APG Editorial Board Logo 2020

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. Senate

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.

 

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.

8th Congressional District

In the 8th District, the national debt concerns both DFL challenger Lynn Nystrom and GOP incumbent Rep. Pete Stauber, but they differ on how they would address it. Nystrom opposed the $2 trillion tax cut passed in 2017, which mostly reduced corporate taxes, and would oppose any additional tax cuts. A member of the Baxter City Council, she said she has been practical and knows difficult decisions have to be made in setting budgets.

Stauber backs a 10-year plan to balance the budget being put forth by the Republican Study Committee. He said, “We believe increases in taxes hurt only the middle class and the poor.”

To restore an economy damaged by COVID-19, Nystrom wants more testing with a quicker turnaround, while Stauber wants more investment in technology such as telemedicine, believes steel tariffs saved the Iron Range and wants to reduce business regulations.

Both candidates want immigration to continue, but Stauber says the United States must secure its borders and stop illegal immigration. Nystrom notes foreign travel bans have hurt the resort industry’s ability to hire enough staff.

Both candidates also promise not to cut Social Security. Nystrom backs raising the cap on taxable income. Stauber promises not to increase the eligibility age.

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 editorial.board@apgecm.com.

 

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