U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones had barely gotten in the door Monday when a contingent of leaders at the Havelock Senior Center approached, wanting to know if he had a funding solution to the congregate meals program that was recently cut in Havelock.
The 70-year-old veteran congressman said he wasn’t aware of the problem but would look into it.
Craven County cut the meals programs in Havelock and Harlowe, citing budget issues. Jones said cuts are the symptom of bigger problem.
“We’re probably in the most difficult financial times of my adult life,” Jones told about 120 seniors and others that gathered to listen to him speak.
“The debt of our nation is right at $17 trillion. We’re spending $1 billion a day to pay the interest on the debt. How much longer can that go on before the balloon will pop? At some point in time we’re going to have to pay the debt back. It might be our grandchildren or our great-great-grandchildren, but it’s coming. There’s no way you can avoid not paying your debt.”
It was a concern he expressed earlier Monday to business leaders at the Havelock Tourist and Center.
“It’s time to get out of Afghanistan,” he said. “We’re supporting a crook named Karzai, whose brother’s in the drug dealing business. We’re spending right about 6 or 7 billion dollars a month in Afghanistan. All that money being spent is very low on accountability.”
Jones said he would rather see that money spent in this country, rather than in a faraway place rampant with abuse and corruption.
“When I look at you and your faces, I just think that that money going overseas could be spent right here in Havelock or in Jacksonville, where I’ll be tomorrow,” Jones said at the senior center.
He added that he would be in opposition to involvement in Syria.
“I don’t want to see any more kids go lose their legs or their lives in a foreign country that we never declared war on,” he said.
The Republican congressman took questions from the group at the senior center, trying to address all concerns but admitting on a couple of topics that he didn’t know specifics.
Nate Johnson, from the local Havelock chapter of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees organization, said his main concern was a proposal to use a consumer price index formula that he said would result in higher taxes and less benefits for federal retirees.
“I have publicly said that I will not support CPI and I don’t think that that’s an answer that we need to get this country straight,” Jones said. “I’m with you 100 percent and I’m opposed to any change.”
Inga DeRoche asked Jones why the United States continues to help countries rebuild in a time of war when it’s never going to be paid back. DeRoche’s comments drew applause from the crowd.
“I’m with you 100 percent and I will tell you that I’ve been there for 20 years and I have not once ever voted for a foreign aid appropriations bill,” Jones said. “I am just sick and tired of making somebody in a foreign country rich while the poor people in our country stay poor.”
Doug Arden and Shirley Selepes expressed concern over the recent closure and operational review of the Stars N’ Strikes Bowling Center at Cherry Point.
Jones said he wasn’t aware of the specifics but believed lack of money was the reason.
George Wooten said he enjoyed listening to Jones.
“I thought he was very good,” he said. “I think Walter Jones is behind the city of Havelock. If you have a question, he will give you an answer. It may not be the one you want, but he will get back with you. A lot of other congressmen in other states won’t do that.”
Mary Bell also said she appreciated Jones’ appearance at the senior center.
“I thought it was very good, and Congressman Jones is to the point and he’s for us,” she said, specifically mentioning Jones’ comments on the budget. “I agree 100 percent. And I kind of think if you put some housewives in there, we’d balance the budget.”