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Cravaack visits Park Rapids

Constituents gathered for a town hall meeting with U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack Monday night in Park Rapids.

Cravaack gave a brief presentation about the federal budget and deficit at Century School.

"In 2010, the budget was $3.5 trillion," he said. "Of that, about 60 percent is autopilot spending, or mandated."

The mandated spending includes Social Security, Medicare and other programs that are required to be paid.

The other 40 percent of the budget is discretionary funding, which includes defense and other areas of government, Cravaack said.

A huge concern for the near future is that the number of Baby Boomers reaching retirement is increasing, he said. As a result, spending is rapidly increasing for Social Security, Medicare and other mandated budget areas.

"I have kids, ages 10 and 8, so I am very concerned about this," Cravaack said. "... autopilot spending drives the debt and it keeps increasing."

Also of concern is the amount of foreign-owned debt the United States has taken on, he said. In 2010, 47 percent of the nation's debt was foreign-owned.

The amount of debt compared to Gross Domestic Product continues to increase.

"We are Greece, in essence, as far as debt to GDP ratio," Cravaack said. "It's a spending problem. Washington, D.C. has a spending problem."

Federal spending has dramatically outspent median household income increases over the years. He summarized remarks made by several leaders in Washington and said that, essentially, "we will be our own demise."

Cravaack said too much money stays in Washington and doesn't make it to other parts of the country that need it.

As an example, Cravaack criticized the Department of Education.

"The average salary in the Department of Education in D.C. is $103,000," he said. "Washington spends too much."

The solution is to grow the tax base, not increase taxes, Cravaack said. Corporate taxes are too high and there are too many regulations on businesses, he said. Those are the reasons businesses are leaving the United States, he added.

After his presentation, Cravaack took a few questions from the audience.

A constituent asked what was going on with redistricting.

"I have no idea," Cravaack said.

He has seen several proposals that state leaders are looking at but none of them have been approved, he said. For now, Cravaack said, he will continue to work on issues for the 8th District.

Cravaack said he is working with several agencies to get mines up and running in the 8th District. This is a tremendous resource that will create jobs, he said.

A member of the audience said that some members of the legislature don't seem to understand what's really going on in the nation. He wondered what Cravaack thought about this.

"There are too many people in DC that make this their full time job for years and years," he said. "... They tell you what they want to hear, not the truth." Someone asked whether promoting economic growth or reducing spending was more important.

"I think they go hand in hand," Cravaack said.

Once spending is reduced and controlled economic growth will follow, he said.

This was Craavack's 18th town hall meeting, he said.

"These town hall meetings are a great opportunity for me to hear directly from my constituents in the 8th District about the issues that matter to them," Cravaack said.

He encouraged people to check out his congressional Facebook page for more information on what he is working on in Washington, D.C.

Cravaack serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where he is vice chair of the Aviation Subcommittee, the Homeland Security Committee, and the Science, Space and Technology Committee. The 8th Congressional District covers 18 counties in northeast Minnesota.