‘Meet Matt’ tour begins Democrats candidacy


Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, Matt Varilek came to campus Jan. 25 as part of his “Meet Matt” Tour.

Varilek, who spent nearly seven years as a member of U.S. Senator Tim Johnson’s staff, announced his candidacy Dec. 2, 2011. He is one of two Democrat candidates vying for the chance to run against Republican Congresswoman Kristi Noem.

While working on Johnson’s staff, Varilek worked as Johnson’s economic development director. He was born and raised in Yankton, and now lives in Sioux Falls with his wife, Maggie, and two daughters, Willa and Mae. Varilek sat down for an interview with The Collegian before his campaign event Jan. 25, to talk about why he decided to run for Congress and some of the issues facing the country.

Why he’s running

Varilek said he’s seeking South Dakota’s lone house seat because he doesn’t feel that South Dakota’s people are getting the leadership they deserve. Varilek explained by saying he has two main priorities. The first is to focus on the issues of working-class and middle-class people. The second is to seek common ground between the two parties in Congress.

Varilek said Noem is not doing these things.

“Kristi Noem is not just a participant in, but a leader of, the Tea Party movement and her priorities in terms of policy, I think, are extreme,” he said. “She voted, for example, to privatize Social Security. She thinks we should tackle the budget deficit only through cuts and she wants to protect subsidies for the oil companies.”

Ideas about the Economy

Varilek’s ideas mirror the Democrat party line, a line that consistently pushes for spending on things as infrastructure and tax increases on the top tax-brackets. He said a “cuts only approach” is harmful to South Dakotas economy.

“If we try to tackle the deficit through a cuts only approach, if we say we have to protect Donald Trump from a tax increase at all costs, that means we have to cut so deeply into things like Medicare procedures for seniors, Pell grants for college students and university research here at SDSU, helping college students become great employees, or even employers… [but] that’s how we grow into the future,” he said


Social Security

As the U.S. population ages and the Baby Boomers retire, more and more people will be collecting money from Social Security, which is already spending more than it makes. “It’s important to remember Social Security doesn’t contribute to the budget deficit because it has a separate funding source. It has now gotten to a point where the money coming in isn’t equal to the money going out. It’s partly a demographics issue, but we can make adjustments to that program and keep it strong for the future,” Varilek said.

Varilek also supports cutting payroll taxes for one year, which would contribute to the gap between revenue and spending in Social Security. Social Security is prohibited from directly impacting the deficit, however, the trust fund supporting the program is required to buy government debt in the form of treasury bonds if there is a surplus in revenue. The interest on those bonds is what will be used to pay for the funding gap, essentially using tax dollars to make up the difference in Social Security funding.