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U.S. Rep. Griffith fields questions
BHS students get briefed on issues
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Ninth District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith faced questions from Bassett High School students Thursday about the economy, unemployment, high gas prices and the debt crisis. (Bulletin photo by Ashley Jackson)

Friday, May 4, 2012

By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

Ninth District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith faced questions from Bassett High School students Thursday about the economy, unemployment, high gas prices and the debt crisis.

On the job situation, Griffith said he thinks government regulations hinder the creation of jobs, and he fights regulations that affect the ability of companies to continue to compete.

The key to creating an environment to bring jobs into the United States is to enact new tax policies and new energy policies, the Salem Republican told the students.

One reason companies move out of the U.S. or build their operations in other countries is because of lower wages for workers and because in other countries, there are fewer regulations on energy use or abundant taxes infringing on businesses, Griffith said.

For example, he mentioned the current Boiler MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) rules, which are regulations on businesses that use coal or wood chips to power or heat their facilities.

Boiler MACT rules outline emission standards for hazardous air pollutants for major sources: industrial, commercial and institutional boilers and process heaters, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.

Griffith has heard from representatives of factories in the district who are concerned about whether they will be able to continue heating their facilities because of the Boiler MACT rules recently put in effect. He said he is working to defend the rights of businesses to use coal and wood chips as sources for heat and power.

A topic that Griffith seemed to get fired up on was high gasoline prices.

“I don’t like high gas prices,” and Congress needs to do all it can to reduce costs at the pump, he said.

He told the students that gas prices are driven up by the world market. He said emerging economies of other countries cause the demand for gas to increase, and in turn, gasoline prices rise.

Also, instability in oil-producing regions, such as Iran, causes the price to climb, he added.

The U.S. should start getting serious about using its own resources available on U.S. soil, which would put pressure on the world market to reduce prices, he said.

The U.S. should be doing more drilling and digging, he said. Also, universities should be encouraged to find ways to use gasoline more efficiently and find new sources for fuel, Griffith said.

He added that he thinks it is time to complete the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport Canadian oil to American refineries.

He is in favor of opening the pipeline because he said refining the oil would create jobs, generate tax dollars and in turn, reduce the deficit.

The pipeline would send the message to other countries that “we are prepared, and we are ready” and will use the natural resources in North America to bring down the price of gas, Griffith said.

The more jobs that are created, the more the deficit and debt situation can get under control, he said.

“It all fits together,” he added.

About the debt crisis, Griffith pointed out that the country’s debt now stands at about $16 trillion, with about $1.5 trillion added to the debt each year.

With a debt that high, “you all are the ones who will have to pay it back,” Griffith told the students.

Griffith mentioned Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan, which some people have criticized because they think it makes too many cuts, he said.

Griffith said he doesn’t want to say to his young children several years from now that he didn’t have the courage to make budget cuts just because it wouldn’t be popular.

Griffith supports House bills that cut the budget and get the deficit under control, including the Ryan budget plan. However, there are a few items in the plan that he doesn’t like, he said, but he did not elaborate.

“If we don’t start taking steps to get our spending under control,” he doesn’t believe that Social Security benefits will be around when today’s students reach retirement age, he said.

Changes need to be made now so that students will have benefits later on, and one option is to raise the retirement age by two years, he said.

However, Griffith isn’t completely sold on that option because he feels that those who have hard, physical jobs, such as pipe fitters, would not survive to the higher retirement age, he said.

Other topics that Griffith addressed were the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act, the legalization of marijuana and college loan rates.

Griffith thinks the DREAM Act encourages people to sneak into the U.S., he said, adding that the nation’s entire immigration policy should be overhauled.

He said the U.S. should return to the historical model for those entering the U.S. That model was that immigrants come here to work, are provided a place to live and have a sponsor to guarantee their good behavior for two years, he said.

Griffith told the students that he doesn’t support the legalization of marijuana, but he does feel that doctors should have the right to prescribe marijuana for medicinal purposes, he said.

Concerning college loans, he hopes that Congress will continue to make loan money available and at affordable rates. Last week, he voted to extend the lowering of interest rates on college loans, he said.


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