You've probably seen the heated back-and-forth between former state Rep. Allen Quist and incumbent federal Rep. Tim Walz about whether or not Quist wants to cut benefits for veterans. Did Quist actually say he's willing to cut benefits? Did Walz manipulate evidence to sound like he did? Should Walz apologize? Does an apology even matter?
As the race for representing Minnesota's First Congressional District rolls on, there have been several good he-said/he-said stories published across Southern Minnesota that bring good due diligence to the debate. Catch up on the coverage here and here.
Walz, being a veteran of the National Guard and on the House Committee for Veterans' Affairs, is obviously sensitive to veterans' issues. From December 2011 to September 2012, Walz has voted for 21 out of 30 bills regarding veterans and has co-sponsored three of them, according to OpenCongress.org, a bipartisan website that tracks legislative activity. Jobs and comprehensive care for homecoming vets are key platforms for Walz.
But what about Quist? Walz based his accusation on this video. At about 45 minutes in, the moderator asked what cuts should be made, rattling off a list that went "entitlement spending, Medicare, MedicAid, defense…" Quist added veterans' benefits to that list.
Now, adding veterans’ benefits to a list of programs to cut sounds fairly damning. Quist went on to say in that interview, though, that "we have to balance the budget, we have to do so in six years or less, and that is the only way to protect entitlements and to protect our national defense spending."
Much of Quist’s campaigning has been about cutting the deficit, reining in the national debt, and balancing the budget. The Mankato Free Press wrote that in a July town hall debate in Faribault, "someone in the audience pressed Quist on whether all programs should face the possibility of cuts while the budget is balanced. Quist responded that 'Everything has to be on the table.' Later in the meeting he also said the government has to honor its commitments to veterans’ benefits and Social Security, and that the debt is the 'biggest threat' to those commitments."
Why would vets' benefits and Social Security be threatened by the national debt unless there were intentions to cut them? Is Quist’s position on keeping everything on the table (which would include vets' benefits), while simultaneously committing to presere entitlements contradictory? You decide.