Reps. Davis, Shimkus weigh in on Trump tariffs, trade, health care

Reps. Davis, Shimkus weigh in on Trump tariffs, trade, health care

TOLONO — Rodney Davis answered a farmer's question with one of his own.

Asked during a recent audience with Champaign County Farm Bureau members for his take on tariffs and trade wars, the Republican U.S. representative countered with: "Who thinks the Trump administration is going to get you a better deal?"

Most hands in the room shot up.

"That's what we're hoping for, too," Davis said. "If the preliminary agreements that have come out of the European Union and Mexico are any indication, then good. But I want to see results.

"I worry about these tariffs going into next planting season — that's when I won't see as many hands raised when I ask that question."

Fellow U.S. Rep John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) said he remains confident that Trump-imposed tariffs are working. "The tariff fight for the auto sector seems to be working," he said, referring to last week's announcement that Mexico would allow up to 25 percent tariffs on Mexican-made cars. "The idea from the administration is that if one domino falls, then another one will and then two."

Shimkus also mentioned an agreement between the U.S. and Indonesia. The latter country usually gets its soybeans from Brazil, but saw low American prices and made one of the largest purchases ever recorded in a single day in July.

"Of course, they got a pretty good price for that soy," Shimkus said, moving to his other frustration with the trade war: companies capitalizing on the dispute.

"Some U.S. companies have taken advantage of the tariff fight to raise their internal prices and profit off of this trade war, he said. "And that's a risk for you all. Most of my producers say, 'I'm willing to be in this fight, but Trump has to be in it too, and it can't take too long.'

"I'm with you. I'm in it to win it. And I hope it doesn't take too long, either."

Jeff Fisher, who farms near Tolono, asked Davis during Friday's Champaign County Farm Bureau "Toolshed Talk" why Democrats had such a problem with the work requirements for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) set up in the first farm bill this year.

Davis said he didn't understand it. "Work requirements are already a part of the SNAP and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) programs, it was passed in a bipartisan way by the Clinton administration," he said. "The problem now is that the states are able to operate under a waiver process. So every county in Illinois is waived from those requirements except one: DuPage County."

He added that the work requirements aren't so much about work as they are about education. "They're more education- and skills-building requirements," he said. "And we're willing to pay for it, because we feel that's a good investment on the front end to get people off of these programs and change the way they live."

Shimkus answered with an old adage. "Do you give them the fish, or do you teach them to fish?" he asked. "Work is good. That's a positive experience. How can they argue against it? It's politics, it's trying to divide our country."

Chris Karr, who farms near Seymour and is chairman of the Champaign County Farm Bureau Foundation, asked what the congressmen could do about health insurance.

Karr said health insurance for a young farmer who is self-employed is "terrible," and that it's "terrible what they're spending on insurance."

In response, Shimkus and Davis attacked the Affordable Care Act, claiming the law "destroying the individual market," and he advocated for a competitive system to bring prices down.

"If you believe in a competitive market, you also believe that people have to have options to shop around and put pressure on the whole competitive market," Shimkus said. "When you have a one-size-fits-all plan, there's no competition."

When asked if he supported programs like Medicare-for-all, Davis balked.

"We need to have more affordable and accessible health care system that we currently don't have for millions of Americans right now," he said. "If we don't reform this system, then we're going to see prices rise for millions of Americans who are already enjoying great access to health care. Medicare-for-all is not a good idea.