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Armstrong discusses inflation, workforce issues in Jamestown

Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., talked about inflation, workforce issues and letting states control regulations on energy and agriculture.

armstrong table discussion 081522.jpg
Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., second from right, addresses a group on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, during a casual table discussion at Babb's Coffee House in downtown Jamestown.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun
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JAMESTOWN – Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., talked about inflation, workforce issues and letting states control regulations on energy and agriculture during a roundtable discussion Monday, Aug. 15, with local economic development leaders in Jamestown.

Armstrong said the national inflation rate is more at 17% to 18% versus the 9% that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting over the previous 12 months that ended in June. He said grocery prices are 13% higher than they were a year ago.

In North Dakota, oil prices and agricultural commodity prices are good, he said. He said oil and commodity prices will go down way quicker than the input expenses — costs to make a product or create a service — will decline for growing crops or drilling oil.

“But it doesn’t matter if it is all getting chewed up in input and you can’t find what you need,” he said.

He said the economy was supercharged with $9 trillion in “made-up money.”

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“To say that the inflationary pressures we’re facing aren’t government made is not very realistic,” he said.

Armstrong said Congress has worked hard to adjudicate its Article I authority to agencies.

Article I, Section 1 of the overview of the legislative vesting clause states, “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.”

“The reason the (U.S.) Supreme Court is weighing in on these things is because Congress has failed to act,” he said. “We punt every tough decision. Nobody ever got elected at the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to make decisions. We should make more of these decisions and if that means taking tough votes so be it.”

Armstrong said the workforce issue is happening nationwide and is bad. He said high school and college students who aren’t in extracurricular activities don’t seem to work as much anymore.

In the highest-need jobs in the country, including day care and health care, he said the requirements are much harder but at the same time people aren’t filling those positions.

“If it is a $16-an-hour day care job, one of the things is finding someone to do it,” he said. “The other thing is can you keep them for six weeks while you are waiting for the background check because they can get another job in that six weeks.”

There are too many steps even for people to volunteer for child care providers, said Emily Bivens, executive director of the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce. She said she knows a couple of people who want to volunteer but they have to go through different training just to volunteer.

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He said there are federal requirements that started in February just for a semitrailer driver to get a commercial driver's license. The new requirement forces entry-level drivers to complete training with a training provider before taking their CDL test.

He said the new requirement does not do anything to make the roads safer.

“There aren’t any metrics to say truck driving has become more dangerous since we passed the last law,” he said. “Nothing exists. But what does it do? It now makes small communities, large communities not have bus drivers.”

With the housing shortage, Armstrong said federally incentivizing to build housing in North Dakota will be difficult because he’s not sure how much federal funding will come to the state. He also said if the program isn’t paid for, the inflation problem on housing will be exacerbated.

“If you print more money to build more houses, that's going to get chewed up in inflation,” he said.

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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