Hazleton Standard Speaker
U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta said he feels most people in Washington, D.C., are out of touch with the American public.
Speaking to about 175 people Thursday during a Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce Red Carpet Breakfast at Capriotti’s Palazzo in Banks Township, he offered two examples:
– A bureaucrat who said the federal government should continue requiring American businesses pay 6 percent interest on flood recovery loans while businesses in Pakistan can get a loan from American dollars at zero percent interest with no payback.
– A congressman who cheered on the House floor after an amendment to balance the federal budget was defeated.
Barletta, R-11, talked about the bureaucrat when he was telling a story about legislation he introduced to reduce the interest rate on loans to rebuild businesses damaged by the flooding of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee last year.
“Most of my district was devastated by flooding we haven’t seen before,” Barletta said. “I walked the streets, from community to community, and watched people carry out their life’s possessions onto their lawns. It was heartbreaking watching a senior citizen cry, and to hear a man who lost everything say that he doesn’t know what he is going to do.”
Small Business Administration loans have a 6 percent interest rate, and Barletta said he “was embarrassed to tell people how America will help you in your greatest time of need.
“We gave Pakistan $215 million in flood disaster relief at zero interest and no payment, but we’re charging Americans 6 percent, right here at home. That is unacceptable.”
Barletta said his bill proposed providing business loans at 1 percent interest with a 30-year payback. The interest would cover administrative expenses, so there would be no cost to the American taxpayer.
Last week, he said “a certain Washington figure, from a ‘think tank’” said during a subcommittee hearing that the government couldn’t lower the interest rate.
“He suggested potential disaster victims buy more insurance, or maybe just move where there re no disasters,” Barletta said.
“I asked him if everybody in California should move because of the threat of earthquakes,” Barletta said. “Or all the folks in the Midwest move because of tornadoes. Or maybe the young man from Pittston who came to testify (before the committee) should move to Pakistan where we can, through American tax dollars, get a zero percent loan he doesn’t have to pay back.
“That’s how out of touch Washington is. That is why my frustration with the way Washington works is so obvious.”
Charles Barber, executive director of the Luzerne Foundation, said federal loans for small businesses have to be more accessible.
“We’re trying to rebuild lives,” Barber said. “We can’t rebuild businesses so that they can restore lives and put people back to work. It all falls apart, backward, despite our best efforts.”
Barletta said many people are told they can’t buy flood insurance because their businesses are not in a floodplain.
“Their business was damaged by a disaster,” he said. “It wasn’t a bad business decision, and it wasn’t risky, bad behavior, It was an act of nature. Common sense is not so common in Washington.”
As for the balanced budget, Barletta said debt topped $15 trillion the week that the amendment was voted on and defeated in the House.
The amendment, he said, “means the federal budget has to balance expenditures and revenues — something American families do every day and is required of local governments. It seemed like a real no-brainer. Most of my colleagues voted against it. I actually saw say one member cheering on the House floor when votes were tallied.”
In explaining the debt, he said the U.S. government borrows $188 million per hour, or $4 billion a day, and 42 cents on every dollar being spent.
“Is there any doubt why American don’t trust their elected officials, or why Congress has a 9 percent approval rating?” Barletta asked.
Barletta said the American people have to tell legislators what they want – through the ballot box.
“Washington is broke,” he said. “We have a dysfunctional Congress which has not been able to get done what we need to. There has been a lot of partisan fighting. Who suffers? The American people.”
Barletta said the next president better understand.
“I need somebody who understands the economy,” he said. “They have to understand how to get people back to work, someone who will put parties aside and work together.
“This is not a time for politics. Our country is at a crossroads. I’m concerned we have one more chance, one more exit to get off the road we’re on. Whether or not the American people choose to stay on the course we’re on, or change direction and take control of their own government, I got the message I understand what they want me to do. We have to make sure we finish the job, and whoever we send to the White House, Senate and Congress should have a very, very clear message of what the American people are expecting.”
He said one in seven Americans are now on food stamps and 49 percent of Americans are categorized as being poor or low income, while only 17 percent of mothers believe their children will have a brighter future.