U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx declared a few government programs broken during two appearances in Mount Airy on Tuesday.
Foxx, a Republican from Banner Elk, was first elected to a congressional seat in 2004, after a decade in the North Carolina Senate. Surry County has been a part of the district she represents for the majority of her tenure in office.
At a Mount Airy Rotary Club lunch, Foxx spoke generally, noting she is happy to have Surry County back in her district.
“I complained and complained to the legislature,” said Foxx. “Surry County relates to the 5th district.”
The county was moved to the state’s sixth district in 2011. However, it was returned to Foxx’s district after a federal judge ordered the state legislature to redraw its congressional districts in 2016.
“I’m in (Washington) D.C. five days a week,” remarked Foxx. “The schedule isn’t leaving a lot of time to come back and see long-time friends.”
Foxx provided hand-outs about the GOP-led Congress plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and a Rotary member asked Foxx about “Obamacare.” His question regarded employers limiting the number of hours employees may work so they can avoid making healthcare coverage accessible.
“We want to get rid of all of the mandates,” answered Foxx.
Foxx said the legislation intended to make healthcare accessible to all Americans “worked in reverse of what they wanted to do.”
“We want the market to work,” explained Foxx. “Healthcare should be handled at the state level.”
Foxx then moved away from discussing policy, inviting those residing in her district to visit the capitol. Children 13 and younger are even allowed to go on the floor to help her vote, which is something the representative encourages.
“I want them to be excited about our country,” said Foxx.
While the Rotary function proved to be a relatively light-hearted exchange, Foxx dove deeper into public policy at her next stop in Mount Airy.
The Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce played host to the congresswoman at the Mount Airy Public Library on Tuesday. The event began at 4:30 p.m. and ended at 6 p.m.
“We are on a rescue mission,” Foxx said of Obamacare.
She noted North Carolina residents enrolled in the program saw average premium increases of 40 percent in 2017. Deductibles also increased.
Foxx said the House has taken the first steps toward repeal of the program. The Republican plan will provide healthcare to all citizens, regardless of their age, health, or financial situation.
Those enrolled in the coverage don’t need to be concerned, however.
“We are going to make it better for you,” added Foxx.
Foxx told those who had gathered at the event she has become the first Republican chair of a House committee — the Education and Workforce Committee — from the state of North Carolina in history. She has also filed a bill to do away with unfunded mandates from the federal government to states and local governments.
“As government grows, people in Washington look for ways to justify their jobs,” said Foxx of federal mandates and regulations. “We want to rein in the bureaucrats.”
One person in the audience asked Foxx about a national debt which has grown to nearly $20 trillion.
“We are bankrupting our country,” said Foxx.
She said the GOP, through Speaker Paul Ryan, has submitted a balanced budget in the House every year since 2007 which would eventually pay down the debt. However, the bill hasn’t had the support of the president or the U.S. Senate.
Many believe the members of the House have some unilateral “power of the purse,” said Foxx, but that’s not true. Though any spending bills must originate in the House, they must also be approved by the Senate and garner the president’s signature.
The representative brought up two examples of programs the government won’t be able to afford in the future.
By 2024, there will have to be a cut in Social Security benefits of 27 percent.
“Social Security was never meant to be a retirement program,” said Foxx. “F.D.R. (President Franklin Delano Roosevelt) needed money to fund his programs.
The money was spent “the second they got it,” said Foxx. The average lifespan at the program’s inception was 59, and benefits weren’t to be paid until a person turned 62. There were 33 people paying into the program for every one person drawing benefits.
“They thought everybody would be dead (by the time they became eligible for the program),” explained Foxx.
Now the average lifespan for men is 78 years and for women is 80 years, and there are only two people paying into social security for every one drawing benefits.
“I don’t know exactly the answer, but something has to happen” said Foxx. “Eventually, we must face up to the demographics and probably raise the age.”
On a similar note, Foxx mentioned another program which is threatened by the nation’s financial situation.
“Medicare will be go unfunded by 2034,” said Foxx.
Foxx said folks utilizing Medicare only paid in one-third of the dollar amount of benefits they are consuming.
“We cannot sustain spending the way it is,” said Foxx, touting a plan which would push toward privatizing Social Security for those 55 and younger.
“On the market they will get a better value,” claimed Foxx.
Foxx also noted the GOP has set forth its plan as to how to move the nation forward. They are calling it “A Better Way,” and the plan can be viewed at better.gov.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.