Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, can hardly stand politics anymore.
“It’s become a game. Who is on top? Who has scored the most points,” he told members and guests of the Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 20. The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday allowed Moran to be in Kansas rather than Washington, D.C. The Senator spent part of his day in Spring Hill visiting with students at the high school and lunching with the chamber.
Moran said he used to love politics. He was senior class president of his class in Plainville, Kan., and interned for his Congressman in Washington in 1974, witnessing the Watergate scandal. He thought, at the time, maybe he could one day run for office and do better.
However, he said the country isn’t optimistic right now. Moran said he understands the dissatisfaction.
“If you believe the country is falling apart, you ought to be more demanding of your legislators in Washington, D.C.,” he said.
During a question-and-answer session that followed Moran’s short speech, several questions inquired about federal spending and taxation. Moran explained that only about 30 percent of the federal budget is discretionary spending. The rest is entitlement spending, or spending for programs like Medicare and Social Security. Congress only appropriates discretionary spending. On entitlement spending, he said, there is typically no discussion.
For the last two years, discretionary spending has been less than it was the year previously. It’s the first time that’s occurred since the Korean War, Moran said.
“That’s a good thing,” Moran said. However, he said the U.S. continues to borrow almost 40 cents of every dollar it spends.
“It shows that we can’t solve the spending problem by looking only at discretionary spending,” he said. “That’s not a partisan statement. The math doesn’t work.”
Moran said Congress needs to look at changes to the retirement age and potentially income limits for those who receive Medicare or Social Security.
Moran favors changes to the tax system that would create a fair, or consumption, tax. However, he said he isn’t opposed to a flat tax.
“I’m for anything that gets rid of the mess we’ve made,” Moran said.
He believes there may be support in Washington for tax reform that “flattens” the tax code, or lowers rates and eliminates tax credits. But, he said Democrats in Washington would like to use tax reform to increase tax revenues, while generally Republicans want tax reform to reduce spending.
Chamber members also asked questions about Obamacare and its implementation.
“Obamacare has huge consequences to families and businesses,” Moran said. “It’s hard to fix in any way by tinkering with it.”
The Senator said he’s met with several business owners who are changing the way they do business in order to comply with the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. For example, Moran spoke to a restaurant owner in Parsons, Kan. The restauranteur owns three restaurants, but will close two in order to keep his number of employees below Obamacare’s threshold of 50. An employer with more than 50 employees must provide health insurance.
In Lenexa, Moran said there are two warehouses in which employees split time at competing warehouses, which limits the number of full-time employees at each warehouse. Employees work at one warehouse in the morning, and then go next door to work the afternoon shift at another warehouse.
Moran said it’s a drain on the economy when employers and families make decisions based on limiting their tax exposure or regulatory exposure rather than basing decisions on what’s best for the business.