Negativity on social media is a challenge for youth, Johnson says

April 26, 2019
In The News

As someone who didn’t grow up around technology, U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., said he doesn’t envy the youth of today because he recognizes the extra challenges that social media bring.

Johnson, South Dakota’s lone representative in the U.S. House, was at Central High School Thursday morning fielding questions from students in government class.

It was one of three stops he made in Aberdeen prior to the Brown County Republicans Lincoln Day Dinner. The others were at the Agtegra Innovation Center and Northern State University.

At Central, Johnson said one of his biggest challenges with navigating social media is dealing with the negativity and recognizing that it isn’t representative of life in Aberdeen or other parts of the country.

“The negative rhetoric online can be very toxic,” he said.

Later, he circled back to the topic when a student asked if there’s anything he’d like to see changed. Johnson said that nowadays, it’s easy to find someone online, tag them and target them with anger or negative comments.

“Let’s start with civility and decency,” he said.

Johnson answered several questions from faculty and students, including about:

Johnson said recent news that Social Security won’t have sufficient funds to pay retirees by 2035 is a “clear and present existential threat.” But the issue is twofold with the second part of the problem being that Medicare is facing a similar problem, only it will potentially be bankrupt by 2025.

At issue, he said, is that recipients of both benefits are living longer than when these programs were first put in place, and the Medicare retirement age of 65 hasn’t changed. The Social Security retirement age has seen a slight adjustment. It’s now 66 for anyone born in 1955 or later and will gradually increase to 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later.

That increase, he said, was made in the 1980s when the programs faced a similar issue.

As for getting approved for disability benefits, Johnson said the process of applying and appealing initial decisions is to weed out applicants who aren’t being truthful. He said that applies to a small portion of the applicants, but the goal is to ensure all applications represent valid requests and that people who are able to work continue to work.

When it comes to post-secondary education, Johnson said, looking to the government to lower the cost of tuition isn’t the solution, though it would be valid to consider adjusting the amount of federal funding available for Pell Grants.

Yes, he said, there’s a cost, but it’s also an investment. People who earn a certificate, two-year degree or four-year degree have a much higher earning potential, he said.

As for future plans, Johnson said he’s a big proponent of trade and the benefits of the U.S.- Mexico-Canada trade agreement, which has been negotiated but has yet to be approved by either the House or Senate.

Johnson said the trade agreement has the potential to create 176,000 jobs in the U.S. and increase the gross domestic product by $68.2 billion. He said his goal is to visit with colleagues, convince them of the opportunity and get the agreement to the House floor for a vote.