Ron Kind Discusses Budget Deal And Medical Device Tax

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Ron Kind Discusses Budget Deal And Medical Device Tax

Premiere Date: 
October 18, 2013

The U.S. Rep. from La Crosse discusses the deal this week that ended the shutdown.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

We move across the aisle and across the state now to check in with third district Democratic congressman, Ron Kind, who joins us from Eau Claire. Congressman, thanks very much for doing so.

Ron Kind:

My pleasure.

Frederica Freyberg:

Well now, you of course, voted yes along with the other Democrats in Wisconsin. What was it like working toward a deal in Washington the past 16 days?

Ron Kind:

Well, Fred, it was much too difficult. This wasn't democracy's finest hour. The congress has to stop act being like a detriment and hindrance to the economic growth and job creation, and start partnering with the private sector to get this economy humming again. But unfortunately the dysfunction coming out of Washington is creating so much uncertainty for businesses and families alike that it’s really hurting the economic growth that we need today. And this performance cannot be repeated come January and February next year.

Frederica Freyberg:

What in your view did this all cost the US economically, politically and even in terms of its image?

Ron Kind:

Well, the numbers are coming in. It’s has already had an $24 billion economic impact for our country. It’s going to slow down fourth quarter growth, no question about that. It increased borrowing costs for our government. For those who were trying to do this under some rubric of fiscal responsibility, it had exactly the opposite effect. But more importantly it just adds more uncertainty for businesses trying to plan, make investments, hire workers, and families who want to get on with their life. And again, congress has a job to do. We’ve got to keep the government open. We have to pay our bills and not become a deadbeat nation. And we have to have negotiations for a long-term deficit reduction agreement to get our fiscal house in order. And if we can do those three things then hopefully it will start restoring some confidence around here again.

Frederica Freyberg:

Do you think that all of this that has gone down with help Democrats politically?

Ron Kind:

I don't know. The American people are the ultimate referee in all of this. This wasn't congress's finest hour, as I said earlier. We have to have the ability as an institution to sit down and talk and listen to each other. I tried initiating that over the last couple of weeks with my good friend Charlie Dehn from Pennsylvania. We had a group of moderate Democrats and Republicans meeting regularly to listen to each other, find common ground, figure out if there is a path forward from this hyper-partisanship and intense polarization that’s paralyzing our federal government right now. And it's the only way it’s going to work. We have to start building consensus from the middle out and stop allowing the extremes to run the agenda.

Frederica Freyberg:

How do you get there, though? Because, as you’ve suggested, you know, favorability ratings for congress, not just Republicans who kind of pushed the shutdown envelope, but also for Democrats, the ratings are really, really low. How do you get at this idea of consensus and working together?

Ron Kind:

The ratings are low and justifiably so. Except for our blood relatives it is hard to find anyone who is happy with the performance of congress these days. But you know, it gets down to communication skills, Frederica. We have to be able to sit and listen to each other. I’ve found throughout the years when I've done it there is a lot of common ground that can be had. There is more that unites us as Americans than what separates us as Republicans or Democrats, but you would never guess that given the scene coming out of Washington these days.

Frederica Freyberg:

As the budget conferees now try to work on a deal on taxes and spending, what do you most want to see?

Ron Kind:

Well, I don't think we should set the expectations too high. I don't think we're going to see a grand budget bargain within the next couple of months. There’s just too much in play there. Quite frankly, we’ve got to learn how to walk together before we start trotting and running again, build up the level of trust which is crucial for any governing body. And we have a lot of work to do on that front. But I think there are some areas that we can move forward on together in order to make progress. And that could set up a more productive session.

Frederica Freyberg:

Like what areas?

Ron Kind:

If you're going to be serious about deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility the two major cost drivers are rising healthcare costs and the inefficiencies in our defense budgets. I mean, the pentagon submits a list to us on outdated weapons programs they no longer want or need. We could be saving tens of billions of dollars just by listening to the Pentagon leaders and what they're telling us. And they we’ve got to come back to what we can do together to restrain rising healthcare costs but also get better results for the dollars that are being spent. There are certain things we can do together to accomplish that. Models of care right here in Wisconsin that are more integrated, more coordinated and patient centered, producing much better results at a better price. We need to be focused on that. Otherwise these deficits are going to get away from us.

Frederica Freyberg:

Isn't that part of the point of the Affordable Care Act, some of those new models for delivery in Medicare?

Ron Kind:

It is, and we need to continue to move forward on it. That's why I never understood this argument about repealing the entire bill. Listen, I never claimed it is a perfect bill. It’s going to need some adjustments and changes as we learn what works and what doesn't. But there are important tools in there to lead to better coordination of care, better quality outcomes and then ultimately, and this is what I especially have been focused on, changing the way we pay for healthcare, so it's based on the value or quality of care that's given and no longer the volume of services that are rendered. It’s these volume-based payments that have been bankrupting us as a nation for too long, driving our deficits, but also impacting businesses and family budgets alike.

Frederica Freyberg:

On the Affordable Care Act, or Obama Care, one compromise with bipartisan support might be the repeal of this medical devices tax. You support that, is that right?

Ron Kind:

I have, because that is an area of bipartisan agreement in both the house and in the senate. Earlier this year 79 senators supported repeal. And it’s bad policy, because we're taxing startup manufacturing companies based on the first dollar that comes in rather than any profit. And that’s going to hurt these small manufacturers, make it harder for them to stay in business. They need the capital now for further research and development. Because you never know where the next new breakthrough is going to occur that can help lead to reduced medical expenses in the future. So I think that’s one area where there could be some bipartisan cooperation.

Frederica Freyberg:

On that, where then do you make up the $30 billion in revenue that that tax is projected to bring in?

Ron Kind:

Yeah, I've been clear from the beginning, Frederica, and I have legislation to repeal it, but it has to be paid for so we aren't adding to the budget deficit. I think there’s an area when it comes to pension smoothing issues we can look to to have a more accurate measurement of interest expenses. And if we change that we could capture revenue to help pay for the repeal of this device tax. But I made it very clear to my Republican colleagues who would also like to repeal that tax that it has to be paid for. It can't be business as usual where you are repealing something but without replacing it with a revenue offset.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. Congressman Ron Kind, thanks very much.

Ron Kind:

My pleasure. 


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