The national debt clearly has grown too large and is the top threat to national security, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster said Tuesday.
Shuster, speaking at an event sponsored by the Indiana Armstrong Patriots, said he believes that to lower the debt the country will have to grow economically. And one way to encourage that, he said, is by reforming the tax code.
“Growing our way out of this is really the big answer,” he said.
The event, held at IUP’s Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex, was billed as a forum about the national debt and the future of Pennsylvania and the United States. But the thread running through the event’s five speeches was loosely tied, and as the speakers were conservatives speaking to a conservative audience, the event took on the feel of a Republican campaign rally.
Shuster took a few minutes to talk about the work he and the House transportation and infrastructure committee are doing on a water infrastructure bill to be taken up this fall. Shuster said the bill will call for major reforms to the way water transportation projects are approved. He said the bill will increase Congressional oversight, streamline the approval process and help ensure that American products can cost-efficiently reach the world markets.
The audience also heard from Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, who touted the leadership of Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration.
Cawley said that they’ve been able to provide $600 million in tax relief to Pennsylvanians, in part through elimination of the inheritance tax on family farms and family businesses. He also said they’re putting forth a plan to lower the corporate net income tax.
“Since we took office, the private sector has been empowered to create over 130,000 new jobs here in Pennsylvania. To date, the number of employed Pennsylvanians is at its highest since 1983. Unemployment is at its lowest since the recession began,” he said.
“That job growth has not happened in spite of our refusal to raise taxes. It’s happened because of it,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Cawley toured the Specialty Tires of America plant in Indiana, which last year was awarded $114,000 in state financial aid to help it expand a line of radial tires.
Plant officials told Cawley that sales are down, partly due to overall economic conditions and partly due to a drop in demand for tires fitting deep-mining equipment. The officials said that unless conditions improve it will be difficult to meet the job-creation requirements attached to a portion of the aid.
Cawley said the situation is an example of how the Obama administration’s environmental policy is hindering businesses.
On another front, Chris Wetherson, president of IUP’s College Republicans, told the audience that the cost of higher education is leaving students mired in student loan debt upon graduation.
He said the problem needs to be addressed to ensure prosperity of future generations.
He also said his party needs to do a better job of engaging with his generation.
“I feel that conservative politicians (have) the mindset that millennial generation voters are only going to help the Democrats, and that’s where they are wrong,” he said. “We are an untapped resource that the Republican party fails to notice.”
Also speaking was economics professor Mark Hendrickson, who teaches at the private Grove City College in Grove City.
Hendrickson said the combined effects of rising college debt and a sour economy are causing young adults to put off first-home purchases and starting families.
The result, he said, is a smaller next generation, leaving fewer to shoulder the weight of the national debt.
“We’re very much in danger of cannibalizing this country’s future,” he said.
PHOTO: Dr. Mark Hendrickson was one of the speakers at Tuesday’s Reclaiming Freedom event at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex, sponsored by the Indiana Armstrong Patriots. (Teri Enciso/Gazette photo)