The two major party candidates seeking Iowa’s third congressional district seat differed sharply over key fiscal issues during an hour-long televised debate last night on Iowa Public Television. For example, the candidates were asked if they support a balanced budget amendment. Democrat Staci Appel went first.
“I think we need to have a balanced budget that carves out for Social Security and Medicare,” Appel said.
Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson, a panelist, asked: “So you would vote, if it had those conditions, to amend the U.S. constitution, requiring a federally balanced budget.”
Appel replied: “I do not believe I would.”
Republican David Young said he would, under certain conditions.
“To make sure that in wartime there could be a possibility of busting those caps if there were emergencies and we had to protect our homeland, things like that and we had to make sure that our priority was the mandatory spending, the benefits that folks receive under Social Security and Medicare,” Young said.
Appel interjected: “A balanced budget amendment could be a 20 percent across-the-board cut. That would affect Social Security, Medicare, our education budget. We have to be extremely careful when we do things like that.”
Young replied: “That’s why you make sure the mandatory spending is a priority.”
As for worries about the solvency of Social Security and Medicare, Appel said Medicare costs could be cut if the government could negotiate the bulk purchase of prescription drugs.
“I would keep my promise to seniors and the 40-year-olds and the 50-year-olds that are paying into the system,” Appel said. “Social Security and Medicare’s not a goal. It’s a promise. The best way to shore up Social Security and Medicare is to create great paying jobs, so there’s more people paying into the system and that’s the best way to do it.”
Young said he’d be willing to consider a variety of options to fix the systems for future seniors.
“We need to do what conservative President Ronald Reagan did along with liberal Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill did and they got together and put everything on the table,” Young said. “And then you can take things off the table. I would take raising the retirement age, right away, off the way.”
But Young said he’d consider getting rid of the income cap and requiring wealthier Americans to pay Social Security taxes on all their income. Appel then suggested Young would vote to “privatlze” Social Security. Young said that won’t be an option under consideration.
“I think seniors need to know where he stands on these issues,” Appel said.
Young responded: “Can you quote where I said I wanted to privatize Social Security?”
Appel replied: “You applauded it and I will make sure that after (the debate) that we will give all the citations.”
Young continued: “I’d like to know where I said that.”
Kathie Obradovich of The Des Moines Register, a debate panelist, asked: “Is that off the table for you, any sort of private account for Social Security?”
Young replied: “It’s become such a political issue, it’s amazing that so many Americans when they want to get a better investment on their dollar, they look to mutual funds or stocks, but it’s been so politicized, it’s going to be taken off the table.”
Both said, if elected, they would vote to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, although Young would only vote for a bill to raise the minimum wage if tax cuts for small businesses were included in the legislation. On the gas tax, both expressed concern about the condition of roads and bridges, but Appel said she would oppose any increase in the gas tax. Young said it’s time for a more creative way to finance the nation’s transportation system to take into account electric cars and propane-fueled vehicles that are running on fuel that isn’t subject to the federal gas tax.
The debate was held at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs and Iowa Public Television will rebroadcast the event tonight at 7 p.m. The two candidates are seeking the seat currently held by Republican Tom Latham. Latham announced last December that he would not seek reelection in 2014.