Congressman John Tierney Many of the questions had to do with his work in Congress over the years as well as what he wants to accomplish if reelected.
What Has Been Done
Comment From Meredith: Congressman Tierney, we were promised that the stimulus package would keep unemployment under 8% yet the unemployment rate is higher than 8%. Would you support another stimulus package?
John Tierney: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act did in fact have much to do with this country avoiding a full blown depression. And saved or created nearly 4 million jobs at a time when doing so was essential. The administration upon taking office hoped that the unemployment rate would not rise above 8%, but obviously the severity of policies from 2001-2008 led to a much higher rate. With strategic investments to states and cities and towns, the payroll tax cut for middle-class families and 17 small business tax cuts the economy has been moving forward. States like Massachusetts that wisely leveraged the federal resources are doing much better than the national average with a 6.3% unemployment rate that will hopefully continue to decline. As annual spending is set we should prioritize investments in those areas that will enhance job creation and establish the foundation for job and economic growth in the future.
Comment From Tim: Congressman Tierney, what have you done as our congressman to reduce the national debt?
John Tierney: Democrats had instituted the “Pay-Go” policy during the Clinton years that required any direct spending or spending through tax cuts to be paid for by offsetting cuts or revenue. In the first 3 years I served we had three successive surpluses under that policy and a projected surplus of $ 5.6 trillion over the next 10 years. Unfortunately President Bush and his advisors, and the Republican House abandoned that policy. I repeatedly voted against measures that ultimately passed and exploded our deficit. In the late 2000’s I voted for budgets that would have put us back in surplus and a later one that would have reduced the deficit by two-thirds. Unfortunately the Republican majority went in a different direction. On education matters I and my colleagues caused student loans to be direct, eliminating special interest middlemen, saving $61 billion, a healthy amount was used to pay down the debt. My oversight work on the national security and foreign policy area has identified a number of areas where there was waste fraud and abuse. The Department of Defense, State Department, and USAID have continued to improve policies to prevent repeats. The War Time Contracting Commission which resulted from legislation that I drafted, identified over $60 billion in waste to be addressed.
Comment From Guest: Congressman, thank you for your time. As a small business owner, what have you done on my behalf in Congress to improve conditions for people like me?
John Tierney: As the former president of the Salem Chamber of Commerce and a former small business owner, the needs of small business owners are very important to me. When Democrats controlled the majority, we placed an emphasis on helping small businesses. We passed 17 tax breaks to help small business. I have just introduced a new bill to increase small business lending. It will extend a successful policy that had expired. This measure would allow local banks to reduce their risk through the SBA’s guarantee of a larger portion of a loan and allow small business borrowers to have related loan fees waived. When first implemented and later extended many small businesses in the district took advantage. For sole proprietors one tax measure now allows the deduction of health insurance premiums as an expense, just as corporations get to deduct such an expense for their employees. Substantial benefits for small business in the healthcare field are now law. I have discussed education and worker skills issues above. My office regularly conducts small businesses seminars on government contracting, exporting, and other topics. We regularly facilitate small business interaction with government agencies.
Work to Be Done
Question from Julie, Wakefield Patch reader: My question is about Veterans. My particular concern is whether we're providing the needed services and resources for veterans who are returning home, seeking employment while simultaneously dealing with emotional and physical afteraffects of the war. What legislation has been initiated to help these veterans? In your opinion, what more needs to be done?
Comment From John Tierney: Thanks Julie, We are doing an enormous amount of work addressing the concerns of veterans as they return home. We have tax credits for businesses that hire unemployed veterans; we have representation on the work force investment boards for job training; we have just received grants for our community colleges to upgrade the skills for employment. We continue to do work on housing to eliminate homelessness but that needs much more attention. And since the Walter Reed hearings by my sub-committee enormous strides have been made in health care for veterans, but we still need to do work on disability determinations. Many more mental health doctors and counselors are on board. As you know we kept the Bedford VA facility open, despite many attempts to close or consolidate, and with three community based outreach clinics nearby no Veteran in the district needs to travel more than 15 miles for care.
Comment From Aaron in North Andover: You've been serving this district quite some time. What haven't you accomplished during your tenure that you would like to complete?
John Tierney: We need to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act. A bill for which I drafted. It has support from stakeholders across the political spectrum and would modernize our jobs skills programs and bring to scale successful models for employing people out of work and improving incumbent workers capabilities. Our businesses are supportive. We need to keep improving on college affordability and access. We have moved substantially in that area with the Higher Education Opportunity Act that I co-sponsored. We need to prevent those that would undo that work. For example we need to keep need based student loan interest rates at 3.4% and not allow them to double as reflected in the Republican budget. There is always a need for continued oversight and reform both in national security and foreign policy and generally on a range of issues including energy efficiency and technologies. We need to continue to work toward an energy policy in this country for economic security and emerging energy technologies. With respect to preparing people to work in these industries, work has begun with the Green Jobs Act, which I authored with now Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, and was funded in the Recovery Act. Campaign finance reform and the elimination of super PACs needs attention, and so much more...
EDITOR'S NOTE: We were unable to get to many questions in that hour, but don't worry, we'll send unanswered questions to Tierney.