GREENVILLE — Dave Camp has long represented Michigan’s 4th congressional district, including the city of Greenville and much of Montcalm County.
On Thursday, members of The Daily News editorial board sat down with the U.S. congressman to discuss a variety of issues facing the country and district today.
Camp, R-Midland, who is chairman of the House Committee of Ways and Means, expressed grave concerns with the current state of the U.S economy.
“The idea is, the economy, while there are some bright spots, the fundamentals just aren’t there,” Camp said. “Last quarter’s growth was just over 1 percent, this quarter was just over 2 percent, that’s not enough to hire the people who are entering the workforce.”
Camp pointed toward low workforce participation and low rates of recent college graduates finding work as evidence that the system is not working as intended.
“We have the lowest workforce participation rate since the Carter administration,” he said.
Camp said he believes simplicity, in things such as the U.S. tax code, could help in easing some of the burden.
“Simplicity is one of my main goals, the other is economic growth and jobs and wages that come with that,” he said. “The message that I’ve heard both here and around is simplicity. The tax code has had 4,000 changes in the last 10 years, which is virtually one a day. It’s very complicated.”
Camp pointed to an example in education, where there are 15 different tax provisions to help save for a student’s college education.
“The booklet to understand those 15 provisions is 90 pages long,” he said. “We now find that people aren’t doing any of them. Is there a way to simplify those 15 provisions? It doesn’t necessarily mean eliminating the idea of saving for college education with a tax benefit, but limiting those to two or three provisions, then people might actually be able to make use of it.”
Editorial board members pressed Camp on his views on the conflict in Syria, where President Barack Obama has sought Congressional approval for a military strike against that country after circumstantial evidence pointed to deadly sarin gas being used in a chemical attack carried out by the Syrian government on Aug. 21, which killed at least 1,429 civilians, including more than 400 children.
“I’m skeptical at this point with our involvement there,” Camp said. “I think it is good to have this public discussion, but there’s a plus and a minus. I’m not certain what is trying to be accomplished here. If it was to simply punish them for using chemical weapons, and let me say, that is an atrocity, that might have been better done without telegraphing it. My concern about that whole operation now is, how does it fit in to a longer term strategy in the Middle East?”
Camp said he has been delivered declassified information on the subject and talked with high-ranking officials, but has yet to be convinced that a military strike is necessary.
“I don’t feel the explanations I’ve gotten are adequate so far and the resolution I read was really open ended. I’m not exactly sure what we’re debating quite yet. “ he said. “The things I’ve read have not really been that convincing. There’s many rebel factions, seven or eight, over there. Many of those are affiliated with Al-Qaeda. I don’t know where this is supposed to fit in with what we are trying to do there.”
One editorial board member was concerned about neglecting to respond to Syria in some way.
“Don’t you somehow have to address the atrocity of it all?” he was asked.
“It’s a very difficult decision from that standpoint, as well as the implications with Iran and Iran’s nuclear capabilities,” Camp said. “I think though, the impact of addressing that would have been stronger if it had been more immediate. If we are addressing that piece of it, that should have been done right away. Now that we’re past that, we have to look at the bigger picture.”
Camp was also asked about the future of Medicaid in the United States and Michigan.
“I worry about the longterm funding (of Medicaid),” he said. “We are relying on federal dollars. I think the sustainability of the federal government picking up 100 percent of medicaid for many, many years, given the budget problems we have, is a challenge.”
Camp said he agrees with the mentality of expanding coverage for more people, but doesn’t believe the system is properly funded.
“I certainly appreciate the goal of getting more people coverage, but I’m concerned if those federal dollars will actually be there in the long term,” he said.
Daily News Publisher Julie Stafford raised concerns to Camp about the impact of the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act.
“As a small business owner, one of the items on our radar is the Affordable Health Care Act,” she said. “It’s worrisome. What are your thoughts on that?”
“Businesses are not going to grow,” Camp said. “The workweek has become a 30 hour workweek and the costs of health care have skyrocketed.”
Camp said he doesn’t believe the new system is ready to be implemented yet.
“There’s so many holes in this thing, it’s Swiss cheese,” he said. “I believe ultimately, it’s going to have to be delayed. They are not ready.”
Camp said he believes a system more similar to Medicare Part D, a prescription drug benefit available to everyone with Medicare, would be more appropriate.
“Costs are going way up and what you wanted was an alternative that looked like Medicare Part D, which is private sector plans competing and offering what people actually want,” he said. “That has come in under budget with 90 percent satisfaction. There’s a bipartisan effort on that.”