Belleville—Retired General Bill Enyart, the Democratic candidate for Congress in the 12th Congressional District, gave his youthful Republican opponent, 30-year-old millionaire Jason Plummer, a good military style dressing down as they confronted one another in a debate at the Lindenwood University campus here Oct. 10.
He said the policies favored by Plummer and other Republicans would return the country to the same disastrous policies of the Bush administration. Those policies led to the economic collapse of 2009 because “Bush was the only president in history to put two wars and a tax cut on a credit card,” he told an audience of about 500 attending the debate in the Lindenwood auditorium.
Enyart, 62 years old, is a retired adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard and a former commander in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He scolded Plummer for not disclosing his tax returns, implying that his opponent might be hiding something. “Voters are entitled to know whether you are paying your fair share,” he said.
When Plummer maintained that his tax returns were already a public record, Enyart shot back that the public record he was referring to was his income listed at the Federal Elections Commission, which says Plummer’s income is between $960,000 and $5 million.
“That’s not your taxes, that’s your income,” Enyart retorted.
At another point, he challenged Plummer’s assertion that he would be better at creating jobs in Southern Illinois because he was a businessman.
NEVER CREATED A JOB
“You’ve never created a job in your life,” Enyart told him. “The only job you’ve ever had is the one your father gave you.”
When Enyart reminded Plummer that he called for reducing the state minimum wage when he was a candidate for lieutenant governor in 2010, Plummer denied it.
“Our family business employs more than a thousand people,” Plummer said. “And they all make over the minimum wage.”
Both candidates agreed that promoting more infrastructures was essential to developing a stronger economy and creating more jobs for Southern Illinois.
But Enyart reminded Plummer that Plummer has endorsed the Republican congressional budget developed by GOP Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan.
“The Ryan budget slashes 30 percent off the budget for infrastructure,” Enyart pointed out.
When Plummer asserted that lowering federal taxes and regulations on business was the key to creating more jobs and a strong economy. Enyart reminded him that in the 1950s, when federal income taxes were as high as 90 percent, the economy was strong and millions of jobs were created.
The two disagreed on how to reduce the federal deficit.
PLUMMER FAVORS REPUBLICAN PLAN
Plummer favors the Republican plan to reduce taxes on millionaires and billionaires, to provide a stock market option for Social Security, and to establish a voucher system for Medicare recipients.
Enyart wants to reduce taxes for middle class Americans but raise them slightly for the rich. That would help revitalize the economy because middle class consumers provide up to 80 percent of the country’s economic growth. The rich have concentrated too much wealth among the wealthy few of Americans and a higher federal income tax would require them to pay their fair share, he said.
Enyart said he would consider changes in Social Security, but believes both Social Security and Medicare are strong programs that provide life-saving benefits for the elderly and do not warrant any radical changes like those promoted by the Romney-Ryan plan that Plummer supports.
Like many Democrats, Enyart believes Social Security can be stabilized by small changes in eligibility and the payroll tax. Neither program should be privatized in even the smallest way, as Republicans are promoting.
Enyart criticized Plummer for wanting to relax federal regulations on Wall Street banks and corporations. Relaxing corporate regulations would lead to corporate scandals like the Enron scandal and begin to pollute the nation’s waters and air again.
“Wall Street Banks engineered our downfall and you want to give them another chance!” Enyart declared.
The Twelfth Congressional District extends from Madison County south to Kentucky along the western part of Illinois. It is now represented by Congressman Jerry Costello, who is retiring at the end of the year.