By Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N.
Representative John Yarmuth (D-KY) spoke at the GLI Capitol Connection luncheon on Friday, August 26. Yarmuth joked that 10% of Americans think that Congress is doing a good job and he wondered out loud, “Who are the nuts in the 10%?” Yarmuth makes no bones about how he thinks dysfunctional Congress is today.
Ofcourse the last time he spoke at the GLI Capitol Connection before the 2010 elections, he thought Congress, including him, was doing a great job! The dysfunction has come from the fact that the House is controlled by the Republicans. He also went out of his way to bash the TEA Party as the responsible party that has caused this great dysfunction. “The TEA party changed the ideology but they don’t think the Federal Government should spend any money on anything.” (As a TEA Party thinker, I find it is worrisome to spend money which U.S. has to borrow consistently but then I have a business background. I am not sure that train of thought is RADICAL).
Yarmuth said Congress has some “serious complicated problems and is not sure we have a system to deal with these issues. The debt crisis was manufactured and that didn’t have to happen.” (I am thinking he meant either the Democrats should have dealt with the budget when they were in the majority in 2009-10 or that President Obama could have been working on the debt crisis 6 months before it became a crisis).
Yarmuth did attack the Republicans because he said they were unwilling to compromise based on their idealogy. (But I wonder why both parties can’t compromise a little). You get the impression from Yarmuth that Republicans should do all the compromising. (But I guess if we were listening to Senator McConnell, he may be bashing the Democrats as well and expect the Democrats to do ALL compromising. Which is why Congress is so dysfunctional in my opinion. Career politicians have lost their way: not doing their job but rather than worrying about their re-election or forcing their personal idealogy).
Yarmuth did make a point of bashing Representative Michelle Bachman (R-MN) when she said when she’s president gas prices will go down to $2.00/gallon. He indicated that would never happen! (But if you follow Bachman’s logic of drilling in and around the United States making the U.S. energy independent rather than dependent on the Middle East or South America for our oil, maybe that’s possible. Drilling in and around the United States could also put many Americans back to work in the private sector. But then, I am not privy as to why any politician makes promises they may not be able to deliver but Democrats also over promise, as well. Obama promised that Affordable Care will decrease premiums and you could keep your same policy and doctor. Well, that has proven not to be the case so Obama overpromised as well in an effort to persuade the members of his party to vote YES and for Americans on board as well).
Yarmuth did remind the audience that “Government does everything for everyone in Louisville. 70% of Humana’s revenue is from the government.” (This revenue comes from the Military Health Insurance’s called Tricare and from Medicare Advantage. But Yarmuth failed to mention that the Affordable Care cut $1/2 trillion from Medicare most of which was the subsidy to Medicare Advantage. Seniors will have to drop the Medicare Advantage coverage or pay twice as much out of pocket. The $1/2 trillion cut is being used to subsidize the 50 million uninsured under the Affordable Care law, not make Medicare more financial solvent).
Yarmuth continue to say, “From 2007 – 2009, the average household income declined by 15% and so did the revenue to the government as a result.” In fact, Yarmuth blamed the debt crisis on 15% decline in tax revenue as the problem rather than government spending.
In addition, Yarmuth mentioned “Obama’s brilliant proposal to have the government refinance mortgages all over the country so people would not lose their homes,” as a way to help people who are unable to pay their mortgages. (He did not discuss the cost of the proposal, where the money would come from, or who would be allowed to refinance).
Yarmuth said one of Obama’s financial plans is to extend the payroll tax holiday. (Employers pay 6.2% payroll tax and all employees pay 6.2% totaling 12.4% into Social Security. The rate for employees [not employers] was voted by Congress to be decreased to 4.2% until January 1, 2012. This is the payroll tax holiday that Obama wants to extend. The downside is less money will go into Social Security at a time when more people are receiving Social Security and for longer periods. The payroll tax holiday will cost the Federal Government approximately $120 billion per year in revenue).
Yarmuth suggested the Super Committee will NOT be effective. If not, he said there will be an “automatic 2% cut in spending ½ from military budget and ½ from Medicare. Cutting is from projected spending NOT from REAL spending.”
Additionally, Yarmuth said that “special interest money should be cut out of the political system because politicians will not make good laws for the country. $200 billion of unnecessary spending is due to special interests.” (Yarmuth told Terry Meiners and Rachel Platt on WHAS’s Great Day Live this week when Congress is back to work in September he plans to introduce a bill to disallow any special interest money to be given to politicians for their campaigns. But he failed to mention this new bill he was sponsoring at the luncheon).
Questions and Answers From the Audience
More Spending: Yarmuth said that he “wants more spending on infrastructure because it will be a jobs plan to get people back to work. But the House doesn’t want to spend any money no matter what the pay backs are.”
Middle East: Egypt has 85 million people and a fragile economy. Their economy is only tourism but Libya has only 5 million people and has lots of money because of the oil. (Yarmuth took taxpayer-funded visit to Egypt recently to experience the financial problems which stem from lack of tourists due to war in Egypt. To date, according to ABC news on August 22, the US has spent $896 million on the Libya NON-War and another $25 million in providing the MREs to the NATO troops).
Health Care: “Health care reform’s success can not be determined until after 2014. I said this before, tweaking will last forever. Health & Human Services Secretary’s (HHS) name is used 3500 times in the 2700 pages of Affordable Care.” Yarmuth said most of the NEW regulations by HHS have not been written yet. “The U.S. is the only country in the world that has employer-based health insurance.” Yarmuth said he’s hoping that more businesses will dump their employees into the state health exchanges so the country can get to a single payer system sooner rather than later. (The Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) new scoring after Affordable Care was passed is $2-3 trillion cost rather than $900 billion before the law was passed. If all businesses were to dump their employees into the state exchanges like Yarmuth is hoping, because of the Federal Government is subsidizing the state exchanges for a 2-year period, that cost will probably increase 4-fold, When the Federal Government subsidy is over, states will have to burden the cost of health care alone).
Bush’s Tax Cuts: “Bush Tax Cuts will reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next 10 years.” (Wondering how these numbers were determined and by whom since the economy is so unpredictable at this point. How could anyone predict what the economy will be like in the next 10 years. Keep in mind, Congress has a different way of measuring – in fact, a cut is not really a cut in spending but typically a cut in projected future spending which could be a figment of someone’s imagination!).
Government Spending: “Government is 25% of GDP and the government is the only answer to solving the economy issue. In the $787 billion stimulus, 40% was tax cuts. Cutting spending is the wrong thing to do!!” (He gave no other details and I have no idea how to quantify his numbers. His statement seems to imply the money was not spent but that the tax cuts meant less money coming into the government and more money put in our pockets if you actually pay taxes? Ofcourse this logic is probably just political double talk).
Medicare: Yarmuth liked the Simpson Bowles Plan to handle Medicare even though President Obama didn’t. Yarmuth explained that “If a person retires in 2009, they paid only $12,000 in over 44 years but today we spend an average of $12,000 per person per year.”
Yarmuth also said, “40% of Medicare spending in based on the last 6 months of life.” He then started talking about the Death Panels and the Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and how they can help save money. Yarmuth seemed pleased with how much money the Medicare ACOs are suppose to save based on “decreasing the reimbursements to doctors. Hospitals are buying doctor practices so doctors can become employees of the hospitals and they can pay doctors a salary.” (But most local health care providers are skeptical that they can even cover their costs for Medicare patients based on Affordable Care’s provider reimbursements & new bundling approaches).
The Bottom Line
Yarmuth thinks bigger government can only solve our economic and job problems today. No news there.
Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N, is a registered dietitian (www.DayByDayNutrition.com) who has been teaching healthy lifestyles strategies to consumers for over 35+ years. Check out Barbara’s new healthy lifestyles website: www.KentuckianaHEALTHwellness.com.