Posted 8/23/16 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
There’s wisdom to be found on the prairie.
That was the theme of Rep. Kevin Cramer’s (R-N.D.) town hall in Tioga last Tuesday, where the incumbent discussed a variety of topics with voters.
The candidate took questions from the audience of about eight people who attended the event, as well as from some callers into a radio show.
Cramer is doing a series of these talks across the state as part of his bid for re-election. He calls the events “Coffee With Cramer.”
“One of the things I’ve learned about growing up in rural North Dakota is that every problem in America is easy to solve. In fact, they all get solved twice a day . . . over coffee,” he said.
Cramer, who grew up in Kindred, joked about the same problem being solved in the afternoon that they solved in the morning.
According to Legistorm, a Congressional watchdog group, Cramer has held more town halls than any other member of Congress.
He said by engaging people in these informal settings, he could benefit from what he called “prairie wisdom.”
As an example of this, he told the story of a farmer, who had no background in pipelines, speaking at the Keystone pipeline public hearings. The farmer pointed out to the engineers they were going right through a rocky quarry. Cramer said the pipeline was rerouted based on that point.
This kind of “knowledge of the land” is insight, he said, that helps him as a congressman.
“I didn’t learn how to put a really good wetlands mitigation amendment on the farm bill from experts in Washington,” Cramer said.
Kathy Neset, owner of Neset Consulting where the meeting took place, thanked the Senator for coming to Tioga and soliciting thoughts from the people in the area.
“That is what we are at these tables. This is prairie wisdom,” Neset said.
Cramer said restoring the nation’s economy is among his biggest goals as a representative, and one of the best ways to do that is to remove the regulatory burden.
The congressman cited a figure of $2 trillion as the costs Americans pay in regulatory compliance every year.
“It’s hard to wrap your mind around that,” he said.
One caller complained about the Obama administration using global warming to shut down fossil fuel industries.
Cramer is critical of the Bureau of Land Management’s fracking rule, Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and variety of regulations to combat global warming.
“There are questions beyond whether or not” climate change is happening, Cramer said. He said the costs of the solutions and what they accomplish are important questions deserving of debate.
As an example, he said if the United States ceased to exist and therefore put out no carbon emissions, it would reduce the warming trend by .08 degrees Celsius.
He asked, rhetorically, whether it is worth destroying the economy of the United States for such a result.
He also criticized a recent agreement with China, which allows China to increase its emissions until 2030 while we reduce our own.
He called this “unilateral disarmament of the US economy.”
Into the discussion of regulatory burdens, Rep. Bert Anderson (R-Crosby) asked Cramer what he is going to do about the EPA.
Cramer said since Republicans took over control of the House, the EPA has seen its full-time staff cut to the levels it was at during the first Bush Administration.
“We simply have to rein in the agencies, the EPA chief among them,” he said.
While there were these efforts to rein in federal reach and hand more governmental control to the states, Cramer said a lot of “broad authority” has been given to regulatory agencies through administrative law.
“They become the judge and jury,” Cramer said.
He displayed a chart showing how the portion of the federal budget has been designated mandatory spending has doubled since 1965, which makes it harder and harder to make cuts.
And the process by which to change this requires a majority of the House, at least 60 senators, and the president’s signature.
Obamacare, for example, is mandatory spending, Cramer said.
Military spending, then, is often targeted since much of the defense budget can be cut.
Tioga resident Randall Pederson asked about what the congressman can do to help ease the “constant state of fear” that looms over military bases, like the one in Minot, which are always fighting for their budgets.
Cramer talked about how a growing portion of the federal budget is mandatory spending, making it very difficult to make any cuts.
Cramer said the threats to military funding are cyclical. When it’s politically popular to cut spending, budgets shrink.
When political winds shift again, the country has to spend even more money to rebuild.
“We should feel the safest in the world,” Cramer said.
For the win
A radio caller asked about the wildly fluctuating polls in the presidential race and what Cramer thinks about the likely outcomes of the November election.
“Polls . . . tend to have more of a mission than they have a scientific snapshot of what’s happening,” Cramer said.
He predicted a very close race for the president.
As for his own chances, he said it’s too soon to say for sure. It’s not until after Labor Day Americans tend to get more interested in politics and polls begin to reflect more accurately the likely outcomes of the race.
“I don’t want to be over confident. I was confident Mitt Romney would win,” Cramer said.