U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-7th, holds town hall
In a packed lecture room at Lafayette College in Easton Jan. 28, area residents listened as U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-7th, explained what she is trying to do and what she has accomplished in Washington.
Her commitment to communicating with her constituents
“I feel very strongly about representing every single person that lives in this district,” Wild said. The 7th Congressional District includes all of Lehigh County and Northampton County as well as parts of Monroe County. “We are trying to do town halls in every corner of the district.”
Impeachment of President Donald Trump
Wild started the meeting by acknowledging the impeachment of President Donald Trump was “sucking air out of the room and taking the air out of more important things.”
“I didn’t go to Congress to impeach the president,” Wild said. “Most of us in Congress are not focused on the impeachment. Most of us are focused on what really matters. If President Donald Trump gets re-elected in November, it’s my intention to continue to do the work we are doing and try to find common ground.
“I agree with his [President Donald Trump’s] principle of putting American workers first,” Wild said. “The only way to move forward is to compromise.”
“My staff is as much a part of my team as I am.”
Wild lauded her staff as professionals and said, “My staff is as much a part of my team as I am. When you elected a representative you effectively elected a team of people to do work for you. One person cannot do it all.”
She said her team has “returned $500,000 in benefits to people in our community in just over a year.” She said those benefits represent compensation to which residents are entitled. These benefits include Social Security money and other benefits. According to Wild, this represents over 1,400 cases closed by her staff.
Wild said she thinks this puts her third among all members of Congress in terms of return of benefits to constituents.
Wild turned her attention to the new United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement trade deal that replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement. “It took a long time because we had to get it right. We don’t do trade deals very often.
“That was passed on a bipartisan basis. We removed provisions that would have contributed to high prescription drug prices.”
Wild said the trade deal was an example of what is happening on a bipartisan basis.
“Ultimately, we were able to achieve a compromise” she said. Wild said 27 lawmakers lobbied U.S. trade representatives to effect changes.
“That is a perfect example,” Wild said, “of the administration working with Congress and accomplishing something that is really important for the American people and particularly for workers here in this country.”
Fraudulent student loan protection
Wild said the House had passed a Borrower’s Defense Bill out of committee to help people who had been defrauded into student loan debt.
“I confronted Secretary [of Education Betsy] DeVos on this,” Wild said.
Wild’s official website expands on her comments at Lafayette: “[I] pressed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in the House Education and Labor Committee on her administration’s refusal to process debt relief claims from 240,000 student borrowers who were defrauded by predatory colleges. In defiance of federal court rulings, the Department of Education has refused to provide full loan relief to a single borrower under the Borrower Defense rule, causing a massive backlog in claims from defrauded borrowers seeking relief.
“These students have been cheated twice: first by predatory, for-profits colleges who defrauded them, and now by Secretary DeVos, who refuses to provide them debt relief,” Wild said on her website. “Our students deserve answers. Defrauded borrowers suffer severe financial consequences and Secretary DeVos has continually refused to answer basic questions about the department’s failure to give these students the relief they are legally entitled to. This is gross negligence to say the least.”
“We just passed the Protect Older Workers Against Age Discrimination Act. I spoke out on the House floor because I believe age discrimination has no place in our workforce,” Wild said. “Our workforce is getting older.”
Wild’s official website claims, “A 2018 survey conducted by the AARP found that three in five workers age 45 and older had seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace and that 75 percent of older workers blame age discrimination for their lack of confidence in being able to find a new job. Enforcement statistics from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have shown complaints of age discrimination climbing over the last two decades. In 2000, the EEOC received roughly 16,000 charges of age discrimination and in 2017, the EEOC received over 20,000 complaints — accounting for 23 percent of all discrimination charges filed.”
Bipartisan support for troops
“During the week of Christmas, I went with a small bipartisan group of members of Congress to Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain where I met troops which was my main interest. I met with members of the top military brass. It was a very eye-opening trip.
“I want to make sure that people in my district and people across this nation have affordable quality health care is my goal. We have two very fine hospital networks in this district.
“My focus is to make sure we bring down the cost of prescription drugs. That is what I hear about most often from my constituents.
“I want to make sure we protect Medicare and Social Security. That is a very high priority. Combat the opioid epidemic and put government back in the hands of the American people where it belongs.”
Veteran’s health care
A man who identified himself as a U.S. Army veteran from Stockertown addressed Wild. “Our VA [Veterans Affairs] is broken for our vets.” He said the VA is now authorized to send patients to private specialists outside the VA system, but he didn’t feel that was adequate.
“Two years ago, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and told [by the VA doctors] that I had to have my prostate removed within 30 days. I still have my prostate because I used my private health care insurance at the Lehigh Valley Hospital to get the best care, but our veterans don’t all have that option.”
The Army vet also talked about the problems of young veterans here in the area. “I’m also in a PTSD support group for our veterans. Every month we meet just a few blocks from here. Numerous young men and women, all under the age of 30 all come in burdened. The majority of them have attempted suicide more than once. All of them are addicted ... none of them are getting fair treatment ... I’d like you to help.”
“Thank you for what you did. My father was an Air Force man,” Wild said. “I have a very healthy respect for anybody who served in the military. I think a lot of us take for granted the security that we have and the freedom that we have thanks to our military troops.
“We’re in one of those areas where we don’t have a VA hospital; we do have an outpatient clinic.
“Regarding mental health care, I was asked to participate in the President’s Prevent TaskForce. We know that veteran’s suicide [rate] is very high ... among the highest [group] in the country. Some statistics say up to 22 veterans a day which is appalling. The task force is dedicated to reducing that number.
“Chronic pain and PTSD are probably the leading causes of veteran suicide and is something that I am committed to working on as part of that task force.”
Clean air and water
A member of the audience, asked about what she called the “rollback of [EPA] rules and regulations regarding clean water. “I’m very concerned my children will not have clean water and clean air to breathe and I’m very concerned about that.”
“I am also concerned for the environment,” Wild said. “I remember when the environment was a bipartisan issue. EPA was signed into law by [Republican President] Richard Nixon.
“The rollbacks we have seen in recent months to environmental protections I find to be incredibly alarming. There are a number of uncontroversial bills that are hung up in the United States Senate. We have one individual stopping bills from getting through.”
“Mitch McConnell,” volunteered a voice from the audience.
“That’s who it is,” Wild said. “There are a whole lot of federal court judges being appointed and confirmed, but beyond that we are not seeing a lot of movement [regarding] legislation.”
Former U.S. Marine Lee Miller, of Bethlehem, asked what Wild had done about homeless veterans. “What are you and your colleagues in the House doing about the homeless veterans in this country? There are over 38,000. You know that right here in your district there are homeless camps. There is one in Easton, there is one in Allentown and one under the Minsi Trail Bridge.”
“Homelessness among veterans I consider to be [the result of several] issues,” Wild said. “A lot of it goes back to mental health issues [and] a lot of it goes back to health care. A lot goes back to incorporating them into our economy and making sure they are fully employed and able to earn a good living regardless of whatever baggage they may carry with them.”
She said she had visited homeless camps a few weeks ago. “I was acutely aware that a number of veterans live among them.” She said affordable housing is a part of the problem.
“I [think] we need to do much more. We are not even close to solving that problem.
“I don’t think there should be a single homeless veteran,” Wild said. “Affordable housing is needed. I vow to push that.”
Miller said in a post-meeting interview that he was interested in “doers — people who do things. I want to know what people have done, not what they say they are going to do.”
Miller is a member of the Marine Corps League, Bethlehem Detachment 284 and is president of the Belleau Wood Chapter of the Leathernecks Nation Motorcycle Club. He is also a supporter of the Valor Clinic, based in Brodheadsville, which is concerned with helping homeless veterans find health care and shelter.
Simplify terms for student loans
Wild said she wants to simplify student loan applications to make it easier to understand the consequences. She said we need to make loan terms simpler.
A question from the audience: “What is your plan to keep ICE from terrorizing the community?
“We have terribly mismanaged the immigration policy. I’m not for abolishing ICE, but for very strong oversight of ICE,” Wild said.
“We have failed on mental health issues,” Wild said. “There is a lack of providers.” She said low pay is part of the problem and suggested student loan forgiveness in exchange for public service might be part of the solution. “Mental health has become a [low] priority,” Wild said.
“We need to get more members to sign on to the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019,” Wild said. She said the resolution creates a trust fund for the American people to encourage market innovation. “The more you can get the market to innovate and incentivize to come up with renewable technology, the more likely we can succeed.”