Archive for Thursday, February 13, 2003

Iraq, economy big draws to Moore gathering

February 13, 2003

Pat Bachelor sat aside from the supplicants, applicants, proponents and well-wishers who filled the De Soto Senior Center Saturday waiting to see U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore.

The De Soto man simply wanted to observe the political process.

"I'm interested in politics," Bachelor said. "I wanted to see how the congressman interacts with people. Once you're inside the Beltway, it's so easy to forget how policies affect people."

Bachelor had plenty to observe. Forty constituents attended the congressional office hours for reasons as varied as voicing concerns on national issues to inviting Moore to a wedding.

The turnout was very good, one of Moore's aides said, but not unexpected with the shaky economy and war seemingly on the horizon.

The Iraqi confrontation was the motivation for a number of those in attendance. Ken Gates and Mike Burlingame, both of Overland Park, came to the Senior Center with a placard stating their opposition to military action.

"I told the congressman there are options to contain Saddam outside of war," Gates said.

Chuck Duncan, who sat briefly in front of Gates and Burlingame, had a different view. He told the two men Iraq had to be disarmed.

"You've got to draw a line somewhere," he said. "Think of how many lives could have been saved if we would have stopped Hitler. Everyday, Saddam gets wealthier, and that's power. There comes a time when you say enough is enough."

Moore could do little more than listen to their views. He said he didn't know the timetable the Bush administration was considering or any post-war plans or costs, which was not included in the budget the president presented last week.

"We're hearing estimates from $100 billion to $150 billion," he said.

Moore said Congress would provide the armed forces with the funds it needed to be successful in a conflict that he said appeared to be inevitable.

"I had hopes the president was engaging high-stakes brinkmanship, and Saddam would say 'I'm out of here' and just leave," he said. "If that happened, Bush would be a hero.

"I'm getting less and less optimistic. If it does come to military action, I think it's absolutely critical we do something as part of a multi-national force and not single-handedly."

Deposing Saddam couldn't be the end of American involvement, Moore said.

"I think conventional wisdom is that as a superpower, we're going to end it quickly," he said. "Assuming that's correct, we're still going to have to put resources in there -- resources and forces."

Dorothy Nalley, Mary Bichelmeyer and Bill McDowell, all of De Soto, were concerned about Medicare and the rising costs of health care, particularly prescription drugs. McDowell said he also told Moore he opposed the Bush administration's plan to eliminate taxes on stock dividends.

McDowell found Moore shared his concerns. The congressman said eliminating the dividend tax was more than the country could afford with the administration's budget predicted to produce an $80 billion federal deficit in fiscal year 2004 without the cost of the Iraqi conflict included.

"There are elements of the administration's tax package I like," he said. "I think the suggestion to speed up the reduction of the marriage penalty and larger child tax credits are excellent ideas and would receive wide support from Democrats," he said. "Those are cuts that will stimulate the economy now by increasing the spending power of average families.

"The problem is with the proposal to eliminate taxes on corporate dividends."

It would take more time for the dividend taxes elimination to make itself felt, Moore said. Even with time it would not be as great because it would not affect as many taxpayers, the congressman maintained. It would also cost the state of Kansas $51 million in revenue this year, he said.

"I know the state can't afford that," he said. "Not with a billion dollar budget shortfall."

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