LAURINBURG – Some Scotland High School students got a living civics lesson on Friday with a visit from a United States and a state representative.
U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger and state Rep. Garland Pierce spoke to about 100 students in history and civic classes on topis that ranged from health care to HB2. The men, who both represent Scotland County, spent about an hour in the school’s media center sharing with students in inside look at how the federal and state governments work.
“Hopefully this will encourage you students to be more active in politics,” Pierce said. “Listen to everything and make up your own minds.”
The students also got a chance to pose some questions. The first question was about healthcare and its impact on the poor.
“Are you for or against free-market health care?” a student asked.
Pittenger confirmed that he was a “very strong proponent of the free market,” saying that a free market system drives down prices.
The same student asked another question.
“So since you’re for free-market healthcare are you saying that you’re against low- income families,” the student said.
The congressman replied that the free market helps not punishes the poor.
“Low- income families require services like anyone else, and the more the market’s there you have to fight for somebody’s business,” Pittenger said.
Pittenger said the current state of health care saying that the average family has a $5,000 deductible and pays between $1,200 and $3,000 a month for insurance. He equated health insurance to buying a car insurance policy and toothpaste, saying that currently there was one option to buy insurance in North Carolina, but if the market were opened to allow people to buy insurance across state lines, it would drive down the cost.
A second student followed up on the subject asking the congressman whether he was concerned that without government oversight the free-market insurance system would allow insurance companies to prey on the poor.
“Not at all,” Pittenger said. “For one we have very strong programs in Medicaid and other resources directed toward individuals who have needs. Our program allocated $135 billion toward the states for states to manage. There are enormous provisions in our structures to address the needs of everyone.”
Pittenger later he blamed programs like Medicaid and Medicare for contributing to the nation’s spending and the deficit. “Right now we have a growing deficit and debt…Part of our problem is the structuring of mandated programs. When we vote on a budget, like we did yesterday, that budget amounted to one third of our spending…the other two thirds is mandated [spending]…that deals with Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security and the impact of Obamacare as well as the interest on the national debt.”
Pittenger was also asked if he had a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act since it is being slowly dismantled.
Pittenger pointed to what he considered the programs failings, but did not say whether or not he and his congressional cohorts had a plan to replace the ACA.
He also fielded questions about cutting capital gains taxes and corporate taxes, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA, the environment, and legalized marijuana.
Both Pierce and Pittenger tackled a question regarding HB2.
Pittenger called himself a “traditional American guy” and said that gays had a right to “be who they want to be” but that he didn’t believe they should have special accommodations.
Pierce called the topic a sensitive issue.
“I was brought up from the old school. I know things have changed, and we all have our view,” Pierce said. “I served the United States, and I’m willing to let everybody have their opinion about any issue…People have a right to make decisions based on their lifestyle and what they think is right. I respect the right of people to have their opinion and they should allow me to have my opinion.”
Both men were presented with a gift pack as a thank you for the visit.
After the session, a number of the students were eager to meet both men, snap photos and continue the discussions.
Pittenger and Pierce said they were impressed with the studiousness of the group.
“I like to make myself available to students anytime I can to give them a better understanding of our government,” Pittenger said. “We had a very good discussion and they had great, thoughtful questions. They dug in and tried to learn some things they were curious about. I enjoyed the time”
Pierced praised the students for being “very observant of the political process.”
Pittenger’s office arranged the visit because he had another appearance in the area. His goal is to host a session with students at least once a quarter.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169