Steve King returned to Grundy County today for his first town hall of 2020. Turnout this time around was larger — about a dozen — than when he drew just a single attendee in that county back in 2019.
But that lone 2019 attendee, Jessica Birch, was back for round two with her congressman. While there were questions for King from several constituents this time, Birch politely pushed back when King started to question people who receive disability benefits.
In the course of his lead-up and answer, King seemed to unwittingly make the case for government busy-work programs and for providing more government-funded education to those who need training.
King was on a long answer about the national debt, identifying certain parts of the budget that could be cut. As he often does, he spoke about the American workforce and the reasons that certain millions of people aren’t in it, then adding his opinion of whether he thought they should be.
The congressman pointed to the 23 million Americans on some form of disability benefits from the government, and suggested that many shouldn’t be eligible.
“Watching those numbers, that’s hard to take,” King opined. “When I see double amputee military veterans wheeling themselves off to work and you’ve got someone who had a bad back when they’re 19 and nobody went back to ask them how their back was when they were 45, it’s like a lifetime of entitlement of disability. There’s a lot we can do. But what we need to do, the big picture of this, is to increase the per capita GDP of our people. That means if they have talents and skill sets out there, they should be working, and if they don’t have, we ought to help them, and maybe we need to educate them.”
Birch spoke up from near the back of the room.
“I think that’s kind of — attacking the welfare state is kind of fear mongering in a way,” she said. “Because the proportion that we spend on our military is gigantic and I understand that. I believe as citizens we don’t want our taxes raised, but what about giant corporations that use the tax loopholes like Amazon and Google that don’t even pay their fair share of taxes? We don’t even have to cut Medicare, we could just raise taxes on that small portion of people that aren’t even paying as much as we are.”
King replied by briefly mentioning that the power of the rich is a growing topic, but that on the military front, he noted he was “not as troubled by this as I think you might be.”
“Everything we do militarily that increases, that increases also the deterrent effect for our enemies,” King said, noting that America now has to lead the world in security. “But if you’re going to build an F-16, or an F-22, or an F-35, or a tank, and maybe they never roll off the tarmac, those planes, but what are we out? We’re out the labor and the raw materials, some copper, some aluminum, some rubber, some paint, those things. And we maintain a skill set, an industrial skill set, to light up this industry if we need to do that.”
And those jobs building things that eventually wouldn’t get used still has real value and worth, King argued.
“I think I would rather pay people to build equipment that is certainly a deterrent and never have it used than I would pay people not to even develop their skills, but just not to work,” King said.
Of course, one could make that argument for all number of government-funded jobs, including those that have a clear, direct, immediate benefit to Americans, like perhaps educating all those other folks not working.
King took questions on a number of other topics, including mental health care, whether or not the U.N. was coming to take everyone’s guns (King assured the crowd they were not), and health care reform.
On the topic of mental health, King spoke at length about suicides, the science and research of anti-depressant drugs, and PTSD. He then steered the conversation to mass murders, and King’s son and his research into what might cause such events.
“My son Jeff did a study of them. It went back to the year 1900, he couldn’t find any before then to speak of, and actually not very many in the early part of the 20th Century,” King said, noting he was saying this from memory.
After going through the mass murders of the mid-20th Century, King came to today.
“Now it looks like we’re having mass murders more than once a year,” King observed. “There are reasons for all of this, and what I have is a study bill that looks at all of these causes. We want to look at the pharmaceuticals that they are under, legal and illegal. A lot of them had been treated with medication from young on up. We could only find one of all the mass murders that was raised in a family with a biological father in the home. Only one of them was. There was a number of common denominators along the way. I want it done professionally. I can look at that and read it and I’ve got a fair idea.”
At no point did King bring guns into this particular conversation.
One attendee offered a possible solution.
“Why don’t we pump some of the Focus On [The] Families information into the TV media and give it to the public where they can help fathers be fathers, help mothers be mothers, help our teachers, and mostly help the family to get back on track,” a woman suggested.
Again, here, Birch piped up from the back.
“When I was at UNI, there was a lot of students who are going through mental health challenges who feel alone,” she said. “Some people aren’t born with a perfect family and that’s sad. But what I’ve seen from young people is a push for mental health services, especially in our universities and our community … That’s what I’d push for, is more mental health services.”
by Pat Rynard, with reporting from Paige Godden