Larsen talks business

Feb 10, 2011

Thumbnail image for stanwoodcamanonewsRepresentative Rick Larsen (D – Wash.) sipped a coffee and talked with small business owners at Stanwood’s UPS Store last Tuesday. Photo credit: Jeremiah O'Hagan

Stanwood / Camano NEWS

By Jeremiah O'Hagan

There was no set agenda. John Russell, owner of the UPS Store, simply invited Larsen to come talk with a few business owners.

Leaning against a counter, Larsen conversed on topics ranging from issues of civility in congressional sessions to health care reform to the recent shooting in Tucson, where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D – Ariz.) was wounded.

Congressional sessions, Larsen said, take a different tone than interviews or town hall forums.

There are rules of conduct for sessions, which mandate civility in the House.

Representatives aren’t allowed to let fly their tongues and tempers as impulse guides them, he said.

Speaking of Giffords, Larsen said that if representatives were ranked from 435 to one, with one being the least offensive and least likely to upset someone, “Gabby Giffords was number one. Everyone feels like that.”

Larsen said the shooting prompted changes in the way some Congress people are getting around and announcing their appearances, but that, in the end, everyone, himself included, must get out and meet with constituents.

“It’s not worth it not to,” he said.

Larsen acknowledged that credit is tough for small businesses to procure these days, and that health care insurance is expensive.

As far as loans go, he said, Small Business Administration (SBA) is likely the best route.

He also listened to concerns that Internet purchasing undermines small businesses by skirting sales tax.

Kristine Kaufman, of Snowgoose Bookstore, spoke up in favor of “efairness,” a coalition that’s seeking to level the playing field for brick-and-mortar businesses by equalizing the collection of sales tax.

Kaufman also asked about health care reform, and the recent lawsuits against the healthcare package.

Larsen said the Supreme Court would have to sort out cases and determine whether or not the bill is constitutional.

The biggest issue, he added, seems to be the individual mandate, requiring people to purchase health care insurance.

“Tossing the entire health care bill (as Florida judge Roger Vinson did on Jan. 31) doesn’t make sense,” Larsen said. “There are good pieces.”

“People want rules in place to protect consumers,” he added, and the bill provides some of those rules.

For example, the bill states that children with preexisting conditions can’t be denied insurance and allows young adults up to the age of 26 to be covered on their parents’ policy. It also decreases the cost of health care for seniors.

Repeal means losing those benefits, Larsen said.

“More than 20,000 young adults in Washington state alone will lose the ability to move onto their parents form,” he said.

Larsen said he thinks the bill will ultimately be implemented, and that small changes will be made as necessary.

Russell’s daughter, Elizabeth, quizzed Larsen on the tension in Egypt, and the U.S. role there.

As a country, is it our right or our responsibility to intervene, she asked?

Larsen said there’s no way around the fact that we have national security interests in the Middle East, and that Egypt is a piece in that puzzle. In that sense, he said, we have a responsibility to those interests.

On an ideological level, Larsen said, U.S. citizens enjoy freedoms that many countries don’t, and some of those countries look to us as an example of democracy and human rights.

Larsen said he believes, “as a country, we have a responsibility to live up to what other countries see in us.”

Olivia, Russell’s other daughter, asked what path a person should follow if they’re interested in politics.

Larsen’s advice was simple.

“Figure out what you like to do, first,” he said. “Then, do it. Other people will recognize that you like to do it and that you do it well. They’ll start coming to you.”

The path will open up if you put in the time, he said.