The ballroom at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology Surbeck Center was full tonight.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joel Dykstra came out to talk with and hear from the people of the Black Hills, and plenty was said.
Since Senator Tim Johnson has refused to debate with Dykstra, the Republican challenger is turning to these town hall meetings in order to get his message out to the voters of South Dakota.
The event this evening was sponsored by the College Republicans.
Stephen Wesolick, the Pennington County Republican Ambassadors Chairman, spoke first. Wesolick said he supports Dykstra because Dykstra recognizes that since Congress has a 9% approval rating, something has broken down. Dykstra will bring conservative principles from South Dakota to Washington, Wesolick said.
Wesolick also recognized the many legislative candidates who were present, including Larry Rhoden, Thomas J. Brenner, Gordon Howie, Stan Adelstein, Elli Schwiesow, Brian Gosch, Dennis Schmidt, Phil Jensen, Jacqueline Sly, Craig Tiezen, David Lust, Don Kopp, Mark Kirkeby, and Jeff Haverly. Rapid City Mayor Alan Hanks was also present.
Larry Rhoden introduced Dykstra as his assistant majority leader, a man who can see through complex issues quickly, and is able to articulate those issues to the caucus members. Rhoden said he has often been envious of Dykstra's ability to see over the horizon and prepare for issues ahead of time. Rhoden said Dykstra would be able to work with Senator Thune instead of voting against him as Johnson has done often, and canceling out a good vote most of the time. Rhoden said we don't get opportunities to elect someone of Joel Dykstra's caliber all the time.
Dykstra received an enthusiastic standing ovation as he came before the crowd.
Dykstra said it has been a beautiful year to travel the state and meet people to "see some green" because of the much-needed rain this year, but not such a good year because of the "green" it cost in fuel dollars.
Dykstra said we need to go to Washington for more than just what we can get out of Washington. He said things like the lab at the old Homestake Gold Mine, water projects and other things were positive investments.
However, Dykstra said, we need to bring solutions to the broken system that is Washington D.C.
Dykstra said it is important to determine the kind of America we leave to the next generation, and that will be affected by the decisions made in D.C. for the next 6 years.
According to Dykstra, many of the problems that have now come to a head in our nation have been building for 30 years.
For energy , we need a comprehensive plan to drill for oil in shale and offshore, wind energy, modern and safe nuclear power (he said that if the French can do it, he knows we can). It's simplistic, he said, to think we can solve our energy problems just by properly inflating our tires.
Dykstra said his comprehensive energy plan has been on his website for 16 months, and the crunch we've seen this summer has brought the need for such solutions to the forefront.
However, in the last couple of weeks, the energy problem has been pushed to the back burner, Dykstra said, because of the current financial problem.
He said the entire system is out of whack because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been run for the private benefit of their leaders while relying on a government promise to catch them if they fell. He said they are really government creations that are only run as if they were private companies.
Dykstra said we are at risk of causing another problem due to the impact of the lack of credit on main street and on the ranches of South Dakota that need credit to keep operating.
The purpose for this town hall meeting, he said, was to give the people a chance to interact with him directly. He said he knew that there were many "friends" in the audience but that there are also "other people" in the audience, and his people are not screening questions to ensure a friendly atmosphere.
Dykstra said he had several years experience in the energy industry, including overseas in Europe. Dykstra has been involved in commercial real estate and economic development, among other things, since returning to South Dakota.
The first question from the audience was how much of a factor he thought the "sympathy vote" for Tim Johnson might be. Dykstra said Senator Johnson made a very conscious decision to run and Johnson believes he's capable of serving. Dykstra said he believed Johnson should also be capable of answering questions as well. He said this election isn't about what has gone on in previous years, but is about where we will be going and the kind of opportunities our children and grandchildren may have. He said he is moving forward with the campaign and will leave other issues for the voters to decide.
The second question was about whether deregulation caused the current financial problem, and how Dykstra would reinvent conservative policies regarding government regulation.
Dykstra said there are a couple of important judgments that Congress needs to make along with the presidential administration, and that is whether the pendulum has swung too far, and if it needs to go back, how far. We need to protect the taxpayer and average American from the kind of abuses we've seen, he said, and also not get so far into over-regulation that we stifle the economy and innovation.
Dykstra said our economy is the envy of the world and can adjust "on the fly" better than any economy in the world, including the European economy.
"It's clear that the pendulum has gone too far in deregulation," said Dykstra. He said John McCain proposed oversight that was needed for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, but it never got done.
"The problem we face today is because of that lack of oversight," Dykstra said. He also stated the regulation needs to be the "right size" and not excessive.
Another question from the audience expressed frustration that our tax dollars may go to pay for unwise people who took out bad mortgages. The lady who asked the question also asked why those people aren't being held responsible.
Dykstra said one of the core problems is a lack of accountability and a lack of responsibility on the part of those "playing games with numbers," taking risks with numbers and placing the savings of all of us at risk. Dykstra said this was an "entire system failure."
According to Dykstra, blame belongs on Wall Street, with the CEOs, congress, the administration, Republicans and Democrats alike. Tough questions need to be asked of those in Washington who took contributions from companies and allowed this to happen.
"This doesn't pass the smell test," said Dykstra.
He said Congress needs to focus on the absolute minimum that needs to be done to avert a total meltdown, and not load up some bill "like a Christmas tree," but to just get something useful done. Dykstra said the most important things that need to be done will take longer than just a week to work out.
Another questioner said he understood that Senator Johnson had received some funding from various interest groups, and asked which ones Dykstra is receiving support from.
Dykstra said, "They're in this room," indicating average South Dakotans. He said 3 out of 4 contributions are less than $200 each with more than 90% of those contributions coming from right here in South Dakota.
Dykstra said he knew from the beginning he was going to be at a financial disadvantage in this race, but he is confident that the average people of the state will make up the difference.
A question was asked about how Dykstra felt about Social Security. Dykstra said that when America makes a commitment, it should be a contract that's not abrogated under any circumstances, and if your relatives have relied on a promise from the government as a result of military service, it should be guaranteed that nothing should happen to reduce those benefits which were promised when they "signed on the dotted line."
As for Social Security, we have made a promise to them as well, and people rely on it, said Dykstra. However we know from the numbers that we can't continue at the current rate, but we can't reduce those who are already at retirement age and depending on that system. Changes will be required for those younger people who have not begun to depend on the system yet. It needs to be funded in a "forward manner" so the money is there when people retire.
Dykstra was also asked about pork barrel spending. Dykstra said we have already crossed the line on whether federal funds should be used for local projects, and it would be hard to turn back the clock on that.
Dykstra said things like the mine at Homestake, while local, will have national impact. But it is not appropriate to have an earmark system like we currently have where every senator and representative gets some "chips" to go in and "exercise" those to leverage pet projects for their state. He said some people are using those earmarks to buy re-election, and it breeds corruption. He said we should have a system where representatives put their name next to earmarks in advance of the vote, and this would raise the quality of bills and save money in the long run. He said he believed South Dakota's projects hold up pretty good to scrutiny, but many others do not.
On health care, Dykstra said he spent the last two years working on reform at the state level. He said the next congress will look at a couple of "irreconcilable visions." He described those as competition, or more government.
Dykstra said he once lived in Great Britain and Italy, and both had national health systems, and they do not work. He said the poor, unfortunate folks who are stuck in the national system have to tolerate waiting lists, poor quality, tight budgets...while the elite class can get care in a private practice that looks like what we already have here in the United States. Dykstra said we can fix the problems we have with our system and avoid that government controlled system.
The last question came regarding what Dykstra plans to do to promote the Homestake lab while in Washington. Dykstra said he talked to Governor Mike Rounds about this yesterday. Dykstra said children are going to Homestake and then visiting other labs around the country. He said the lab has to be a national priority.
Dykstra said we have drifted away from the exiting priority that science was back in the 1960s. He said we will soon have fewer people working in science and technology, and need to find a way to interest young people in careers in this area. He said the Homestake lab is a great opportunity to do this. We could build a curriculum and bring kids from South Dakota and around the country through it right at the lab. He said we need to make it important to people all across the nation. He said this could make the Black Hills a "scientific mecca" for the entire country.
In closing, Dykstra said he believes we have good things ahead of us. He said we're at a place where the country needs a dose of the good common sense that South Dakota can offer. He said he believes one person really can make a difference, and if you don't believe that, we're all wasting our time.
He said we can revitalize our nation's confidence, and America is worth saving, and that with everyone's help, it will be.
Dykstra stayed around after the official program was over, listening to people and answering more questions.
The Gods of Liberalism Revisited
The lie hasn't changed, and we still fall for it as easily as ever. But how can we escape the snare?
Thursday, September 25, 2008
The ballroom at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology Surbeck Center was full tonight.