Westonites chat with Rep. Jim Himes at a brown bag lunch

Barbara Reynolds, far right, looks on as Congressman Jim Himes discusses the economy and other issues at a brown bag lunch organized by Weston First Selectman Gayle Weinstein, right, on Aug. 10.

Barbara Reynolds, far right, looks on as Congressman Jim Himes discusses the economy and other issues at a brown bag lunch organized by Weston First Selectman Gayle Weinstein, right, on Aug. 10. —Patricia Gay photo

U.S. Congressman Jim Himes (D-4th) stopped by Weston last Friday as part of his “17 Towns in 17 Days Tour.”

Appearing at a brown bag lunch hosted by First Selectman Gayle Weinstein at Weston Town Hall, Mr. Himes discussed the economy and other issues with approximately 20 Westonites while eating a turkey sandwich.

Mr. Himes started off by stating that Congress was out of session until after Labor Day, but there is a powerful incentive for Congress to deal with the economic downturn when it resumes. “We have some hard issues to deal with. We’re approaching a fiscal cliff,” he said.

He explained that following the November election, a lame duck Congress will face the “fiscal cliff” because Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire and mandated spending cuts are looming.

But because of these issues, Mr. Himes also believes this is the perfect time for Congress to work together in a bi-partisan way.

He stressed his support for the Simpson-Bowles plan which would cut spending, reform Social Security for future recipients, and simplify the tax code by eliminating loopholes and lowering overall rates.

He admitted that Simpson-Bowles has a lot of opponents and may not be an easy sell, but he was still optimistic. Quoting Winston Churchill, Mr. Himes said, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else.”

Westonites asked the congressman about jobs, the economy, energy, term limits and GMOs.

On the subject of jobs and the economy, the congressman said there was a pending infrastructure bill that would likely create some jobs, but the real problem, he said, was the tax code, which he said needs to be fixed. He said incentives need to be taken away from companies that ship jobs overseas.

As for the deficit, “We want great schools, super highways, libraries, medical research, and really low taxes,” he said.

The government doesn’t act like a business in the recession, he said, and that is good because during a recession businesses lay people off, but when business is bad, the government can hire.

Resident Frank Billone said he uses natural gas at his home and supports using natural gas rather than being dependent on oil from the Middle East. He said American jobs could be created to put in the necessary infrastructure to make the switch to natural gas.

The congressman acknowledged it would take a lot of work to make the conversion.

In a brief discussion on term limits, the congressman said he does not favor them because they take rights away from the people who should be allowed to vote for who they want.

Howard Aibel asked Mr. Himes what he thought about the Ryan budget plan proposed by presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan. The Ryan budget would restructure Medicare and substantially cut Medicaid, food stamps and transportation infrastructure.

Mr. Himes said the Ryan budget plan would give “more tax breaks to the top 2%.”

Ellen McCormick wanted the congressman to know she was concerned about GMOs (genetically modified organisms), plants, animals, and microorganisms whose genetic codes have been altered to give them characteristics they wouldn’t normally have. GMOs have come under fire by some who believe they are harmful. She said she wanted more people to recognize the dangers of GMOs.

Mr. Himes said he understands the concerns about GMOs in food and thanked Ms. McCormick for her comments.

Ms. Weinsten thanked the public for coming and afterwards said she was pleased to see some new faces” in attendance.

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