Noem explains fiscal cliff voteOn March 1, Congress will face another deadline, as about $1.2 trillion in government spending cuts over nine years will go into effect unless a deal is struck.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
That’s what Rep. Kristi Noem said forced her to vote for a compromise that eased the fiscal cliff crisis at the start of 2013. It had to be done to prevent serious damage, and it created permanent tax relief for millions of Americans. That is a point that has been rarely mentioned, the second-term Republican from rural Castlewood said.
Noem said the fiscal crisis that almost derailed the government at the end of 2012 was caused by years of inaction by elected officials.
“Previous Congresses did not have the courage when they needed to, to set long-term policies,” she said. The comments came during a town hall meeting Friday at the Highland Conference Center in Mitchell.
She said she voted for the compromise because without it, a $4.5 trillion tax increase would have been imposed, which she said would have cost South Dakota families $2,000 each.
“A lot of money to a lot of people,” Noem said.
In addition, the estate tax, which she referred to as the “death tax,” would have hit 70 percent of South Dakota crop producers.
Noem mentioned how it impacted her family after her father was killed in a farming accident at the age of 49. It’s a “personal issue” with her, she said.
But since that crisis has been averted, Noem said it’s time to have a serious discussion on spending. The federal government needs to emulate people who have to make tough choices when putting together their household budget, she said.
The problem is that 62 percent of the federal budget is on “autopilot,” Noem said. It is spent without the need for congressional approval.
“I hear from people all the time, the House holds the purse, why doesn’t it limit the spending?” Noem said.
But she said the Senate can take a spending bill that originates in the House and alter it. And with so much money spent without Congress having any input, she said, the Republican-controlled House cannot act on its own to reduce spending.
She supports reductions in the food stamp program and stricter enforcement and penalties to those involved in fraud and mismanagement, cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and foreign aid, and cuts to other programs that duplicate what other agencies are already doing.
Noem said she wants to put “the integrity back into the (food stamp) program,” and if that doesn’t happen, the program could face elimination in the future.
“Reforms should not always be looked at as a bad thing,” she said.
On March 1, Congress will face another deadline, as about $1.2 trillion in government spending cuts over nine years, divided between defense and non-defense programs, will go into effect unless a deal is struck.
That would mean more than $500 billion in cuts to the defense budget, which could put the country at risk, she said. Military leaders have expressed concern about that, and she is also leery of such a deep cut.
Noem noted that the Senate has not passed a budget for four years. She supported a bill that would mandate that senators forfeit their pay if they do not pass a budget.
“Getting a budget done is just a responsible thing to do,” she said.
Noem also said it’s puzzling why Democrats and Republicans cannot work together right now, since it has happened in the past under Republican President Ronald Reagan and congressional Democrats, and Democratic President Bill Clinton and congressional Republicans.
“I think it’s a perfect opportunity for us to work together,” she said. “We absolutely need leaders who can bring the country together. But it’s been a hard time finding those leaders.”
Noem was asked why foreign aid can’t be cut, and she said that’s the No. 1 question she gets in South Dakota meetings. Hearings have been scheduled to discuss that very matter.
Foreign aid is about 1 percent of the federal budget, according to ForeignAssistance.gov.
Noem said people ask her how long it will be before America is in as dire fiscal shape as Greece. The country is not there yet, she said, but it could happen down the road without spending reductions.
Ron Wieczorek , of Mount Vernon, called for Noem to support bills to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act to control the banking industry. It’s a topic Wieczorek has raised in other public meetings and in numerous letters to The Daily Republic.
He said the “crooks on Wall Street” are doing more harm to the economy that anything else.
“I don’t believe Glass-Steagall would have prevented the financial crisis,” Noem said, adding she’s still studying the issue.
But she said the solution that was reached in 2008 and 2009 was not the correct answer, either, and only made banks too big to fail, which drained huge amounts of tax money into their coffers.
Wieczorek said the spending cuts Noem supports are “insanity” and “BS” that will harm the country.
Wieczorek also asked when the “cover-up” of the murder of Libyan Ambassador Chris Stevens in the Sept. 11 attack on the American Embassy will be exposed.
“This guy needs to be impeached,” he said of Obama. “This guy needs to go. He’s not an American.”
Noem thanked Wieczorek, and twice said she “appreciated” his comments, but did not touch on if she thought Obama was an American, or if he should be impeached.
After the meeting, Wieczorek said he meant that Obama does not have American values. He said he “didn’t want to argue about a birth certificate.”
Noem said she didn’t hear the part about the president not being an American, and believes Obama was born in Hawaii.
She said she is not now in favor of him being impeached, but knows a lot of people, including many South Dakotans, have questions about the embassy attack. Noem said more needs to be revealed.
While there is considerable public discussion on gun deaths and possible gun control laws and reform, the congresswoman said she hears something far different as she tours the state.
Noem said 95 percent of the feedback she gets is against any significant changes to gun laws.