Tea party ideas flavored a "public citizen dialogue meeting" held by U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster in Altoona Monday.
The stoutest challenges from among a couple hundred residents came from those on the right who
didn't think the conservative Shuster, R-9th District, is conservative enough, especially on fiscal matters.
Shuster meets with community at Altoona Area Junior High School
Shuster generally appeased them, making it clear he favors low taxes, less regulation - to boost business and create jobs - and less government in general.
Held as part of America Speaking Out, a House Republican initiative to solicit "solutions" to national challenges, the session showed him that people are feeling "great anxiety, great fear" - though not so much the anger generally attributed to them, Shuster said afterward.
Wearing a tea party shirt, Randy Hook of Hopewell spoke of a "battle of good and evil."
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster listens to a question from?Edwin?W.?Elder of Huntingdon during an America Speaking Out citizen dialogue at the Altoona Area Junior High School on Monday evening.
Conservative commentator Glenn Beck has exposed that evil, epitomized by administration initiatives like health care reform, Hook told Shuster. But Republicans have been inadequate defenders of the good, he said.
"Why is there no righteousness?" he asked rhetorically, speaking of his hatred of socialism.
"I'd rather be dead than socialist," he said.
The Republicans lack passion, Pastor Roy Steward of Logan Township said.
"You should be shouting to the highest heavens," he said.
The U.S. is "headed to Satan," said another man.
"We're being killed slowly," he said, who said it's getting worse than Nazi Germany, he added.
Liberal Sam Johns of Altoona stood up to such talk.
"What are you afraid of?" he asked.
If the U.S. were radically socialist like Nazi Germany, a lawmaker critical of the administration like Shuster wouldn't be permitted to speak at a meeting like Monday's, Johns said.
Several people - again from the right - challenged Shuster on earmarks for local projects.
"Huge cardboard checks - that's my money," said John Kasun of Duncansville, who identified himself as a tea party member.
"Perfume [in the form of such funding] makes the world go round," he said. "But we're past that."
Earmarks are only 1 or 2 percent of the federal budget, Shuster responded.
Moreover, they're a better-targeted funding than much of the rest, which is distributed largely by unelected bureaucrats, he said.