Taxes, health care, Area 51: Meadows fields students’ questions
U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows fielded a wide range of questions from students at Flat Rock Middle Tuesday, answering everything from whether Area 51 is a real place to what the country ought to do about North Korea’s missile launches.
His visit began with a tour led by student ambassadors Tucker Marshall, Rosa Colecio, Zikander Perez Sanchez and Lance Beddingfield, who showed Freedom Caucus Chair Meadows around the hallways, talking about robotics, STEM classes and work students are doing on Chromebooks.
Eighth-grade Science and Language Arts teacher Anna Nagreen said the congressman’s visit goes back to Flat Rock Middle being named a School to Watch.
She and another teacher presented at the national Schools to Watch conference during the summer of 2016, meeting with Meadows and speaking for more than an hour about education, inviting him to visit the school.
After the tour, Meadows addressed students in the gymnasium with a demonstration on how a bill becomes a law. Alongside student volunteers, he explained how a member of the House can introduce a bill, which will then go into committee and must be passed by the Senate and the president.
Intermingled with questions about taxes, term limits, stresses of the job and more were inquiries like, “Is Area 51 a real place?” and “Why are taxes so high?”
Meadows answered that Area 51 does not exist in the way it’s portrayed in movies like “National Treasure 2,” but “there are some secret areas that truly are important and classified.”
Taxes are so high, he said, because the country doesn’t spend its money wisely. Meadows said that by Thanksgiving a bill should emerge that lowers taxes for the average household by about $1,800.
Other students asked about the advantages and disadvantages of being a congressman and what Meadows is passionate about.
Many reporters would likely enjoy the chance to sit down with him for 30 or 40 minutes to explore the things he’s passionate about, he said, but answered with three topics — the nation of Israel, making sure students understand the importance of their decisions and their education, and his faith and family.
Another student asked if Meadows agrees with President Donald Trump’s decision to end DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Meadows answered that Trump actually said a legislative fix is needed, and that what he thinks will happen is those under protection from DACA will be allowed to stay in the country. He expects something to happen with DACA by February.
Asked by a student what the country is doing to prevent the next missile launch from North Korea, Meadows answered that he doesn’t see a pre-emptive strike as an option, due to the proximity of Seoul, Korea and the number of people that would be in harm’s way. But he noted that allies can play a role, like Japan, over which the country has fired missiles, and China, which could put more economic pressure on North Korea.
“I’m always amazed at just the level of questions and the insightful nature of questions that come from our Henderson County schools,” he said. “We’re going to have the makings for a few good journalists coming up.”
Meadows’ trip to Flat Rock Middle was one of four stops the congressman made in the district Tuesday, starting with an address to the Chamber of Commerce in the morning and a visit to the Hendersonville Health Sciences Center before lunch, as well as a check presentation to Etowah-Horse Shoe Volunteer Fire and Rescue.
Obamacare repeal, tax reform, North Korea
Meadows spoke with the Times-News after the Flat Rock Middle visit. He said he expects the latest Obamacare repeal vote to get contentious, thinking Democrats will try to run the clock out on the bill. Ultimately, as long as it continues to improve slightly over the next week, there will be enough votes in both the House and Senate for it to pass, he added.
Meadows refuted a news release earlier in the day from Gov. Roy Cooper’s office that quoted Cooper as saying the latest proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, “may be even worse than the previous proposals: raising premiums, weakening protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and slashing over $1 billion from North Carolina’s Medicaid program. North Carolina’s middle-class families will be worse off if this passes.”
The formulas Meadows has looked at, he said, show “a tremendous increase for subsidies,” from $2.3 billion to $7 billion, 15- to 20-percent of which Cooper would be able to use to augment any deficiencies in Medicaid, which in that case would be about $1.4 billion.
“Perhaps he’s using some old data to suggest that Medicaid would be hurt,” Meadows said. He’s specifically looked into the issue to make sure the people who need help the most get it.
Meadows said the House is trying to push out a bill in October on tax reform, which will hopefully make it out of the Senate in time to hit the president’s desk just before Thanksgiving.
On North Korea, and the president’s remarks to the United Nations General Assembly, Meadows said he hadn’t seen the president’s specific comments other than those made Monday. But he said one of the interesting things the president recognizes is that the entire world is now seeing North Korea as not only an enemy, but a threat to their way of living.
“The mood at the U.N. and certainly in the international community is something must be done, and the time for just looking the other way has passed,” he said.
Firefighter assistance grant
Meadows’ last stop Tuesday was at Etowah-Horse Shoe Volunteer Fire and Rescue, where he presented a check for $271,029. Chief Mike Huggins said the grant money will go a long way toward helping with recruitment and retention efforts.
Across the country, volunteerism has dropped dramatically, Huggins said. The funds will help Etowah-Horse Shoe give incentives to people looking to volunteer, such as a gift card for completing certifications or courses and even paying $1,000 toward a firefighter’s tuition.
Huggins said the money will also help pay for physicals, immunizations and turnout gear for four new firefighters. Turnout gear is extremely expensive, he explained, and hard for fire departments to afford.
The chief said many people don’t realize that volunteer firefighters are giving their own time and money to serve the community, and it’s important to give back.
The fire department applied for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant early this year. Huggins said the department worked closely with Meadows and his office, who were instrumental in helping the department to win the grant.