Business for Breakfast, Cory Gardner, May 25, 2017

Station: KDMT, 1690 AM

Show:     Business for Breakfast

Guests:  Gardner, Cory


Date:      May 25, 2017

Topics:  American Health Care Act, Affordable Care Act, ACA, AHCA, North Korea, sanctions, China, Trump Budget Proposal, Medicaid, Tax Reform, Entitlement Programs, Scott Walker, Congressional Budget Office, CBO Score, Health insurance,

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HOST JIMMY SENGENBERGER:  Please welcome back to the program, US Senator Cory Gardner from Colorado, who is our guest this morning. Senator Gardner, welcome to the program. It’s good to talk with you.

UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM COLORADO, CORY GARDNER:  Hey, good morning, Jimmy! Sorry, we got our time zones mixed up, there. Sorry about that!

SENGENBERGER:  That’s not a problem! I appreciate you taking the time. It’s good to talk with you, as always. So let’s cut right to the chase. Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office comes out with a score of the House health care bill, saying that the deficit would go down $119 billion over 10 years. Also saying that 23 million people would be — fewer people would have health insurance. I frame it that way because largely, — it would largely be because a lot of people would choose not to purchase health insurance with the absence of the individual mandate, not necessarily because they’d be kicked off of insurance. What’s your take on what we learned yesterday?

GARDNER:  I think what we learned yesterday is that we need to have a Senate bill that reflects a reality of a collapsing Affordable Care Act that is accountable in cost. We can see the cost savings that the House started to move in that direction, because we have $20 trillion debt. And if we are going to maintain important safety net programs, we can’t be bankrupt as a nation. And so I think this gives the Senate a good look at what the House bill did, so that we can draft a policy that will actually do the job to replace the Affordable Care Act. Uh, there’s a number of ideas that we’re talking about, that will be a solution to some of the shortcomings of the House bill, the bottom line being, though, we need to be able to reduce the cost of insurance to Americans around the country. And we do so by allowing them to buy the insurance policy that they want to buy.

SENGENBERGER:  And so, let’s kind of peruse that just a little bit, here — explore that a little bit more, Sen. Gardner, when we talk about the issue of health insurance and people purchasing what type of product that they want to buy. What exactly is the Senate sort of examining, from your understanding? I know there’s a working group on this. But what involvement are you having? What’s your understanding of what’s being talked about?

GARDNER:  Yeah, absolutely. I think what members of the Senate are talking about is how to adjust the tax credit to make it accountable to more of an income means tested manner. So, if you’re older, or you have more health problems, you’ll get more assistance. If you’re younger, and you have higher income, that may mean the tax credit is a little bit lower — less tax credit because you don’t need the assistance of somebody who may have lower income or who may be older, or [in] a little bit less-good health. So we can put those tax credits to reflect the needs of the population. There’s talk of insurance programs that would allow [the sale of] insurance across state lines, association health plans, to get people into group plans, to get people into employer-based plans. What we’re talking about with the individual market is only about 6% of the people who are covered by health insurance. So we can restore competitiveness into the health marketplace, and into individual marketplace for health insurance, and then do everything we can to try to help grow this pool of people in group insurance through employer-based coverage because that’s where most people get their insurance through anyway. And then we can help start using technology and other means to drive down the cost, overall. So those are some of the ideas that we’re going to focus on. Health savings accounts, the tax credits, — you know– how do we make sure that states have the right flexibilities and functionalities needed, and if they take over Medicaid so that they can be better responsive to the needs of their state’s population, those are all parts of the Senate conversation.

SENGENBERGER:  But by and large, it seems like, as has been reported, the Senate is looking at their own approach, as opposed to the House bill.

GARDNER:  I think — I think that’s right. And so, that’s the way that the legislative process works. This is back in our Civics [class] days, that we learned that the House will pass s bill, the Senate will pass a bill, and then those differences will be fleshed out. And it’s a way to bring about compromise.

SENGENBERGER:  US Senator Cory Gardner is our guest. Certainly, healthcare [is] a big important topic of discussion right now. But another significant one is that President Trump on Tuesday revealed via Mick Mulvaney, his budget director, a proposed budget for 2018. This is getting a lot of pushback from both Republicans and Democrats alike, as well as some praise from particularly a number of Republicans. What’s your take on that budget, which would do some cuts — at least Washington-style cuts — to many of the social welfare programs that we see across the country?

GARDNER:  Well, I think, first of all, we’re going to be addressing a lot of the Medicaid social safety net programs through the healthcare bill. And so, that’s going to be taken care of through the legislation that we work on to get introduced and passed.  Look, when when it comes to the other programs, though, I’m glad to see that we take a responsible approach to defense spending. The resources we have now in defense — or some of our branches, the Air Force and Navy — are at their lowest level of resources, equipment since World War II and World War I days, while we face ever-increasing threats in both Korea and the Middle East. So, I think it is responsible to make sure that you have a competitive and resourced Department of Defense that allows our men and women in uniform to not only defend or protect themselves, but to win the fight that they’re tasked with. And that is to defend and protect this country. And so, I do think that every president puts out a budget, Congress receives it, and then Congress writes its own bill. So, there seems to be much more attention focused on this bill than the fact that even Barack Obama’s budget, I think it probably only received maybe 10 or 12 votes, cumulatively, over the eight years he was president.

SENGENBERGER:  So, in other words, this is – I don’t like using the term “dead on arrival” in this case because it’s always just a proposal that the president is required by law

GARDNER:  That’s right, a proposal required by law. Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Donald Trump — they’ve all done it. And the press, again, isn’t reporting the fact that when Barack Obama’s budget was put on the floor, even — almost every Democrat voted against it.

SENGENBERGER:  Now, when it comes to growth, this is one of the projections that’s being discussed. There’s a lot of talk about whether or not we can achieve and even surpass 3% growth. Opponents of the Trump administration say, “No, it’s just not possible.” The new normal is 2% or less. The Trump administration builds in to the budget specific presumptions about a 3% growth rate. Do you think we can and will achieve 3% growth, if we implement pro-growth economic policies, Senator Gardner?

GARDNER:  Well, look, I hope [that] not only can we get 3% growth, I hope we can exceed that. I mean, shame on anybody who thinks that second-place is the best the United States can ever do. Shame on somebody who thinks the new normal is just pathetic economic performance. What we need to be doing is aspiring to high GDP growth. Every percentage point of GDP growth adds hundreds of thousands of jobs and hundreds of billions of dollars in new revenue to the federal government, just through higher taxes being paid because there’s more economic activity, not because taxes increase, but because there’s more wealth being generated. And so let’s aspire to creating economic growth. If we can lower taxes, if – you know, we’ve repealed $85 billion worth of regulations already. We’ve eliminated 54 million hours of paperwork throughout our economy. If we continue that trajectory with pro-growth tax reform, I believe we will see GDP growth in this country. And again, instead of criticizing, — “Oh, gee! You’re too optimistic!” — why don’t we be optimists and figure out how we can even do better?

SENGENBERGER:  When we talk about tax reform, the President has proposed bringing down from seven brackets to three, he has proposed getting rid of the alternative minimum tax, getting rid of the death tax, repatriation of profits from overseas –doing one-time tax on that. We’ve got trillions of dollars overseas that [we’d] like to see invested back here. We’re still waiting on details, and the House is working on it. What would you like to see in a tax package, Senator?

GARDNER:  Well, I think — Yeah, that’s very much in the right direction. I mean, obviously, [I’d like to see] lower taxes, consolidated brackets, simplified brackets – you shouldn’t have to have a PhD in economics simply to fill out your tax form. And when you start to get into AMT and other difficult provisions like that, we’re wasting –. You know, we spend as much money on taxes every year — preparing them, and getting our taxes sent to the IRS — we spend so much money on it that is actually greater than the entire gross domestic product of the country of New Zealand. That’s a waste of resources! If that money was spent investing in families — maybe they wanted to buy a car, to improve their house, or a business wanted to hire new people or buy new equipment — if we could invest a New Zealand-sized GDP into the economy instead of into the IRS, we’d see economic growth. And that’s what we need to do. So, consolidate the brackets, streamline, lower the rates, flatten out the code, make it simpler — that’s the right general direction.

SENGENBERGER:  Talk to me about revenue and this concern that we could be adding to the deficit for the country with these tax rate cuts that have been proposed.

GARDNER:  Well, I think there’s a school of thought out there that says that if you cut taxes that means less revenue for the federal government, and therefore it means higher deficits. What they don’t take into account is the economic activity that will be generated by the fact that people have more money to spend because they’re not sending it to Washington. And they’re instead going to buy goods with it, they’re going to invest in their equipment. They are going to invest in new personnel, who then turn around and pay higher taxes as – or, pay taxes as a result. So it’s a dynamic score that we ought to look at. And when you look at it through a dynamic presentation, it shows there is economic wealth. We need to pay attention. And we ought to be concerned about deficit growth and debt growth. And that’s what we’re doing by looking at ways to reduce wasteful spending and make sure that we have things like a balanced budget in place.

SENGENBERGER:  And so it’s the spending that is the side of the equation that should be addressed, in your mind, Sen. Gardner, when it comes to deficits, not the revenue side.

GARDNER:  Well, it is the revenue side, in terms of economic growth, because through economic growth, you generate more revenue. And so, we do have to look at spending as well. I mean, there are $300 billion worth of wasted dollars spent every year through duplicative programs. I mean, there’s like 72 different teacher quality monitoring programs at the Department of Education, duplication across the board that we ought to eliminate. And so, those are things that will that we should focused on: reduce wasteful spending, bring reforms to government, generate economic growth. That brings more money into the federal coffers. I mean, unfortunately, Washington DC is a place, as Mitch Daniels described once, saying, “Don’t just stand there! Spend something!” And that has got to stop!

SENGENBERGER:  Real quick, I have one more economic question for you, Senator Cory Gardner, […] and that is, when it comes to spending, the Trump administration a couple of days ago made this case, “Look, compassion, when it comes to government program should be how many people we help and push off the programs,” basically giving a hand up, not a handout. And they’ve been maligned for this position, saying, “Well, compassion should be defined differently.” How do you define compassion, to the extent that the government has a role in a compassionate objective?

GARDNER:  I think it was Scott Walker who said you measure the success of an entitlement program, not by how many people that you can put into the entitlement program, but by how many people you are able to get off of the entitlement program. Because their lot in life, their position and in life, has improved. It has increased. They’re better off than they were. And that’s what we have to focus on. And look, I think for certain people to aspire to put more people into Medicaid because they’re trying to sell it as a aspirational program, they’re misdirected. Instead, we have Medicaid as a safety net program to help the most vulnerable in our society who need it, and then we work to give them the tools through their own hard work –through their own hands, and their own feet, and they’re own determination — to better themselves into a job that has group insurance. Now, there are people, through no fault of their own, who are going to need assistance, you know, maybe for their entire lives. And we should be there for them. But the fact is, if you’re able bodied, if we can give you the tools and training to work, you should be working!  And that’s what we need to focus on.

SENGENBERGER:  Now, just on an unrelated topic, real briefly, and then I know you have got to run, Senator Gardner, and that is North Korea. That’s an issue that is very important to you. You’ve been paying close attention. And you’ve even caught the attention –speaking of attention — of Kim Jong-Il himself to be a little bit of a punching bag for him, which I think is to your credit. Talk to me about North Korea and the situation there.

GARDNER:  Well, you know, North Korea is [led by] a tyrannical leader, there, who has hundreds of thousands of his own people in the equivalent of political concentration camps, where he has tortured women, men and children. He has killed his own family members, poisoned people around the globe, now, to uphold his power. This is a madman with nuclear weapons. And we simply have to stop [him].  And a peaceful denuclearization effort through a global partnership that puts maximum pressure on the North Korean leadership, puts pressure on China to engage North Korea in a way that they have resisted so far, so that they can stop proceeding with the nuclear weapons — give it up, and rejoin the global community. This is a frightening situation. It is the most unstable condition on the Korean Peninsula since the end of the Korean – since the armistice was signed in 1953, the end of [the] conflict. And it has got to stop.

SENGENBERGER:  Anything you see that we can be doing right now in order to help move that along?

GARDNER:  Absolutely. We should ramp up our sanctions against the North Korean regime, against their labor and human trafficking violations, ramp up pressure through the United Nations Security Council on other nations who are allowing them — aiding and abetting their proliferation efforts, who are importing slave labor from North Korea that is funding their nuclear program. That has got to stop. We need to put pressure through sanctions on Chinese financial institutions that are acting as front companies for the North Koreans. We need to cut off avenues of cyber attacks that run through China that have been utilized against the United States, a number of issues that we ought to be doing to apply greater pressure. And that’s exactly what I’m fighting for.

SENGENBERGER:  Senator Gardner, I know we’re out of time here on the program. But it’s always a pleasure to speak with you. [There is] never enough time, but [I] look forward to chatting again real soon.

GARDNER:  Hey, thanks for having me, Jimmy! Take care!

SENGENBERGER:  Senator Cory Gardner, here on Business for Breakfast. We’re going to take a quick break.