Thursday, July 19, 2012

America Needs Karen Harrington In Congress

A couple of weeks ago, I published an article comparing and contrasting Ms. Karen Harrington with incumbent Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. The article was titled "The Contender vs. The Hand-Puppet". Mostly it concentrated on Ms. Wasserman-Shultz's shortcomings. Since then, I have had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Harrington and some of her staff both via telephone and email. Today, I bring you Karen's answers on four key issues as well as personal commentary on those answers.

In addition, I provide some counter-point based upon my perceptions and interpretations of Debbie Wasserman-Shultz's past statements and sound-bytes. Representative Wasserman-Shultz provided no input to this article.

The Federal Budget and a Balanced Budget Amendment

"Karen supports a Balanced Budget amendment with a clause that Congress fulfill it's duty and pass a budget every year." 

Karen supports a comprehensive and directly stated Balanced Budget Amendment to the US Constitution. Deficit spending, plain and simple, is when congress establishes a budget requiring more expenditures than revenue. Many times, there is a projected revenue based upon GDP, workforce participation, and average income. However, the amount anticipated exceeds the amount actually collected. So even if the amount budgeted matches the projected revenue, it often exceeds that amount collected. The difference is called the deficit. Now, if the budget exceeds even that projected amount, it is intentional deficit spending.

In household "home economics" terms, that means taking on more bills than household income, and  using credit cards to cover the difference for the month. If that amount (deficit) is not repaid within a certain time frame (in the case of the federal government, when the fiscal year ends on September 30th) it turns into debt. This is how the national debt is increased.
The best policy is to balance your household budget, keeping those credit cards only for emergencies instead of using them to pay for luxuries we cannot afford today, hoping we will make the money tomorrow. Some amount of debt, if regular payments are made, is not necessarily bad. However, being in debt to pay for a steak dinner and opera tickets every Friday night is not "good debt". Well, our federal government is taking its 30 closest friends out for seven-course gourmet meals and flying them to Berlin to see Die Nibelung every night, on credit cards. The current revenue can barely afford a Kraft Easy Hamburger Helper Cup, 6/pk and a Netflix streaming movie.

Ms. Harrington supports an amendment dictating better accountability for federal spending. In addition to an amendment mandating the federal budget match the revenue accrued, Karen further supports a clause calling for that balanced budget to be done annually. Currently, congress needs only pass a budget. There is an act in effect that directs the budget be done annually. However, there is no constitutional mandate to do so. The only budget that is mandated by the US Constitution on a regular basis is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The US Constitution states that it needs to be done every 24 months at a minimum. Currently, congress attempts to produce one each year. A clause in a Balanced Budget Amendment mandating an annual budget would make that cycle annual.

Tax-and-Spend-crazy Debbie Wasserman-Shultz would prefer to keep spending federal revenue on Gucci purses, using our credit cards, knowing we can barely afford a Walmart purse.

 Immigration Reform and Border Security

"On Immigration, Karen believes that the first step is to secure the border. If we do not secure our border no one will believe that their is a real effort to fix the problem. The other part of the illegal immigration issue is employers. An e-verify system will ensure that that people who are in the U.S. illegally will not be able to find work unless they are part of a guest worker program. We need to fix our broken visa system and develop a guest worker program for seasonal workers."

Karen understands a common sense approach to these issues. Before any immigration reform can take place, the border needs to be secured. No reforms, not even amnesty, can work until that first priority is accomplished. Along with sealing the borders, legal crossing points needs to increase in both number and efficiency.

Karen's second step is to make it painful for employers to hire illegal immigrants. Some people do not understand the importance of this step. First, illegals are paid less, work longer hours, and are treated worse than legal workers. In effect, many illegals work in "sweat shops". They are treated, in effect, as slaves. Those on the left who claim to be concerned with social issues and "fairness" cannot reasonably argue that sweat-shop workers who are employed at the level of indentured servitude are even constitutional, much less moral. In addition, the "employers" who "hire" the illegal immigrants dodge payroll taxes, etc., by doing so. Laws that mandate systems such as E-Verify and provide steep punishments (fines or worse) for those caught in violation will actually increase the tax-base. By increasing the tax-base, more people will be paying taxes. With more people paying their "fair share", there will be more funding available for all of those "social[ist] programs" they demand.

After securing the borders, making legal crossing points more efficient, and increasing legal sanctions on employers, Ms. Harrington sees increasing incentives to immigrate legally. The visa program needs an overhaul. It needs to be streamlined in order to encourage those hard-working and moral people that want to become citizens to do so the proper way. The current system is so bogged down with red tape that many find it easier to enter illegally. Our current system actually deters legal immigration.

Ms. Harrington also supports establishing a guest worker program that enables seasonal or migrant workers to come to our country during those seasons when their labor will benefit both employers and the workers. For example, workers who are adept at repairing roads and are better acclimated to the summer heat could get guest worker visas to help repair the interstate roads. Since the workers want to come for a season to work a select contract, coming to the States to do that sort of work needs to be easier. In addition, if on a guest worker program, part of that visa would include some amount of state and/or federal revenue. For some projects, US businesses need that expertise for those projects. They will also lead to increased employment of US citizens.

Debbie wants to just grant amnesty for illegal immigrants, give them all tax breaks, put them all on food stamps, house them all in Section 8 housing, and have US Citizens pay for them to be here. While first and second generation Americans empathize with family members or individuals of common ethnic heritage, Debbie thinks those hard workers should pay for those who want to immigrate regardless of what they bring to the neighborhood in terms of business, service, productivity, or morals. In short, Debbie wants more slaves dependent upon the government ("We The People") to take care of them.

Health Care Reform 

"There are several steps to help bring down the cost of healthcare and increase healthcare accessibility. The cost can be brought down by offering people more choices. This can be accomplished by allowing health insurance to be sold across state lines, allow people to take their insurance with them if they change jobs, and even allow business associations to buy insurance together."
While some aspects of the PPACA may enact some level of needed reforms, Karen stated that the law needs to be repealed.

First of all, a 2,800+ page law is arduous. It is far too complicated for the average citizen to understand. A person should not need to consult a lawyer prior to seeing a doctor for a shot of penicillin and some influenza medication.

Healthcare is a private industry. Healthcare plans such as HSAs, insurance, and the like need to be. However, some level of legislation may be necessary to regulate those plans in order to enable greater competition. One such method to increase the competition is to allow plans to follow a client from job to job, so they are not tied to place of employment. Another method to increase the competition is to enable plans to cross state lines smoothly. That would make them interstate trade. However, healthcare should not be a tax.

In addition, the supply side of health care service needs to include means to reduce overhead. Once place to do so is through legislation that reduces malpractice costs for healthcare providers. The PPACA does little to reduce those costs and actually contains clauses that increase those expenses.

Karen seems to have too many ideas on this subject to cover in this article alone. Her bottom line is:  accessibility needs to be increased, choices need to be increased, insurance needs to be able to be carried across state lines, and plans need to be able to be transferred from job to job with no penalties to either employees or employers.

Ms. Wasserman-Schultz thinks that the PPACA is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Of course, that is because she is exempt from it.

Social Security and Retirement Reform

"Social Security has to be dealt with a serious manner. Both of Karen's parents receive social security so she wants this program to be solvent and sustainable. Some of the steps that can be taken at first to help sustainability our means testing, raising the retirement age to 67 and with the clear understanding that those who are 55 and older will not be effected."

Karen sees the necessity to reform Social Security in a manner that benefits everybody without taking anything from those already receiving the benefits or reducing future benefits for those who have already paid into the system. That presents a sticky problem. Both of Karen's parents currently receive Social Security. She doesn't want to see her parents lose their benefits. She doesn't want to see anybody's parents lose their benefits. People paid into the fund and have earned those benefit checks.

However, the fund is broke. More is being paid out than funds are coming into the fund. We cannot continue under the current program. That much is clear.

Ms. Harrington clearly states that any reform should not affect anybody over the age of 55. Those over that age should continue under the current system. It is too late in their lives to start paying into a new system and expect the benefits they already have due to them.

However, one of Karen's suggestions is that those under 55 see their Social Security eligibility age raised to 67. Longevity has increased since the program started. People are living longer and collecting the benefits longer. So once fix is to raise that age by two years, closing that gap in years receiving the benefits, making them more in line with the number of retirement years calculated in the original bill.

There are many programs and plans that could work. Karen supports doing extensive means testing before jumping onto any one suggested reform. Among those possible reform programs is the one placed into effect in Galveston County, Texas. However, that is but one possibility. Picking the best program for America is a must. Karen does not want to make such an important decision in a light manner. All possibilities needs to be pragmatically tested and compared. Our citizens deserve the best.

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz demagogues Social Security Reform as "Trying to steal your benefits". That is furthest from the truth. The truth is Karen wants to maintain if not increase the benefits without spending money that is not there or increasing the burden on future generations to provide for the current ones not yet retiring.