Elect 2012: Foxx, Motsinger square off in forum
By Emily Ford
SALISBURY - U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican, said members of Congress get along better than portrayed by the media, but Democratic challenger Elisabeth Motsinger said Congress has been sidetracked by partisan bickering.
The two candidates vying to represent the Fifth Congressional District, which now includes part of Rowan County, met at a forum Wednesday night moderated by Dr. Michael Bitzer at Catawba College.
The idea that members of the U.S. House of Representatives constantly bicker is a myth, especially on a personal level, Foxx said.
"I have many friends on both sides of the aisle," said Foxx, adding that she worked with like-minded Democrats to gain bipartisan support for every piece of legislation she sponsored last year.
But Motsinger said members of Congress would rather find a partisan advantage than work together to solve problems.
"Congress is not working well for us," she said. "I believe there is an enormous amount of partisanship, and I believe we have lost our way."
The candidates stuck to their talking points for most of the 45-minute debate, with Foxx advocating for less regulation and the repeal of Obamacare, while Motsinger supported a higher minimum wage and tax increase for people who earn the most.
A physician's assistant in Winston-Salem, Motsinger said health care should not be tied to employment.
"I have seen many who tremble when they lose their job because they know that what's next is they lose their health care," she said.
Foxx, who is running for her sixth term, argued repealing the Affordable Care Act would create jobs. Small business owners are afraid to hire workers because costs are uncertain, she said.
Motsinger said she would consider supporting another federal stimulus package to create jobs building infrastructure.
"In times of recession, and we may be facing another recession, the government should become the employer of last resort," Motsinger said.
Foxx said Congress can stimulate the economy by cutting taxes across the board and closing tax loopholes.
Allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire in January would hurt small businesses, Foxx said.
"We would be hitting the very people we need to be creating jobs," she said.
President Obama renewed the tax cuts in 2010 because he said the economy was too fragile to sustain any tax increase, Foxx said.
"The economy is even more fragile now than it was two years ago," she said.
Still, there are corporations and people "who have done very, very well" and can afford to pay more, Motsinger said, adding Republicans who refuse to raise taxes under any circumstances are "kicking the can down the road."
When asked by Bitzer what specific tax rates they would seek and loopholes they would close, Motsinger said she would return to tax rates under President Clinton and limit mortgage deductions for homes valued at more than $200,000.
The mostly conservative crowd reacted when Motsinger said Mitt Romney and his wife took a $77,000 tax deduction for a horse and then compared it to the $1,000-per-child tax credit. The Romneys actually deducted only $50 related to the horse, which competed in the Olympics.
Foxx said sales tax is the fairest tax and does away with all loopholes, but she acknowledged a lack of support in Congress.
If Republicans control the Senate and Romney wins the White House, the country "would see any loopholes done away with and marginal rates come down for everybody," Foxx said. "That is the second best."
Foxx did not list specific tax loopholes, which has been a recurring criticism of Romney.
Foxx also did not list for Bitzer three priorities not related to the economy.
"I don't impose my will on the Fifth District," she said. "I take my marching orders from them."
Climate, foreign policy
Motsinger listed one non-economic priority - climate change and related environmental disasters. She talked repeatedly about wealth disparity and 25 percent of jobs that pay less than $10 an hour.
"I believe it's time we get serious about protecting labor in this country and not just companies," she said.
When asked about foreign policy, Foxx said the greatest threat to the U.S. is economic instability.
"We are the only great super power left but we are undermining ourselves through our economic policies," she said.
Foxx said she's concerned about instability not only in the Middle East but all over the world, where riots and upheaval are on the uptick.
Motsinger disagreed and said while violent incidents receive increasing amounts of media attention, rates of violence have fallen.
"I'm very frightened right now when I hear some cages being rattled because we are still suffering from the decision to go into Iraq," she said.
While Motsinger characterized today's political environment as increasingly polarized and unproductive, Foxx described the past four years as an erosion of freedom and loss of opportunity.
"There are no excuses for not achieving anything you want in this country," Foxx said.
That may have been true in the 1950s but not now, Motsinger said.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264