Isakson addresses national issues

by Clay Neely -

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson held a town hall meeting at the Coweta campus of West Georgia Technical College on Wednesday.

The following day, The Newnan Times-Herald reported the senator’s message regarding issues affecting Georgia’s citizens. Topics such as immigration, the Affordable Care Act and his proposed budget legislation were addressed in the meeting.

However, Isakson was also able to field non-related questions from attendees.

One such topic was the issue of national debt. “Christmas is a time when kids ask Santa for presents and the parents pay for them. Deficits are a time when parents ask governments for benefits and the kids pay for them,” said Isakson, which elicited laughter from the audience.

“Right now, we’re 17 trillion in debt. The challenge, when I speak to folks about this number, is simply getting the community to understand how big of a number this is. My wife offered a good comparison. How many years would have to go by for a trillion seconds to pass? The answer was 31,709 years for one trillion seconds to pass. In short, the answer to the deficit question is that you just can’t consume that big of an animal in one big bite. Instead, you have to slowly reduce your debt and raise your equity and, over time, we have to do that,” he said.

“We have a GDP of 17 trillion and we have 17 trillion in debt. With the next dollar we borrow we’re going to be paying interest on debt we borrowed previously, only to pay more interest, which is a compounding effect that will drive us into a deeper and deeper hole. This is the reason spending and entitlements are such important subjects. If we continue on this path of debt and borrowing, we reach a point of no return. Then the only solution is to inflate the dollar and devalue the hard assets you’ve worked all your life to have. I personally don’t want to be the first generation of politicians who leave my grandchildren’s generation worse off than our parents left us.”

On the topic of debt limit Isakson said, “The federal reserve and this quantitative easing policy of Bernanke's for the fifth or sixth year has the U.S. treasury buying U.S. debt — 300 million on the balance sheet. That’s robbing Peter to pay Paul, Japan is in the 21st year of quantitative easing. They woke up, cut the corporate tax rates, cut regulatory environment, reduced government support for their economy and are trying to increase private sector production. We have got to do the same, but unlike Japan, we won’t make it in 21 years. Our numbers are too big ,” Isakson addressed the debate surrounding the Affordable Car Act in relation to compromise. “There are still people who try to reach across the aisle to try and make a deal and I’m proud to say that I’m one of them,” Isakson said. “I’ve been accused around the state for compromising. I’ve been married 45 years. I know what it means, which I call the 80 percent rule. If you can find common ground 80 percent of the time, you’re better off taking it. Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good so you can move forward to the next time. This is crucial when you’re talking about something like the Affordable Care Act. If you say ‘all or nothing,’ you won’t be successful. There’s a timidity on some people’s willingness to sit down because they’re afraid of the other side. It doesn’t happen as much as it should.”

Regarding fraud and abuse in Medicare and Social Security, Isakson acknowledged recent weariness. “SSI disability abuse has recently become a cottage industry — in many cases by people who tell others that there is a benefit that they’re eligible for and that they’ll split it with them 50/50. SSI disability has gone up 300 times what it was,” said Isakson. “When you have a down economy, it’s not unusual to find a breach or fraud.”

“In Medicare, fraud isn't by the patient. It’s not by the doctor but by the operators of the facility,” Isakson noted. “Medicare has a good team on fraud. I know two Georgians in prison from the pharmaceutical industry. SSI disability is out of place and run amok and it’s become a candy store for a certain segment of a certain profession.”

Another topic on the people’s agenda focused on tax reform. “I’m on the finance committee, and tax reform is an issue. The goal is to clean up the code like Reagan did with the goal to take the top marginal rate from 35 to 28 percent,” the senator said. “Reagan took it from 70 to 28 percent in 1986 but revenues went up and not down. You can go through the entire benefit. If it costs the government more than it helps, you need to take a look at that.”

“The 2014 elections are going to be good. People are fed up. Want change. Nonproductive. You’ll see a significant turnout and I just hope everyone in here that works for a living and pays taxes will turn out and vote for the person of their choice,” Isakson said. “Democracy is a participatory sport. It’s not a spectator sport. You can talk all day long about what you like and what you don’t like, but if you don’t vote, in the end you don’t count. It will be a watershed year.”

Isakson spoke briefly on the public’s concern and continued questions regarding U.S. aid to Iran and The Middle East. Isakson said the deal was “made without even addressing the hostages from the American embassy in 1979 or the current Christians that are being held.” “I don’t think we should have negotiated until we had first dealt with those people,” he said. “I was a ranking member for a long time on the Africa sub-committee and the one that put together the Joseph Kony special forces operation. During the Egyptian revolution, I voted for aid and I’ll tell you why. The Camp David accord said that the United States would support the Egyptian military as long as they protected the Philadelphia Corridor from Northern Egypt into the Gaza Strip. When the vote took place, post revolution, if we had not done that we would have broken the Camp David accord. I thought it was the right thing to do in order to prevent contraband going through the corridor like rockets for Hezbollah and to the bad guys in Gaza.”

Jim Camp, a Newnan resident of 15 years, was pleased overall with the town hall meeting.

“The biggest issue to me is this quid pro quo with taxes and redistributing the wealth while trying to grow the economy,” said Camp. “The government doesn't want that to happen too fast. We just went through a period where there was no liquidity. People had no expendable income — only money for their everyday expenses. Now you have some relaxation since the government is loaning money to the car companies. You can get a car loan now where five years ago they wouldn’t talk to you.”

“At the same time, we’re relying more on immigration while our jobs are being outsourced to China,” Camp said. “All you have to do is go into any location where something is made in this country and it’s under the requirements of all the regulatory issues compared to those that are made in China’s.

“A friend of mine works at the docks in Savannah and says ‘The boxes I load are empty but the boxes I unload are full,’” Camp added. “Money is leaving this country. That’s why I asked Johnny, ‘How much longer can we do this?’”

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