ROCK HILL — The rising cost of health care and gas and worries over religious and reproductive rights were among the concerns that drove a crowd to hear U.S. Congressman Mick Mulvaney at York Technical College's Baxter Hood Center Wednesday night.
There, to a standing-room only crowd, Mulvaney, a Republican from Indian Land serving his first term representing the 5th Congressional District, made an attempt at "translating Washington" and the things he's learned about political gridlock, a growing deficit, and no real solutions in sight - at least one on which both parties can agree.
Earlier Wednesday, Mulvaney stopped at Resolute Forest Products, formerly Abitibi Bowater, to announce a bill he introduced in the U.S. House last week to repeal 12 tax increases President Barack Obama signed into law, 11 in the federal health care legislation. They include varying cost increases to health care coverage, medical devices and some drugs; caps on contributions to health care savings and flexible spending accounts and a ban on using them to purchase over-the-counter drugs; and penalties on small businesses that fail to comply with the law.
A 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services and increased taxes on tobacco products are also in the bill, he said.
"We all know that the tanning booth industry is not a big deal, but you can't drive through South Carolina without finding a business that offers these services," said Mulvaney, who criticized Obama for making a promise not to raise taxes on any family making less than $250,000.
But Wednesday night, Mulvaney pushed for what he deems a "fair" tax system, one in which everyone, even the lowest earning workers, pay something into a system that the top 1 percent of earners contribute more to than the bottom 95 percent, he said.
One audience member, concerned about "income inequality," pointed out that's like trying to "get blood out of turnips." And Mulvaney replied, "If you want to solve this problem you have to tax the middle class, because that's where all the people are."
Mulvaney called his tax proposal the largest in the nation's history, because it would be levied on 150 million people, a point that makes it unpopular, especially as election season approaches, he said.
Mulvaney shared his frustration with the crowd about a number of issues, including the controversial Keystone Pipeline slated to transport crude oil from western Canada to the U.S. crossing a giant aquifer in Nebraska. "We've done it for a long time, we know how to do it, and we can do it safely," he said.
On health care, a popular topic during the Wednesday's meeting, Steve Dicken asked whether Republicans had something to replace the health care bill if they repeal it.
Before the law allowed for young adults to stay on their parents' insurance plans longer, Dicken's son, out of school and without coverage, shattered his ankle leading to thousands of dollars in bills for a three-day hospital visit.
With student loan debt, too, "His credit is shot," Dicken said.
The government's involvement in health care and people getting health care without knowing what it costs have contributed to driving up costs, Mulvaney said.
Mulvaney said he supports the "free market" and letting people make their own choices about health care.
After the town hall, Dicken said Mulvaney didn't answer his question. Health care is a serious problem, he said, especially when he and his wife, who are relatively good health, pay 18 percent of his income on it.
Mulvaney, a Roman Catholic still bearing the mark of Ash Wednesday on his forehead, said the country missed a recent opportunity to talk about health care when Obama shifted the burden of providing free birth-control away from employers, as it was originally posed, and to health insurance companies.
Mulvaney called the rules originally imposed on religious institutions "a giant red flag to anyone who cares about anything in this country."
Jamie Self 803-329-4062