Video Replay & Transcript: Republican Candidates for Congress Take on Obama & Trump

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Five of the Republicans running for Minnesota’s only open congressional seat had in common a clear distaste for President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal during a January 21 debate.

The candidates for the highly contested second congressional district seat — Jason Lewis, Pam Myhra, John Howe, David Gerson, and Darlene Miller — were asked to share their thoughts on the recently negotiated nuclear deal.

“I am not opposed to talking to Iran… the problem is we have President Barack Obama doing the dealing,” Lewis said.

David Gerson, however, said that it was unconscionable that the US negotiated with Iran, while Iran held several US hostages. Myhra called it negotiating from a position of weakness rather than strength and leadership.

Candidates distance themselves from Trump – Video and transcript

All candidates also disagreed with presidential candidate Donald Trump. Moderators Professor Larry Jacobs and former Minnesota House Speaker Steve Sviggum asked each candidate if they supported Trump’s proposals to build a border wall between the US and Mexico and require “the Mexicans” to pay for it. Each candidate briefly mentioned the need for border control, but did not feel it was feasible to require Mexico to pay for it. All of the candidates also distanced themselves from Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States.

During the debate, candidates were also asked about Minnesota’s racial disparities, thoughts on climate change, and where they would make budget cuts when considering defense, Social Security, and health care initiatives.

David Benson-Staebler is also running for the Republican endorsement, but did not attend the forum organized by the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Read the live blog of the debate here

Click on link to go to section
Opening Statements | Abiding by party endorsement |Reducing federal debt | Where to cut budget | Building a wall on Mexican border | Temporarily banning Muslims from entering U.S. | Iran nuclear deal | Authorizing force against Islamic State | Climate change | Joining Freedom Caucus | Racial economic inequities |Closing Statements

Transcript of debate by Susan Maricle

LJ = Larry Jacobs
SS = Steve Sviggum

DG = David Gerson
DM = Darlene Miller
JH = John Howe
PM = Pam Myhra
JL = Jason Lewis

LJ: Well thank you very much for coming this afternoon. Ah this is our first program of the year. But we have a very very busy ah season coming up. We’ll have more information out about it, but it’s very exciting, lots of different types of people. Ah probably six or seven programs. The one I’m actually looking forward to the most is we’ve got a very well known economist from the University of Chicago coming in to talk about why ah athletes at major universities should be paid. Even if you completely disagree with him, and you might, he’s very smart and he’s got arguments you need to think about.

Any case, lots of fun stuff coming. Please ah stay in touch with us. We’ll be sharing that. Ah I wanna thank my co-moderator, Steve Sviggum, who ah is absolutely a great ah contributor to the Humphrey School ah and to the programs we’re offering here. There’s really just so many ways in which Steve has been a ah very powerful and ah important influence on the school, and a good friend of mine. And we’ll be sharing the ah moderation of this event, as we’ve done for now a whole series of programs.

Ah I also want to also note that we try to hold the same kind of session with the DFL candidates, ah but a number of them dropped out and there’s just one candidate and that candidate decided not to spend an afternoon with us. To our regret. Ah we tried many many times to to bring that off, it didn’t happen.

Ah so let me just say a word about the format. We’re going to give each candidate a chance to ah make an opening statement, ah and then they’ll ah as we go through the questions that ah Steve and I will be asking, they’ll each have 90 seconds to answer, we’ve got a timekeeper up here who’s got a very nice color orange, I suggested red, but it was too garish.

In any case, let me introduce the ah ah candidates who are with us: David Gerson, ah and there’s a bio here so I’m not gonna read everything on the bio. You can look at it. Ah Mr. Gerson previously ran for the Second Congressional District in 2014. Sitting next to ah Mr. Gerson is Darlene Miller, who’s president of Permac Industries, ah sitting next to Ms. Miller is John Howe, who had been a member of the Minnesota Senate from 2011 to 13. And he had ah been previously been mayor of of the great town city of Red Wing. And then, sitting next to Mr. Howe, is Pam Myhra, who served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 2011 to 2015. And then finally, but certainly not least, ah Jason Lewis, former talk show host, who we’re grateful that he’s with us after a minor medical situation. So thank you very much for making that extra effort.

And before we get started I wanted to recognize ah a couple of former ah representatives who are with us: Senator Steve Kelley ah who’s ah ah is a faculty here at the Humphrey School along with Steve Sviggum, and we’re grateful that Steve is here. And then I think I saw Senator Phil Krinkie come in, and it’s always good to see you here, Phil. Thank you so much for coming.

Okay, so we’re gonna start now, just moving from Mr. Gerson down the line with opening statements, couple of minutes, and then we’ll dive into the questions. Mr. Gerson.

DG: Thank you for having me. I am David Gerson, a 48-year-old engineer from South St. Paul, who left a career in engineering and invested my life savings in this campaign because it is a cause for me, a moral obligation.

I am a Jewish conservative and will be the most conservative Jew to ever serve in Congress. But that is not the most interesting part of the story. The real story is how alongside a grassroots army, with merely a sling and five smooth stones, our community stood up to a representative whose voting record was unacceptable, and his support of a failed leader of John Boehner was unconscionable. We challenged this powerful committee chairman and six-term incumbent for the Republican Party endorsement in 2014, and he won by less than 3%. And everyone knew the writing was on the wall. We would receive the endorsement in 2016.

Today, I ask you to not judge us on what we say. Anyone can talk about conservative policy, and we are tired of empty campaign promises. So rather, judge us on who will go to Washington and stand up to the Goliaths and represent us. We the people no longer accept the status quo. And we are going to take our country back. If you wanna join us in this fight, visit my Web site, That’s my last name, Gerson, G-E-R-S-O-N F-O-R, or call me on my personal cell phone, at 651-400-1900. Thank you.

LJ: Ms. Miller.

DM: Thank you. (clears throat) Excuse me. Thank you for having me here today. I was born in New Prague, Minnesota, one of eight kids, on a farm. And when I was young, we had a lot of chores to do. Obviously on a farm, if anybody was raised on a farm, you know that. And I wasn’t afraid of hard work then and certainly not afraid of it now. I think the difference was, though, I didn’t even know what hard work was. You just –sorry – you just kind of did what your parents told you to do. You didn’t question it.

Well, ah running a business, being an owner of a business and having employees, takes hard work too. And I am the proud owner of Permac Industries, a precision machining company based in Burnsville, Minnesota. And I’m very very proud of my employees. Because they really have created our success. I took a company, though, that was very old old technology and transformed it into a 21st Century advanced precision machining company. And I did that through action, by showing my people how it could be done. (clears throat) Sorry about that. And that’s why I’ve been recognized by the U.S Chamber as a small business leader.

But. I’m not a politician. I’m a business owner. I’m about solutions, I’m not about talk. And, talking about solutions, I’ve done it. I’ve created jobs. I created manufacturing jobs when they said that you couldn’t keep manufacturing here in the United States anymore. And I’m proud to say I created a program called Right Skills Now, which is a training program for ah jobs in the manufacturing sector that are very well paid. And this first program started right here in Minnesota at Dunwoody. Our schools just don’t always prepare people for the jobs that are out there today. So I was really glad to be part of a solution. And I believe solu- solutions are what people need. And that’s what I bring to the table.

I’m running for Congress because I have real world experience and conservative values that I think relate to the people in the Second District and the people in the state of Minnesota. What politicians, especially liberal politicians, don’t understand is, jobs, good jobs, help families thrive. And families are hurting. They’re being squeezed in every direction, despite the happy talk we heard just last week at the State of the Union. I can identify with the men and women of my district, the Second District, and I share the values, hopes and fears. And creating policies and helping the economy is hard work. And I’m definitely up for the hard work. And I will never shy away from that. And that’s why I am running for Congress. Thank you.

LJ: Mr. Howe.

JH: (stands) John Howe. I was born and raised on a farm right here in Minnesota, went to school for criminal justice, ah worked at the prison in St. Cloud, so I so ah you find out a lot about yourself when you work at a prison, and ah started work for Sears and spent 10 years on the corporate side of Sears and 15 years owning my own individual Sears stores. So I understand what all the regulations that we face and all the issues that business face, especially when it comes to taxes, unemployment insurance, and all those issues.

I was fortunate enough to get elected mayor of Red Wing. And the reason I got involved in government was I didn’t like the way our city was being anti-business to people who wanted to open up a business and also the way we were spending money in our town. And ah so we have a little bit of a different city down there. We have a charter city, so the mayor actually has veto power, he doesn’t vote with the council, doesn’t run the council meetings. And so they hadn’t seen a veto in about 12 years. Well, I actually vetoed the budget there because we just we had a large budget and we just needed to ah live inside. You’ll hear this phrase a lot, that government needs to live inside of its means. Government has no means. Government has to live inside of our means.

Now again I was fortunate enough to get elected to the Minnesota Senate. And that experience, I’ll tell ya, when you have been a mayor, that helped me be a better senator. Being a senator’s gonna help me be a better congressman. And I learned a lot, and a lot of decisions get made in caucus, I mean there’s a lot of things ah y’know we’ve got a former senator, former representative here, former speaker here, and they know all the kind of things that happen, and that experience will help me be a better congressman.

My main issue that I’m runnin on is the our U.S. debt. Y’know we’re 19 trillion dollars in debt. We were, this last budget, agreed to add another 900 billion dollars to our deficit, our to our debt I should say, and we’re going in debt at a million dollars a minute. In debt. That’s not what we’re spending. That’s how much we’re goin in debt. You’ve seen what’s happened over in Greece. Now the experts say, once we get to about 23 trillion dollars, we’re we’re not gonna be able to service our interest on our debt. And so we need to make sure that we’re taking care of that.

Now there’s several things we can do. Certainly we’ve got a lot of corporate tax inversions and different things that are happening. And ah we need to figure out our tax code. We have a 77,000-page tax code. We need to collapse that. Y’know you just look at Minnesota here. We have 48 grade classifications for property taxes in Minnesota. Second highest in the country. And we should collapse that. And so there’s a lot of things we can do with tax (unclear) I had ah the pleasure of serving on the Tax Committee and I learned a lot there. And this whole experience is about learning.

I would tell you that, that it is important that when you take your life experiences – I’ve probably got the most varied experience up here. And ah I look forward to visiting with you and ah getting to know you. My name is in the phone book, you can visit my Web site,, ah I’m pretty accessible. Thank you.

LJ: Let me just ask everyone to stay seated.

JH: Okay.

LJ: The reason for that is we’re recording this, and

JH: All right.

LJ: then there are media here who sometimes work off of our feed. Representative Myhra.

PM: Good afternoon. I’ve been calling hundreds of people and asking them about their concerns. And one of the things that I’ve been hearing is a lot of people don’t have a whole lot of hope that the federal government can function and work well. I have hope. And I’d like to share with you why. And also why I’m running for Congress.

Five of my first six years of life, I spent in Latin America. My first language was Spanish. And I came back to this country when I was six years old. And I struggled, really struggled in school, unable to read. But fifth grade changed my life. My teacher taught me to read. I gained five years just in those nine months. And that experience taught me three foundational lessons for life. One, that God answers prayer. Two, the importance of working hard and persevering when you’re faced with a challenge. And three, that there is always hope. And I am a very hopeful person. I’m running for Congress because I believe we need congressional members who are trusted, experienced, accessible, and there to serve you.

When I call people, it is amazing to me. It’s really great. They say “Pam, I’m supporting you because I can trust you. You do what you say.” I have a hundred percent from the Taxpayers League, from the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, from the from Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, an A rating from the NRA. I’m experienced, I’m a certified public accountant with an active license. I worked at KPMG, an international public accounting firm for many years. And I’m a former two-term state representative with a strong conservative and prolife voting record. And as I served, I had four chief authored bills that were unanimous in the House and signed by the governor. One of them was a very significant bill, a bill that had been ah the the it was government transparency bill, that had been tried to be passed for 17 years. And we got it through unanimously and signed by the governor.

I think it’s also really important for congressional members to be accessible. Because we’re there to represent you. And so that’s why I’ve been calling hundreds of people. And I think I gave almost everyone here my business card. On there is my cell phone. Please give me a call if you’ve got a question or you want to talk.

I’m trusted. I’m experienced. I’m accessible. And I want to go to Congress to represent you. Thank you.

LJ: Mr. Jason Lewis.

JL: Well first of all, thank you Steve, thank you Larry, and thanks to the Humphrey School for having us here today. I do have to apologize, right from the git-go, I may not be 100%. Yesterday I had a little surgery. The campaign official position is, it was a herniated disk. The truth of the matter is, the DFL’s been on my back for so long, I had to get it fixed. (audience laughs) So ah pardon me if I’m not up to snuff and completely – y’know I I hail from Iowa, don’t hold that against me, I escaped. But I was born and raised in Iowa in a small family business, Lewis Motor Supply, was an automotive aftermarket distributor, but one of the lessons I learned was after 50 years in business, the government came, decided to build a freeway through our warehouse, and we went through something called eminent domain. Many of you I imagine have studied the Kelo decision, which I think was adjudicated wrongly. But you may understand what happens when you go through condemnation. You take the government’s price and if you don’t like it, you go to court and you probably get a smaller price. And you pay the court costs. That’s a real lesson if you’ve ever gone through that. So I decided to ah as I say leave Iowa and come back to eventually Minnesota, where my mother was born and raised in north Minneapolis, and buried at Fort Snelling. And that was a great gift but I had to start a second career. And I was fortunate enough to be active in politics most of my young life, so I got involved in politics in Colorado, worked for a congressman and then got involved in talk radio as well. And for the last 25 years I’ve been talking about public policy. Everybody knows where Jason Lewis stands. You know I get more questions when I call people and talk to folks like you. Say “Jason, we like what you say, we like what you’ve done, but how can we trust you? We have been so betrayed so many times by people we’ve elected, and then they go establishment in Washington. And they play the red-versus-blue tribalism game. And they put party above principle.” And I say, “You know where I stand. I’ve been telling you publicly for 25 years.” You can’t run away from that, and I don’t intend to. I believe in small, limited, and most importantly, constitutional government. I’m going to do those things. I’m not going to sit up here today and tell you what I’m going to do ah to get elected, how wonderful my resume is, I could tell you “Well, I’ve got a master’s degree from the University of Colorado, and I’ve talked to every major senator and a few presidents” – no. That doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is somebody with independent thinking, that’s gonna go to Washington and fix the economy, reform healthcare, and handle handle our immigration crisis. And by that I mean, getting a handle on ISIS.

Let’s take those one at a time. We’ve gotta fix this economy. Right now if your portfolio’s anything like mine, over the last couple of weeks, it shrunk. Ah we don’t have any faith in this economy. We run these massive trade deficits and as the late great Milton Friedman said, that shouldn’t be a problem because when we run a trade deficit, our foreigners hold dollars. What do they usually do with those dollars? They come back and they invest in America. That’s not happening. The opposite of a trade deficit is the capital surplus account. That’s what we have. We’ve got money overseas that normally from we are buying their goods, they turn around and invest in America. They can’t invest dollars anyplace else. You know what they’re doing? They’re holding them. Not only that, American companies, instead of investing here, are doing tax inversions. We have a crisis in this economy. 1.8% growth is not exactly a robust economy.

When President Obama inherited a recession and he’s right he did, he raised regulation, he raised tax rates, and he set the Federal Reserve off on another credit bubble. When Ronald Reagan won in 1980, he told Paul Volcker to get a handle on the money supply, he deregulated, and he cut taxes. We had a severe recession in 1982, so severe that some of you, some of the Democrats were talking about impeachment. But by 1983 in one quarter we were growing at 8.3%.

You want to solve the debt? You want to get the economy going again? You’re going to have to grow this economy and you’re not gonna do it by stepping on the neck of people who make capital investments. We’ve gotta fix the economy. We’ve gotta reform healthcare by stopping the transfer with regard to these premium increases from Obamacare. Obama said they would go down by 25 hundred dollars.

LJ: Thank you. Thank you very much.

JL: They went up by 48 hundred. Those are the things we have to do. I’m not gonna tell you how great I am. I’m gonna do those things when I get to Washington.

LJ: Thank you very much. First question goes to ah Mr. Gerson.

SS: Okay. Ah before the first question, thank you, all five of you, sincerely, for running. I know how hard it is, I’ve been there, you’re on the frontlines, you’re not gonna please everybody, not everybody’s gonna like you. Ah but thank you very very much. It’s it’s an important part of our process. Ah and Larry did mention earlier, we try to be very very fair here. At the Humphrey School. Larry and I try to be very very fair, sometimes overly I claim to him, ah but we did give the opportunity to the DFL Second District candidates to be here and for whatever reason the last one refused ah did not want to come did not disclose why, but could not come on Tuesday and I’m sorry for that.

Ah, to the first question I’m gonna ask. Mr. Gerson, you’ll be first and we’ll go right down the line. If you’d hold your answers to a minute, a minute and a half, that would be great. Ah I’m gonna ask a political one first. And then we’re gonna get to the policy questions of the debt, of immigration, of Iran, of terror, ah to the policy issues that affect our lives here in this country. The political question is this. And ah I I don’t know if this is the right way to phrase it. This is how I feel. I also think it’s the way many citizens of the Second District feel. I happen to live in the Second District. Ah they see the political parties, Republican and Democrat, as becoming a little bit too extreme at this point. Ah they see a Democratic presidential candidacy going on where a admitted socialist who says that a 90% tax rate is not out of line, is gonna win New Hampshire primaries, and could win the Iowa caucuses. And go on from there. They see a Democratic party going very far left. They see a Republican party in all fairness going very very far right. I I I understand the problems you have of of living having to to campaign and live on the legacy and the ghost of Ronald Reagan. And deal with the reality of Rush Limbaugh. That’s a tough spot for you to be in. My question is this: endorsement. You’re all seeking the endorsement, the battle right now. Are you willing to abide and live by the endorsement? Is it the right thing to do? Ah is the party maybe not left to many people? Are you gonna leave the decision to a greater primary contest or are you gonna abide by the endorsement? Mr. Gerson, you’re first.

DG: In 2014, I challenged the then six-term incumbent, and powerful chairman, over the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, for the Republican Party endorsement. And I lost by less than 3%. And I was asked, after the vote was tallied, and the numbers were announced, I was asked if I would like to concede or if I would like the vote read. And I went up to the podium and said, “I respect the voice of the body. It is so important that the people have a voice and that we respect that voice. And this body has chosen Representative Kline to represent us. And we all now need to get behind Representative Kline and make sure he beats the Democrats.”

We have such a powerful process here. That the people can have a voice. And my fear is that big money can come in, go straight to the primary and totally disrespect the voice of the people and will be silenced. And we can’t let that happen. I am absolutely honoring the endorsement. We all need to get behind the endorsed candidate.

SS: Ms. Miller.

DM: Well first of all I agree with you. Ah we are too far right and too far left. And we we absolutely have to treat this like a business and and work with the people to make the right decisions. But as far as the endorsement: I ah just got into this race two weeks ago, and as I said I’m not a politician. But I’m gonna reach out to everyone in ah the grassroots the activists. But mainly to the people in the Second District. Y’know we only have about 20 or 30 thousand people out of the 400 some thousand people who vote in the primary. I’d love to get a ton more of those people out there to vote and be active. And that’s that’s really what I’m gonna work on. The focus of everyone and go straight to the primary. Thank you.

SS: Okay. Senator Howe.

JH: Well thank you Speaker for the question. I think the endorsement process is very important. And and in my past I’ve always abided by the endorsement. In this race I’ve said “Let’s see what the field looks like.” And now you just have the woman to my left here, saying that she’s gonna go to a primary. Y’know the primary is very important. And ah or not I should say the endorsement process is very important. And I’m gonna work very hard to earn the endorsement. But I don’t think anybody up here y’know you’ve got David here saying he’s abided by the endorsement and he said he lost by less than 3%. I’ve kept hearing this. I don’t know where that math comes from because you have to have a 60% to win the endorsement. So I don’t know how you can be three points away. That math doesn’t work. Ah so there’s a little more to that story. And in 2012, you ran in two different congressional districts. And so he did run in a primary against John Kline back then. I remember, that’s when I met him for the first time.

Ah Representative Myhra. Ah she ah when they ran for, when you ran for lieutenant government lieutenant governor, she ran in a primary. I mean, they tried to spoil the state convention down there. And so there’s a lot of people that wanna say they’re pure on this and they’re not. Ah and I think people look at it and say, “Well, what do I need to do?” I think Jason on the end said y’know he said the word absolutely several times. And I think the reason he says absolutely he’s going to abide by the endorsement is because he doesn’t live in the district and he thinks that’s gonna offset that.

So again I’ve said I think the endorsement process is very important. I’m gonna work very hard to get the endorsement. And we’ll go from there.

SS: Representative Myhra.

PM: Mr. Speaker thank you for the question. In 2008 I woke up in the night with a horrible horrible dream. And y’know it really got me started in thinking about running for politics. About a year later I ran for the very first time. For House of Representatives. I ran against a strong incumbent, and won. And as I went through the neighborhoods and met people, y’know there were both Democrats and Republicans that were supporting me. And I understand, there is a big divide. But people out there want to be heard. They want to be listened to. And sometimes they don’t agree with us as we serve in office. But they want to be heard. And they want to be represented.

The other night I was in the grocery store and a man came up to me and said, “I didn’t agree with your vote. But you called me and talked to me. And I’m going to put my your sign in my yard.” I think it’s very important that as a congresswoman, that we recognize and represent the people. As far as the issue of endorsement: I’m abiding by the endorsement. And actually last year what I was doing was staying true to my word. To the individual who was on the top of the ticket. And I didn’t bail on him. I kept my word and I said I would stay on the ticket. But I am abiding by the endorsement this time because it is so important to have the involvement of grassroots people. To hear their concerns and to be able to represent them. Thank you.

SS: Mr. Lewis.

JL: Steve, I’m not gonna make any apologies for Rush Limbaugh. I can guarantee you that. But I will for Ronald Reagan. And you want to talk about polarization or red versus blue: Reagan worked with Tip O’Neill. They worked to pass, they had a Democratic Congress and they passed that tax cut of 1981. Ah Reagan negotiated with Gorbachev against the wishes of the hardliners. Reagan didn’t get us involved in nation building. So I’ll stand on Ronald Reagan’s mantle any day of the week.

As to the endorsement process: as long as the state of Minnesota has an endorsement process, I’m going to abide by it. To do so would be dissing the the people of the Second District. As a I mean frankly, if Minnesota wants to change, that’s fine. But as long as they have these hard-working activists who want a say in the system, to tell themm “Oh, well, you don’t matter, I’m gonna go straight to the primary,” does them a great disservice without whom, by the way, the party doesn’t function. And the the Republican Party in the Second District can ill afford to do that. We can ill afford to have a primary while the Democratic candidate is all alone out there raising big money from Tom Steyer and George Soros and all the rest of the folks in Silicon Valley.

So it’s not practical it’s not viable to say “Well, I’m just gonna run in the primary.” Y’know the reason my friend John and perhaps Darlene don’t want to abide by the endorsement is simple: they’re not gonna get it.

SS: Okay. Well, I think folks what you’ve heard is we are gonna have an endorsing battle and we’re gonna have a primary battle. Is what I’ve heard. Ah and we’ll go on to the next one. But but also, it was pointed out, that in the endorsement battle, Mr. Gerson, you did file and run in 2012 against an endorsed candidate. And Ms. Myhra, you did run as a lieutenant governor candidate against an endorsed candidate in 2014, so consistency at the Capitol, you know what they say about consistency? It’s for small minds. And I have the small mind.

Ah, the debt, the deficit, and Ms.Miller, we’re gonna start with you. Ah if we could. We’re all worried about this 19 trillion dollar deficit. Ah I’ve heard ah both the Majority Leader ah McConnell and the Speaker speak about going back to “regular order” in Washington D.C. Regular order meaning, that we’re gonna pass 12 appropriation bills, and we’re gonna start them early in the process. Rather than one omnibus bill pushed at the end of the session when we’re probably right up to the twelfth hour with the government shutting down.

The return to regular order has ah helped us produce a 19 trillion dollar defi- 19 trillion dollar debt as well. Ah look back in history a little bit. 1985. We had Gramm-Rudman-Hollings. Supposed to help us solve the deficit, the debt. Didn’t exactly work. 1990 and four. We had the Contract with America. That we were gonna have a balanced budget tax limitations amendment. Didn’t exactly work. We’ve all heard about sequestration and sequester. We’ve heard about the ah zero-based budgeting. Ah we’ve heard about the 2011 Budget Control Act. Which has been anything but budget control.

All that being said, Ms.Miller, what is your idea, what thoughts do you have, what actions do you think we could take to maybe address this most important issue this country faces? The debt and the deficit that we’re putting on our kids.

DM: That is (clears throat) the most critical to our economy. And y’know I would treat that like I treat a business. Y’know when we at Permac ah suffered the downturn like I’m sure most of you experienced in 2009 and 10, we had to go through that budget. And we had to go through every single line. And we had to redline a lot of things that we were used to doing. We had to look at everything from capital equipment to employees to salaries. We all got in the game together and figured out where we could cut costs. (clears throat) And that’s what our government needs to do. And we need to be proactive, not reactive. Ah we need to look at our budgets well in advance and really go through where is the income, where is the expenses. And make this budget balance for the American people. Thank you.

SS: Senator Howe.

JH: Well, I think the debt obviously is a major issue. It’s it’s affecting everything. It affects our trade relationships with China, we can’t get tough with China on trade relationships because we owe them closing in on 2 trillion dollars now. Ah there’s a lot of things we can do on the debt issue. And y’know I would say that no one’s a real fan of taxes, but taxes are a part of life. And but taxes should go towards something what they are being used for. And y’know in Minnesota here at least we have to balance things. Sure, we take money from one pot and use it for the other pot and I don’t think that’s right. Any time a pot of money gets too big, rather than adjusting the rate where it’s being collected, they just take the money and use it somewhere else.

Ah when it comes to our national debt, we’re gonna have to dedicate somewhere to take care of it. And one of the things I think we can address is are corporate taxes. Y’know our highest corporate tax rate is I think 39.1%. And we have an effective rate of about 12.6%. We we’ve got ah a lot of corporations that do tax inversions, you know, they they buy a company overseas so they don’t have to pay their taxes here. One of the loopholes in our tax system is y’know foreign profits. They’re not taxed until they’re brought home. So we’ve got 2 trillion dollars worth of corporate money sitting on the sidelines overseas. Where is that money gonna be invested? It’s gonna be invested overseas because the companies aren’t gonna wanna bring it home. We’d be much better off with a flat tax. And we could take some of that flat tax and dedicate it towards the debt. But that’s what we’re gonna have to do. We’re gonna have to get serious about it. On the back of my business card I have both what the deficit or the debt is under both presidents, under GOP presidents and Democratic presidents. With Obama it started out at 10 billion and it’s went up to 18.8 trillion. So it’s went up 77 percent under Obama. We need to get it under control. And I will I will do that.

LJ: Representative Myhra.

PM: Thank you for the question. And this is a critical I agree with my colleagues here, it is a very critical issue of getting spending under control. Because it’s out of control spending that creates those deficits, which has made our ah debt go up so significantly. And it burdens us. It burdens, it wears down on our economy. And my belief is that we really need to to set priorities. What is the priority of the federal government, rather than the federal government taking on the issues of that should be left to the states? And we also need to go through department by department, agency by agency, and look at what is being done. I agree with the zero line budget. We should be going and justifying, what is the budget? Why are we spending this amount of money? Not just justifying the increase. But going back to the very beginning for the full budget. Why are we spending this money? And if there are reports coming back the program is ineffective, then we should be cutting it back. Thank you.

JL: Y’know

LJ: Mr. Lewis.

JL: Yeah, thanks. Part of the problem with this debt is the Federal Reserve has monetized it. If y’know the normal post-World War II ten-year treasury rate is about 5.7%. Um our treasury ten-year treasury now is under 2% as of this week. The Fed has gone in and bought every debt instrument, not as the lender of last resort, but the lender of first resort. And in fact when they do that, they go out and buy T-bills and mortgage notes and everything else, they put a credit on the treasury’s checkbook. And so the government’s getting free money. The government likes this. The the the treasury likes these low interest rates. But it’s creating these boom-and-bust cycles. Where we have malinvestment and we grow and we invest in things like Solyndra and A123 and collateral obligations and credit default swaps and all of these things we slice and dice up, until we’re overbuilt in sectors and then the bubble bursts (snaps fingers), whether it’s housing, bonds or anything else, and now we get a deflationary Japanese-style economy that they’ve had for a couple of decades, and I fear we’re going into. It’s all because of the debt.

Now Steve mentioned the history of this, and he’s right except for one thing. And I would say, the sequester did work. Y’know President Obama runs around and talks about shared sacrifice. When you hear him talk about shared sacrifice, grab your wallet. That means he wants to raise somebody’s taxes. He doesn’t want to cut across the board. That’s shared sacrifice. Going across the board and saying “Y’know what? We’re in a crisis here. We’re at an inflection point. Everybody’s gonna take a little bit of a hit.” Coming out of the 2011 budget deal, the president said, “If we can’t have this task force that solves the problem,” as though that would, “I will I will go ahead with a 10% across-the-board cut in domestic discretionary and we’ll cut it across the board.” What did the politicians do?

LJ: Thank you.

JL: They got together and they undid it.

LJ: Thank you.

JL: But it was working and it cut the deficit.

LJ: Thank you very much Mr. Lewis. Mr. Gerson.

DG: In 2010 John Boehner said, “Give me a majority in the House, give me the Speakership, and I’ll give you change.” What did we get? Well, we don’t have the Senate. “Give me the Senate and we’ll give you change.” In 2014 we gave them the largest majority in the House in over 70 years, and what have we gotten? Excuses.

James Madison said, “Perhaps the best remedy to any regress is the power of the purse.” The U.S. House of Representatives has abdicated their responsibility to ensure that we live within our own means and control the budget. We need principled leaders in Congress who will stand up and have the tough discussions and force us to live within our means. And the American people are ready for this change. And they understand that Washington is broke and that it’s not working for the people and we need to ensure that we send true representatives that will stand for our principles and make sure that we return to constitutionally limited government and return power back to the House of Representatives.

LJ: Thank you very much. Ah you’ve all expressed strong but general sentiments about reducing spending. Ah and I want to get more specific. The lion’s share of spending in Washington goes to three programs: Defense, Social Security, Medicare and other healthcare programs. Where are you going to make cuts in those three foundational areas of government spending? Senator Howe.

JH: Well to start with, y’know when it comes to Social Security, we’ve made a, a lot of people have paid into that. And I think that’s a contract we have to honor. The people have paid into it. Certainly, ah y’know we have some very generous entitlement programs. And ah we’re gonna have to start to change. I know some people aren’t going to like to hear means testing or any of that. I’m not I’m not opposed to looking at that as we start, and letting people do some private investments. But the people who paid in: that money needs to go out to them.

Ah for specifics, I talked about the corporate tax rate. And I think we could go to a flat tax, a flat 15% on corporate taxes. Ah y’know we we have it just about exactly backward. We we we should encourage savings, earnings and investing. And we should look at the consumption side. Now you’re gonna hear wild amounts of how much we need to tax. And when I was a state senator in Minnesota, I actually proposed that, one of my competitors actually has that in her flyer. That y’know I passed I proposed a expansion of the sales tax. Well, I wanted to lower our rate from 6.875, actually it’s about 7.22 when you figure in the local option sales tax, but I want to lower that rate to 4.9% and eliminate the personal income tax. The state income tax. Look at how many people flee Minnesota for nonstate income tax. You have a lot of business people. I was just down in Florida, and there was over 300 businesspeople at a meeting down there. That retired from Minnesota to there. So we need to address it.

SS: Thank you.

LJ: Representative Myhra, could you be specific in which of those areas that make up the lion’s share of government spending that you would make cuts of: Defense, Social Security, Medicare and the other health programs?

PM: Well first off, I would not be cutting military because we live in a very dangerous world. And as I said earlier, I’ve been calling a lot of people and one of the top things that they’ve been saying is they’re afraid. Security is a big issue. They they want ah they want to be defended. They they don’t want to be ah at risk. They they are concerned about terrorism. So I believe we need to strengthen our military. And protect our people and our interests.

But as far as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid go, the government’s made a lot of promises over many many years. And we need to keep our promises to those who are retired now and near retirement. But we also need to stop making so many promises. We need to be ah realistic and one – the very first thing we need to do is have a thirty-year budget for Social Security. We need to see where we’re at and address it honestly. Social Security, we need to also very gradually increase those early retirement ages and full retirement ages. I – down the road. I’m not talking about the near retirees that won’t be able to respond to it. But when Social Security was first done, it was our life expectancy was 65. Now our expectancy is 80. So we need to change those expectations.

As far as Medicare and Medicaid, we need to change from a one-size-fits-all policy to one that is a premium support. So people can pick and choose and then be able to get those benefits that they want.

LJ: Thank you very much. Mr. Lewis, where would you make specific concrete cuts

JL: Yep.

LJ: in those big three programs.

JL: Let me see if I can get specific and actually answer the question.

LJ: Thank you.

JL: This is a bipartisan problem. The federal budget was 1.9 trillion when George Bush took office. And now it’s 4 trillion. So let’s not let the Republicans off the hook here. They’re spending money, as Reagan used to say, like drunken sailors, but that’s not fair to drunken sailors. The the the budget sequester, and I want to go back to that 2011 budget deal, said we’ve gotta get a handle on entitlement reform. So, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. And here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna cut domestic discretionary including the Pentagon, domestic discretionary about 1 trillion dollars, across the board 10%. And that’s gonna bring the Obama administration to the table. They don’t like cuts in social welfare. They’ll go along with the military reduction but they don’t like cuts in social welfare. And what happened was, the Republicans and Democrats got together, instead of saying “I’ll cut my programs if you cut your programs,” they said “I’ll undo the sequester, Ryan-Murray too recently, if you and you know I’ll fund yours if you fund mine.” Look, I was in favor of the budget sequester and I caught a little flak for that because it did trim the Pentagon. But let’s be serious about this. If we don’t get to the entitlements, we’re never gonna solve this debt crisis that everybody likes to talk about.

The Pentagon has 800,000 civilian employees. Not 8,000, not 80,000, 800,000. Many of them members of the American Federation of Government Employees. All of them not necessary. They’ve got an F35 joint strike fighter, after 1 point trillion, 1.4 trillion dollars, can’t fly. Former Army Chief of Staff Odierno went to the Congress and said, “We don’t need any more Abrams tanks.” What did Congress do? Immediately appropriated more Abrams tanks.

We can trim the Pentagon and still provide national defense because of our great military men and women, but we don’t need bloated spending anywhere in the budget. That is the only way to address the entitlements and quickly on the entitlements, you don’t want to means test Social Security, that turns it into a welfare program and people won’t support it, you raise the retirement age, you do the COLA links and you do that to a chained CPI, you Medicare – if it’s good enough for Obamacare, you can go premium subsidies for Medicare, and Medicaid, well, it’s just a duplicative program in many many areas, given the Affordable Care Act.

LJ: Thank you very much. Mr. Gerson.

DG: In 2014, 66% of federal revenues went just to cover mandatory spending and interest on the debt. In 11 years, mandatory spending and interest on the debt will comprise 100% of federal revenue received. We need to act today.

For Social Security, if we don’t act, there will be 23% across-the-board cuts. This is what we need to do. We need to protect those in and near retirement. We need to change from a COLA to a chained CPI. We need to predictably and gradually increase the retirement age. And we need to allow workers to invest in private investment accounts. For Medicaid, the federal government should block grant a fixed capped amount to the states and provide maximum flexibility for innovation and creativity in order to solve their growing fiscal problems. For Medicare, we need to go to a premium support model. A defined contribution from the government to the beneficiaries’ healthcare plan of choice to drive down costs, expand freedom in the healthcare market, and improve quality of care.

LJ: Thank you very much. Ms. Miller.

DM: Well, I also agree, we cannot change Social Security right now for our seniors. They depend on that. But it is a tough issue, and it is something that has to be addressed. And it’s gonna take a bipartisan group to work together on it, to figure out when and how and all the fine details of it. It does need to be addressed, but not for people who are currently on Social Security, or even close to retiring. They put their own money into it. And they deserve it back.

As far as defense, I agree with Pam. We cannot cut our defense. We live in fear right now and we need to even get more aggressive. Ah Medicare, people who are on Medicare who need that, we have to keep that, but we have Obamacare ah that I think is costing us a lot of money right now. I know like many of you, we were told we could keep our doctors and reduce our costs. And get better quality, and I’m not seeing that. I’m seeing a lot higher costs and not being allowed to keep our doctors. I think we need to really relook at that and put it back into an open market-based program between our doctors and our people.

The other part of this, though, is that we need to bring up our economy. We need to get more jobs, get more people involved in the into the systems so we can balance our budget. So those are some of the things I would address.

LJ: I’d like to do a quick lightning round of two questions. Both are related to Donald Trump (audience murmurs) and two proposals he’s made and I’d like to know, just very concretely, do you support or not Donald Trump on these two proposals? Donald Trump has talked about building a great big wall along the Mexican border to stop immigration. And forcing the Mexicans to pay for it. Representative Myhra, do you support that proposal?

PM: I support protecting our borders. But I don’t see how he’s gonna be able to ah get the Mexicans to pay for it.

LJ: Thank you very much. Mr. Lewis.

JL: Ah I support free lunches wherever they’re handed out Larry. I have no idea how he’s gonna get them to do that, but you cannot have open borders combined with the modern welfare state. We’ve gotta get a handle on immigration somehow.

LJ: Mr. Gerson.

DG: We have to have secure borders, but if what we need to do is remove the benefits that illegal aliens have for being here. And they will make the economic decision to move where they have greater opportunity.

LJ: Ms. Miller.

DM: There’s no way he’s gonna build a wall and let alone have the Mexicans pay for it. Ah so but we do need to protect our borders, and that’s not happening today. We need to ensure that the people who cross our borders are people we have vetted fully and that they ah want to be in America and are gonna go through the right processes.

LJ: Senator Howe.

JH: Well, that was the closest to a direct answer so far. But ah y’know go for it if if he’s the dealmaker, if he can get the Mexican government to pay for it, go for it. But I think obviously we need there’s a lot of things we need to do when we look at immigration. I mean, we just can’t say we’re not going to allow anybody into our country. We’re all from immigrants at some point. And and so we we need to absolutely know who’s coming into our country and and I would say that ah we we’ve really failed at that.

LJ: Mr. Lewis, a second proposal of Mr. Trump has made is to temporarily bar Muslims from entering America. Do you support that?

JL: No, I support Rand Paul’s approach to that. And going to the countries that are sponsoring terrorism and telling those countries they’re not going to have any immigrants coming here on a temporary basis.

LJ: Mr. Gerson, do you support temporarily banning Muslims from entering the United States?

DG: No I support banning people that we cannot properly vet to provide a security and safety issue for American people.

LJ: Ms. Miller.

DM: This isn’t a religious issue. This is an issue where we have to make sure that everybody we allow into this country is is credentialed, has been checked out, that we know is not a terrorist.

LJ: Senator Howe.

JH: Yeah, and I think we absolutely need to know who’s coming into our country. We can’t just base it on religion. And ah y’know I would think for the great majority of Americans, they wouldn’t know the difference between a Shiite and a Sunni. And I think y’know we we just need to do a much better job of of looking at that. But you cannot just base it, that’s not what America is about.

LJ: Representative Myhra.

PM: I agree with what Jason said as well.

LJ: Okay. Great.

SS: Ah I’m going to take one more question while Larry gets together the questions from the audience and puts them in a good order. Although I see, Larry, a couple of them have already been asked by you and some followup questions. Ah Mr. Lewis. The Iran nuclear deal was in accord struck last summer, I believe it was. And it released, unfroze 140 or 50 billion dollars of assets. Last week we find out that there was a exchange of some criminals for some U.S. hostages, maybe even some additional interest of 1.46 billion dollars. For our hostages. There’s been detention by Iran last week of ten of our U.S. sailors in the Persian Gulf. Last fall after the accord was struck, Iran ah ah tested some missiles. Twice I believe last fall. Continued support for terror around the world.

Now some say that the Iran nuclear deal ah its supporters will say that it was curbing Iran’s nuclear capability. Others will say, and basically opponents, that we have some misplaced trust in Iran, and the experiences of the last year show it. What’s your percept – perception Mr. Lewis.

JL: I am not opposed to talking to our enemies, the same way Reagan wasn’t opposed to it. The problem is, we’ve got President Barack Obama doing the deal. There could have been a deal that was done with stricter sanctions if they if they broke it, especially on ballistic missiles. There could have been a deal that was done that was more airtight. So I’m not opposed to that like some Republicans are. But I did not support the Obama deal because I didn’t I don’t trust this administration.

You’ve gotta go back though when it comes to Iran, which is a Shia country. And understand the counterweight that was there before the Iraq invasion. Let’s be honest about this and have some independent thinking, folks. Um we had a secular Sunni in charge in Iraq. That was the counterweight to Iran in the region. They had a 10-year bloody, bloody war. That Iran finally cried “uncle” on. We go into Iraq, we depose of Saddam Hussein, and what kind of government did we put in? We put in a Shia government. And now we’ve got the Shia crescent. And everybody’s worried, everybody’s hardline on Iran, “We gotta do something.” But doubtless on how you feel about the Iraq invasion – oh, I supported that – well, I think in hindsight it was clearly a mistake. And that’s as big a part of the problem as the Iran deal. So we’ve gotta get a handle on that.

The other thing I would say, Steve, is this principal enemy right now of the United States is Sunni extremism. Whether al-Nusra Front, whether al-Qaida, and now of course ISIS. We can’t fight everyone at once. And I I’ll I’ll do something that no one else is willing to do here. Ah Trump is right. The fact of the matter is, if if Syria and Bashar al-Asaad, who by the way helped us in the Iraq War, if they wanna fight ISIS and they wanna wipe them out, if the Kurds wanna fight ISIS and wipe them out, they’re the ones exporting international terrorism.

And so I y’know we we’ve gotta have some limits, even America’s America can’t police the entire world.

LJ: Thank you very much.

JL: And so I would say we need some fresh thinking on this.

LJ: Thank you very much. 

SS: Mr. Gerson, the ultimate verdict will only come with the passage of time, but what’s your your view of the deal?

DG: I think America understands that this was a bad deal with Iran. And it’s unbelievable that we negotiated a deal while they held our hostages. And then we then had this dangerous act of negotiating for the hostages and allowed a state-sponsored terrorism, who says that they’re gonna annihilate Israel to continue to not change their messaging. And I wish that it was a good deal. And unfortunately, I believe that it again comes down to Congress abdicating responsibility. I believe that this is a treaty. That should have been ratified by Congress. And that the Corker-Cardin bill was a sham process. And that Congress needs to again bring back their powers and uphold their office and defend the Constitution.

SS: Ms. Miller.

DM: Well Speaker Sviggum, I think you defined it real clearly when you said trust. Do we trust Iran? I personally do not. Ah this exchange that we just did, of innocent people, U.S. hostages that did nothing wrong, for known terrorists? I don’t consider that a fair exchange. We have to protect ourselves. And protect the American people first and foremost. And I don’t think this deal is gonna help protect us at all. So definitely would not have.

SS: Senator Howe, your view.

JH: Well, Speaker, thanks. I agree, I don’t think that you should do business with people who are not going to honor the agreement. Ah y’know the interesting thing, the reason that the United States is involved in the Middle East, is to stabilize oil prices. We’ve done a very poor job of that. We’ve seen oil prices go north of a hundred dollars and a barrel. Ah and and now the Middle East is completely out of control with ISIS and everything else, and where’s the price of oil? It’s interesting. Y’know all the experts.

Ah y’know my son just this last week signed into the Navy for an eight-year commitment. I can’t imagine him being ah an American sailor with their arms behind their back and I think Obama needs to have leadership here. I y’know this these things just don’t happen. The Navy doesn’t just allow a couple of vessels to drift into Iranian waters. Ah this deal is not a good deal. Ah I think ah the American people have not been told the truth. And it certainly should have had a lot better proper vetting. Ah I think that’s what you have a Congress for, ah this deal should have been properly vetted. And the American people should know exactly to the T to the letter of what’s in it.

SS: Representative Myhra.

PM: Speaker, thank you so much for the question. I told you earlier that I came to this country when I was six years old. And I entered first grade speaking Spanish, I was anemic, and just a (unclear) little thing and ah quite honestly really poor. And I will always remember my classmate, Wayne. Who came over to me one day and he leaned his head over like this and he said, “Pam, I’ll walk you home.” He was the tallest kid in the class, the biggest kid in the class, and you know what? No one ever bothered me when he was around. He didn’t even have to take me home! Everybody knew he was my friend. He never, he never even fought anybody that I knew. It was just that he was my friend.

This agreement was done from a position of weakness. We need to strengthen, we need to get our house in order economically and we need to strengthen our military and negotiate from a position of strength and leadership. Not of weakness as we have.

LJ: Thank you. All of you have talked in different ways about the Constitution. One of the most important elements of the Constitution is the use of military force. President Obama earlier this year asked for Congress to take action in confronting ah the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria. Congress has refused to act. President is acting alone, drawing on what he claims to be his unilateral power of the commander in chief, another clause in the Constitution, as well as the authorization for use of military force. That was passed just after 9/11.

Speaker Ryan has come forward and said it is time for Congress to stand up and ah fulfill its constitutional responsibilities by passing a new authorization for the use of military force that would be focused on the fight in ah against the Islamic state. That would be limited in terms and would define the nature of the U.S. commitment and how we are going to proceed. Would you support Speaker Ryan in passing a new authorization for the use of military force? Mr. Gerson.

DG: Well, the most important thing is that Congress again not abdicate responsibilities to the executive branch. And that Congress decide when there’s a true vital interest at stake for the American public, and when we’re gonna use our resources of monetary and our precious human life to go fight. Now, the president has the ability to tactically and surgically take on missions throughout the world to protect us. But when it comes to an engagement, Congress needs to bring back in that authority as well as the power of the purse, the power to ratify treaties, and the power to write law. Right now there’s a fourth branch of government, these unelected bureaucrats that are writing regulations

LJ: So, so would you say

DG: without congressional oversight

LJ: would you support Speaker Ryan? Would you be willing to vote for an authorization for use of military force?

DG: Well, I’d have to see the regulation. The important thing is that Congress take that responsibility and have that discussion, because there is no more important responsibility for a congressman than to come back and talk to their representatives about what this means and whether we’re gonna send our sons and daughters into war.

LJ: Ms. Miller.

DG: And not abdicate responsibility.

LJ: Ms. Miller, would you support the Speaker on this issue?

DM: Well, from the limited knowledge I have, ah on this, from Speaker Ryan, ah I don’t think any of us have all the details but I definitely would support ah this. And I agree. Congress ah our government should be all working together, not one person making decisions. And Congress needs to be part of that decision.

LJ: Senator Howe.

JH: Yes, I I would support. I think when we’re putting our men and women ah of the armed forces in harm’s way, you need to have ah congressional approval.

LJ: Representative Myhra.

PM: I would say yes, ah but there has to be ah resolve that we’re gonna do this under effective plan to win.

LJ: Mr. Lewis.

JL: As you know, there’s been a great debate between the Hamiltonians and those of the energetic executive over the power to make war versus the power to merely declare war. And it’s been going back and forth in Republican and Democratic administrations. I have come to the conclusion that that perhaps Alexander was wrong on this, we need to have congressional action. Now, as to whether I would support it, I mean I’d certainly support having congressional debate declaration. Whether I would support it would depend on what it entails. If it entails more troops in Syria, I would not support that. As young Syrian men are coming over here in our legal refugee program, and then we’re gonna send our young men and women over there to fight in their place? I will not support that. I will put a clampdown on the Syrian refugee program.

LJ: Next question is for Ms. Miller.

SS: Ms. Miller is next?

LJ: Yep.

SS: Climate change. Ah a couple of questions from from the audience. Ah by the way, as an aside, ah before I ask the question, ah I was speaking with Representative Myhra’s son before the ah forum here. Ah about climate change. And how when I was first elected in 1970 and 8, the issue was not global warming, it was global cooling. Ah we were entering into an ice age. It was getting colder. That was 35 years ago, I told my class that this fall, when we were discussing climate change issues, and they didn’t believe it until they Googled it, looked it up and right there on the internet it was “the earth getting cooler.” Ah was, we were going to enter in the ice age.

Okay though I don’t think there’s any doubt from the statistics, the world has gotten a little warmer, from a number at least the numbers of degrees ah if you look at the actual numbers the last the last couple of decades. How would you address the issue of climate change or global warming, what type of ah policies would you be looking at to to address this issue? (pause) Or do you think it is an issue?

DM: Y’know, I’m all for climate change if it means Minnesota’s gonna get warmer. (laughter) I would have to really work with experts in this area, I’m certainly not one, do not know any of the details. But to be perfectly honest, right now I think we have a lot bigger things at stake. I think the economy needs to grow, we’ve gotta get people to jobs, and we’ve gotta protect our country. So I would focus on that before I focused on climate change.

SS: Senator Howe, climate change?

JH: Thank you Speaker for the question. Y’know I’m a conservative. And as a conservative, I consider myself a conservationist. And I think one of the biggest issues we’re gonna face if people don’t realize it, is clean water. And water accessibility. Ah we don’t know ah all the effects that that Mother Nature’s gonna have on our planet. They just found a new planet today. Number 9. It was Pluto before they downgraded that, but now we have a new planet. And it’s gonna take that planet 10 thousand to 20 thousand years, they predict, to orbit the sun. We don’t even know what that gravitational effect is gonna have on the earth.

So I would say the jury’s still out. Y’know the earth has had periods of warming and cooling, we were worried about y’know cooling and we think that global warming is gonna again lead to an ice age. Y’know you put it on a big ah clock, we’ve been here for about 10 seconds. So there’s a lot of unanswered questions. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do what is right. That doesn’t mean that y’know you hear what Stuart Mills says in CD8, he was running under the Camp, ah the Camping Doctrine. y’know leave the place in a better place than when you showed up. Ah I’m a former mayor of Red Wing. When I walked down the street, I picked up garbage. Y’know on the streets. Ah I think that you you should y’know clean up after yourself. We should do what’s right. We shouldn’t be ah y’know we should do what’s right for the environment.

Ah I don’t think we need to go to far-out extremes, because Mother Nature y’know there’s a lot left to learn. But we should be good stewards of the land.

SS: Representative Myhra, to your son.

PM: (laughs) Thank you Mr. Speaker. And I remember those days as well. I was in high school, and everybody was concerned about global cooling, and it was it was huge. And and now, we’re even hearing about it down the road. Ah in the 2030s and 2040s, how it’s supposed to be getting cooler again. Yes, there is climate change. But how much can we as individuals change that? I I question. I question. And yes, we need to conserve, recycle and do all of these things, maintain good clean water. Looking even at the situation in Flint, Michigan. Ah we need to have practical things. But we don’t need to be heavy handed with heavy burdensome regulation on ah individuals and our businesses.

SS: Mr. Lewis.

JL (clears throat) I can go back to a Washington Post article in 1922, Steve, I can get it to you by the way for your class. That had this great “Climate change is coming, it is the new ice age,” and in the article it says there is a “scientific consensus.” That the new ice age is coming. And then of course we had the 1930s Dust Bowl, just the opposite, still the hottest decade in the 20th century. Ah look. There has been a warming since the seventies through up until the last 15 years. But in the last 15 years, and this is what all the climate models are having trouble with, it’s flatlined. And none of them predicted that. And they still can’t explain why it’s flatlined.

So the fundamental premise, or I would say false premise of all of this, is we have a normal temperature on the planet. We’ve never had a normal temperature on the planet. We have cooling and we have ice age, we’ve come out of the ice age, and we go back into one. Hopefully it’s not too bad of one in Minnesota.

But the other issue here is if we’re gonna address the problem, and you think it’s a problem, to do it the right way. And not have some fanciful court decision that says the Clean Air Act of 1970 actually allowed the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide. None other than Representative John Dingell, hardly a Republican, the famous Michigan Democrat, said, “I was there. I wrote the Clean Air Act. Nobody was talking about carbon dioxide.” And yet the courts said “Well, we were gonna give EPA discretion to regulate carbon dioxide.” So if we’re gonna do it, let’s do it the right way and have a serious congressional debate and pass a law with all the costs and benefits associated.

SS: Mr. Gerson.

DG: If we’re gonna talk about science, we also need to talk about science of the solutions. And unfortunately, the administration’s own data show that the solutions that they want to impose have insignificant effect. Though they will have a great effect on the economy, and impose what turn out to be very regressive taxes. So we need to talk about science, we need to understand the effects and we need to to balance that if we’re gonna talk about global warming and climate change.

LJ: Thank you very much. As you all know, ah in the House of Representatives, one of the most influential ah caucuses is the House Freedom Caucus. This is a caucus that is that is small, it’s very aggressive in advancing pretty conservative agenda. It was responsible I believe for the toppling of Speaker Boehner; it’s put shutting down government on the table as a tactic; and I’d like to know if you were elected to Congress, would you join the Freedom Caucus? Senator Howe.

JH: Well I think what it is about is about holding leadership accountable. Would I join? Well, I’d probably attend some meetings there, and maybe I might join. But it depends on on the issue and the topic at hand. And Minnesota here, y’know we had our leadership guaranteed us that ah that the budget I was involved in that that we were gonna give Governor Dayton 34.2 billion and not a penny more. 34.2 billion and not a penny more. Well, you’ve seen a lot of people had little pennies on their labels, ah lapels, and ah I showed up at one of the one of the press conferences with it. Somebody said “Howe, why are you here?” And I said, “Well, y’know they thought we were sending a message to Governor Dayton that we weren’t going to spend a penny more.” That message wasn’t for Governor Dayton. Everybody thought it was, it was for to our leadership. The leadership had agreed to give him 1.5 billion dollars, one-time spending. Half taken from the school shift, and half taken from the tobacco settlement. Now, neither one of those were really good for us in the next election. You see we lost the House and the Senate that year. But the “not a penny more” bill group was about, and I was a part of that group, was about holding leadership accountable. And I think that’s what the Freedom Caucus is. Y’know I don’t know them that well, ah certainly I’ll go, but if there’s an issue that we need to hold leadership accountable to, if the leadership has made us a commitment: yeah, I’ll be a part of that.

LJ: Representative Myhra, would you join the House Freedom Caucus?

PM: I understand that it’s ah by invitation only. And that you make a pact that if 80% of the caucus votes on a particular issue, that the whole caucus has to vote that way. And I have an issue with that. How about those votes that I don’t agree with the rest? I would follow ah the lead of Congressman Steve King from Iowa. Ah I respect his voice and I would follow that. I am a strong conservative, and I probably would agree many times with Freedom Caucus, ah but I’m not sure I’d want to give up my vote on those issues that I don’t agree with the others.

LJ: Mr. Lewis.

JL: Yes.

LJ: Thank you very much. Mr. Gerson.

DG: I am going to Congress to join the House Freedom Caucus in their fight to return conservatism to the people.

LJ: Ms. Miller.

DM: (pause) No. (laughs) I would not join the Freedom Caucus. Y’know, I I think it’s like business. You you really have to work on both sides. And sometimes what you’re working towards, I mean the goal has to be for all the people. All the people in Minnesota, all the people in the United States. And you can’t just decide, “It’s this way and I’m not going to vote because I don’t believe in that way.” You have to work together with people to solve problems. And from what I’ve heard, from what I’ve read, that’s not what’s happening with the Freedom Caucus.

SS: Representative Myhra, ah again from the audience. Ah the ah United States is facing, as well as Minnesota, facing some severe ah disparities in the racial inequalities. Achievement gaps. Whether it be at work, job, education. Ah do you have any ideas, any suggestions, any concerns, empathy, sympathies about how we address this racial inequality that exists?

PM: I’ll tell you this. I don’t think government can solve all the world’s problems. I don’t believe that. And I became a limited government person as a teenager, when I experienced ah – I had a job as a freshman in college, and I did it well, but when I went back, as a sophomore, I couldn’t have the job back. Because it was given to just, all the jobs were given to just select people on campus. And the person who had to do my job of cleaning the dorms was demeaned. The dorms were dirty, and I didn’t have a job. And I saw how bigger government made everything so ineffective.

Now on this issue, I don’t think government can solve all the problems of the world. And the more regulations, the more we try to parent our citizens — I I I don’t think it’s effective.

SS: Mr. Lewis.

JL: Well, since LBJ’s Great Society, we’ve spent some 17 to 18 trillion, depending on whose figures you use, on income assistance programs, and poverty programs. And guess where the poverty rate is? About the same as where it was in 1964. Um government is not going to solve many of these problems. However, there is a very very strict command from government in the Fourteenth Amendment called the Equal Protection Clause. And the kind of discrimination that is most invidious is when the government discriminates. If you and I want to embrace our freedom of association, I can go to a different group. If you don’t like me or if I don’t like you. But when government discriminates, there’s no place else to go.

One of the reasons that I ah was happy to see this great debate on medical marijuana, and now, in some cases, marijuana in general, take place and return power to the states, and not have the Clinton DEA override state law, and liberalize these laws, is in far too many cases, ah the drug laws are enforced in the inner city. And focused in the inner city. And that has a disproportionate effect on people of color and minorities. So I think we’ve gotta be very careful about that. And I think that in ah the true spirit of the Tenth Amendment and federalism, if a state wants to say, “Y’know, that’s enough, and we’re going to ah liberalize our marijuana laws,” for a number of reasons, I don’t know how you tell someone who’s dying of cancer, “Don’t smoke marijuana, it’s bad for your health,” but for that reason, and for the reason that it’s focused disproportionately sometimes in the inner cities, states oughta be allowed to do that without the federal government interfering.

SS: Mr. Gerson, what’s the what’s the role of government in addressing racial inequality that exists?

DG: I think the greatest thing that we can do is provide opportunity, which means unshackling our economy, removing these overbearing regulations, and this oppressive tax code. Ensure that we have opportunity for all and favoritism for none.

SS: Ms. Miller.

DM: I I don’t believe this is a role of the U.S. government. I think this is very local. It it starts at home. It starts with our families and it starts with their schools, and it starts with their businesses. I for one bring in many students from many different areas to see what manufacturing’s all about. And what good-paying jobs are about. And I think we as citizens all need to do our job. To help everyone be equal.

SS: Mr. Howe.

JH: Thank you Speaker. Ah I think the ah competition, y’know competition is part of the solution, it’s not the answer. And I can tell you that money is not the answer. We throw a lot of money. We said we spent a lot of money ah in the metropolitan areas versus the rural areas, you just look at the cost per student, I mean that’s one of the things rural legislators ah always y’know complain about is how much per-student funding they get at public schools. So we we know that money is not the answer. But competition is. And we need to encourage people ah to work hard. And I also think that y’know we shouldn’t discount y’know trying to keep families intact too. I think that ah having ah strong family values I think – y’know I worked at a prison and I can tell you, y’know I was there five years at the St. Cloud prison, and the sergeant would say, “Y’know I seen the grandfather come through, the dad come through, and now the kid come through.” And so y’know we need we we just can’t have this institutionalized ah ah part of it.

And so it is a difficult, difficult problem. Ah you can even see what’s happening in the current news. We need to work harder at it. And I think that ah we just need to encourage people to work and be the best that they can, get every educational opportunities, but ah money is not the answer on it.

SS: Thank you to each of you for being here today, and for sharing some ideas, some thoughts with with us, with the audience. And with some opposition research too I think. Ah if I if I could, I’m gonna I’m gonna I’m gonna give you each a minute, maybe 90 seconds to make a closing comments, closing presentation to to the folks that are here, ah and I apologize, both Larry and I do, to the audience. There were some questions we didn’t get to ah including cancer research, and corporate taxes, capital gains taxes, we we’re not able to get to those and stay within the timeframe. So Mr. Lewis, I think you’re first, would you give us your 90 seconds of the best Jason Lewis “Why you’re gonna be Congressman from the Second District”?

JL: Ninety seconds shouldn’t be a problem, I don’t like to talk that much Steve. (audience laughs) Look, this is these are critical times. We’ve reached an inflection point in America. And it calls for independent, outside-the-box thinking. We can’t just sit here as Republicans and say we’re gonna slash Democratic programs and slash the welfare state without taking a look at some of our own big government conservative programs. We need cuts across the board. We need to be intellectually consistent. We can’t say “We’re gonna cut this” and then go to hedge fund managers and say, “Oh, by the way, your carried interest will be taxed as a capital gain, even though we all know it’s ordinary income.” That’s the sort of corporate welfare that’s driving this this crony capitalism we’ve got. General Electric, until a couple of years ago, had no federal income tax liability. What does that mean for you? That means your income taxes are going up. Somebody’s gotta pay the difference.

If you’re a small business of subchapter S, or an LLC, you pay on the individual return. Your rate’s not 35%, your capital gain isn’t Warren Buffett’s 15%, it’s 39.6, then you include the phaseouts of PEP and Pease and all the rest of the deductions, all of a sudden you’re 44%. Then you include Minnesota state income taxes or California, and your marginal income tax rate of the next dollar is pushing 60%.

That great economic philosopher, Phil Mickelson – the golfer – won the British Open a couple of years ago, came back to California – he took he took 38% of what he won. Sixty-two percent between the feds and the state. And he said, prophetically, “This ain’t workin’ for me.”

It’s not working for our economy. But in order to reform the economy, we can’t play favorites anymore. We have got to cut across the board, we have to have tax reform that eliminates the corporate welfare, we’ve got to quit substituting bailouts for bankruptcy and get serious about this.

SS: Okay, that was about 100 (JL laughs) rather than 90 seconds but it was pretty close. Mr. Gerson, get your 90 seconds of “Gersons Gerson for Congress.”

DG: I’ve spent the last three years fighting alongside the grassroots in our congressional district to restore integrity to our party. I am going to Congress to restore people’s faith in representative government by standing for our principles, even if that means going against the leadership of my own party.

As Sam Adams famously said, “It does not take a majority to prevail. But rather a tireless, irate minority keen on setting the brush fires of freedom in the minds of men.” I am David Gerson, and I am part of this generation’s tireless, irate minority. And we are setting brush fires throughout the Second Congressional District. We have taken our party back and we are now going to take our country back. And if you want to join us in this fight, visit my Web site, Gersonforcongress, or call me on my personal cell phone, at 651-400-1900. Thank you.

SS: Ms. Miller.

DM: Well, I believe policy does matter. And thanks to very heavy government over-regulation, we have the smallest growth of small businesses happening right now today. And that’s gonna hurt families, it’s gonna give them less opportunities to survive, to grow, and we really have to encourage every person who has a dream to start that new business, to encourage them to do it, even if it’s in their garage, and then, keep them here in the United States.

And as a business owner, I’ve had to make a lot of tough decisions. I’ve had to balance a budget, and I think I can take those traits to Washington D.C., to learn to listen, and to implement, and to balance a budget. I just feel we cannot be irresponsible any longer. We owe it to ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren. And I will work to earn your support and continued support while I’m a member of Congress. Thank you.

SS: Thank you. Ah why Senator Howe for Congressional District 2?

JH: It sounds good. (audience laughs). Speaker, Larry, ah all you here, thank you for spending an afternoon with us. Ah the reason I’m running obviously is we need to address our debt. Ah I hope that this election comes down to integrity and character. Now there’s a couple of us on this stage that have taken votes, and we have to answer to that. Y’know talk is cheap, when someone tells you they’re gonna do something, you don’t know. I grew up on a farm; when you said something, it meant something. When you shook on it, it meant something. I found in 30 years of business, what somebody says or does, y’know what they say they’re gonna do doesn’t mean that’s what they’re gonna do.

So I do hope that you look deeper into it. Ah y’know I live in the district, I’ve owned businesses in the district, I’ve actually created real jobs, ah I’ve got my greatest achievement is my family, ah my wife Lisa and I have been together since 1989, we’ve got three great kids, one in college, two in public schools, and ah and that – I understand what the family life is. And ah y’know I’m one of those guys that you can just approach on the street and talk to.

Y’know we’re at a critical juncture in our country. And ah it’s gonna be important on who you send there. You need to send someone that’s got common sense. A couple of things I’m proud of as a senator – I passed was one when the health department was coming out to the rural churches and trying to put them out of business because they were serving ham and cheese sandwiches after someone’s funeral after a wedding. Y’know we got that so they didn’t have to put in all that stainless steel equipment. The other thing I did was, when we had the yellow flashing light when you come to a stop light, I carried the bill for the yellow flashing arrow. So if you come to a stop light and you see a yellow flashing arrow, you don’t need to wait for the whole traffic light to cycle.

My name is John Howe. I’m a common sense conservative. You can visit me at And thank you for being here.

SS: Thank you Senator. And Representative Myhra.

PM: Speaker Sviggum and Professor Jacobs, thank you for putting this together and I want to thank you all for being here and spending an hour and a half with us today. I am trusted, experienced, and accessible. I don’t just talk about what I will do. I have done it. As I served in the Minnesota House of Representatives. People trust me in the Second Congressional District. Not just to talk about it, but to actually follow through. I’m a certified public accountant and a former two-term state representative with a strong conservative and prolife voting record. And I’m accessible. You can call me. And I will call you back. I wanna hear from you.

I’m not gonna sugarcoat this, it’s absolutely imperative as conservatives that we hang onto this seat. And we can’t talk our way to victory. And we can’t buy our way to victory. We need to fight our way to victory. I’d greatly appreciate your support. I’m Pam Myhra.

SS: Thank you to the audience and best wishes to all five of you. (applause)

Bill Sorem

Bill Sorem is a longtime advertising professional who started with Campbell Mithun and ended up with his own agency. After a tour as a sailing fleet manager in the Virgin Islands he turned to database programming as an independent consultant. He has written sailing guides for the British Virgin Islands and Belize, and written for a number of blogs. In 2010, he volunteered as a citizen journalist with The UpTake and has stayed on as a video reporter.

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