U.S. Senate candidate Karen Handel spoke a small group of students and some area residents at LaGrange College last week, encouraging them to vote in the May 20 primary and answering questions.
Handel began by saying if she had a message to college graduates it would be that she was sorry that they would be inheriting a troubled economy with a $17 trillion debt created by adults and elected officials. She said the economic growth experienced in recent years is due to mostly part-time and temporary contract jobs, and people are not getting back to the income levels they had before the recession.
Handel said the country needs to get spending under control and she doesn’t believe the issue is that complicated. She cited Connie Mack, a former member of Congress, who proposed making a 1 percent cut in the federal budget for six years in a row would balance the budget.
“You can’t spend your way out of an economic recession, we’re going to have to get the economy going again,” Handel said. “And how do you do that? You do that by rewriting the tax code. We have had not had tax reform, a real tax reform, in the United States for almost 30 years.”
She said the U.S. also has the highest corporate tax rate of any industrialized nation and asked the classroom of students if any of them planned to start a business. Several raised their hands and Handel told them they would be looking at regulations that costs business $1.8 trillion per year for compliance, “equivalent to the entire economy of Canada.”
She said she was in favor of a consumption tax, because it is fair and takes from everyone, not depending on taking a chunk of income from certain groups. She said small businesses are the backbone of the American economy and always what pulls the nation out of economic downturns, but the country needs to create an environment where companies want to invest into the marketplace, creating and expanding jobs. She would like to see an across-the-board audit of regulations.
There are regulations killing small community banks, Handle said, which many entrepreneurs rely on to get a start-up loan, are being hit the hardest.
She believes legislators need to repeal the “Obamacare health care tax,” saying it was well-intentioned, but implemented without enough foresight on how it would affect people. She said it also places the federal government between consumers and health care. She said health care reform is needed, and is in support of provisions like having people stay on their parents’ health care plan until 26, and not excluding people because of pre-existing conditions.
Handel noted that most people will have 12 to 15 different employers in their lifetime. People should have something that would allow portability of a health care plan, not being dependant on an employer for it.
A student asked in reference to “Obamacare,” how long would it take people to regain control of choosing their own health care again. Handel said realistically that Obama would likely veto any bill to repeal the law, but felt legislators could offer a replacement that had provisions in it to allow people to stay on their parents’ plan until 26, portability, buying across state lines, a high-risk pool and removing pressure from doctors to run numerous expensive tests just to avoid lawsuits. Rather than having a mandate to have insurance, a replacement plan should provide incentives, especially for young people who don’t need comprehensive coverage.
Handel told the group she welcomed questions from either side of the political spectrum.
“Part of what is broken with the political climate right now is the ability to have a good debate from both sides of the political aisle, pros and cons on the issue, and finding that one place on the issue where we can both agree,” she said.
One person asked why the U.S. continues to pay more to other countries when it is in debt. Handel said she wanted to see the U.S. use zero-based budgeting, building the annual budget from the ground up and not automatically continuing to fund programs from prior years just because they have been funded historically.
She said going through the budget line item by line item will help eliminate areas where there is unnecessary spending, including programs or agencies duplicating work in state and federal levels. She said that the federal government tends to have uniform spending for programs in states without consideration of which states would benefit from those federal funds, while she believes the use of federal funds should be left to state leaders.
Political science professor John Tures asked Handel’s thought on student loan policy. Handel said the country is heading to “something damaging for young people.” She said tuition has continued to rise, and the government needs to look at those rising costs and if they’re justified.
Handel said the traditional four-year degree is not necessarily what the work force is currently looking for.
Tures said that parts of the No Child Left Behind Act and standardized tests may be extended to universities, and asked Handel’s thoughts on the “standardized-test mania.”
She said the federal government has become far too entrenched in education. She said the Common Core Curriculum has “turned into the beast that no one expected it to be.” She noted that the state and local governments all elect school board members, and feels the federal government needs to distance itself from education.
There should be standards in curriculum, Handel said, but feared there was a dumbing down of the education process. She said kindergarten to 12th grade educations need to “mean something again,” because there are far too many who graduate high school and are unprepared for college-level courses.