Thune makes Pit-Stop in Brookings

Noah Brown

Last Monday, Senator John Thune spoke at the Days Inn Convention Center as part of a tour across South Dakota to talk about the upcoming congressional session, as well as gain feedback from voters.

“I thought it would be very instructive to get around the state and try to do this as we are starting up a new year and just get input, feedback from people across South Dakota, hear from you about what’s on your mind and the kind of things you think we (congress) should be focused on,” said Thune in his opening remarks.

He began the town hall meeting by giving a PowerPoint presentation informing listeners on facts related to the current state of the economy and also offered solutions to some of these problems.

Much of the presentation was spent highlighting the “unsustainable” nature of today’s economy. Thune pointed out the amount of revenue the federal government takes in every year, about $2.3 trillion, is not even enough to cover the mandatory spending portion of our federal budget.

Mandatory spending includes entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. At the present rate, our budget adds $1.3 trillion every year to the deficit—a pace, as the Senator noted, that is unsustainable.

“In 232 years of American history, 43 presidents, our country racked up 6.3 trillion dollars of debt. In the last three years under President Obama, our country has accumulated 4.2 trillion dollars,” Thune said while speaking about the exponential nature of the deficit.

He was quick to add the caveat that the deficit was not all President Barack Obama’s fault and that he inherited the poor economy. He also pointed out some figures that struck closer to home to most in the audience. For instance, he included President Chicoine and Brookings Mayor Tim Reed, showing statistics on the rising price of gas and the falling value of houses in today’s market.

The Senator then moved on to a twofold plan to begin to draw down the debt and increase the strength of the economy. The first step is to reduce federal spending “primarily by dealing with the big drivers of federal spending … mainly entitlement programs.” He laid out a specific goal for spending to return to the “historic norm” percent levels of the 1940s when the government spent around 21 percent of the total economy. The second phase of his plan is to help the economy rebound from the recession.

“The best solution to all of this is to get the economy moving again,” said Thune, observing a large-scale change to the tax code is necessary soon to make America more competitive in the business world. He also argued the corporate tax rate, which is the highest in the world, gives no incentive for businesses to set up shop here in the states. Thune also stressed the importance of ending our dependence on foreign oil and developing alternatives such as wind and electric power.

The forum was then opened up to questions from the audience. One member of the audience brought up the current republican primaries, which was a topic Thune was quick to avoid, instead returning the discussion to the economy. Throughout the question session, he continued to reiterate the ideas of limited government, lower taxes, and energy independence—all of which he seemed hopeful to implement in Congress despite it being controlled by the Democratic Party.

In a lighter moment toward the end, the senator took a verbal jab from President Chicoine about where he would sit at that night’s SDSU-USD women’s basketball game. Thune, a graduate of USD, got a laugh from the audience when he said that he “[would] try to find a neutral place to sit, but it might be tough.”

Thune also made an appeal to change the tone of rhetoric in Washington, “Politics is too much about what you are against and not what you are for.”