By Christinia Crippes
As a lieutenant colonel in the Army, as a nurse and then a doctor, and now as the 2nd District Republican congressional candidate, Mariannette Miller-Meeks has dedicated much of her life to serving others.
Miller-Meeks' message of political guts without personal glory resonated with members of Kiwanis - an organization that five years after its founding changed its focus from business networking to service - during her visit to the Burlington club's noon luncheon Thursday.
"We know there's not enough money to go around, but what we can tap into is the spirit that each and every one of us have in serving one another," the candidate told the audience.
Miller-Meeks said her top priority if elected Nov. 2 will be reducing the national deficit while maintaining low taxes to ensure future generations have the same access to success that she had. Miller-Meeks first must best sophomore 2nd District U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, a Democrat, on Election Day.
"We have a bold vision for economic freedom ... that empowers children to want to reach for the stars, because if you're reaching for the stars, you may just land on the moon, but if you are reaching for nothing, you will go nowhere," Miller-Meeks said. "So how do we as a group, how do we as people, partner with our government to create better lives for ourselves and our children?"
Answering the question for the third of the Kiwanians who said they feared their children or grandchildren will not be able to achieve the same success they had, Miller-Meeks said leaders must restore optimism and opportunity.
"I'm running because we need to harness our exceptional past to create an extraordinary future for our children and our grandchildren," Miller-Meeks said. "That (American Dream) is what's becoming an illusion in our country. And unfairly so, because it seems if you're politically well-connected, or you're super-wealthy, there is a special back-door deal or a pass or a card out for you."
Miller-Meeks argues that instead of too-big-to-fail, government should have a policy of small-enough-to-succeed.
On tackling the national debt, Miller-Meeks turned to the Bible and paraphrased Proverbs, that the borrower is always a slave to the lender. She later pointed to particular ways of keeping the nation's promise to seniors on Medicare and Social Security, while also keeping taxes low and getting rid of the needless regulations.
Miller-Meeks acknowledged that raising the age to gain access to those entitlements may be necessary, but mostly she wants to root out waste and find efficiencies in government spending. She said using technology, not duplicating services and not replacing retiring baby boomers who work in the federal government will help.
"It's not a fault of one party; it is a fault of both parties, and it is a fault of people wanting to get elected or re-elected promising what they in fact cannot deliver and kicking the can down the road," Miller-Meeks said. "We have got to hold government people accountable for what they do."
She also said Congress, the Senate and the president should have been required to find ways to pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, rather than fund them through deficit spending.
"(W)ould they be less likely to engage in wars of which they can't show a reason and a rationale and a logic for doing so. I think it puts them in a very different position if you have to pay for a war," Miller-Meeks said, adding that whether current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistant were justified would be a longer discussion than the group had time for Thursday. "We should have all been asked to sacrifice for the war on terror."
Miller-Meeks said whether she wins - and her polling last month suggests she's down by five points - she will continue to fight for fiscal responsibility. Consider it another one of her public services.