The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

October 9, 2012

Walz, Quist debate fundamental differences

MANKATO — Talking about “the lion of free enterprise,” rarely accusing the other of lyin’, and demonstrating that their differences lie in fundamental philosophical disagreements about government’s role, Congressman Tim Walz and challenger Allen Quist debated before an overflow crowd in Mankato Tuesday night.

South-central Minnesotans once again showed they love a good congressional debate, filling the 350 seats at Minnesota State University’s Ostrander Auditorium with nearly 100 more standing in the aisles. And they heard a mostly civil but often intense clash between Walz, a three-term Democrat from Mankato, and Quist, a retired farmer and Republican former state legislator.

Over 90 minutes, they discussed and mostly disagreed over everything from taxes and spending to torture and health care as they handled nearly 20 questions from debate moderators and audience members.

Repeatedly, the disputes centered on whether government policies and investments can spur private sector growth or whether the only real hope for economic improvement is to reduce tax and regulatory burdens on private businesses.

“It’s not one or the other,” Walz said when asked if new technologies should be developed by the private sector or public investment.

Government grants have been crucial in developing public universities, scientific discoveries and cures to diseases, said Walz, who insisted that those investments must continue even as federal deficits are reduced.

“That doesn’t make us socialists,” he said. “That makes us smart.”

While Quist said he doesn’t oppose all government research, he supports deep cuts in federal spending outside of Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits, aid to college students and road and bridge funding. In the long term, maintaining beneficial federal programs requires tough choices in the face of trillion-dollar annual deficits.

Along with spending cuts, pro-business policies are required to boost economic growth — and the jobs and tax revenue that comes with it, according to Quist.

“To get our financial house in order, we have to unleash the lion of free enterprise,” he said, suggesting his policies could more than double recent U.S. economic growth rates. “... It’s by freedom, not more government.”

Almost regardless of the question, the answers of the candidates returned to those philosophical differences with Walz talking about a balanced approach where lawmakers of both parties seek common ground and Quist saying that deal-making in the name of compromise has produced a $16 trillion debt and an ever-expanding government.

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