Debt and deficit are next battles in Washington

  • Oct. 25, 2013, 1:47 p.m.

New Orleans Times Picayune
by Bill Cassidy

Although the recent federal budget situation is now resolved, there remains intertwined issues of the debt, deficit, Obamacare and the relationship between Washington and the taxpayers who pay the bills. These issues are central to the ongoing debate between conservative reformers and “Washington-only as the solution” D.C insiders.

In an effort to keep the government open, I and other conservatives passed a budget, which funded the government at current levels and included two important provisions. One provision required the president and vice president to participate in Obamacare and eliminated the special treatment that senators, representatives and their staffs receive in the Obamacare exchanges. Conservatives think that those in the District of Columbia should live under the same law as all other Americans. This was called the “Vitter Amendment” as it was first suggested by Sen. David Vitter. Senate liberals vehemently opposed the Vitter Amendment, and President Obama said he would veto any legislation that included the amendment.

The second provision delayed for a year the requirement that individuals buy health insurance. This provision was included because President Obama had delayed the mandate for businesses to provide insurance to their employees. The reasoning was that if a worker was relying on her employer to provide insurance and President Obama delayed the employer mandate, why should Obamacare fine her because she doesn’t have insurance?

To be clear, the budget offered did not otherwise touch Obamacare.

As to whether this second provision was reasonable, I think of a 32-year-old couple grossing $63,000 per year who currently contribute $2,400 a year for the insurance that their employer provides. Under Obamacare, the amount they must pay is $8,700 a year for the insurance that the health care act requires. If they don’t pay this $8,700, they break the law and Obamacare fines them. Fifteen percent of their pre-tax gross income will go to Obamacare premiums because President Obama delayed the mandate that their employer provide insurance.

The Vitter Amendment was doubly important because if senators and representatives have the federal government pay for their insurance on Obamacare in a way that no other Americans can have, they will never appreciate the problems that Obamacare presents for the average family.

Unfortunately, Senate Democrats, including Sen. Mary Landrieu refused to consider these two provisions, refused to negotiate, and the government shut down. None of this is rhetoric, these are the facts.

This disagreement includes the larger issue of the U.S. debt and deficit. I am concerned that Sen. Landrieu recently told a Bossier Parish veterans’ group that the debt has decreased every year for the past seven years. Actually, in the past seven years, the debt has increased from $8 trillion to $17 trillion. Sen. Landrieu can have her own opinions, but the facts are indisputable. Indeed, according to President Obama’s bipartisan debt commission and the Congressional Budget Office, our national debt is not sustainable and unless addressed, will sharply limit future prosperity for our children and grandchildren. The longer we wait, the fewer the options and the more painful the remedy.

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