Arrington visits Breckenridge for townhall
U.S. Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-19) visited Breckenridge on Tuesday, May 28 for a town hall. He gave updates on various happenings in the House and Washington D.C., and fielded questions from constituents.
Topics covered included accomplishments in his first term, the military, the economy and trade war, healthcare, goals and Iran. An introduction was read by Virgil Moore, the Breckenridge Economic Development Corporation’s executive director. Afterwards, Arrington took the podium and discussed first what he accomplished in his first term.
The list included the Farm Bill with the priority of getting cotton back into the safety net, as it was left out of the bill passed in 2014. The 2018 bill included cotton. The area that Arrington represents, which includes Stephens County and Breckenridge, is among the U.S. and world leaders in cotton production.
He also talked about the United States - Mexico - Canada Agreement (USMCA), also known as NAFTA 2.0. On the economy, Arrington said the growth has been the best in decades. He cited the unemployment rate and the World Economic Forum, which awarded the U.S. with the most competitive economy in the world in October 2018.
“We ought to cheer for the fact that America is back to work, jobs are coming online and our economy is growing,” Arrington said.
In previous visits and conversations, Arrington has cited the military being one of his biggest priorities. Since President Donald Trump has taken office, U.S. military spending has increased by more than $200 billion, with the 2020 proposed budget from his office.
With Trump’s proposal, the base military budget will sit at $576 billion. With other factors, which includes the Department of Defense’s Overseas Contingency Operations, as well as other departments that feed into defense, the total cost would be upwards to $989 billion.
In President Barack Obama’s last year, the total amount spent with all these factors sat at $767.6 billion, according to The Balance. The United States spent more on its military than the next seven, nine or 10 countries combined, depending on which estimate is used.
Arrington said the military was cut by $200 billion. Statistically, this is not the case. When Obama was in office, the military was cut from $691 billion (leaving out some budgeting mechanisms) in 2010 to its lowest point under Obama in 2015 to $560 billion, according to the Department of Defense’s budget. It was raised in Obama’s last year by $20 billion. This represents a decrease of almost 20% from its highest to lowest point.
In his town hall in October, Arrington cited the military had been cut by 20% during this time period, which mostly checks out as true.
“The threats we face haven’t been cut,” Arrington said. “The threats have increased.”
Arrington did acknowledge the costs and the increased spending, which he added he wasn’t happy about.
In regards to military conflicts the U.S. currently faces and could face in the future, namely Iran, Arrington said President Trump has been less hawkish than previous presidents, including President George W. Bush, who Arrington used to work for.
In discussing the United States’ role throughout the world, Arrington described the U.S. as the keeper of freedom and defender of democracy. Segwaying from the military, Arrington said he believed the most existential threat facing the United States was China and their actions in regards to the world economy. He said their goal is to marginalize America without a military conflict.
“(China) cheats, they steal,” Arrington said. “I can give you example after example, whether its intellectual property or its dumping products to manipulate the markets, or just plain old fashioned state-sponsored farming, steel-making.”
In talking about the trade war with China, Arrington said he believes Trump’s guts to go after China is the best thing about him not being a career politician. He added no president or politician from either side has been willing to do this.
“Nobody has done what this president has done with China,” Arrington said. “China plays us like a fiddle.”
He acknowledged the trade war does hurt, but encouraged the room to support the president and give him the runway to get a deal done that would alter the current relationship the country has with China for the better.
Talking about the environment and climate change, Arrington said he didn’t believe the science was settled on whether or not humans contribute to climate change and global warming. But caveated this saying he believed we needed to continue to monitor and take care of the environment. He said several pollutants in the last 30 years have been reduced.
“We’ve got to balance economic growth and job opportunity with stewarding the environment,” he said. “That’s the key balance.”
On healthcare, he said while the Affordable Healthcare Act (commonly called Obamacare) had good intentions, it didn’t work. He said he would support a profit-based system and a safety net for those who can’t afford health insurance. He also talked about the Republican’s inability to completely repeal the ACA, saying the party punished in the midterms for it.
On questions about Iran, Arrington said while the U.S. needs to exercise self-control, the country has every reason to go to war. He cited several instances of conflict the U.S. has found itself in regarding Iran. He also said Trump, as opposed to Obama, will be more stringent on following through threats if need be, something Arrington said was one of Obama’s biggest mistakes.
“(Iran has) been at war with us for 30 or 40 years,” Arrington said.
On the political optics, regarding whether or not Arrington believed a war with Iran before the 2020 election could hurt or help Republicans chances, Arrington said consistently Republicans win on the issue of national defense.
“Anything with ‘care’ in it the Democrats seem to have an advantage,” Arrington said. “But when it comes to defense and protection and security, we (Republicans) have an advantage.”
Though, a theme of Arrington’s throughout the town hall was to put America first, which was something he cited on this issue as well, saying he didn’t want anyone in Trump’s administration to approach it from the standpoint of a political calculation, but instead do what needs to be done.
Arrington concluded the town hall urging constituents to contact him with any issues, and advocated for states rights to be more at the forefront rather than what he called a one-size fits all approach with policy.
“I think when we try to force (these things) on people, we divide our country,” Arrington said.