Patrick Richardson

Managing Editor

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, (R-Hays) was in Columbus for a town hall-style meeting Friday.

The meeting was part of a 105-county listening tour for Moran.

High on the list of topics Moran discussed with the crowd were spending and regulation.

Moran said as the debt ceiling debate rages in Washington D.C. he believes the U.S. is at a crucial moment.

“I do believe there is a significant challenge in our country today,” he said. “If we don’t change our spending and borrowing habits our country begins to become something different than what we know it should be. It will be difficult for the next generation of Americans to pursue the American dream.

“I’m very much on the side of we’ve got to find ways to quit spending so darn much money. We’ve got to get the deficit under control.”

Class LTD Director Jan Bolin, whose agency which aids people with developmental disabilities, has faced significant cuts in state funding the last several years asked about potential cuts to Medicaid funding as part of a deal to avoid default on the nation’s debt.

Moran said everything has to be on the table, but at the same time some services need to be preserved.

“I would again say that we’ve got to change course in the amount of money that we spend, but we need to do that in a reasonable and responsible way. There are people who are in need and are in my view deserving of help from all of us through our government,” he said. “We need to make sure that those services are not eliminated or damaged.”

At the same time, he said, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are going broke.

“Medicaid can’t continue to grow, Moran said. “We’ve got to get a handle on health care costs, despite the passage of so-called health care reform. Some of you might tell me that your health care costs less after the passage of that bill but I doubt it.”

Moran said he was also very frustrated with the White House and President Barack Obama on the subject.

“The first thing that comes out of the mouth of the White House is that if we don’t extend the debt ceiling… then the potential exists that we’re not going to pay social security benefits,” Moran said, adding in his estimation this is a scare tactic. “This is the way politics has worked in this country for my lifetime. In which you try to do something to make things work and immediately the politics kicks in about the next election. They’re trying to scare people and make them think they’re not going to get their social security.

“We need to have an intelligent conversation, not one that’s just about trying to score points for the next election.”

He said decisions have to be made soon on how to handle the three largest entitlement programs.

“We have no choice but to make changes, (they are) going broke,” Moran said. “The status quo is not sufficient or satisfactory. We have a responsibility to make sure the system works. It’s not a matter of dismantling Medicaid, Social Security and Medicare. It’s a matter of improving the chances in a fiscally responsible way. I have no interest in pulling the rug out from under people who are retired or getting close to retirement. But in the long term we still have to make changes. It may have to do with age It may have to do with FICA taxes, it may have to do with income levels of the people receiving the benefits.

“The people who want to say you can do nothing, it’s not an option because medicare and social security will go broke … in our lifetime.”

Moran did not except his Republican colleagues from criticisms about spending.

“I’m a pretty bipartisan guy, I’m a pretty conservative guy, but I think Republicans messed up too,” he said. “When you talk about Medicare, the passage of the prescription drug benefit was the largest entitlement increase in our country’s history, done by Republicans with nothing to pay for those additional benefits. So when we now decry that Medicare is going broke, well one of the reasons it’s going broke is because we put benefits in without paying for them.”

Moran noted that while spending has increased by leaps and bounds the last few years, the problem is nothing new.

“What’s happened in the last couple of years is exponentially increasing our problem, but we had a problem before the last two years,” he said. “Led by Republicans and Democrats over many years. I’ve asked my constituents to support candidates … who will say ‘I’m sorry we can’t afford that,’ as opposed to those who simply say ‘Yes’ to every spending proposal. The American people are ahead of those of us who were elected in recognizing you just can’t have a free lunch forever.”

Moran also said tax increases are not the solution to lowering the deficit.

“The conversation now is about raising taxes,” he said. “Every time I’ve seen taxes increased it’s been spent. If you really think raising taxes will decrease the deficit, I’d like to have these conversation.”

He said what is needed is to grow the economy by reducing the tax burden regulatory burdens, not raising taxes to reduce the deficit.

“Let’s have revenue increases because people are back to work and paying taxes, that’s the kind of revenue increase we need,” Moran said. “Let the businesses grow, put people back to work.”

He said overbearing government is a major part of the economic problems facing the country.

“So there’s this continuous growth of Washington D.C. government that’s the least efficient, most expensive and furthest from the people,” Moran said. “We ought to be making decisions much closer to home.

“Part of this is just the size and scope of federal government. Big government is inefficient. Big programs generate waste fraud and abuse.”

Moran said a business owner in Humboldt told him he’d get rid of his business in a heartbeat if he didn’t have to worry about his employees. Moran told the crowd the owner said he wakes up every morning wondering what new regulation is going to come down from the federal government that’s going to put him out of business.

“I don’t know why any business person would make a decision, and say ‘now is the time to grow my business,’” Moran said. “The tax code is uncertain, we don’t know if the taxes are going to go up. The regulatory environment, in particular the EPA, is on us on all the time.

“That’s how you get what we’re going through with so-called health care reform. And now you see this administration utilizing agencies and departments, the regulatory process, to do things they can’t accomplish legislatively in congress. Greenhouse gas regulation is working it’s way through EPA.

“In my view … cap and trade was the most damaging piece of legislation in terms of job creation … to ever pass the House. It failed to pass the Senate, and we now have the Obama Administration trying to accomplish the same thing through the Environmental Protection Agency.”

Moran said as a nation we are rapidly running out of time.

“We’re at a crisis point in our country,” he said. “We’re at a point where if we don’t make the right choices America is not what we want it to be.

“I think many people just see the stuff we’re talking about as ‘oh that’s just that usual junk coming from Washington D.C. Republicans and Democrats arguing about spending, taxes balancing the budget’ we’ve heard that our whole lives and we have!

“I just think that this moment in history is different, the consequences are real, and they will matter to every American. This is not about some academic or philosophical discussion, it’s not really about what happens between conservatives and liberals for example.

“What’s going on in Greece, what’s going on in Portugal, what’s going on in Italy, what’s going on in Ireland, we are not immune from that. At some point in time those people and countries who are lending us money are going to decide we’re no longer credit worthy. When that day occurs it will have a dramatic consequence on the standard of living of every American. On interest rates, on inflation, on our balance of trade.

“This is about whether you can pay your home mortgage or pay off your car.”