Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Fiscal restraint, civility big issues for next Congress, Sabo says

Minneapolis area Democrat, an ELCA Lutheran, spoke at Central Lutheran in Minneapolis.

Minnesota’s retiring fifth district U.S. congressman says fiscal irresponsibility is putting the country in danger.
Martin Olav Sabo, who served in the state legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives for a combined tenure of 46 years, spoke to a Sunday adult forum audience at Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis on January 7. He told the crowd that the Clinton-era policy of “pay as you go” needs to be brought back. “We need to reinstate it,” he declared, adding, “I think it’s going to happen. We need to stop digging the [fiscal deficit] hole deeper.”

Sabo identified several causes for the nation’s current fiscal malaise:

* The Bush administration’s willingness to spend money without identifying cost offsets. “We passed deficit reduction bills three times during the 1990s [the Clinton administration]. At one point we actually worried whether we could handle a significant surplus in this country. It turned out, we couldn’t.”

* The Iraq war. “With Iraq, we have a real mess on our hands. It’s left the budget, and our military, in shambles.”

* The country’s growing trade imbalance. “We now have a $70 billion trade imbalance. China buys our debt. We are now vulnerable to their whims. This is a dangerous situation.”

Sabo deflected a suggestion from the editor of Metro Lutheran that he had earned a reputation for bipartisanship. He said, “I wasn’t particularly bipartisan. I disagreed with other lawmakers when my views diverged. You need to work together, to be pragmatic.” But, he stressed, “I never personalized things. I’ve always tried to treat other people with respect.” He admitted, “In recent years things got polarized. I don’t know whether that will get better or not.”

Responding to questions from the group, he offered reflections on a wide range of topics.

* Is Congress, and Wash-ington, a cesspool? “I don’t agree with that. The assertion sells newspapers. What you really have in Washington is a complex system that requires some tugging and pulling.”

* Can we get rid of earmarks (add-ons to legislation favoring local districts)? “I’m a big fan of them. We wouldn’t have Hiawatha Light Rail without earmarks. They only represent a small part of discretionary spending, and a lot of spending is non-discretionary.”

* How can we reign in campaign spending? “You can’t stop excessive spending without repealing the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment. The high cost of getting elected is a problem. I don’t know how to fix it. In 1960 I think I spent $1,500 to get elected to the Minnesota legislature. Think about that!”

Sabo said illegal immigration is driving down wages for U.S. citizens. He said the “No Child Left Behind” program was an “incredibly stupid” plan. He said disgraced lawmaker Tom DeLay was “scary.”