CRYSTAL LAKE – Social Security and Medicare are likely to be revisited soon by Congress, and recently elected 8th District Rep. Joe Walsh said he would approach each subject purposefully and without fear of public fallout.
The McHenry Republican spoke Friday about his goals for the next two years with the Northwest Herald Editorial Board.
In November, Walsh narrowly claimed his seat against incumbent Democrat Melissa Bean, winning by fewer than 300 votes. Bean conceded two weeks after voters went to the polls.
Walsh ran on a campaign promising change. He would be accessible to constituents and unyielding in his pursuit to cut the federal budget, he said. On Capitol Hill, he joined 86 other invigorated freshman lawmakers who had made similar promises.
In its infancy, the class already has made a few changes – it is credited with overhauling the calendar providing representatives more time away from Washington to spend in their districts each month, for example.
Among Walsh’s top priorities is leading a charge to pass a 2012 federal budget that includes entitlement reform. Earlier this month, President Obama presented a $3.73 trillion budget plan aimed at cutting the deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next decade, but Republicans, including Walsh, think that the president didn’t cut enough.
“The president should be ashamed of himself for punting on entitlement reform,” Walsh said.
He said significant cuts could and should come from immediately raising the retirement age, as well as reforming Social Security.
Walsh would like to see means testing of Social Security – determining whether individuals are eligible for government aid based on their income. This could include cutting back or taxing some benefits for wealthier seniors, he said.
Additionally, Walsh called on Democrats to support the creation of an option for working-age adults to opt out of Social Security and instead save for retirement on their own.
“We will take the political shot because the president won’t touch it,” Walsh said. “And shame on him.”
Over the next six months, Walsh also plans to focus on examining regulations on businesses. He would like to see the estate tax abolished and capital gains taxes lowered, among other things. The repeal of Obama’s sweeping health care reform legislation signed into law last year also is high on Walsh’s to-do list.
“Ninety-eight percent of businessmen and -women I talk to say repeal Obamacare,” Walsh said.
While obstinate about his goals, Walsh has made an effort to listen to all constituents, he said. A town hall-style meeting Thursday at Harper College in Palatine marked Walsh’s 13th such gathering since November. He also recently has begun to hold informal meet-and-greet events in local coffee shops every Saturday.
Walsh criticized predecessors for making legislative decisions based on how it would affect future campaigns and also for avoiding public debate about where they stood on legislative issues.
“We’ll legislate for the next two years and, honestly, I don’t give a damn about getting re-elected,” he said.