ON TUESDAY, September 4, 2012 in Oklahoma City, Congressman James Lankford (R-OK) hosted a town hall meeting at Oklahoma City Community College.

Congressman James Lankford (R-OK)Congressman Lankford is hosting a series of “Tuesday Talks,” or town hall type question and answer sessions, within his congressional district. Last week, Lankford was at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL.

Local residents in attendance submitted questions on paper which were drawn from a bucket during the meeting. The President of OCCC introduced Congressman Lankford who then thanked OCCC for allowing us to be here.

To start things off, Congressman Lankford gave four people to choose a topic of discussion. – the oldest veteran, farthest drive to get to the meeting, youngest in attendance, and the person with the oldest running vehicle. The first topic chosen was the national debt, which yesterday passed $16 trillion. Lankford said that government cannot go from spending like it has done for years to balanced budget instantly. He stated that the yearly deficit has been above $1 trillion since 2009, and even the most aggressive budget, proposed by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), would not balance for five years.

After a few other topics were selected, we moved to the question and answer time. One topic brought up was the current controversy over Medicare and Medicaid. Here is some information I found on Paul Ryan’s plan, and I would like to share it because he has received so much conflicting attention about it.

According to the Fact Sheet on the Wyden-Ryan plan:

  • No changes for those in or near retirement. Americans currently over the age of 55 would see no changes to the structure of their benefits, although they would be free to opt into a private plan once the new Medicare Exchange was established in 2022.

  • More choices for seniors, including a traditional Medicare plan: Starting in 2022, Medicare would begin offering seniors a choice among Medicare-approved private plans competing alongside a traditional Medicare plan on a Medicare Exchange.

Source, http://www.examiner.com/article/proposed-bi-partisan-medicare-solution-wyden-ryan-proposal

Lankford’s Political Positions

Congressman Lankford is not in favor of eliminating employer-sponsored health insurance plans, but he is in favor of extending the same tax credits to individual plans. A member of the audience ran some numbers out loud concerning tax credits vs. actual cost, and said the numbers do not balance, that it would increase our debt further. Lankford replied that alternative risk pools would offset the traditionally increased cost of individual insurance policies. For example, risk could be determined by geographic location, occupation type, etc., as opposed to just employer.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Photo credit www.csmonitor.com.

Others asked about the bailouts, tax rates, repealing Obamacare, and the debt ceiling, but things got interesting when an Iranian immigrant stood to talk about sanctions on his country preventing him from providing medical aid to his father. Tension quickly arose in the room as Lankford repeated the common belief that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently vowed to annihilate the nation of Israel. He also said that Iran is pressing toward nuclear weapons.

The man said that is not true, but he was quickly overpowered by people verbally disagreeing with him. He then pointed out that Israel itself has around 400 nuclear weapons already, and that Iran does not even have enough resources for one warhead. Additionally, he said that with our current national debt, war with Iran would put an additional financial burden on our country that we cannot afford. The Iranian people are oppressed by their own government, and the international sanctions placed on their country hurts its citizens more than it does the government.

After the meeting I spoke with this man and his friend, who told me how they came to the United States in 1978. As a personal note, I sympathize with their cause, and believe we must be very careful not to paint the Middle East in black and white. I’m not saying there are not governments that pose a threat, but war is a serious matter, and something we should avoid at all costs. It is the last resort, not a reactionary tactic.

Unanswered Questions

I was not informed of the format of the meeting in advance, and due to the paper submissions was only able to ask one question. This question was not addressed during the meeting, but the congressman assured those gathered that if they left an e-mail address, someone from his staff would follow up as best as they could. The question I wanted to see answered, and many of you would probably like to hear also, is concerning the “power grab” that took place at the Republican National Convention last week. The question I asked him regarding this was, “What is your position on this and how will it affect the party?” I made it clear that I was not happy with what happened and would like be given an account because he was at the convention all week. If I do not get a reply in the next week or two, I will be contacting Lankford’s office and pressing for an answer. In the mean time, however, I did get to speak with him and some of his family. They are a very nice family, and I was glad for the opportunity to meet them.

The other question I would have liked to have asked was regarding the president’s infamous non-recess recess appointment to the National Labor Relations Board. I was not able to ask this on paper and have not heard any update on the situation.

We were left with a though which I believe bears repeating. If you’re a “God-follower,” as Mr. Lankford put it, spend as much time praying for our country as you do complaining about it.