Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
In spite of the economic uncertainty the debt ceiling crisis created earlier in the summer and the destruction Tropical Storm Irene caused, U.S. Rep. Tom Marino said sluggish job growth remains the most imperative issue for Northeastern Pennsylvania.
U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, R-Lycoming Township, talks with The Times Leader editorial board on Wednesday.
“The first three things are: jobs, job jobs,” Marino said of his meeting with his constituents in the 10th District of Pennsylvania. “It’s very clear.”
But Marino, R-Lycoming Township, said the federal government has not produced an atmosphere to create those jobs. The freshman congressman outlined his plan to create jobs by trimming government spending and streamlining the tax code in a meeting with The Times Leader’s editorial board Wednesday.
Marino said the federal government is only 50 percent efficient at best, and he favors adding a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution to curb the nation’s debt.
Though he voted to raise the debt ceiling in early August to prevent the country from defaulting on its debts, Marino said he had reservations about doing so right up until the time to vote came, and that he voted for the legislation because it mandated that Congress must at least vote on a balanced-budget amendment.
Congress must look to trim waste from all areas of government, Marino said.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell we need to cut spending, and every single one of us, every single American is going to feel the pain,” Marino said. “Everything must be on the table.”
Marino said entitlement programs, specifically Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, consume 60 percent of the government’s revenue and must be changed “to a point where we can afford it.”
“I have had numerous people say to me… when they say I’m going to lose my Social Security I’d say to them, ‘No, you’re not, we’re going to preserve it so your grandchildren and these people coming up who are paying into it have it there also,’ ” he said.
“And I’m amazed when some of these people say to me, ‘I don’t care about my children, I don’t care about my grandchildren, don’t touch my Social Security.’ And I say, ‘Do you understand what you just said?’ ”
“And I’ll have people say to me, ‘I want you to cut, I want you to cut like crazy in Washington, but oh, by the way, don’t cut this program, I need it.’ And again I say to them, ‘Do you understand what you’re saying?’ ”
Marino also said he supports downsizing the government in general, much of which could be achieved simply by not replacing retiring government employees when possible.
He also said he supports eliminating the Department of Energy and the Department of Education.
Marino said U.S. schools have dropped to 30th in the world under the Department of Education’s watch and the Department of Energy has failed to fulfill the mandate it received at the time of its creation under President Jimmy Carter to curb America’s dependence on foreign oil.
In addition to cutting expenditures, he said the government could increase revenue by reforming its tax code, particularly corporate tax rates, to lower taxes but close loopholes that allow companies to avoid taxes.
He reiterated the tax code should be made uniform by the changes and should not provide exceptions for special interests.
“I’m leaning more and more towards a flat tax or something along those lines,” he said.
Marino said he has been most frustrated in his first eight months in office by “partisan bickering,” and “the worrying about being re-elected rather than worrying about getting the country back on its financial feet again.”
He said he has connected best with new members of the House like himself, and supports term limits of two 6-year terms for senators and five or six 2-year terms for representatives.
He added that he does plan to seek re-election in 2012.