The best tonic for our cratered COVID-19 economy is deep suppression of both virus and disease through vaccines and better therapeutics. We long to return to a semblance of normal and full employment.
The previously booming U.S. economy has begun to heal after gross domestic product fell 5% in the first quarter and plunged 31.7% in the second. Candidates for federal office may not have precise prescriptions for an ever-changing situation, but voters deserve to know the contours of how they would bind our economic wounds in the moment while setting the stage for a post-pandemic economy.
This editorial board regrets Congress and President Trump seem unlikely to agree on a new stimulus plan, especially as unemployment benefits expire, leaving many families with undeserved worries about rent, food and medicine.
Relief programs such as the broadly agreed-upon, $2.2 trillion CARES Act also require shared recognition that the bill comes due. The $25 trillion national debt is not sustainable. The Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 — which, among other things, lowered the corporate tax rate and was estimated to add $2.3 trillion in debt over 10 years — is also not sustainable.
Social Security and Medicare funding needs attention. We urge our leaders to raise the income cap for Social Security taxation, to stabilize the funds long into the future.
We believe comprehensive immigration reform is vital to balance jobless rates. Even when we again approach full employment, we will still need more workers for tough-to-fill openings.
U.S. Sen. Tina Smith is concerned about the nation’s deficit and debt, and grappling with it will be a difficult task.
The budget was out of balance before the health care crisis, after the 2017 tax bill lowered revenue. The government needs to spend now to help families and businesses, she said. Returning balance will require both raising revenues and cutting expenses.
Restoring and growing jobs is important. The government should create a fair and even playing field, and let the private sector do what it does best – innovating, growing and creating jobs, she said. She supports expanding trading opportunities and investing in education and job training.
Regarding immigration, she said, “There is a need for reform to bring common sense, fairness and humanity to our immigration system.”
Social Security is a fundamental commitment, and she does not support raising the benefit age. Social Security would have long-term solvency if we increased the salary cap for individuals. As for Medicare, one of the biggest cost drivers is prescription drug prices. Smith said Medicare should be able to negotiate prices on medicines.
Efforts to establish a teleconference interview with Smith’s opponent, Republican Jason Lewis, were unsuccessful. The editorial board offered Lewis an opportunity to respond in writing to the remaining topics. To date no responses have been received.
In a recent Duluth debate, Lewis said the national lockdown must be lifted now to allow the nation to move forward and revitalize the economy. Any additional stimulus funds must include provisions for agriculture and those hurt the most by the shutdown, he said. Business needs the opportunity to return to the levels that existed before the pandemic. He also opposes any kind of tax hike.
3rd Congressional District
In the 3rd District, incumbent Congressman Dean Phillips said the deficit is very concerning, but we need to help people through this crisis. “It’s not the time to penny pinch,” he said. When we emerge from this crisis, we will need to take a good hard look at spending and revenue. He said money spent on national defense needs to be analyzed and some of that $750 billion allocated to other needs.
We are a nation of immigrants, Phillips said, and we need to find a policy that will ensure a process for legal immigration.
Phillips does not support lowering Social Security benefits. He would like to see a bipartisan plan to preserve and maintain the funds. He suggested a system where wealthy Americans could return their Social Security payments and help the lowest income individuals.
Republican challenger Kendall Qualls said businesses and people need to feel safe where they work, before we can get back to full employment. Small businesses must have access to capital and be allowed to reinvigorate the economy, unconstrained from excessive regulations. The nation will have to grow out of the deficit, but will also have to cut expenditures, he said.
Qualls said we are a nation that welcomes immigrants, many of them people of color who embrace our country and come here to contribute. Legal immigrants deserve the chance to earn American status.
With people living longer and healthier lives, Social Security needs to be recalibrated. He would consider increasing revenue through raising the income threshold and raising the age of eligibility. “We need to do what’s right for the American people,” he said.
5th Congressional District
In the 5th District, Republican challenger Lacy Johnson said it would take courage by our leaders and sacrifices by all to tackle the nation’s burgeoning debt. The federal government itself will probably need to reduce its spending and its scope, he said.
Growing out of the debt is the best option, he said, returning to a full economy. He supports tax cuts, reduced federal regulations and less red tape to spur job growth and incentivize business.
Immigration can affect the jobless rate, he said, and suggests adjusting immigration levels up or down according to our needs. Immigration can be dialed down now with many Americans out of work.
Leaders will also need to be courageous when it comes to Social Security, he said. We need to provide what has been promised to those at or near retirement age, but then transition for the future. “We need politicians and leaders we trust, that have courage and leadership” and put the people first, he said.
Johnson is challenging incumbent Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. A teleconference interview with Omar was established, but was canceled by Omar just hours before it was to occur. The board then offered Omar an opportunity to respond in writing, which she has not done.
According to her website, Rep. Omar supports a $15 minimum wage, a national paid family leave program and creation of a federal jobs guarantee program that would provide meaningful work to anyone who wants it. She also wants to create a more progressive tax system. Immigrants should be welcomed and provided with accessible means to becoming documented.
6th Congressional District
In the 6th District, U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer said a strong economic recovery will help address the significant growth in the budget deficit and national debt. The deficit increase was necessary to avoid an even larger economic collapse. Individuals needed help. “It looks like it was the right thing to do,” Emmer said.
Returning to full employment was slowed by the $600 unemployment insurance stimulus approved by Congress, incentivizing too many individuals to stay off work, Emmer said. A better way would have had states lowering their contribution.
DFL candidate Tawnja Zahradka believes we have to address the national debt. A higher tax on the wealthy and increasing the corporate tax rate may be necessary. Zahradka believes full employment can be achieved if we overcome the COVID-19 issues, which requires a national plan and response.
Emmer said farmers are having a difficult time securing seasonal workers because of immigration restrictions.
Zahradka said Minnesota industries depend on immigration, such as tourism and agriculture; the immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed.
Keeping Social Security solvent is a major challenge, Emmer said. He believes the program’s promise to recipients must be kept but younger workers must be encouraged to save for the future outside of Social Security.
Social Security and Medicare need to be kept solvent, but Zahradka is not in favor of raising the retirement age and would not decrease benefits. She believes the payroll tax postponement and forgiveness proposed by President Trump weaken Social Security.
These are complex and far-reaching issues. We urge voters to select candidates who are committed to solve these problems through hard work, compromise, innovation and ingenuity.
An opinion of the Adams Publishing Group – East Central Minnesota Editorial Board. Reactions welcome: Send to email@example.com.