By Jeff Gallatin
Congressman Jim Renacci probably found many of the questions directed at him at a May 31 town hall meeting in North Olmsted a little taxing.
Several of the approximately 30 people attending the session at the North Olmsted branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library peppered the 16th District representative with questions about the recent revelations that the Internal Revenue Service apparently targeted some conservative groups for agency probes, as well as other queries about tax reform and Social Security. Renacci attended the monthly town hall meeting set up by Cuyahoga County Councilman Dave Greenspan, with state Rep. Nan Baker also attending and speaking. All three Republicans represent many of the same Westshore cities, including North Olmsted.
Both while talking to citizens during the meeting and to West Life afterward, Renacci emphasized the need for Congress and other officials to conduct any investigation of the IRS’ actions thoroughly and carefully.
“It’s only been a couple of weeks since this came to light,” he said afterward. “We need to look at this carefully and not rush to any quick judgments. This is something that will be investigated and Congress will take a good look at it, but we need to do it carefully and get all the facts.”
When one man in the question and answer session said somebody needed to go to jail over the IRS’ actions, Renacci asked him who, and said there needs to be a thorough investigation. But, he said, it needs to be done professionally and thoroughly, and it’s too early in the investigation to start saying people need to be jailed.
Referring to the allegations against the IRS as well as ongoing controversies about the attack on American diplomatic personnel in Benghazi and allegations that federal officials were seeking phone records of the Associated Press and other media, Renacci said there needs to be strong probes of all those issues. However, he questioned the call by some for having independent prosecutors handle such matters.
“Such a prosecutor would be appointed by (federal) Attorney General (Eric) Holder, and I don’t think that would be the best move,” Renacci said.
He said the independent prosecutors usually end up spending a lot of money without getting a lot of results.
A member of the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, Renacci noted Congress does have investigative capabilities of its own.
Referring to potential tax reform, he said, there is a need for it.
“The last extensive reform was done in 1986 in the (former U.S. President Ronald) Reagan administration, so there definitely is a need to do that,” Renacci said.
He said Congress and other federal officials all can play a strong role in any such reform.
When other audience members also raised the Social Security issue, with some expressing concern that in the near future people will not be able to collect funds from it, Renacci said that also needs addressing, noting that because people are living longer now than when the system was first devised, it also needs revision.
“We no longer have three people paying into it for every one person who gets it,” he said. “We have to deal with that issue.”
Renacci said as a longtime businessman, he can contribute strongly to the Ways and Means Committee, which deals with financial matters like the issues that were discussed Thursday.
He noted that both Greenspan and Baker also have strong business and financial backgrounds, and that people can reach out to them as well for assistance and support. He said all three of them will work with each other
and other government officials to aid citizens.