Recent controversial comments about the 47 percent made by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney were among the topics explored during Thursday's 4th Congressional District debate at the Jewish Community Center in York Township.
Candidates Democrat Harry Perkinson, Libertarian Mike Koffenberger and State Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg, are vying for the seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Todd Platts, who will retire at the end of the year.
Independent candidate Wayne Wolff did not attend the debate, co-sponsored by the York Daily Record/Sunday News and the JCC.
Entitled? Each candidate weighed in on Romney's highly circulated comments that 47 percent of Americans do not pay taxes and classify themselves as victims who are entitled to government funds. They will vote for President Barack Obama no matter what, he said.
Perkinson said Romney's comments show a misunderstanding about the country's tax structure. The 47 percent includes seniors living on social security and pensions, veterans who get tax breaks for military service, and working families with low incomes.
Perry said that he has talked to unemployed people who would rather be employed and supporting their families. Rather than focus on Romney's 47 percent comments, he said, the country needs to figure out how to jump start the economy, get people back to work and decrease the nation's $16 trillion debt.
Koffenberger, a Baltimore City police officer who lives in Hopewell Township, said the comment is "partisan bickering.
"Stop looking at people as percentages and look at individuals," he said. "Not everyone struggling feels they're entitled to something."
Other topics: About 100 people attended the debate, where candidates answered questions on domestic, international, government and environmental issues.
Concerning the United States' involvement in world issues, Perry said the U.S. should not pick sides in the Syrian civil war. He also said the United States should get involved in issues affecting allies, including Israel, which opposes Iran's development of a nuclear weapons program.
Perkinson said the United States can't just drop its international involvement, as the country has treaties throughout the world. He said that while the United States should not get involved in another war, the country has a vested interested in the outcome in Syria, which involves opposition forces' attempts to overthrow the current government.
Perkinson also said the United States must firmly support Israel, increase sanctions against Iran and use force, if necessary, to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
However, Koffenberger said the U.S. can't control everything happening around the world and should steer clear of Syria's war issues. He said the U.S. government should eliminate all foreign aid.
"If Israel wants to provide for its own security, we shouldn't stand in Israel's way," he said. "(Using) sanctions against Iran are acts of war."
- Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at email@example.com.