Entitlement programs, immigration and health care reform were some of the topics on the menu as dozens of Hamilton County’s leading business people gathered at Shapiro’s for a roundtable discussion with Sen. Dan Coats on Wednesday.
During his opening remarks, Coats criticized President Barack Obama’s economic policy, calling it the slowest recovery from a recession in our nation’s history. (The website, Politifact.com, disputes Coats’ assertion slightly, calling it either the second-, third- or fourth-slowest recovery since the Hoover administration, depending on your measuring point.) Coats repeatedly pointed to the example of states like Indiana reducing the size of government and reducing the burden on the taxpayer, adding, “that’s not happening in Washington.”
Coats’ harshest criticism was reserved for the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, claiming the costs for the program were almost incalculable and would damage small business and large corporations both. Most of the attendees agreed. Jo Biggers of Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, Inc. said Obamacare would add $1 million to the company’s healthcare costs, while Jon Goble, chief executive of IU Health North, Saxony and Tipton, said the hospital chain would have to reduce expenditures approximately 47 percent to meet the healthcare act’s requirements.
Despite his hardline stance on illegal immigration, Coats said there was a real need for legal immigrants to come to the U.S. to work jobs Americans either aren’t skilled enough for or don’t want to do.
“We need to keep the doors open for those who want to work,” Coats said.
Local business consultant Terry Anker, a Current columnist, suggested a new constitutional convention could be called, but Coats was quick to downplay that idea.
“You don’t know who would show up,” Coats said. “The other side has the numbers right now. You could wind up with a constitution we don’t like.”
Instead, Coats urged patience, expressing confidence the tide would turn in 2016 in the GOP’s favor as the ramifications of Obamacare are felt. One of the biggest roadblocks to GOP success, Coats said to much agreement within the crowd, was a growing “entitlement mentality” among citizens.
“There’s just no incentive for people to work,” Coats said. “Someone on welfare is making the equivalent of $52,000 a year, tax-free. I believe that will change, but I’m not sure if it’ll come politically. … What are we leaving our kids and grandkids? It might take a big crisis to change (from our current path).”