Sunday Forum: HART vs. ALTMIRE
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I know how Congress can work to move this country forward. I have the advantage of seeing government from the outside, but with an insider's knowledge, and I don't like what I see.
Many run for office with no goal except being elected. They make promises they won't keep and say what they think their audience wants to hear. I have never been that kind. I work as a public servant to provide solutions to real problems.
My experience with the issues that challenge us most today is real. I've worked in the private sector as an attorney dealing with financial institutions of many types. In the public sector as state senator, I chaired the Senate Finance Committee where I cut taxes to spur job growth in Pennsylvania, and never voted for a tax increase.
During my six years in Congress, as a member of the Financial Services and Ways and Means committees, I sponsored measures to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac when House leaders on both sides of the aisle turned a blind eye. Government decisions should be shaped by common sense instead of power and influence.
Our economy and financial system are unstable, many families cannot afford health insurance, gasoline costs continue to throw household budgets into debt, our country is at war and Americans' trust in Congress is at an all-time low. Over the past two years, these issues have been ignored or simply used as political wedges by Congress.
Spending is out of control and taxpayer money is being wasted. Much is in the form of earmarks -- tax dollars spent on political pet projects for members of Congress to serve their self-interest or to curry favor with campaign contributors. This Congress voted to give a $2 million earmark to a New York congressman who is under investigation for tax evasion.
If this really was the "most ethical Congress in history," as Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised, members such as this would be removed and other members would oppose such boondoggles.
This circus must stop. I will support a moratorium on earmarks and establish a more open and transparent budget and spending process. Taxpayers must see how their money is spent.
While in Congress, I did not stay away from tough issues such as Social Security. Unfortunately, important but complicated issues like this are avoided by too many congressmen who are interested only in the next election.
I faced political risk and worked to address the future uncertainty of Social Security because I understand the value of the program. We must support the current program for our seniors and others close to retirement, but also find solutions to its future shortfall which will hurt younger workers who are currently paying in and sharply decrease the benefits they would receive.
We need seasoned and committed leaders in Washington (dare I say statesmen?) who are willing to stand up and be counted. That's what I did when I was in Congress and hope to do again.
First Published October 26, 2008 12:00 am