No. I have been disappointed with the ideological attacks on federal workers that have occurred in the last few years. Federal workers have been targeted unfairly in efforts to address the nation's fiscal challenges. Our federal workers, including the nearly 70,000 in my district, have already sacrificed $60 billion in reduced pay towards deficit reduction, and Congress raised an additional $15 billion in February by requiring federal employees hired after this year to pay 3.1 percent of their salary toward retirement — a 2.3 percentage-point increase over what current employees pay. These two actions have resulted in federal employees already contributing over $75 billion to deficit reduction efforts, yet some in Congress continue their efforts to balance the budget on the backs of our federal workforce. Such actions undermine the federal government's ability to recruit and hire a talented workforce and bring us no closer to a responsible approach to deficit reduction. Federal employees play critical roles in protecting our national security, ensuring consumer safety, conducting research, and numerous other activities that millions of Americans depend on daily.
// The Congressional Budget Office projects spending on Medicare, Medicaid and other government health programs will more than double as a share of the nation's economy by 2037. What specific changes would you propose to reduce Medicare costs? //
Readmission rates are costly to the system. Medicare costs can be reduced by focusing on solutions aimed at reducing readmission rates and providing continuity of care after patients leave the hospital or the doctor's office. Lack of compliance by patients and poor follow-up procedures are among the issues associated with costly readmission. Medicare beneficiaries with chronic illnesses account for 80 percent of all enrollees — mechanisms to improve care for these patients and reward hospitals for performance and reduced readmissions rates would significantly reduce long-term Medicare costs. I supported provisions of the Affordable Care Act that reduce waste, fraud, and abuse, provide preventive services to save money over time, and put in place mechanisms for assessing quality of care over quantity.
Significant savings to Medicare could also be derived by creating a more efficient Medicare drug benefit that allows the system to negotiate prescription drug costs with pharmaceutical companies. Providing Medicare with the same ability to negotiate costs enjoyed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), another large buyer of prescription drugs, would allow beneficiaries to get the best price, saving an estimated $14 billion each year, according to Health Economics.
Modernization of the finance and health care delivery systems would also result in significant savings that would improve the sustainability of Medicare in the long run.
// Would you support increased federal spending on highways and other infrastructure as a way to boost the construction industry? If so, how would you pay for it? //
I am a long-time advocate of increasing federal spending on transportation infrastructure to help put the construction industry back to work and stimulate the economy, with a factor of 35,000 jobs for every 1 billion we make in infrastructure investments.
The nation's infrastructure is in a state of disrepair. The American Society of Civil Engineers grades America's infrastructure a "D," requiring $2.2 trillion dollars to clear the backlog. Over the next decade, that total skyrockets to over $7 trillion for just roads, bridges, aviation and transit. Investments in infrastructure would help create high-wage jobs, make necessary investments to increase productivity, and ensure short- and long-term economic prosperity in a 21st Century global economy. Our success depends on allocating the majority of the federal budget to make investments in people and our future competitiveness. We are the richest country in the world and can afford the priorities we set forth. As mentioned previously, if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire for the wealthiest Americans so that everyone pays their fair share, as we did under President Clinton, then we will have the funds necessary to help pay for the critical investments needed in our country. I am a strong supporter of developing a national infrastructure bank so that public and private investment could be used to offset infrastructure costs.
// Would you support U.S. military involvement in Iran if there were evidence that it was close to developing a nuclear weapon? //