I’m not interested in running out the clock for two years. The country needs us to move forward and that’s one of the problems in Congress, that’s the Congress that we have, these are the folks that are elected, and it’s time to get some things done. I think first and foremost, and I’ve talked about this, ah I think the Congress and I spoke to Speaker Boehner; Congress needs to vote on our involvement wherever we’re sending our daughters and sons into harm’s way. Ah the War Powers Act and the overextension of that is simply unacceptable. We’ve got a lot of folks, I had a Republican colleague said this is the best of both worlds, if what we do and it works, we’ll take credit for it, and if it doesn’t work we’ll blame President Obama by just giving him the funds to fight ISIL that is a critical threat. So the Constitution is very clear, that is one of our most important and sacred responsibilities. Let’s live up to that and let’s come up with some solutions. It’s not going to be easy. It’s probably going to be the least bad solution with this because again this isn’t about blame America, we can’t control what Islamic extremists in the Middle East do, what we can do is control is how we respond and build coalitions to them. So we deal with that.
Next thing we need to do is we need to move a transportation bill. This country moves. This country can innovate. This country can move products. We can make sure that our soybeans get to product get to market when they can. Making sure we’re moving our energy as they can. So if you have a bill, instead of these short-term extensions that go on, let’s have an honest discussion in this country about how we compete. When President Eisenhower made that decision to build the interstate highway system, there were the naysayers then. They said “It can’t be done, it can’t be done because it’s too expensive, we can’t afford that.” If we wouldn’t have done that, imagine where we would be at. So we need to move that.
We need to move and have an energy bill, and I’ve had one that had bipartisan support that was there, that even at one point in time had both the Heritage Foundation and the Sierra Club saying “This is the first innovative thinking that’s out there.” That lets us continue on. We’re drilling more now than we’ve ever drilled before. We’re going to need that. We’re going to bridge a way from our resources that we have, use them, use them wisely, but bridge to a future that puts renewables, that makes sure that it’s there, that making sure that we’re smart and we control the energy future. Those are the things, through transportation and through energy, we start to control. That’s a national security issue. That’s an issue of making sure that we’re not sending a billion dollars a day for oil to foreign countries that hate us. They’ll hate us for free. Keep it here.
And then we need to make that promise again about reforming and making sure that we make education and college affordable by taking a look at how do we make sure that our students, whoever they are, whether they’re from Adrian or whether they’re from Los Angeles, have an opportunity to attend college. Again, it’s not the giveaway, it’s an investment in our greatest resource, our our students. So those are the things that we can do and in our children. We can do those 3 things, they’re bipartisan, they’re not that difficult, but I’ll tell you this, I’m not interested in waiting 2 years for hopefully for whatever it would be, I don’t care if 2016, and whoever the American people vote for, that’s who I’ll work with to move those things forward that matter in your lives.
PB: Time to move on? (inaudible, off camera) A followup?
JH: The reason I talk about 2016 is because what’s going on in our nation with these big government bills coming out of the Obama administration is they’re hurting the country. And I’d like to go to Washington and be a check on that. To make sure that the President of the United States is going to follow the rule of law on deportation. That the President of the United States is not going to take more authority and he’s gonna have Congresspeople there, standing in his way, fighting him when he’s wrong. Right now the Congressman’s on his side. So here’s your choice. Do you want more of what’s going on in Washington D.C.? More of Barack Obama? More of the big government? More of the spending? Or do you want somebody to go out there and take that power and start working to bring it back to the states and the people? That’s the choice in this election.
PB: The longterm debt of the United States is rising to unprecedented and unsustainable levels. Today the federal debt is nearly 18 trillion dollars, equating to 73% of our economy, which is nearly the double the average historical debt-to-economy ratio of 40%. Under official budget projections, the public debt of the United States is projected to grow to about 100% of the economy by 2035, and nearly 150% and still climbing by 2050, driven primarily by rapid increases in the costs of Social Security, healthcare programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and interest payments on the debt.
Most economists agree that debt at these levels will threaten economic growth and the standard of living for all Americans. What would you do to bring our nation’s fiscal house in order?
TW: And I agree with him. It is an issue and it’s been there. It it has risen in 2008, and the massive increase when we lost the housing market and when Wall Street and the folks there that were making reckless decisions, as it started to undermine us, the debt skyrocketed. And it does matter. The reason the debt matters to each of you is that some point in time, that money’s going to have to contract. And when it contracts, interest rates are gonna go up. And when interest rates go up that means college is more expensive, it means cars are more expensive, it means housing is more expensive. That’s where it comes home to roost.
That’s why I said, first and foremost, you have to get a handle on deficits. Deficits are the year-to-year spending. And I just said, and they released the statistics today, this is the longest sustained decrease in the deficit over the last seven years since World War II. And it’s the lowest it’s been since 2007, when we were bleeding 800,000 jobs and the deficits were skyrocketing. So first and foremost you’ve got to start getting projections. The problem that we end up having is though, we have to be smart about where we make the investments. There are those that say “Don’t spend any money. Don’t spend any money at all.” That’s the equivalent if you lost your job, and the house was leaking, the windows were falling out, you have to prioritize it, put things in there. We have to make sure we’re investing in infrastructure. We have to make sure we’re investing in our children. We have to make sure we’re investing in research.
I think, and as you look and talk about this, the single biggest driver of the deficit in the longterm will be Medicare expenditures. That’s why the ACA has slowed Medicare expenditures for the first time in the largest increase in the last 50 years. We start to see, as we control healthcare costs, and that’s why it has to be addressed, the United States was spending twice as much as any other nation, any other industrialized nation, and getting results that today we were 44th in efficiencies. We’ve got to get more efficiencies. We’ve got to make sure the market and the marketplace as it is, private doctors, private hospitals with private insurance, now start to compete against one another.
But that is one piece of healthcare reform. It’s one piece of this longterm deficit. It’s a larger spectrum. We were talking about earlier innovative approaches, like the Heart of New Ulm in New Ulm, reducing heart incidents of heart disease and stroke in New Ulm at unprecedented levels. Those are the types of things that start to get a handle on moving forward. Now it’s true as you heard on this, we’re at about 72% of GDP. After World War II we were 107% of GDP. Think about this in terms of if you want to – federal budgets and state budgets are not like household budgets. But one analogy works pretty well. You’re teaching or you’re a nurse or you’re a farmer and you’re making $40,000 a year. You buy a house for $120,000. You are 300% of GDP in debt. It still can be a good investment. If you have a longterm 30-year plan on how to pay it out. That’s where the problem lies. When they passed the TARP at the end of the last administration, with the compliance of this administration, they bailed the banks out and I think at the end, many of us saw this – ah the situation whether it’s Bear Stearns and the rest of them, they had gotten to a situation where they were too big to fail. The reason I didn’t support them on the bailout was, I said “This is our opportunity to leverage this. If we’re going to do this, let’s get a 30-year mortgage, figure out how to pay this down, and make sure that deficit gets there. Because what you want, the debt, as it eventually accumulates, if it’s somewhere around 40%, that’s healthy and sustainable. There was no plan to do that. And so the European countries made the decision to cut all spending. Well, their debts have risen. Their deficits have risen. And that’ s not the way to go. It’s a balanced approach. So we can address it, you have to take on healthcare costs, you have to address longterm investments, but again, they said it wouldn’t happen after World War II. We went from 107% of GDP by the end of the 1990s, 40 years later, we had one of the fastest-growing, largest economies. And we were on track to reduce the debt to nothing. If we had done it. We can do it again. The solutions are out there. We can do it. We have the most productive workers. We can make it happen if we set down together and come up with a plan. It’s it’s doable.
PB: Mr. Hagedorn?
JH: Well we’re here tonight to discuss the Congressman’s record in office. And to talk about my solutions into the future. Here’s the record in office. In 2006 Tim Walz ran for Congress, saying that Gil Gutknecht and the Republicans were irresponsible on the debt issue. That they had almost doubled the national debt under their watch. He was right. What’s the record since 2006, his eight years in office? The national debt has gone from about 8-1/2 trillion dollars to over 17-1/2 trillion dollars. It’s doubled again. So I’m here to take his position from 8 years ago and say “He’s irresponsible and wrong, and you need somebody to go to Washington that’s gonna take a different look and a different approach, and work at limiting our government and limiting the federal programs.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean cutbacks. It means putting them in the right spot. Here’s the reason this is is a problem. Because we have a debt, and by the way I’ve never heard of half a trillion dollars in deficit spending in a year as a good thing. That’s the first time I ever heard of that tonight! Very interesting. Before the Congressman came in office, we didn’t have trillion-dollar deficits. We’ve had it with President Obama. And it’s it’s hurting our country. And here’s what’s going on. We have 17-1/2 trillion dollars in debt, and we’re financing that debt right now at very artificial interest rates of near zero, really one percent. About 180 billion dollars. What happens when we have economic growth? What happens when the interest rates go back to normal levels, four and five percent? Our interest payments on the debt are gonna go into mushroom! Up to 800, a trillion dollars a year! Where’s that money coming from? Where are the budget cuts to make that up? That’s that’s what should be addressed tonight. He should be explaining to you where he’s going to make up this money – that’s just to pay the interest on the debt – that’s not even getting anything for it! That’s not investments, that’s just holdin our own!
Folks, we need budget reform. We need to make sure the agencies do this thing from zero. We need economic growth. We don’t have economic growth in this country. We have stagnation one way or another. We have high we have high inflation in areas like food and energy and so forth, and we have pockets that are doing well, and we have a stock market that’s propped up by phony money. But by and large, the economy is not growing at the rate that it needs to grow. There’s too much intrusion at the federal level. Too many programs funded at the federal level. Too much regulation against business. The tax code needs to be simplified. All these things need to be addressed.
I am only one person trying to go to the Congress. But I would be part of a coalition and a force to get those things done and to move us in the right direction.
PB: Congressman Walz. Before we move off this topic, I want to get both of your takes on Social Security. Ah since 2010 Social Security has been paying out more than it takes in. And is projected to run increasingly large cash deficits as the population ages and more people qualify for retirement benefits. In addition, the beneficiaries of Social Security Disability insurance rates or an insurance face an automatic 19% across the board cut in their benefits unless Congress makes changes in the next two years. How should we address the problems facing Social Security? And Congressman Walz, you want to start with that?
TW: First of all, and again, you think about this. The the same discussions you’ve had on this and the folks that that fought hard against Social Security. Social Security has been the strongest and the best antipoverty program probably any nation has ever put into effect. Ah many of us in here, you know the stories, I – I had a young man, I had an eight year old brother, my father dies and my mother was a stay at home mother. We use Social Security survivor benefits, it gets us by, I use the GI bill to go to college, my brother’s able to get through high school and go, we pay it back. It’s the investment, it’s that safety nets out there that Americans understand. And and understand that it makes good sense.
The issue on Social Security, this fix on Social Security is not all that difficult right now. One of the issues that we have right now, the cap, many of you, I I never experienced this as a teacher (audience laughs), that cap is $113,500. Most working Americans pay on 100% of everything they make into Social Security. One of the issues is if you just raise the cap up to say what members of Congress make on that, Social Security is solvent for over 50 years with full benefits being paid.
And the issue on that is again, that growth and those seniors spend the money back into the economy. One of the greatest job creators we have is a middle-class person with spending money in their pocket. They can invest in the things, they can buy the things that are being created, and so Social Security we can get to. Again, though, it comes to this: when you’ve got folks who don’t want to set down and talk about it, if you’ve got folks who say “It’s one or the other,” if you have folks that are going to point out where it it’s – you can point out what it’s there, the economists are right, it’s the fixes are there, and I’m willing to hear others on that. That’s one suggestion and one of the easiest ones. It’s a pledge that was made, it’s a promise that was made, it kept seniors out of poverty, 50% of our seniors count on it as their major income for retirement, and we can make that work. And again, it makes the economy work. So that’s one again, if you get the right folks there, if you get folks who are willing to see progress be made forward, ah we can do it. President Reagan was able to pull Tip O’Neill in together and those two sat down and extended Social Security by 30 years. And and we can do that same thing.
JH: I’m very concerned about where we are with Social Security because first of all, the United States government, Congress and the President, had been spending the Social Security Trust Fund money for many decades. There is no Trust Fund left. It’s all an IOU. So if if our budget explodes with interest payments and we’re lookin for for money, I’m sure we’ll make good on the Social Security payments. But it’s a concern that we should all be thinking about.
Now, every time you address this issue, you come up with any kind of a solution, what happens? The partisan politics begins, and they say “Oh no, you’re gonna throw, you’re gonna bankrupt Granny and the whole thing’s gonna come to an end.” So no political person’s really gonna stand up here and make a make a solid projection as to what we should do. I’ll say this, two things: one is, the government should look in more at trying to prepare people for retirement when they’re born. Not when they retire. If you put money in an account when people are born, even if it was the government sharing it with the parents, or having some sort of a plan like that, by the time that person retired, there’d be a lot of money in that account, and maybe the government and the taxpayers wouldn’t be on the hook as much. I think that’s something to look into.
The other thing is, it’s probably not gonna be solved unless we have some sort of a commission. And on that commission, I would say that the majority of the people should be between 18 years old and 50. You know why? Because here’s what I advocate for. Not changing the program for anyone 50 and older. If you’re 50 and older, you’re gonna get your benefits. Nothing’s gonna change. So if you hear anything that Jim Hagedorn wants to hurt your benefits or anything, that’s a bunch of junk. That’s not happening. But I think the young people in this country, who stand to lose or gain, who would stand to have the program changed, should have more of a say.
JS: You both have mentioned the Farm Bill. And and Mr. Hagedorn, you also talked about zero-based budgeting. So let’s just cut to the chase on this and see if you could deconstruct the present Farm Bill and start from scratch. What would be included and excluded and why? We’ll start with Mr. Hagedorn.
JH: Well, that’ s another one we’re not gonna get into. I mean we’re gonna take the Farm Bill apart? Look, they just passed the Farm Bill, I congratulate the Congressman, I congratulate the Congress that were there, I supported the Farm Bill, when the vote was cast, I said that day I would have voted yes, and I would have done everything to help farmers. Because the Farm Bill is there to help us sustain agriculture. Sustaining agriculture is very important in southern Minnesota for this reason: when farmers go broke, farmers sell out, typically the people that buy are bigger operators. Bigger operators are not bad people. Don’t get me wrong. But I think we want to keep the farmland in as many hands as possible. Because when that happens, then we’re then we’re strengthening rural America. We’re strengthening Main Street. We’re helping the implement dealers and others on Main Street.
Now as far as the Farm Bill is concerned, we agree. But where we disagree on agriculture are where the costs are going up against the farmers in areas where the federal government could do some good. But unfortunately, they’re inflicting pain. We’re talking about things like costs on Obamacare. Driving up the premiums for farmers. Farmers are businesspeople too. Farmers have to pay health insurance too. We’re talking about cap and trade type energy policies, driving up the costs for farmers. That’s a big deal. You voted for cap and trade, it would have put a 5% effective tax on every farm operation in this district. You ask a farmer: 5% tax, year in and year out, and they’ll say “I’m going broke.” That’s a big deal.
Dodd-Frank, limiting capital to for people trying to get into farming. And all of these regulations coming out of the EPA. Folks, the Obama administration is rainin down on agriculture. They’re making it difficult to farm. Farmers have to ask permission. They’re harassing the farmers and driving up costs. And now they want to regulate the waters of the United States. That’s a disaster. Give the government power, they’ll use it. We don’t need that. The Congressman will tell you he voted for a Republican bill that would have stopped that Waters of the United States regulation. What he won’t tell you is that he voted three times for amendments and a motion to recommit before that that would have watered that thing down and gutted the Republican bill. So he voted three times against the farmers before he voted one time with the farmers. We need someone in Washington that’s gonna support the farmers on every vote, not just when they’re grandstanding.
TW: I wouldn’t take it apart because the the hypothetical is for talk radio. The real world envisions a broad country with peanut growers in Georgia with citrus growers in Florida with soybean growers in Minnesota with a burgeoning organic industry ah plus cattle ranching, turkeys, everything else that goes with it. And the way that Farm Bill was written, had it not been for the extremists that wanted to blow it up, it was written by the farmers. We held countless, dozens of of meetings with farmers on this. We wrote it together, beginning farmer and rancher legislation to make sure that we’re able to transfer some of this land, making sure we get, the average age is 57-1/2 years out here, we need to get younger people involved in farming, need to get it there.
We made compromises of making sure that conservation didn’t take a back seat, understanding that outdoor industry in Minnesota’s a four billion dollar a year industry. We need to make sure we protect them too. You can’t pick one business over another. And the farmers and the farm groups, we wrote this together. And it wasn’t perfect. If you if if you wave a magic wand, or you’re the President or whatever, you’re gonna put, that’s not the way it works. What matters was, a bill got done. A bill that works for farmers, a bill that was supported by farmers, and you can tell this was supported by that, that every major farm organization organization supports me. My candidacy, and my way of doing things.
That’s not because they’re supporting or saying because they’re ah they’re Democrats, all of them. They know what policy looks like. They understand what building coalitions look like. They understand that what you need is someone who can bring people together, to get the best of what can be done, get it done, and move something forward. So now, when it flooded, in southeast – or southwest Minnesota, we had people out there saying, “Thank goodness we got the Farm Bill done and reformed the disaster relief in there so we didn’t do the ad hoc disaster relief.” That’s the way things are done.
So the idea that “I would do this, I would do that” – it’s a democracy. It’s a country. It takes leaders who can pull things together. It takes leaders, and I was the ranking member, working with my Republican chairman, to make sure that this was the single strongest conservation Farm Bill that was ever passed, applauded by Ducks Unlimited and other groups like that, at the same times our farmers, who are the greatest conservationists too, said this will work for us. That’s how you get things done. That’s why each and every one of those, and you can go right down the line, whether they’re corn growers or turkey growers or farm bureau or farmers’ union, they will tell you: go with this way. Go with building coalitions. We did it together. It’s not about one person’s idea. It’s about all of us of what’s best.
PB: Mr. Hagedorn, do you want to follow up?
JH: I understand why farm groups and others choose incumbent members of Congress to endorse. Because they think, because of the odds and so forth, that they’re going to win. So they want to perpetuate and hold onto power, which is a little bit what’s wrong with Washington D.C. Everybody scratchin everybody else’s back. Now in this case, I don’t think the Farm Bill, the Farm Bureau for instance, they said that my my candidacy was just as good but he was the incumbent and hadn’t made mistakes, sort of the same way that others could do it.
I didn’t know that y’know the Farm Bureau and others were for Obamacare and I didn’t know they were for all of these big government things in energy. I think they’re kind of more on my side. And that’s why this grassroots campaign that we’re running, we’ve been criss-crossing the district, shakin 75,000 hands, did 200 stops in the last 20 weeks, meetin the people, we’re gonna get the rank and file people, we’ve already got ‘em on our side. Whether it’s farmers or veterans or gun owners or what, and I’m not worried about the big interest groups in Washington D.C. We’ll deal with them when we get there.
PB: All right. Transportation. United States is facing major challenges in maintaining the country’s transportation system. At the federal level, the Highway Trust Fund, which is the primary federal source of funding for roads and transit, has seen revenue fall short of expenditures for more than a decade. As the federal gas tax, which hasn’t increased since 1993, suddenly loses its value. Looking forward, the Congressional Budget Office projects that absent reform, shortfalls in the Federal Highway Trust Fund will grow to 162 billion dollars over the next 10 years. What is the proper role of the federal government in transportation? And how would you seek to address the longterm fiscal challenges in our transportation system? And we are starting with Mr. Walz this time.
TW: Well I sit on the Transportation Committee and we watched a bill limp along, to not get done. Everyone in here understands, you know Highway 14, the work we’ve done, the issue of the federal role of of transportation is enumerated at the very beginning of Article I of the Constitution. It’s very clear. The issue, and we’ve done it whether it was through President Eisenhower’s vision or through others’, we started to create a vibrant infrastructure. We’ve had a lot of folks, though, that have decided that we could just live off the investments that were made in the past, that we didn’t have to re-invest. We didn’t have to think. We didn’t have to build multi-modal, we didn’t have to take into consideration there’s 320 million Americans.
And I think, once again, there are creative solutions out here. The bill I was talking to you earlier that said “Use American.” One of the things that we one of the problems we have is, use American resources. Drill where it’s environmentally safe. Don’t drill where it’s not environmentally safe. But when you do, and the oil companies come, charge a fair rate. That oil belongs to you. You don’t want you don’t want us negotiating as we’ve done for decades, negotiating to give the leases away. They’re setting on millions and millions of – I had a bill that said “Drill or give back the lease.” Well, they don’t want to do that. They want to drill when it’s appropriate.
What we can do is, take that, sell the leases, take the revenue and re-invest it back into transportation. Re-invest it back into – this got bipartisan support. This is the bill that Heritage Foundation and Sierra Club said, “Now we’re looking in the right direction.” These investments, again, if you pound your chest and say “I don’t want to vote for a single penny at this point in time, you gotta pay down the debt.” If you vote zero on transportation funding this year, it will cost the American consumers and businesses 107 billion dollars in idling tax. Companies like UPS and FedEx and trucking companies that will be bogged down because we can’t move goods at the right price. And we start picking and choosing over multi-modality. Move things by pipeline that can move by pipeline. Move things by rail that can move by rail. Move things by truck that can move by truck.
Our new technologies, a bill that I’ve been furthering is, I think we can do it and do it appropriately and do it safely, and the research seems to be there, make sure we have truck weights that are uniform across the country so you’re not changing. Those are things where the federal government can make sure that commerce runs smoothly, that we invest and have the vision to think differently on this. Think of infrastructure bank. Think of some issues of where we have in the—some folks I’ve talked to saying we’re the best bet, the greatest growth area in the world, is American infrastructure. You have a pent-up demand. It’s about 2-1/2 trillion dollars worth of investments that will make us more competitive, make our streets safer, put people back to work, and make us more competitive than we’ve ever been.
We need to move our products. We’ve got locks and dams. We’ve got one lock and dam in St. Louis. If it goes down, the entire soybeans that are being shipped on it are shut down. We need to make sure we’re looking forward, see it as a national security, national economic priority, and transportation has always been one of the most bipartisan, agreed-upon solutions. Until recently.
We’ve got a core group of about 60 folks in the House that say nothing. Nothing will work. Nothing will be there. Get rid of John Boehner. Get rid of – they don’t like anyone! Because it’s not their exact idea.
The solutions are out there. There’s positive chance. You see what’s happening with Highway 14. Tell me this, and if you saw this one: the city leaders and the business community, Greater Mankato Growth and others, years back, in 2007 came to me and said “Help fulfill the federal government’s responsibility and help us get a County Road 12 at 14 in, because if you do the public sector infrastructure on that, the private sector growth will be enormous.” Drive by out there now as WalMart goes up. As – well, don’t tell Rick Nolan, as Mills Fleet Farm goes up. (audience laughs) as (laughs) other things start to go up. Those are things that are our role. We set, and can get done. We made that happen together. This community had vision. And now you save sixteen hundred private sector jobs going to be created after the construction was there. That was vision by the county. That was vision by the city. And that was the role of federal government.
Taxpayers in West Virginia are going to benefit by the foresight and the ability to put those types of projects together. So let’s get a Transportation Bill. Let’s make it a priority. Let’s get it done. And let’s grow America. We can have that. We’ve had that vision. President Eisenhower had it, we can have it.
JH: Transportation is very important. But I don’t like the way things have been going in Washington D.C. It’s, y’know let’s get a bill. I think we should do something a little bit different. I think the monies in Washington D.C. should be sent back to the states, so the states can decide the priorities. Not the federal bureaucrats at the Transportation Department. Not the bigwigs on Capitol Hill who get to put their priorities first. Go to Pennsylvania and check out Chairman Shuster’s district. Beautiful roads. Beautiful bridges. Half of ‘em named after his dad, who used to be the Chairman of the Committee before that. Go to West Virginia and see the beautiful roads there that Bob Byrd put together when he was the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee. And then start driving between maybe, oh I know! Between Mankato and New Ulm. And check that road out. I don’t know, I don’t know how after eight years in office, you can come back and say that that’s a plus. That’s a very dangerous road. It’s crushing New Ulm. We’ve got companies over there, manufacturers that would like to use that road as a route and they avoid it. Go very inefficiently. Perhaps if the money had come from Washington and gone to the state of Minnesota, it could have been a little bit more effective. Might’ve had a little bit better shot of getting Highway 14 completed in that time.
It needs to be done. You need people in Washington I think that are gonna look at it that way. But I don’t think that we want to play this game of trying to get our little share of the pie. Let’s send it back and let the Governors and the Legislators here decide it. And then we can go from there. If there’s some shortfalls with bigger states like Montana, that can be addressed. We can work these things out.
Now, we got talking a little bit about energy. And movin oil on pipelines. And movin things on train cars that make sense. Y’know, we got a problem with shortage of train cars for our grain and other things. And some of that’s because we haven’t been building pipelines. Like the Keystone Pipeline. The Keystone Pipeline that the Congressman voted against, HR 3. Those are the types of infrastructure projects that need to be completed, not just to help our farmers when they need to move their grain, and keep the prices up because commodity prices are very low, folks. And unfortunately the farmers’ costs are up. And things are hurtin in agriculture these days. We we talk about that all the time.
But to make sure that we can put downward pressure on for instance energy prices. Let’s move that oil at a third of the cost very safely, and then let’s get it to the refineries and the distribution points and make sure that we can utilize the the gifts that God gave us, the natural resources. Put downward pressure on prices.
So I’m all for these infrastructure projects. I’d just like to see it done at the state level.
PB: Congressman Walz.
TW: I, I’d just like to say in defense of Bill Shuster, I don’t think it’s a disqualifying factor that your father was a Congressman. (audience laughs)
(Inaudible moderator exchange)
JS: Ah, this one for Mr. Hagedorn. The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds that over half the public has an unfavorable view of the Affordable Care Act. And sentiment apparently is growing. The majority, however, prefer that Congress work to improve the law rather than repeal it and replace it. What is your measure of success for the Affordable Care Act, and how would you seek to improve it?
JH: Well, that the poll numbers jibe with what we did here in southern Minnesota. We ran a poll recently, about a month ago, and it showed that about half the people in this district are strongly opposed to Obamacare. They don’t like the Affordable Care Act. A number of reasons for it. My fixes are the ones that the Republicans should have implemented when we had power about 14 years ago. Competition across state lines. Pools for people with pre-existing conditions. Pools for small business. So if you have a small business with 10 people or whatever, pool with a bunch of other small businesses to keep the costs down.
I’m for direct tax credits to people, so they can hold their own health savings accounts that would be backed up by catastrophic coverage that would then allow people to shop for their routine day-to-day medical care. Why is that important? Because then they’re gonna be out shopping and putting downward pressure on price. You’ll be in control of that account. You’ll hold that money, you would have incentive not to use it unless you really needed to use it.
I’m for things like tort reform. All of the above to try to put the downward pressure on prices. Get rid of that top-down government monstrosity, the the Affordable Care Act, which isn’t affordable, get rid of that and put the power back in the hands of the individual. So you can have your doctor-patient relationship. When I started this race about a year ago, I was one of the first candidates in the country that came out and said “I’m for repealing and replacing Obamacare.” There is no in-between with me. That’s my position. And I said that when Obamacare was would be implemented, it would drive up healthcare premiums. That it would underfund medicine by moving people from private care into government care. In the long run, that’ll hurt even institutions like the Mayo Clinic.
Well what happened? They implemented Obamacare, the first part of it, not the employer mandate, but for individuals. This thing is so bad and toxic, that President Obama won’t even implement it on time because he knows that at the ballot box, his party will be crushed. So what happens? Premiums are up. What happened? People movin from govern private care into government care. It’s a it’s a disaster that’s brewing, it’s going to lead to rationing in medicine, degrading of medicine. All of the problems that we don’t need. This, we have the best medical care system in the world. And unfortunately, our own Congressman voted to destroy it. Because ultimately folks, it’s going to more – what we have in our country is gonna more mimic what’s going on with the VA. And we’re gonna lose our healthcare system, our medical care system, the way the way it had been put up, and that’s gonna be a tragedy for our country.
It’s also very expensive. It’s a, it’s a big driver in the federal budget deficit. Something like 1.7 trillion dollars over 10 years. It’s costing, it’s raising taxes on medical device companies and others. It’s raising taxes on business. And let me tell you how to affects people at a basic level in their jobs. Because Obamacare will will account will count for companies, will go into play, if they have more than 50 employees. We were in Albert Lea, campaigning on Main Street. I talked with this young lady named Dawn, who was working in a store there. And I asked her how she felt about Obamacare. She said “It’s horrible.” She said, “Obamacare made me lose my primary job, and now I’m working two part-time jobs. And then Obamacare had, I saw my premiums go up. So now I’m working more hours, making less pay, and more of my money is going to healthcare. My life has been,” she said, “It has it has it has been, it has gone down, because of Obamacare.”
That’s just one individual. How many more people in our district, in our country, have to be affected and hurt by this bill before we can start over and do what we need to do?
TW: When we were having the healthcare debate, the Mayo Clinic indicated, and they talked about as we had before, they’ve been working on this for years, because what they understood was, their comment was, and I quote, “The system we had then was unsustainable.” And I think most of us understood that. We had 50 million Americans uninsured, in 19 – in 2001 our premiums went up 18.3%. In the eight years previous to Obamacare, as Mr. ah Hagedorn refers to it, I I I think there’ll be a day he may not use that term. Ah, we went up about 80%. And what we understood was, is is that making sure that there was fairness in the marketplace. People couldn’t go out and price what what what an appendectomy cost. They they couldn’t even go and judge what the outcomes were in their hospitals. You wouldn’t go shop for a car if you didn’t know what the results were on the car. That’s why Consumer Reports, who does those things, said this was the direction to go, and said “We’re starting for the first time in 50 years since we’ve kept track of this, healthcare inflation is now down.”
We have millions more Americans insured, we have the lowest uninsured rate in Minnesota’s history, and we’re starting to move people in the right direction. Now with that being said, going back to Mayo, when the Mayo Brothers, who just celebrated their 150th anniversary, their sesquicentennial, do you think that when the Mayo Brothers started, they were done with medicine? You think 50 years ago they were done with research and medicine and you think they’re done today? As Dave Durenberger said, “Healthcare reform is not a destination. It’s a journey.” And what we did is we got bogged down with things like death panels and things that took us away from the focus on what healthcare is about. Healthcare is providing the ability of people to live a quality, healthy life. To be productive and to be time with their family. That’s what people want. That’s what we believe. And as a nation, I think we we can certainly have the debate. I I would argue that the Americans’ value in this is is that healthcare is a right, but it’s not the right to deliver it in the most inefficient manner. As you heard earlier, and today the results came out, America’s 44th on efficiency of delivering healthcare. That has nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act. To be very clear, the Affordable Care Act is one piece of healthcare that deals with the insurance and the delivery of it. Healthcare is a much broader spectrum. It’s the issue of research into it. It’s the issue of personal responsibility and personal choices and personal genetics that lead you in a way to make sure we’re incentivizing healthy choices over unhealthy choices, and make sure we’re incentivizing moving in that direction.
When we do that, again as I said, the number one biggest driver of the debt was Medicare costs and healthcare costs. I believe in this country. I believe that where there are challenges, there are opportunities. I believe that the sky is not falling, but we’ve got to move forward on issues, and this was a first step. No one’s under the impression that this was done. No one’s under the impression there weren’t changes and things that need to be made. But you heard it here. You’re going to rip it out, and go tell everyone that their, your children up to age 26 are no longer on your insurance. Seniors, your donut hole is going to increase again. When they did Medicare part D, we’re going to have if you have pre-existing conditions, you’re going to somewhere else. And we’re going to start moving in that direction where we have private doctors now, private insurance in a market where you can shop on this.
That’s the direction, that’s a first step, and I’m certainly open to changes. But instead of making changes you hear all these things, these “gotcha” votes. This is why people hate Congress! This is why people hate it because they set up a vote to try and get a “gotcha” vote, so they can go back home and run some damn ad that tries to diminish your neighbor and diminish you and tries to get you to think that there’s something wrong, they don’t believe in America – you hear this all the time. The issue is, I – we can find these solutions. Healthcare is one, in talking to the experts and moving it. And watching (inaudible) I don’t believe taking away your Seventh Amendment right as the fix to healthcare. I think research into it, I think fair marketplaces, I think making sure people have access to care when they need it before they become chronic problems, is the direction that you go to start getting a handle on it.
We can do it. I simply believe enough in this country to believe that we can do it better than anybody else, and we need to come together to have those ideas. That’s why a Senator Durenberger would say on this was, “This was Heritage Foundation’s first idea on the exchanges, and it’s working.”
JS: Thank you, a followup.
JH: Well. I don’t know exactly where to start there. Except to tell you a lot of promises were made when that bill was passed. I think people are upset with the Congress and upset with Washington because they pass bad bills and they’re hurting the country. That’s why people are upset.
This was a good one. The Congressman promised that your healthcare costs would go down twenty-five hundred dollars a year. Has that happened? He promised that you could keep your doctor, if you likeD your doctor. What’s going on there? How about your health insurance? You can keep that if you like it. These things, he makes more promises now, after making more promises before. He had to vote for the bill to find out what was in the bill.
And now we’re going to say, oh – Hagedorn is gonna do these terrible things, and you’re not going to be covered by pre-existing conditions and the donut hole and all that stuff. Folks, we can take care of the few provisions of Obamacare that make sense, with about the first three of the 2,000 bills of that thing. Let’s draw a line through the rest of it and do the common-sense conservative free-market reforms that I talked about before.
TW: Observable reality is important. What gets done, what can happen, what is. I’ll just leave you with this. Humanize this. Look at yourself. Family in town, son named Connor, had birth defects, reached their cap, didn’t know how they were going to get the care they were going to get, two working-class people workin their tail off, bettering themselves, got educations, working good jobs, but the healthcare costs was driving them towards bankruptcy. Which would have destroyed a family as well as taken out that income from the economy on this. The Affordable Care Act allowed them to get in, allowed Connor to get the care that he needed, allowed them to make sure they continued to work, and now making sure that he got to the Mayo Clinic, got the care. This summer Connor played soccer, both parents are working, both parents are paying taxes, and they come to my office and tell me, “This changed our life. It moved us in the right direction.”
Now, if there are people and issues that we need to fix to make sure everyone starts to get into that category, starts to make sure that their son or their daughter or their father or their mother get there? We can do that. But to make the case that you think it’s okay for Connor and his family to go through what they were going through before, that’s why Mayo Clinic called it unsustainable. That’s why countless people pointed that we can move in a different direction. And we’ll continue in that direction.
PB: We’re going to move on to education. The United States is facing challenges in our education system on many fronts. International assessments of elementary and high school students routinely show the United States trailing our peers around the world. And businesses report not being able to fill positions due to a lack of a workforce with the necessary skills. What should the United States do to ensure that we develop a well-educated workforce that is prepared to compete in the 21st Century economy? And we are starting with Mr., Congressman Walz.
TW: First thing I would say is walk down the hall in this building to the Mechatronics room and look what they’re doing there. Look at how they’re partnering with business to understand what the skill set that our students need to make sure they’re able to produce and able to make sure that once again is happening, America becomes a power in manufacturing. Those are the things we should do.
Ah the issue of educating all of our children, my wife is here tonight and she’ll tell you, you can test and find about anything you want to test. The one thing that I will never shy from is, and I’ve taught in other countries, I’ve seen how they do this, the one thing is, we will educate all. We will take all. We will bring every student, no matter where they come from, because what we understood was is, that is not only the ethically right thing to do, it builds a strong economy that has served us well.
And so the issues that we need to do is we need to make sure that we’re tooling our education system to fit the needs. And it’s possible. It is absolutely possible. To teach and to educate a student, to get the most out of them for the life they want to live. It’s an absolute absolute imperative, and it’s on West High School down there, Thomas Jefferson’s quote, “The only way a democracy can survive is through strong public education and an educated populace.” So we continue to do at that. But it’s possible then to make sure that we’re providing the workforce and the qualified workforce. I think for many of us of a certain age, when our Industrial Arts or whatever it was called at the time, or the idea of moving in that direction, was taken out of our schools, and every school became a college preparatory class, what we understood was, these are noble professions. These are skill sets that people have. There’s multiple intelligences. We need to make sure those things are available, and we can make that happen. States are doing the things that they need to do. They need to innovate, but this idea, and the question was predicated on this, of the testing is gonna show us that, are we testing to improve delivery of education and outcomes? Or are we testing to come up with some statistics that we can say on this?
The thing that I would tell you on this is, is that I would tell you by sixth grade, the Chinese are already educating out their students and tracking them to where they’re going to go. We don’t do that. We provide the opportunity for each soul, each spirit to be able to reach the highest they can. Let’s just get ‘em the skill set they need to be productive and and we can do it.
JM: Well of course, I support all sorts of opportunities in education and think that maybe over the years, people have been pushed into four-year degrees that they didn’t need, that maybe more of the technical and vocational schools would be the right way to go. But I think in general, here’s where I come down on how to, how I think children are best educated and move into life and be prepared for life.
I think the federal government is is wrecking things. I think the federal government is way too involved in education across this country. Talk about are we are we ah are we educating to the test scores, or y’know vice versa?
Let’s take the money from Washington and send it back to the states and let the states decide how the kids should be decided. And if the states want to have school choice programs or whatever, let them do that. It could be an explosion of opportunity there. But it should be up to the states, it should be up to the parents, to make sure that the kids are getting a proper education.
Now as far as what’s going on in our economy, will we will the people be there to fulfill the obligations that these jobs, will they be trained properly and all that? Yeah, I’m a free market guy, and I think if the jobs are there and the opportunities are there, people figure that out, and they work hard and they get there. But there aren’t a lot of opportunities. Talk about bringing back manufacturing – manufacturing’s at an all-time low. I think we’re down to 7% of the workforce in manufacturing. That’s a disaster, folks. And we’re not going to get there with all the uncertainty in the marketplace that’s holding back business and capital.
People do know, y’know, businesses don’t know into the future. What their healthcare costs are gonna be, they don’t know what their energy costs are gonna be, they don’t know about the lending. They don’t know about the regulations that are comin out of Washington. Just a big question mark and when that happens, capital gets put on the sidelines, people don’t take don’t make it a priority to invest and expand, and when that happens we have limited opportunity for the American workforce.
Our government is holding back business. Our government has set tax and other policies that push businesses in some instances to even leave our country! These things need to be addressed. Starting with tax simplification and all the other ah all the other policies that I just talked about.
JS: We have set standards here and we’re following them and that’s how we’re going to be running this. Now we have a few, we have enough for one more question before we do the roundups and I need a very quick answer, to unfortunately a very complicated question: and it has to do with immigration. For the past 10 years, Congress has failed to pass an immigration reform, regardless of which party was in control of the White House and Congress. What can Congress do to break this logjam and pass meaningful reform? Mr. Hagedorn, two minutes, please.
JH: Sure. This is an, this is an issue that we have wide disagreement on. I’m someone that does not support amnesty for illegal aliens. The Congressman does. I think what’s been going on in Washington D.C., both parties, President Bush on through, it’s a disgrace. This country needs to have secure borders. Our country needs passport and and visa systems that are updated. We need to know who’s in our country, and we have to follow the rule of law, not the rule of Obama, on deportations. If the Congress of the United States and the President can put a bill together and they change the law of the land, so be it. But until then, just because the President decides that if you’re a DREAMer, and you want to come here from some Central American country, you can stay. That’s not the law. That’s not regular order. We need to follow a process.
This issue is placing the country at risk. For terrorism, for disease and crime. Our own government has let us down in these areas. The Congressman is on the wrong side of these policies. He hasn’t done enough to protect us, to protect the American people, and our country. Unfortunately, we probably already have terrorists who have come over the border. We are probably are already in a position where people have overstayed their visas or passports. And even when we apprehend them, we don’t deport ‘em.
Unfortunately, those are the issues. That’s where we are. I would be an advocate for securing our country’s borders, for modernizing our country’s immigration system, and I would oppose amnesty for illegal aliens.
TW: Every every sovereign nation has ahas a right and a responsibility to defend its borders and to know who’s coming here. Ah we had an immigration bill, a bipartisan bill, it got 68 votes in the United States Senate. I don’t think you could get 68 Senators to agree it’s Wednesday, but they did on that. Because they understood we had a broken system. They understood that when people should go, you gotta come here and play by the rules. You come here legally, pay your taxes and you play by the rules. And what we understand is, those are the qualities that made America great.
It doesn’t say on the Statue of Liberty, “Get the hell out.” What it says on the Statue of Liberty is welcoming to get here, coming through in a legal manner. The problem is, is because we haven’t done reform, we haven’t kept up with it, there is not the ability to be able to process them. There is not the ability to have enough people to be able to do immigration reform in the right manner.
No one is saying, that you come to this country if you don’t come legally. No one is saying you stay. The issue is, and be very clear about this, a child born here or brought here by their parents, going to our schools in Austin, achieving high grades, maybe graduating as valedictorian, wanting to go on to and become a doctor, a teacher, a nurse, a small business owner. We’re going to send them back to a country that they’ve never been before.
Those were policies and again, you hear some criticism. The criticism of President Bush has always been that President Bush was moderate and trying to get in there. It wasn’t because President Bush, because it wasn’t an extreme position. Be very clear about the children from Central America. President Bush put that policy in place to make sure that the children were not sent back to the very traffickers that were there. He put that in. Now the issue is, how do we make sure we have a comprehensive immigration reform bill, we make sure our borders are secure, we make sure we adhere to our moral principles about having and welcoming immigration, and we do so with that Ameican tendency of optimism that’s been there?
JS: Thank you Congressman. Now we’ll go to the closing statements. Mr. Hagedorn.
JH: Thank you to our moderators, thank you to the school and Congressman Walz, thank you for the debate. I appreciate everyone being here and listening along.
Well, the election’s just y’know, a couple and a half weeks away, a little bit more than that. And a big choice for our country: which direction are we going to move? After 6 years of President Obama and 8 years of Congressman Walz, you know what you’re getting if you re-elect the incumbent. You’re gonna get more big government, you’re gonna get more defense of those policies that are being taken over by the federal government, you’re gonna get more stagnation of our economy – hey, it’s across the board.
What I offer you is something different. I offer you as somebody that has a fresh voice, a little fresh blood to go out to Washington D.C. and to, when needed, shake up that place and when needed, go hand in hand and make things happen. And I stand for solutions that are gonna take power from Washington and bring it back to the states and the people. I stand for solutions that are gonna limit our government. Give us free enterprise and the rule of law.
In the area of healthcare, we don’t need that top-down approach. We need free market reforms that are gonna put you in charge and maintain that that patient-doctor relationship. When it comes to energy, we need energy independence led by drilling on federal lands, sustaining coal, nuclear, all of the above, including renewables. But then we need the infrastructure. To be able to use the resources that God gave us in an efficient way and put downward pressure on prices.
We don’t need big bills in our financial services area. We need to put a line through that. We need regulatory reform so the Congress gets a check over these regulations that are hurtin business and farmers and drivin up consumer costs. We need Work for Welfare legislation, so folks out there have the dignity of collecting a check, and when they’re able bodied to give something back to the taxpayers. We need a new policy of peace through strength, so we can project our power. We defend our allies but people around the world fight for their own freedom. We’ll help ‘em do that.
Most importantly folks, we need to help our veterans get the care that the members of Congress have. It’s a disgrace. It’s a disgrace that folks are going without, that the government is turning their back on them, that they’re waiting a year or more for benefits. We need to have people out there like myself who will fight for them. To make sure that they will get the care, the timely care and the quality care, they need.
Folks, I ask for your support, I ask for your vote, if you give me the chance I’ll help lead this country in a new direction. Thank you.
TW: Thank you Mr. Hagedorn for being here, thank you to the moderators, and to all of the parties who put this on again, thank you, thank you for your passion, thank you for believing in this country, thank you for believing in your neighbors, and what we can do.
We’re setting in a community that is one of the strongest in the country, ah both economically and I would say this: my 13-year-old turned to me the other day and said, “Boy, I love Mankato.” That ought to say something. About how we’re treating our children. There’s that saying, that was there, that a measure of the soul of a society is how they treat their children. Well, if that’s the case, we’re doing pretty well on that regard.
It is about choice. You’ve got a choice. Elections are. That’s the beauty of this. It was never meant to be easy, it was meant to be a challenge. You’re gonna have a choice. You like the partisanship? You like the arguing? You like the firebombing? You you like the government shutdown? You like those types of things? You’ve got a choice.
It was the simplest and clearest statement. Republican Senate candidate Mike McFadden said, “Jim Hagedorn doesn’t share Minnesota values.” There’s a difference. I came here with my bride and bought my first house, the same one I’m still living in. My children were born in the hospital up here. I taught your kids at Mankato West. I coached ‘em, through some losing seasons and some championship seasons. I put on the uniform of the Minnesota National Guard and served. I have the distinct privilege, honor and responsibility of being the highest-ranking enlisted soldier in the history of the United States to serve in the Congress. And I’ve worked with my colleagues, I’ve worked with organizations like the VFW and the American Legion, to make sure that that solemn commitment is there. And wherever we drop down, we’ll come back and strengthen it.
And it’s about believing in America. It’s about believing in what we can do together. It’s about disagreeing with you, but know you love your country as much as I do. Or someone else. And then at the end of the day, it’s about understanding when Madison came out of the Constitutional Convention and they said, “Tell us three things about the Constitution: compromise, compromise, compromise.” If you’re gonna hold firm, and you’re going to (inaudible) at every turn, fight progress at moving this country forward, you’re turning your back on 200+ years of the greatest country on earth, taking some of the greatest challenges going through the deepest darkest times, and coming out on the other end of a country that provides opportunity, dignity, the ability to raise a family, that’s the envy of the world.
People want to come to this country. I would not want to be in a country where they don’t want to emigrate to. I want to be in a country that we’re the envy of the world. I want to be in a country that we’re setting standards, that our moral high road is the bar for the rest of the world. I’ve served you, for the past several years, I’m asking for the opportunity to do so again. The one thing you can be sure you will get, you’ll get passion, you’ll get hard work, you will get dignity in how the job is done, and you will get results that matter to people in southern Minnesota. Thank you for being here.
PB: Help us thank our candidates by giving them a round of applause. (audience applause, candidates shake hands) And thank you for attending and being an excellent audience, and have a fantastic evening. Thank you.