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D.C. Must Shift to Jobs, Be Measured on Health Care

Southwest News-Herald

January 29, 2010

By Congressman Dan Lipinski

For the last year, while Washington spent much time absorbed with other issues, I have been arguing that job creation should be our number one priority. Now that the massive health care bill has stalled, Congress should work on taking smaller, measured steps to improve our health care system, and heed my call to focus on putting Americans back to work and making the economy work for the middle class.

My position regarding health care reform has not changed: reform is needed, but it must be done right. Unfortunately, Congress has not produced a bill that I, or a majority of my colleagues, can support.

I had hoped the Senate bill would improve on the House bill, and that legislation combining the best of both plans could be brought to a vote. Unfortunately, in many ways the Senate bill was worse than the House measure. It provided taxpayer funding for abortion, included an excessive excise tax on insurance plans, gave some states special treatment, and was tarnished by backroom deals with drug companies, hospitals, doctors, and others.

This does not mean that we should do nothing on health care. Health care costs are too high and continue to soar, and insurance coverage is difficult or impossible to afford for many middle-class people. We need to alter incentives that increase spending rather than improve health outcomes, increase competition and transparency to drive down costs and help consumers make better choices, help those who are sick or cannot afford insurance, and close the Medicare donut hole and lower prescription drug costs for seniors. In addition, I will continue pushing for bills I introduced to provide hospital price transparency and hold the drug and health insurance industries accountable by eliminating their tax breaks for advertising and promotion.

But right now my top priority is job creation, as it has been for the past year. As I have stated repeatedly, the best way to quickly create jobs is to pass a six-year, $500 billion transportation bill. Not only will this bill create millions of jobs, it will make vital and long-lasting improvements to our roads, railways, and public transportation. These improvements will enhance safety, shorten commutes and shipping times, reduce fuel consumption and pollution, and help grow the economy for years to come.

Unlike the stimulus bill, which I did not vote for, this bill is not a one-time, short-term measure. Every four to six years, Congress passes a transportation bill to invest in the nation’s infrastructure. The last such transportation bill expired in October, which means the new bill is overdue. A great deal of work has already gone into writing the new bill and it is ready to move forward.

As I focus on job creation, I will also continue working to prevent the financial industry from causing another economic catastrophe. More than a year after Wall Street was humbled by the financial crisis, it plainly has not learned humility. Pay at the top banks is expected to be even higher for 2009 than for the record-setting year of 2007. It seems Wall Street’s guiding philosophy remains, “Heads we win, tails the taxpayers lose.”

Having voted against the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, I believe we must act now to rein in the financial industry. I am cosponsoring a bill to impose a 50 percent tax on bonuses over $50,000 at bailed-out banks, have voted for stronger financial oversight and regulation, and strongly support measures to force the biggest banks to pay back every penny the taxpayers are owed.

Middle-class Americans want to believe that the system works for them – that if they work hard and play by the rules, they can live comfortably, raise their family, and retire with security. Now more than ever, we need to make sure that it does.

 

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