On consecutive days – Friday and Saturday – a Florida man was arrested for mailing pipe bombs to some of President Donald Trump’s most well-known critics and a gunman killed 11 worshipers at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.
The incidents, once again, brought forward the issues of violence and divisive political rhetoric in modern American culture.
“That type of inflammatory language, whether it’s elected officials or people that have been elected to office, is not good and it’s not healthy,” U.S. Rep. Glenn “G.T.” Thompson, R-Centre, said during an interview at The Tribune-Democrat on Monday. “I think we’ve seen an escalation of that.”
Thompson called the slayings in Pittsburgh “evil” during an editorial board meeting in advance of the 15th Congressional District general election on Nov. 6 when voters will decide between him and Democrat Susan Boser.
“I don’t pretend to think that we’re going to prevent evil from existing,” Thompson said. “I think what happened at the Tree of Life Synagogue was pure evil. That was a guy who just hated individuals who happened to be of the Jewish faith, and that’s what that was all about. And, unfortunately, that’s been around – that attitude to some degree – throughout the history of the Jewish people. It’s sad to see it this close to home. And it’s tragic how it happened. There’s no room for it. There’s no room in our politics, in our country for that type of hate. How do we prevent that? How do you prevent evil from occurring?”
Thompson felt the alleged pipe bomber’s social media footprint showed an escalation of inflammatory comments. “I’m not sure how that was missed,” Thompson said. “Fact is he was pretty easy to find, it sounds like. Thankfully he was completely incompetent with what he was doing, so nobody was harmed.”
Along with those recent news events, Thompson discussed a wide range of subjects, including agriculture, the opioid crisis and education.
Earlier this year, Trump signed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, a bill sponsored by Thompson that reauthorized the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006. The legislation is designed to simplify the application process for receiving federal funds, improve alignment with in-demand jobs, increase transparency and accountability and limit federal intervention.
The bill passed both chambers by voice vote.
“It’s really a bill that serves Cambria County so well because we don’t have a jobs problem here,” Thompson said.
“We have a workforce problem.”
Thompson, vice chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on Nutrition, is also currently involved in the conference to bring together the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill, which is proving to be less bipartisan than his career and technology legislation. A five-year, $867 billion plan got out of the Senate by an 86-11 vote.
A separate version passed the House 213-211, with Democrats in opposition due mainly to a proposal to include new work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants, which was not in the Senate version.
“We provide a pathway basically for ultimate food security for these financially strapped families,” Thompson said. “And the only way you have ultimate food security is from a good-paying, family-sustaining job. I couldn’t have done this in the last Farm Bill in 2013. It wouldn’t have worked because we still had high unemployment then. But today we have record-low unemployment. In fact, we have more jobs – 7.1 million jobs are open and available – and we don’t have near that many people who are actually unemployed officially in this country.”
The congressman continued: “To me, it’s an opportunity. If you’re 18 to 59, if you do not have a disability, if you’re not a single parent with a preschool child – and that should be your first responsibility to care for that child, but everyone else would be required to engage in 20 hours of job training a week that we will pay for.”
In another matter affecting rural communities, Thompson called the nation’s drug epidemic the “public health crisis of our lifetime” that negatively impacts society in numerous ways, such as causing death and pain to addicts and depleting the available workforce.
“If you want to put this country into a serious, long-term economic decline, continue to lose and waste lives to substance abuse and not deal with the workforce issue,” Thompson said.
Thompson currently represents the 5th Congressional District, but his residence was placed into the new 15th when the commonwealth’s districts were redrawn this year.