2008 can be about More than Politics

Op-Ed

By:  Kenny Hulshof
Date: Jan. 9, 2008
Location: Washington, DC


2008 Can Be About More Than Politics

Congressman Hulshof takes a look ahead at the new year.

As everyone knows by now, politics will garner much of our nation's attention in 2008. Elected positions on the local level all the way to the President of the United States are up for grabs. We have a wide-open presidential race unlike any we have seen in decades.

Local officials and state politicians will be vying for our time and attention. All of us will be inundated with political messages from every corner.

Politics are certain to be front and center in Washington DC, too. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including myself, are up for re-election this year. It is safe to predict that there will be much political maneuvering as both sides jockey for votes.

While it is unavoidable to have politics saturate the climate in Washington, it is my hope that the reviews of 2008 will not begin and end with political winners and losers.

There is much work to be done and I believe that we, as your elected representatives, are expected to address those issues in even-numbered years as well as the odd-numbered.

In an ideal world, Members of Congress would have the courage to address exceedingly important "big ticket" items like immigration, Social Security, our nation's system of taxation, and a host of other issues that have so far eluded honest debate and commonsense solutions.

Unfortunately, too few elected representatives possess the political spine to tackle these issues, especially in an Election Year. That is unfortunate.

Nevertheless, we can reach common ground on several of the challenges facing our nation.

One of the first priorities that can be addressed is the farm bill. The House passed a solid compromise in July. While not a perfect bill, it does provide the necessary safety net our nation's farmers need. Along with the additional funding for nutrition and a balanced approach to conservation, this is a good bill for farmers and consumers. The Senate passed their version of the farm bill last month. Negotiators should work out the differences and present the final package as soon as possible.

Providing access to affordable healthcare continues to be one of my top priorities. While there is much left to do in this area, we are gaining some ground. For example, Community Health Centers are having success and garnering more support in Congress. These centers provide health services and access to physicians as well as medications to those who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to afford the full cost of health care.

One significant step we could take to help nearly 60% of uninsured Americans is to provide easier access to health insurance for small business employees.

As we get closer to 2010, we have more and more uncertainty in our tax code. Tax cuts that boosted our economy through the early and middle part of this decade are scheduled to expire at the end of 2010. Taxpayers deserve certainty and that certainty is necessary if we hope to improve our economy. These tax cuts have worked as intended. It's time to make them permanent.

We should make sure we avoid a delay in tax returns next year as we might see this year. Congress acted too slowly in making the necessary changes to the Alternative Minimum Tax. As a result, the refund process could take longer this year. In 2008, let's fix it sooner rather than later.

The domestic challenges facing our nation will occupy a significant portion of our time in Congress this year and that is appropriate. That being said, I still believe the security of our nation is of paramount importance.

There has not been a terrorist attack on our soil since September 11, 2001. This is not because the terrorists have given up. Their hatred of us is as strong today as it has always been. That is why I believe we can never let up in our fight against terrorism. We must be bold enough to take the steps necessary to secure our freedom and to fight terrorism wherever it spreads.

If we maintain the focus that our constituents expect of us, we can produce meaningful results. That kind of focus can overshadow the political posturing we are sure to witness in 2008.