Last Saturday I attended one of congressman Tom Davis's annual town-hall meetings at Fairview Elementary School in Fairfax Station, VA. The format was mostly question and answer. Tom also showed a few slides and talked about Social Security. Here is a brief summary of the questions and his answers.
1) A man decried having to pay taxes to support public schools, when they "didn't work out" for his child and he is forced to send her to a private school. Davis apologized and then touted the sweetness of the Fairfax County school system.
2) A woman said that things that "fly in her face of her beliefs and values" are being taught in the school system, and damnit, she's not down with it. Davis answered with the same tactic he had just used: an apology and a tout.
3) A man asked about how the government could, in good conscience, continue deficit spending in light of such a big...deficit. Davis said it was important to be honest about the deficit, and said that it is something about which he is personally concerned.
4) A man said that the problems we're having in Iraq are because our soldiers are up against "a different kind of vermin." He then asked why we didn't use the war as a chance to punish allies who didn't support us 100%. Davis used a phrase I'd never heard before and said that wars are "games of addition," and that this is no time for revenge. He then said that it's becoming clear that Middle Easterners passionately desire freedom, and we're giving them the opportunity to have it. Surprisingly, he went on to say that too many soldiers were "falling through the cracks," and the government had done a bad job of taking care of them both physically and fiscally.
5) A man asked why the employers of soldiers don't get tax breaks when soldiers leave for war. Davis said that that was a good idea, and then, again surprisingly, said that mistakes were made in the travel plans, paychecks, billing, insuring, etc. of over 90% of our armed forces, and that it was unacceptable.
6) A woman raised her hand and said that after being honorably discharged from the military after 25 years, she was denied retirement benefits. Davis told her to go to a number of places, all of which she said she had. He sent one of his aides over and she left the room with the woman.
7) A man said that he had been living in Annandale and Fairfax for 50 years and had never had a problem with crime until the last few years, when gangs began doing heroin on his street and burning cars on his lawn. He said that 85% of gang members were illegal aliens. Davis told him he was wrong about the 85% and that it wasn't that much. He said it was important to keep remunerations flowing back to their home countries, because if they stopped more immigrants would come. He also said he wanted to make it impossible for illegal aliens to get driver's licenses, and he wanted to stop gangs from recruiting in prisons.
8) A woman said that No Child Left Behind was drastically underfunded. Davis said that this was true, but that the government always budgets more than it appropriates, and that Fairfax County schools used very little federal money.
9) A man asked what was being done to alleviate traffic on I-95. Davis said that it was important to make sure that Virginia got its share of tax dollars back to be spent on itself--he claimed that MA receives $1.60 per $1 of federal taxes, while VA receives $0.91.
10) A man asked why hybrids were allowed to travel in HOV lanes. Davis said that it's a good idea, and that he drives one.
11) A man asked about reducing oil consumption. Davis agreed, and then jumped to how too much of our money gets "redistributed," and it's time to stop it.
12) A woman asked why old people should have to pay taxes. Davis said that it was fair to make everyone pay taxes, but that the tax code is too complicated and needs to be simplified.
13) A man asked about government waste. Davis, who is on the Committee for Government Reform, talked about his work preventing the spread of mad cow disease, testing MLB players for steroids, and holding Halliburton accountable in its dealings with the government.
14) A man said that Bush's tax cuts were nice and all, but that "Bush hadn't asked for any sacrifices from us." Most of the people clapped at this statement. Davis asked the crowd who was in favor of repealing Bush's tax cuts: about 50% raised their hand to repeal, 50% to keep. He then asked who was in favor of bringing back the death/inheritance tax: about 30% of the people raised their hands.
15) A woman talked about using the money on education instead of wasting it on tax cuts. Davis said that a good case could be made that the tax cuts jump-started the economy.
16) A man said that each person's share of the national debt was $26,000, and then asked why the Social Security surplus was not used to pay down the deficit. Davis accused the man of making a "partisan comment," and then said that in several years they had done exactly that.
I didn't write down the SS questions--many were similar. A few facts I picked up: our budget this year is almost 50% larger than Clinton's 1994 budget; DC high schools have a 40% drop-out rate; the unemployment rate in Fairfax County is 1.4%.