The United States must have the best trained, best led, and best equipped military in the world. Weakness invites aggression. While our defense priorities must be fully funded, wasteful spending in the defense budget must be cut by reducing the bloated Pentagon bureaucracy, acquisition reform, and getting our allies to shoulder their share of the burden.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is mired in a culture of bureaucratic incompetence and corruption where no one responsible for wrongdoing is ever held accountable. The VA has failed to meet our nation’s obligations to the men and women, who have served our nation in uniform, and who have made tremendous sacrifices in defense of our freedom. VA whistleblowers must be protected and veterans must be able to get care in a timely manner, including from private providers when the veteran lives too far from a VA facility or the waiting list for care is too long.
Health Care Reform
Health care costs have not gone down under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare, as promised. The consumer protections under the ACA, such as allowing dependents to stay on a parent’s policy until age 26, and prohibiting discrimination based on gender or pre-existing conditions should remain. Beyond that, states should be given discretion, within broad parameters, to devise their own solutions to bring down cost and to broaden access. Reforms such as making individual insurance premiums tax deductible and bringing down the high cost of the defensive practice of medicine through medical malpractice reform are essential to make costs lower for patients.
Saving Social Security
We can start with reforming the Social Security Disability program that is being abused due to poorly written laws, unscrupulous lawyers, and too many abled-bodied workers seeking an early retirement. The solvency problem of the Social Security Disability program is bleeding into the Social Security program for seniors who have earned their benefits from a lifetime of hard work. Congress must reform the disability program and restore the payroll taxes that it took from the Social Security Supplemental program for seniors to prop up the disability program.
Medical cost for seniors, under Medicare, can be dramatically reduced, stabilizing the long-term health of the program, without cutting benefits by reforming the delivery system and focusing on research on innovations such as treatments using adult stem cells that ultimately could lead to procedures and treatments that are less invasive, less costly, and with better outcomes.
Small business is the engine that drives economic development, but small businesses are harmed by regulatory red tape preventing them from expanding and creating more jobs. We need to empower small businesses, as they are the engine of job growth and creation.
I have supported temporary measures to help those with student debt. However, the focus and incentives also need to be on promoting skills-based education with an emphasis on the shorter certificate and vocational training programs that train for jobs that pay a living wage and provide a path into the middle class. An elitist bias against the trades is putting far too many young people on a path to poverty because they are graduating from four-year colleges & universities with non-technical degrees. As a result, their job prospects are little better than if they had never gone to college. The only difference is that they now are burdened with debt.
No doubt, it is the proper role of government to help those who cannot help themselves but, unfortunately, government often crosses the line to help those who can help themselves but have forgotten how. For individuals, this means that all able-bodied individuals should be required to participate in work, training or education, in exchange for receiving any form of public assistance. Corporate welfare programs are costly to taxpayers, hurt the competitiveness of American businesses, and ultimately, raise prices to consumers. Tax cuts and regulatory relief should always treat all businesses equally and not written to the exclusive benefit of a specific corporation or industry.
The United States should do everything that it reasonably can to protect the environment and to reduce our carbon footprint. We have made tremendous progress, and through innovation, will continue to do so. However, we need to put more pressure, through negotiating trade agreements, on our trading partners to do more, so that the burden does not continue to fall disproportionately on the American worker. We also need to drive technological innovation that reduces environmental impact – work being done right in our backyard in Golden at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which I have strongly supported in Congress.
I believe our immigration system is broken, plain and simple. For too long, both political parties have refused to fix it, leaving the system in shambles. It is time we tackled the issue and finally fixed it.
Any fix to our immigration system should include three core elements – it should aim to keep families together, it should benefit the American economy, and our borders should be secure.
To keep families together, I believe that for the adults that broke no other laws than our immigration laws, they should be given an opportunity to come out of the shadows and after passing a criminal background check should be given an opportunity for a work permit, so that they do not have a fear of deportation. However, I don’t believe adults who knowingly broke the law should be given a special path to citizenship.
For the children who were brought to this country illegally, through no fault of their own, I believe they should be given an earned path to citizenship through military service, education or employment. I have authored a number of bipartisan bills to support this population, protecting them from deportation and giving them a chance to become citizens.
To grow our economy, our immigration system should aim to expand visas for immigrants with skills and education that American companies need. That means lifting the country cap on H1B visas, so that we don’t discriminate against any country. It also means finding ways for college graduates to stay in the country and put their skills to use for the American economy.
We must also secure our borders. Countries need to know who is coming and going across their borders, and citizens must be able to trust that the government is keeping out those people that seek to do us harm. To secure our borders, we need more technology, better training, and a properly funded legal system to process claims of asylum in a timely manner.