Dr. Boozman's Check-up

Talking with KASU

Nov 10 2011

During my monthly interview on KASU I talked with Mark Smith about the supercommittee and debt reduction, infrastructure, Veterans Day and many more of today's top issues. If you missed it, you can listen to the interview here.

Senator Boozman answers questions about the Joint Congressional Committee or what is more commonly referred to as the Supercommittee, the No Child Left Behind Reauthorization and Social Security in this edition of 'From the Mailbag.'

A majority of small business owners believe the U.S. is in a recession or will be within a year, according to the Sage Small Business Economy Study. 64% of small business owners who participated in “The Sage SMB Perspective on Economic Recovery hold this view of the economy, despite President Obama’s claims that the economy is better off after the passage of his “Stimulus” plan.

Perhaps more alarming, 77% of those polled, do not plan to hire any additional employees in the near future and 8% are planning to downsize.

Why all this pessimism? The common thread in the answers of these respondents is the climate of uncertainty that hangs over our economy.  Most of that uncertainty can be attributed to the overregulation of the private sector the Obama administration continues to engage in. 

This Administration, like no other in recent years, has abused the regulatory process. Last year, the Obama Administration finalized 3,573 new rules—the costs of these new regulations amounted to $1.75 trillion—nearly 12% of GDP.

Even many rules that have merely been proposed, not even enacted, are hurting our economy. Businesses, both big and small, need to plan ahead to succeed. With so many proposed rules, it is nearly impossible for a business owner to plan with any degree of confidence. This uncertainty is as large of an obstacle to our recovery as the regulations implemented. If business owners don’t know what their tax rates and energy, healthcare and compliance costs are going to be, then the last thing they are going to do is hire a bunch of people.

Quite simply, fear of the effects the next wave of regulations serve to further push small business owners to the edge of uncertainty.

To encourage investment in small business, the heart of our nation’s economy, we need to provide business owners and investors with the predictability they need to make sound investment decisions.  In order to accomplish this we need to rein in spending, reform our tax code, reduce regulatory burdens imposed by government agencies, increase exports with the trade partners and create a new energy policy that allows us to use American resources and make us less dependent on foreign oil.

We have a plan that accomplishes all of this— The Jobs Through Growth Act

The Jobs Through Growth Act is the right approach to long-term economic recovery.  Job creation cannot happen in a vacuum.  The environment of uncertainty created by President Obama’s policies of excessive spending and overregulation is preventing a recovery from even beginning.  This bill combines a broad range of market-based solutions that will help turn the economy around by encouraging private sector job creation and economic growth.  Let’s pass this bill and get unemployed and underemployed Americans working again. 

As you may have heard, there will be a test of the nationwide Emergency Alert System tomorrow at 1:00 P.M. CST.

The Emergency Alert System is an alert and warning system that can be activated by the president to address and provide information to the American public during emergencies and to issue more localized emergency alerts.

I want to stress this is just a test.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Communications Commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will administer the test as part of their ongoing efforts to keep the nation safe during emergencies and strengthen resilience against all hazards.

The test will be similar to those you see or hear on local television or radio stations, but on a larger scale. Emergency broadcast system alerts are typically done on one station at a time whereas this test will be on every single TV and radio station all at once and should include both audio messages and a video scrolling message that a test is in progress.

According to information from Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM), the test will last 30 seconds. During this period, regularly scheduled television, radio, cable and satellite shows will be interrupted as the system is tested.

This upcoming test serves as a good reminder to establish an emergency preparedness kit and emergency plan for yourself, your family, and your community.  ADEM’s website and “Ready Arkansas” have a wealth of information about how to prepare for, and stay informed about, what to do in the event of an actual emergency.

As Congress debates competing plans to get Americans working again, I started a series of blog posts aimed at shining a spotlight on the individual bills that make up “The Jobs Through Growth Act” and how each one will help put our economy on a road to recovery. Today, we look at how a bill to repeal and replace the President's health care law that is included in "The Jobs Through Growth Act" will help the economy.

A “structural break in job growth” is a fancy phrase economists throw around to describe the correlation between a single event and its resulting job-loss.   It may be easier concept to define by describing the most significant example of it in recent times: The passage of President Obama’s health care plan into law.

While the economy was far from booming at the start of 2010, private-sector job creation was recovering from the recession at a normal rate.  Within two months of the passage of the President’s health care law, the job market stopped improving and has yet to regain its footing.

Now this is not to say that the current lack of jobs in America rests solely on the passage of the health care law, but just about any small business owner in the country will tell you the law significantly raises their operating costs and uncertainty about the future.

The consequences of this law impact the job market in the following ways: 

  • Businesses with fewer than 50 workers have a strong incentive to maintain this size.  By doing so, they avoid the mandate to provide government-approved health coverage or face a penalty;

  • Businesses with more than 50 workers will see their costs for health coverage rise.  Many business owners who fall in this category  have already said it is more economically feasible to pay the government fine and drop coverage all together —which will push their employees into the government pool; and

  • It greatly adds to the enormous amount of uncertainty in our economy.  Employers have no idea what the health care market or their health care costs will look like in in the coming years, which makes planning for the future difficult. 

As a former small business owner and a healthcare provider, I understand how to approach the challenge of lowering the crippling costs of quality health care and creating access for all Americans without stifling economic development.  The President’s law is not the answer and we are seeing clearly just how much of a burden it is on our economy.

Early this year in the Senate, we tried to repeal this law, but Majority Leader Harry Reid’s caucus voted to protect the President.  The Jobs Through Growth Act gives us another opportunity to right this wrong by repealing and replacing the President’s health care law.  The comprehensive jobs package I support includes Senator Jim Demint’s bill to repeal the President’s law, which gives us an opportunity to replace it with market-based reforms that actually will contain the rising costs of health care and return some confidence in the economy for our job creators.

As Congress debates competing plans to get Americans working again, I started a series of blog posts aimed at shining a spotlight on the individual bills that make up The Jobs Through Growth Act and how each one will help put our economy on a road to recovery.

In this edition, we’re highlighting The Withholding Tax Relief Act, a bill that repeals an unnecessary tax that hurts every small business that works with local, state, and federal agencies.

Since it was recently overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives in its stand-alone form, we can knock this piece of our jobs plan out immediately if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would bring it up for a vote.  170 Democrats voted for the House-passed bill and the repeal is included in President Obama’s plan as well. 

With support of the House and the President, this commonsense, common-ground effort does not need to languish in the Senate with an economy in need of this sort of market-based reform. 

There is no reason why government agencies should be required to withhold federal taxes from payments to contractors.  This withholding takes money from the companies that could otherwise be used for capital investments, employees or additional project bids.  Repealing this requirement is one step toward fostering an environment that helps create jobs in the private sector.  Despite the Majority Leader’s recent out-of-touch claims, the private sector is exactly where jobs are needed the most.

Republicans and Democrats can and must come together to help jumpstart our economy.  We proved that we can by recent passage of the South Korea, Columbia and Panama free trade bills.  The Withholding Tax Relief Act is another perfect example of where we can find common ground.  Let’s pass it, send it to the President and keep focusing on ways we can cooperate to get Americans working again.

The Jobs Through Growth Act combines several bills that reform the tax code, abolish burdensome regulations, eliminate wasteful spending, promote new markets for American exporters and reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy.

As Congress debates competing plans to get Americans working again, I want to shine a spotlight on the individual bills that make up The Jobs Through Growth Act and how each one will help put our economy on a road to recovery.

In this first edition, let’s highlight the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS Act), an effort to curb the alarming amount of unnecessary regulations coming from the Obama Administration.

In a recent Gallup Poll, small-business owners in the United States said the number one problem they face today is figuring out how to comply with the countless government regulations.  Fear of the effects the next wave of regulations serve to further push small business owners to the edge of uncertainty.

This Administration, like no other in recent years, has abused the regulatory process. Last year, the Obama Administration finalized 3,573 new rules—the costs of these new regulations amounted to $1.75 trillion—nearly 12% of GDP.

The REINS Act will serve as a check for the Administration’s regulatory binge.  It will require Congressional approval, by joint resolution, of any federal rule that would cost the economy $100 million or more. 

Congressional approval of these regulations is important in light of the aggressive regulatory approach the Executive Branch is continuing to pursue this year.  In just two months during the summer of 2011, the Obama Administration proposed 1225 regulations at a cost of $17.7 billion. And these aren’t minor inconveniences we are talking about either.  President Obama’s regulatory agenda for 2011 contains 219 proposed rules that have an economic cost of over $1 billion each.

There seems to be no end to this practice in sight.  In fact, President Obama has issued a flurry of executive orders in recent days.  White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said President Obama will continue to bypass Congress to further his agenda in the coming weeks.  Just yesterday, Carney said, “But he [Obama] can also act independently or, rather, administratively, and exercise his executive authority to benefit the American people in other ways.  And he will continue to do that.”

The REINS Act is an important piece of this comprehensive jobs package and will help lift the specter of uncertainly from our lagging economy and ensure Congressional oversight of this Administration.  It, along with the other bills rolled into The Jobs Through Growth Act, should be passed right away to jumpstart our economy.

The Right Response

Oct 31 2011

The State Department will not be making a $60 million aid payment to a UN cultural agency next month. 

In fact, the U.S. likely won’t be making any financial contributions to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the near future.

And that is the right thing to do.

UNESCO voted today to grant the Palestinian Authority cultural agency full membership into the organization, a move that violates U.S. law prohibiting American support for any U.N.-affiliated body that accepts Palestinian membership.

It is unfortunate, given that the organization is reliant on U.S. aid for almost a quarter of their budget that they would choose to hold such a controversial vote, especially in light of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) divisive move to get a vote on statehood from the UN

As I have stated numerous times in the past, the PA and Israel need to pursue peace through direct negotiation.  The goal should be working toward a two-state solution, but it has to be agreed upon by the two parties directly involved.  It will not be a successful solution if the borders of the two-states are forced upon the parties by the UN.      

Cynical efforts like the statehood recognition bid with the UN are detrimental to the peace process.  The move by UNESCO today, only adds fuel to the fire, which is why the decision to withhold further funding from UNESCO is the right response to this disappointing vote.

If you’ve been looking to make a change to your Medicare Advantage or prescription drug plan, now is the time to do it.

The Medicare Open Enrollment Period, currently underway, got off to a much earlier start this year.

Open Enrollment is the one time of the year when Medicare recipients can switch plans and make changes to their Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D.

The Open Enrollment Period will continue through December 7, 2011.  Any changes you opt to make to your coverage during this period will begin January 1, 2012.

To get started, just review which plan will meet your needs for next year by using the Medicare Plan Finder. You can also find a listing of plans in your area by checking your most recent “Medicare & You” handbook or by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), where help is available 24 hours a day, including weekends.  Medicare can also help you enroll online, in person, at an event in your community, or via phone.

Trying to find affordable health care coverage can be exhausting.  If you have limited income you may qualify for the “Extra Help” program to pay your prescription drug costs.

Once you choose a plan, there are several options as to how to start your coverage. 

These options include:

•             Enroll on the plan’s Web site or on Medicare’s site

•             Complete a paper application

•             Call the plan’s administrator

•             Call 1-800-MEDICARE

Remember, these change will take effect on January 1, 2012 only if your request is submitted by December 7, 2011.

If you opt to change your coverage after the Open Enrollment period, you may be forced to pay a late enrollment penalty.

Learn about Medicare enrollment periods here.

Yesterday, I stopped by the Fox 16 newsroom to visit with Kevin Kelly. We chatted about jobs, the economy, infrastructure and the 2012 presidential race.  Watch the entire interview here.