Fayette Chamber of Commerce members had the opportunity to ask questions of their congressman, Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) when he visited the community Aug. 12, but the guest could find no easy answers for the problems.
Latta said the primary concerns he hears when visiting his home area are the same everywhere: jobs and the economy.
“Unfortunately, Washington isn’t really getting the message,” Latta said.
When he asks constituents what message he should take back to Washington, D.C., he hears three topics:
• Cap and trade legislation—Latta said passage would bring the largest increase in energy costs in the history of the nation, and Northwest Ohio would be hit harder than most areas of the country.
China is now the largest energy consumer in the world, Latta said, and the new legislation will give China more energy and the U.S. less.
• Health care—Latta said there’s no one in the room who agrees with the new health care legislation.
• Federal debt—Latta said that we can’t afford our debt.
“The best case scenario, we’re going to be paying $2 billion a day to pay on the national debt by the year 2020. Soon, foreign countries will own more of our debt than we do.”
Latta said the American people are finally becoming interested in federal government issues again, and he’s hearing concerns from more people than ever. People are waiting for a spark from Washington, he said, with positive news.
He says the best message is simply to be Americans.
“I don’t want to be a European,” Latta said. “I don’t want a model from some place else. That’s why we left. Just let Americans be Americans. This is the greatest country on Earth, but we just have to remember that’s what we are.”
When he talks to Europeans they tell him that the United States has so many problems.
“Yeah, but that’s because you guys all sound and look the same,” he answers. “We’ve got people here from all over the world.”
Foreign engineering students used to stay in the U.S. when they finished their studies, Latta said, but now they’re returning home because they see more opportunity in their second- and third-world countries than in the U.S.
There’s a lot of work to do, Latta said, but he has complete faith in America to get the job done.
Real estate broker Gene Beaverson asked about a lead-based paint inspection plan that was passed by Congress in 2008 and delayed until 2010. The ingestion of dust from lead-based paint is known to be a leading cause of environmental illness for children.
Beaverson said the regulation will make homes less valuable, will make remodeling more expensive and make some homes unsalable.
Beaverson said he was told by a contractor that he’s never known of a lead problem in a clean home. The problem could be eliminated by teaching people to clean rather than following the new “costly, stupid and ridiculous” regulation.
“What can we do about it?” he asked Latta.
Latta said the EPA has lost touch with reality and spoke about Clean Water Act regulations.
“One of the things I’ve always believed in, if I was going to sponsor a piece of legislation, you need to talk to the people it’s going to affect,” Latta said. “Our committee hearings in Washington, D.C., are a sham.”
Apartment owner Tim Dennis asked what can be done about the lead regulation.
“It’s going to take a change in the law,” Latta said.
Chris Cote of Archbold Refuse Service said small entrepreneurs often develop concepts and processes, but larger companies have the resources to take advantage of what’s developed. Matching grants are going to local government units instead of to small businesses where jobs are created.
Latta responded by saying that car companies and banks are now owned by the government.
“If you are successful, we’re going to make sure you’re taxed,” Latta said of the government.
Taxes and regulations continue to be a problem, and he gave examples from new banking regulations that are preventing banks from making loans.
“I don’t mean to be critical,” Dennis said, “but rather than just complain about Washington like we do, what can you actually do to intervene for us to save us from, for example, from this mark-to-market [on small business loans]?”
Mark-to-market accounting sets the value of an asset to reflect market sale prices.
“This is going to be death to us getting small business loans,” Dennis said. “What can you actually do to help us?”
“It’s the nature of who’s there,” Latta said about Congress. “We’ve got about 81 days until the next election cycle.”
Chamber of Commerce president Tom Spiess spoke about the limited distribution of the American Community Survey, something that led to problems for Fayette in the 2000 Census.
Latta said that earmark reform is needed, but he said his assistant would look find out about the distribution process.
Tommy Molitierno asked how competition among electric utilities could be increased to help a small community attract business.
Latta said that state laws must be changed to get power back into the grid.
Molitierno also asked if additional funds would be available for small communities that are tackling sewer overflow projects.
Latta said funding falls far short of needs and what was allocated to Ohio is gone.
“This is not against you as a person, but I asked the fellows here [at this table] if they’d like to say anything and they said it sounds like it won’t do any good,” Beaverson said.
Beaverson said he went on a work trip to Guatamala a couple of years ago and discovered the people are happy, fed and clean, yet they don’t have anything. He contrasted that to life in the U.S.
“What are we doing here? Fighting and feuding. It’s really just a hell of a mess.”
Latta said that people must make sure their voices are heard.
“I really believe there’s going to be a change this fall,” Latta said. “The American people are saying we’re giving you one last chance.”
Fulton County Commissioner Dean Genter asked, “When are we going to quit rewarding bad behavior?”
The costs to county and state government to pay for social programs is large, Genter said.
Latta responded by talking about the federal response to the BP oil spill.
Genter returned to the subject and suggested that families’ attitudes about Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps need to be changed. Many people are content to say, “Find me a job that pays more than unemployment.” Eventually, he said, government will have to say “no” and people will have to go out and find a job.
“You can’t do that when there aren’t jobs,” Molitierno said.