Caledonian Record: Congress On Your Campus Comes To Lyndon State
LYNDON CENTER – U.S. Congressman Peter Welch spent Thursday traversing the Northeast Kingdom, talking with local officials and businesses about the economy, visiting a Veterans clinic, and stopping in at Lyndon State College for a ‘Congress On Your Campus’ roundtable.
A small but attentive group of Welch’s youngest constituents attended the event in the Moore Community Room.
The congressman told students he wanted to provide a glimpse of “how messed up things are in Washington right now.” He said it was good news that “the so-called health care bill failed.”Welch said the bill Congress had to consider if Obama Care were repealed, came to officials only hours before they were to vote on it, and they were “locked in a room for 27 hours,” to try to make sense ot it. “I ate a lot of cold, stale lousy pizza,” he said.
“It was going to have 24 million Americans without health care,” said Welch. “How you can call that reform is a little bizarre.”
Welch said what it really was was a tax cut for people with incomes in excess of $250,000, even moreso for people with incomes over $1 million.
The savings was predominantly a handsome tax break for the wealthy, said Welch and he said it would have had “devastating effects on the economy.”
Congress members are getting questions in their home constituencies from Americans, “Who are asking how is this good for me?” said Welch.
Welch said cuts in domestic spending are being redirected in the president’s budget to increases in defense.
Among the hits are student loan help , infrastructure, community development block grants and the National Parks system among many more.
Earlier in the day, Welch visited the Columbia Forest Products in Newport, a Veterans Administration Community Based Outpatient in Newport, and at the Goodrich Library, hosted a Vermont Economic Development Roundtable, where he discussed the fact that President Trump’s budget calls for the elimination of the Northern Border Regional Commission, which “has funded 33 projects and invested $5.5 milion in the state’s northern border counties, creating hundreds of jobs along the way.”
Concern over the impacts of the president’s proposed budget were a theme of his visit at Lyndon State.
“This would make a bad situation for you even much worse,” Welch said of how student debt loads could be impacted.
Welch said, “This budget is talking about destroying institutions, like Upward Bound.”
He then opened the discussion for comments, and expressed gratitude to those who turned out for the visit.
Concerns were expressed over the Environmental Protection Agency, the Public Broadcasting System, AmeriCorps, the wall proposed to be built between the U.S. and Mexico and more.
Welch agreed those programs mentioned including Planned Parenthood, “would be decimated.”
“It’s Medicaid money where a lot of women get their primary health care through Planned Parenthood, it’s basic health care and if you take away that capacity you’re going to take away that access for a lot of women,” said Welch.
Welch said he is hopeful “We’ll be successful in pushing back a lot of it.”
“The real world impact is going to be very, very upsetting,” Welch said, “My hope is we’ll get enough Republicans to push back with the Democrats.”
Welch said he is part of a group of about 30 Democrats and 30 Republicans called The Problem Solvers, “We understand the place is broken and there’s got to be some dialogue among us… What I’m seeing is that there are a growing number of members of Congress who just get it, that this place needs repair… and that requires that we listen to the other side and it requires that we be willing to compromise.”
“I think that’s a promising development,” said Welch.
“What as citizens of the United States can we do to effect change?” asked Stephanie Giese, an assistant professor in the business administration department.
Welch responded, “Well, you’re asking the question we’re all asking. It was hard when we woke up the day after the election and had a new president… to imagine a person who said the things he said about women and said the things he said about Hispanics and wanted to impose a ban based on people’s religion, it’s hard to come to terms with that person being elected.”
Contributing locally and being vocal citizens who speak out is important and makes a difference, Welch said, pointing to the marches in Montpelier and Washington and Town Hall meetings happening nationwide.
“More important than ever is what you do locally, because we’ve kind of lost our way in D.C. and we need to find our way back to the light,” said Welch.
Welch said labor has been weakened and it’s hurt the workforce.
“We’ve had productivity gains but we haven’t had wage gains,” said Welch. “We’ve lost a lot of jobs…it’s making it really tough for people to pay their bills and that’s the world you’re coming out into,” he told the students assembled.
AmeriCorps member and Craftsbury native Deidre Martin-Baker asked Welch if he’s hopeful, and he said, “I do have some hope, look what’s happening all over the country…I think you’re seeing a mobilization that is giving me a lot of hope.”
“I was down in Brattleboro a week ago and I was at the Meals on Wheels place and this guy came in and he was just a colorful Vermonter and he was totally intense and he felt like the world was just coming apart, and he wanted to know what to do,” said Welch.
Later, Welch saw the same man on a bike in a freezing sleet storm, and the man was out delivering Meals on Wheels he had packaged up.
“I said, wait a minute, ‘You’re asking me what to do and you’re doing that?’ That matters, I really think that matters, so hang in,” said Welch, saying that was a hopeful sign of people caring for one another and giving back.
A Lyndon staff member said he is suspect of mainstream media and its spin on what’s coming out of Washington.
Welch said, “That’s up to the electorate and we’ll see how this works out but the press issue is really, really tough in the age of the internet..”
“Things that were transparently false were not put out for people to consider,” Welch said of the way the traditional media operated historically and now they sometimes are and it’s muddying things.
“All of us have to make a commitment, we’re responsible, we’re accountable,” said Welch. “You don’t have to be polite, be any way you want to be, but don’t give up your commitment to the truth.”