As we enter the summer months, the majority party in Congress continues to pursue enormous spending deficits and federal takeovers in spite of strong opposition by Americans. An unprecedented environmental disaster continues to devastate the Gulf Coast, but the talk in Washington is about passing unpopular cap and trade legislation rather than focusing on how to stop the leak and clean up this enormous oil spill.
Unemployment remains high, and massive federal deficit spending has done nothing to stem that tide. Meanwhile, House and Senate leaders refuse to consider a spending blueprint and balance the budget. This is the first time in almost 20 years the House or Senate has failed to make any effort to pass a budget.
Unfortunately, this business-as-usual attitude in Washington is unlikely to change this summer. Until change comes, I commit that I will do all I can to protect Idahoans from more spending, more borrowing, higher taxes and more regulation.
As always, your comments are appreciated.
When the government takeover of health care was rolled out last year, I voiced my strong opposition. Since its passage, I have signed on to a bill that would repeal the monstrous legislation. While reform of health care is needed, this $2.7 trillion takeover does much more harm than good. It allows bureaucrats to write the rules and determine your insurance coverage and medical treatments - not you and your doctor. As more study is given to the health care law's 2,700 pages, it has become clear the costs were dramatically understated and the benefits vastly exaggerated.
This new law raises taxes; raises insurance premiums; takes $500 billion away from Medicare; encourages private employers to discontinue employee health care coverage, driving their employees to government health plans and the list goes on and on.
Under this law new taxes and fees are collected immediately, but spending on new health care programs does not begin for another four years. So in reality, 10 years of revenues are used to pay for six years of spending.
This means that after 10 years the program will be financially unsustainable, health care costs will skyrocket higher and add even more to America's debt. The Congressional Budget Office now projects this law will require $115 billion more in government spending over the next 10 years than originally projected. Surprise!
Another unrealistic source to finance health care reform is the $529 billion in Medicare savings the administration says will be found. I have said all along that any Medicare savings found should be returned to the Medicare program. The Medicare program is not sustainable and needs this help. Health care reform should not jeopardize the payment of future Medicare benefits.
Medicare Advantage plans will also see cuts to their benefits, such as vision, dental and prescription care. These cuts may begin much sooner than people expect.
You may remember someone saying in one of his speeches, "If you like your health care plan you can keep it." Well, it is now estimated more than half of employer-provided health care plans will be forced to change. In many cases, this will mean higher costs and reduced coverage, and it is clear it will not be the same health care plan you have now.
The bottom line is this new law harms our health care system and our pocketbooks. We need to start over and allow groups and small businesses to join together to provide health care plans to their employees, expand health savings accounts, allow the purchase of insurance across state lines, limit frivolous lawsuits, and provide incentives to states to lower costs.
Working together we can reform our health care system, reconnect the doctor and patient and get the government out of this highly personal issue.
When Congress is in session, I use telephone town hall meetings as a way to hear from Idahoans and update them on legislation and other important issues. My next hour-long telephone meeting is Tuesday, June 29th, at 7 p.m. Mountain time. If you would like to take part in the call, please fill out the Tele-Townhall sign-up form. Requests must be made at least 24 hours prior to the meeting.
The federal government continues to spend money at an unprecedented rate. This year's budget is $3.8 trillion of which $1.6 trillion will be borrowed—that's 40 cents out of every dollar spent. In May, the national debt crossed $13 trillion and current projections show it climbing to $21.4 trillion over the next decade.
What does all this mean? This graph offers some insight. It compares the United States debt level with that of several European countries. Three of the countries listed have seen their borrowing costs increased due to concerns over their increasing debt. One actually required an infusion of cash from the European Union and International Monetary Fund and another country is close to needing a bailout as well. Currently, the U.S. actually holds a larger percentage of debt than two of those three countries.
While the graph and accompanying report from the Joint Economic Committee of which I'm a member appears bleak, there is still time to act.
I continue to push for a balanced budget amendment and am determined to see Congress follow the pay-as-you-go rules on spending we passed earlier this year, when the other side is not.
America must cut its spending and recognize that we do not have a no-limit credit card to fund everything we want. Like hard-working Idahoans, we must prioritize and say no to things that are not absolute essentials. We can stop this runaway spending, ensuring a bright future for our children and grandchildren.
As Idaho's governor in 2006, I participated in a meeting with our congressional delegation and the Federal Aviation Administration to discuss their proposal to move Boise's Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) to Salt Lake City. The move of the radar system, which controls aircraft approaching and departing an airport, was part of the FAA‘s decision to consolidate radars throughout the country.
At that time, I questioned the cost and efficiency of such a move. While the FAA tried to reassure this change would save money, the numbers did not appear to add up.
The FAA continued to prepare for the move over the opposition of Idaho's congressional delegation, Governor Otter, the Mayor of Boise and Boise airport users. Senator Crapo and I were successful in delaying the move until an independent review of the cost of the move and overall operations were completed.
As a result of a separate financial audit the delegation requested from the Department of Transportation's Inspector General, the savings promised in the move were not there. In fact, the move would have actually increased the cost of the system by millions of dollars a year.
I was very pleased the effort many of us have put forth over the years was successful and that fees collected by the federal government will not be unwisely spent. Good paying jobs will be kept in Idaho and there is no question about the safety of the Boise Airport.
Recently, I joined a bipartisan group of senators in an effort to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act. Our goal was to keep an agency of unelected bureaucrats from making major policy decisions which rightly belong in a legislature that is accountable to the American people.
What is carbon dioxide? Also known as CO2, it is a part of everyday life. When the earliest human being took their first breath, CO2 was discharged. Today, carbon dioxide sources can be found in normal activities at schools, hospitals and farms and ranches to name just a few. The EPA is seeking to regulate each of them. This new takeover would see the federal government reach into our economy and most other parts of our daily lives.
Just prior to the vote on our EPA resolution, I gave a speech on the Senate floor further detailing how the EPA's intentions threatened the Constitution. And I outlined its tremendous costs to the American people including the export of American jobs overseas.
On that day, our efforts were unsuccessful and the resolution was defeated 47-53. Fortunately, the debate over EPA's regulation of carbon dioxide is just beginning and there is still time for Congress to act before regulations are imposed. If we do not, as I stated in an editorial sent to newspapers across Idaho, I predict many in Congress will have a difficult time explaining why they supported a bureaucratic agency over American families and jobs.