It's not easy being a moderate in an age of political extremism, but U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon's 5th Congressional District is doing his best.
Schrader visited Lake Oswego on Tuesday for a town hall at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center to answer questions about a government bogged down by the federal debt and deficit issue.
'It's a very different Congress this time,' said Schrader, the West Linn Democrat who is now in his second term.
The only real bright spot Schrader could point to was the passing of new patent legislation, which he promised would provide 'a robust patent system in the 21st century.'
Other than that, Schrader has been occupied with the debt-deficit issue as a deadline for action approaches on Aug. 2.
'We made the situation worse by extending the tax breaks,' Schrader said. 'The best way to reduce the deficit is to stay out of wars and reduce our domestic and defense programs.'
While Schrader said he thinks Medicare and Social Security need adjustments, he said, 'That does not mean we need to privatize these programs.'
The congressman admitted, 'This has been the worst recession I've seen in my lifetime. American consumption has been permanently altered. Americans will no longer will be buying 70 percent of our products. That's why we've got to have more exports.
'It's time to get down and create jobs now that the election is over. What's happening now is absurd given the economic crisis we went through.'
Briefly breaking away from this grim reality, Schrader said, 'If I were king I would say, 'Let's abolish all the tax breaks.''
That seems like an impossible dream, but Schrader thinks the gains from such a huge change would be enormous. He pointed out that many big business people, including the president of General Electric, are supportive of 'starting from scratch' on the tax code.
'Right now a relatively few people are making out like bandits,' he said.
While the domestic problems are boiling, the United States is still faced with many battles overseas, most recently in action against Libya. On this matter Schrader said he is in strong disagreement with President Barack Obama, implying that his definition of 'hostile action' is very shaky.
'The president says we are not taking hostile action because we haven't sent any troops on the ground,' Schrader said. 'But we're dropping bombs, sending drones and giving naval support to the rebel army fighting Qaddafi.
'I believe it's congress that should make our decisions on war, not the president, courts or bureaucrats. I think there is bipartisan indignation on this issue. Right now we have no policy on Libya.'
One audience member asked Schrader about the much-publicized budget plan proposed by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan. He finds a lot wrong with it.
'It hurts the most vulnerable people,' Schrader said. 'It eliminates Planned Parenthood, food stamps and heating funds. There are disproportionate cuts on the disadvantaged. I want to make sure there is more of a shared burden.'