Congressman (R-Kenilworth) was in Deerfield on Saturday to give an update on happenings in Washington and listen to concerns from residents.
The overwhelming message from more than 75 people crowded into Deerfield’s Village Hall was anxiety over jobs, the economy and the growing federal budget deficit. Residents also took issue with the possibility of American military action in Libya.
Audrey and Charles Van Eeckhout of Deerfield met Dold over the summer and wanted to get a close look at their newly minted Congressman.
“It’s comforting to see him (Dold) grow (since last summer),” Audrey Van Eeckhout said. “I want to hear his opinion on things and I hope we don’t go into war.”
Dold kicked the meeting off by explaining the magnitude of the government’s debt and budget deficit.
“The government is going to play a role. The question is how big a role is the government going to play?” Dold said, referring to the country’s economic recovery. “That role is, I believe, to be able to create an environment that allows the private sector to grow, to be able to forecast and invest back into their businesses.”
Dold, who was a small business owner before he was elected to Congress, is optimistic the business community can jump-start the economy with the government’s help.
“There are 29 million small businesses in this country,” Dold said. “If we can create an environment where half of them can create a single job, that ought to be our goal. We need to eliminate uncertainty to allow businesses to invest.”
A number of people in the room, like small businessman Chuck Schwartz of Riverwoods, who owns a Card and Party Giant in Glenview, wants revenue to increase by letting tax cuts for the top two percent of the population expire. Those cuts were extended late last year.
“The upper two percent of the country was allowed to keep their tax breaks,” Schwartz said. “The redistribution of the wealth in this country in the last 20 years is going to the upper two percent and away from those of us in the room.”
While not agreeing to any modification of current tax rates, Dold did move slightly away from a position he took a month ago at a . After several questions about the issue, Dold said he would not rule anything out.
“Everything has to be on the table at this point in time,” Dold said.
He also acknowledged that he did not know how many small business owners would be impacted by letting the Bush era tax cuts expire for the top one percent of the population.
Anthony Fiorentino of Deerfield expressed the same frustrations as Schwartz in hopes of seeing subsidies removed from oil companies. Another attendee wanted to see the deficit reduced by returning to tax rates of the 50’s and 60’s where the highest earners paid more and the deficits were less.
“I’m not so sure that’s the case.” Dold said referring to higher tax rates under the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. “When Ronald Reagan cut the tax rate to 35 percent, more revenue came into the government.”
Sara Cooper of Lake Forest suggested cuts be made in Social Security and Medicare to help balance the budget. Dold reiterated the need to consider everything.
“We have to honor our commitment to those (seniors) who are already in the system and those who are about to enter it,” Dold said. He added that changes for younger people are possible.
Lee Goodman of Northbrook wanted to know why Congress was not in emergency session trying to curb President Barack Obama’s efforts to commit American military resources to the growing conflict in Libya. Goodman was the Democratic candidate for Congress in the Tenth District in 2004.
Dold told Goodman that French, not American aircrafts were being used at that moment in Libya and it was something Congress would address at the proper time. He also said that as encouraged as he was by changes in the Middle East and Egypt in particular, his biggest concern was for Israel.
“Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East,” Dold said. “We must make sure the new government in Egypt honors the Camp David accords and maintains the peace.” He also said he would do everything possible to make sure the United States maintained its aid to Israel.