U.S. Rep. Ron Kind Discusses Taxes, Healthcare, Immigration | Wisconsin Public Television

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind Discusses Taxes, Healthcare, Immigration

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Premiere Date: 
October 20, 2017

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind Discusses Taxes, Healthcare, Immigration

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind joins us for a federal government update. On the docket this week are the federal tax plan Speaker Paul Ryan touted when in Madison this week and what is to come of federal healthcare policy. Kind says regarding tax cuts, "we have to pay for it," and argues against what he calls "trickle down at the top."

Episode Transcript

Frederica Freyberg:

Now to Washington, where the U.S. Senate passed a bill Thursday that puts Congress on schedule to pass a tax measure by the end of the year. The bill sets in motion a $1.5 trillion tax cut. It lands in the House of Representatives as soon as next week. Earlier this week, House Speaker Paul Ryan was in Madison, where he said, "There's an urgent need for tax code changes."

Paul Ryan:

We think the tax rates are far too high. We think the tax code is far too riddled with loopholes. We think the tax code is rigged. We think it's basically a system of all these carve-outs and loopholes and special interest groups which artificially raise people's tax rates.

Frederica Freyberg:

In response to the GOP tax plan and other moves in Washington, we talked with a Democratic member of Wisconsin Congressional's delegation this week, Congressman Ron Kind of La Crosse joined us in our studios midweek. Congressman Kind, thanks very much for being here.

Ron Kind:

My pleasure.

Frederica Freyberg:

We wanted to start by asking your position on the tax plan being put forward.

Ron Kind:

It’s been 31 years since we've taken a serious run at the federal tax code. It's long overdue. I'd like to simplify it. Like to make it more competitive. Make it fair to our families back home here, small businesses, family farmers. It's way too complicated with special interest tax loopholes that have been included through the years with powerful groups in Washington. But we need to do this in a fiscally responsible manner too. No big budget deficits blowing up. So we have to pay for it. That's where it gets complicated pretty quickly.

Frederica Freyberg:

Because there is an analysis that suggests that over ten years would be causing a deficit. So how do you offset that?

Ron Kind:

It’s hard. That's why it's been 31 years since we've had significant reform of the federal tax code. It's one of the issues I speak to small business owners in Wisconsin about a lot, the complexity of the code, the compliance, how much time they waste just making sure they don't run afoul of the IRS.  So for the sake of that and for people's peace of mind overall, simplify, simplify it and make it more competitive. But I don't want to see just more trickle-down tax cuts at the very top, expecting to benefit everyone else and not paying for it so that we leave a legacy of debt. Inevitably that leads to huge cuts to Medicare and Social Security in the future. So that can't be the tradeoff here.

Frederica Freyberg:

Speaker Ryan does say that it is not designed to favor just the super wealthy, but it certainly does benefit them. Who do you think the winners and losers are in this current plan?

Ron Kind:

As soon as we get more details -- and there's been a lack of details so far. This is a moving target and details do matter in something like this. But it has to be, I think, distributionally fair to working families and not just more trickle-down at the top. We've gone that route before. It's led to every-increasing income inequality in our country. And it hasn't produced the economic bump that they keep trying to sell it for.

Frederica Freyberg:

So you don't think that these kind of tax cuts invigorate the economy?

Ron Kind:

Well, it's not going to pay for itself. Unfortunately there's a philosophy in Washington believing tax cuts alone will promote economic growth and additional revenues to pay for it. We've never seen that in the past. There's no economic data that supports that. So we need to be careful we don't fall into that trap.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, at the same time that Republicans are pushing the tax cuts, the president is slicing parts of the Affordable Care Act, including payments to insurance companies for low-income care. He also declares Obamacare a disaster. This week I know there's some talk about some kind of bipartisan plan that is kind of on again and off again. What's your response to these actions to dismantle Obamacare?

Ron Kind:

The president right now because he wasn't able to get repeal and replace enacted into law is doing everything he can to create chaos in the health insurance market. That's unfortunate cause you're playing with people's lives. The analysis that we saw with his elimination of cost-sharing reductions payments will increase uninsured by over $2 million and increase premiums for everyone else. That's taking us back to the old system, where you have more uninsured, rising costs, businesses large and small being less competitive because of the cost of health care. It's not solving problems. We have to stop playing politics with people's lives. We ought to recognize what's working, fix what isn't in the health care system and stay focused on health care costs and what we can do to bring them down to make it more affordable to everyone.

Frederica Freyberg:

Is this possible?

Ron Kind:

We need to do it because chaos benefits no one, Republicans, Democrats, independents. We're all in this together. We all need access to affordable and quality health care in our lives. For us to sustain a growing, vibrant economy, we've got to get the health care system fixed so it is affordable.

Frederica Freyberg:

How would you fix it?

Ron Kind:

Well, there's things going on under the Affordable Care Act. I know the president doesn't want to hear this, but delivery system reform by working with our health care providers so we have a more integrated, coordinated, patient-centered health care system. And then the item I’ve been especially focused on, payment reform. So we're paying for the value of the outcome of care that's given and no longer the volume of services that are rendered.

Frederica Freyberg:

Isn't that part of the Affordable Care Act already?

Ron Kind:

It is, and we've seen per-capita spending on health care at a 50-year low. If you're an employer - I mean employee in an employer-sponsored plan, those premiums have been relatively steady and stable over the last eight years. Clearly there were problems in the small group and individual market, especially for those who aren't receiving any subsidy payments. They're getting hammered right now. But that's roughly 5%, 6% of the population. We can focus on them to provide relief.

Frederica Freyberg:

How have your constituents weighed in on what's happening with health care?

Ron Kind:

Tremendous amount of confusion and angst which is unfortunate. Many of them in the insurance marketplace are wondering if they're going to be able to continue to be there, whether they can afford the plans that are being offered. In rural Wisconsin, it's hard to attract more plans for the competitiveness because they don't know what the rules are going to be from month to month, yet alone year to year. That's unfair to them. The best thing we can do is, as you mentioned, the bipartisan work that's taking place in the Senate, short-term market stabilization, focus on the small group market and the raising cost. And let's do something about drug prices. That's one of the big cost drivers in the health care system. We're not even having hearings in Congress over that.

Frederica Freyberg:

As for immigrant families in your district, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was recently terminated. What do you think should happen now?

Ron Kind:

The president has given us six months -- this Congress to fix this and I hope we do sooner rather than later cause it's patently unfair to do this to these students who are as American as anyone else's children. To threaten to round them up and kick them out and send them to a country that they've never been to and they have no ties to. These are very bright, hardworking kids. I've been having DACA meetings throughout my Congressional district to try to reassure them that I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that's not done to them. We're just shooting ourselves in the foot economically if we're going to get rid of this talent that exists right in our communities today.

Frederica Freyberg:

Do you think Congress can come up with a solution?

Ron Kind:

I hope so. I hope there's enough compassion with my colleagues that we don't resort to what the president is calling for now and that's kicking them out, even though they did nothing wrong. They were brought here when they were really young children. Many of them are serving in our military, willing to sacrifice their lives for the future of our country. You would think there's a compassionate middle ground to be had here.

Frederica Freyberg:

Ron Kind, thanks very much.

Ron Kind:

Thank you.

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