Just a small handful of area residents turned out in Montoursville Thursday to hear U.S. Rep. Glenn "GT" Thompson, R-Howard, lament some of the nation's problems foremost on the minds of people these days: the sputtering economy and the growing deficit.
"Debt and out-of-control spending are our biggest problems we have in government," he told some half-dozen citizens gathered at the municipal building.
Thompson said the situation cannot be blamed on any one political party, but it's a problem that has become like a runaway train speeding downhill.
U.S. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Howard, speaks of the mounting national debt during a town meeting at the Montoursville Borough Hall Thursday. The meeting is part of a series called “America Speaking Out.”
And the situation only has worsened in the past 20 months with the Obama administration.
Thompson said he takes a dim view of federal stimulus money, including the $26 billion federal aid package that includes some $10 billion for school districts to retrain or rehire teachers and other school personnel, with the remainder directed toward health care for the poor, emergency workers and other state purposes.
"I urged school districts not to use stimulus money for hiring new people," he said, but many did just that.
He said government does not create real jobs but barricades jobs. Small businesses, and those willing to take risks to create enterprises, are what spurs the economy, he said.
Raymond Marshalek, 74, owner of Fairfield Manufacturing Co., Montoursville, told Thompson that jobs exist, but people are unwilling to take them.
He said he recently interviewed a potential worker who opted to continue receiving his more than $500 a week unemployment benefits rather than accepting a job.
"We have a real problem. It's created by government," he said.
Thompson agreed many people are not willing to work, but others simply do not have the training for some jobs.
He said unemployment compensation should come up with more requirements, such as forcing people to make some type of contribution to society.
Thompson said while there are less available manufacturing jobs, the country as a whole is producing more than ever.
"We don't train people in technical education anymore," he said.
Marshalek said too many people with college degrees are working at clothing stores rather than using their educations.
Glenn Williams of Old Lycoming Township told Thompson he favors term limits for lawmakers and elimination of the Davis-Bacon Act, whereby workers on federal projects are paid prevailing wages.
He said he's also against hiking the capital gains tax.
Thompson said the Davis-Bacon Act drives up wages, thereby preventing many road improvement projects. He said supporters of tax hikes wrongly claim they only are hitting the rich.
He made no comment on term limits, although earlier in the day he told the Sun-Gazette that he is against them.
Bill Lawson wanted to know how Thompson selects his congressional staff and if they influence legislation.
Thompson said he has 17 full-time staffers, one below the maximum allotment, and a few part-timers. He said the federal government allows him a certain budget for hiring and paying people.
"The most important person is your chief of staff," he said.
That person is Jordan Clark, he said, who worked for Thompson's predecessor, John Peterson, and has worked in Washington since the 1970s, he said.
"He provides me with the best possible information so I can make the best decisions," he said.