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Bill Cassidy, US Congressman, discusses Issues Facing our Nation Including Debt & Unemployment

Legal lines Show
Show 135 Congressman Cassidy

Locke Meredith:  Hello, I'm Locke Meredith and this is legal lines.  We're very pleased to have on the show Dr. Bill Cassidy.  He is a United States Congressman for district six.  Bill's going to talk to us about the economy, the stimulus package, he's going to talk about the trading cap that you hear about on TV and he's also going to talk to us about the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan and also the tensions involved with Iran and also Israel.  So join us on the next Legal Lines with Dr. Bill Cassidy the United States Congressman for the state of Louisiana.

Locke Meredith:  Welcome back, I'm very pleased to have on the show Congressman Bill Cassidy.  Bill, we talked about the health care issues on the last show.  The options, you prefer the health savings accounts, because they provide transparency, they provide the patient with control of cost and  are also proactive, it rewards the individual if they take care of themselves, frankly.

Congressman Cassidy:  Yes.

Locke Meredith:  So the bottom line is, you're motivating the individual to take care of themselves, and provide for their own coverage, in essence.

Congressman Cassidy:  And so it becomes, the patients in charge, the patients empowered, the patient becomes healthier, the patient saves money and healthcare becomes more affordable for everybody.

Locke Meredith:  Is there anything pending in front of Congress?

Congressman Cassidy:  The house republican party has submitted a bill, the republican study committee, there will be many republican bills, but this one has this reform as well as other reforms to the current system.  The common theme is empowering the patient.  Making the patient better able to judge on price in a way which decreases administrative cost and increases the patient's savings of money, encouraging the patient to make the wisest decision for her and her family.

Locke Meredith:  And they maintain choice, they have the choice and they maintain the quality.

Congressman Cassidy:  The thing about a health savings account is that you can take that thing to anyone you want.

Locke Meredith:  You aren't locked in to any group or hospital.  It’s interesting, when you first decided to run for Congressman I kind of was bemused in the sense that congress was controlled by democrats and of course, you're a republican, the concern was. Obviously that they wouldn't listen to anything republicans said, say much less, a new guy on the block.  How's that going?

Congressman Cassidy:  Well I always think Locke, I remember back to my tenth grade civics class, where we were always told as American people we had a requirement if you will, a civic duty, to speak out.  And so what I think we're seeing during the august recesses is that the American people are speaking out.

Locke Meredith:  Boy, are they.

Congressman Cassidy:  They really are.

Locke Meredith:  You're referring to the town hall meetings?

Congressman Cassidy:  Town hall meetings but also emails and letters, one day the entire house of representative switchboard got bombed and they couldn’t process anymore emails or calls because of how many people were calling and emailing.  So that said, I feel as a republican right now, I am very much in sync with my district, my state and where the American people are.  Although we are in a minority party, we can, none the less, say that we are speaking along with the American people on health reform, but health reform that works for all.

Locke Meredith:  Because you are on what committees?

Congressman Cassidy:  I am on natural resources, which involves oil and gas reform for our state, education and labor which also has a role with risk and plans I mentioned earlier for health insurance plans, and I also I am on labor and on agriculture.

Locke Meredith:  and as I understand it, assisted minority wife and a couple other things.  GOP working caucus on healthcare.  In your negotiations with democrats is there more receptivity?

Congressman Cassidy:  There are no negotiations.  It’s actually, and I'm using a quote from a white house advisor, President Obama's advisor, he said, "what’s driving the healthcare reform is the left of the left."  So it isn’t just the people who are more liberal, its the people who are to the left of the more liberal, and he's implying that the reason we can't get something bipartisan is folks who are to the left of the left.

Locke Meredith:  And they are in charge of the senate right now?

Congressman Cassidy:  Well, in fairness I can say, and I'm not being partisan, but I can say that Nancy Pelosi is a speaker because the people who are more liberal support her.  Her constituency to be speaker is to the left of the left and so they have an increased influence because she is there,

Locke Meredith:  She's there because of them

Congressman Cassidy:  She's there because of them.

Locke Meredith:  So she's going to listen to them.  The bottom line is, the republicans have ideas, and I’ve seen where you've offered amendments to certain bills and am its just party line no.

Congressman Cassidy:  Basically, it’s a party line no.

Locke Meredith:  so is it your hope or do you anticipate that the turmoil in the town hall meeting and bipartisan voicing their disdain for this, will maybe result in more cooperation?  I really do, put it this way, its my hope that folks will say, this is not what the American people wanted, lets pull back, rework it, come to something that truly is bipartisan, something that is patient centered and not another government bureaucracy, for example, then we come back to the American people, because Locke, at all my town hall meetings everyone wants reform, and they want reform that works, you used the term earlier, get it right, they want reform that gets it right and if this doesn’t work the only other option is to start voting people out, because the next elections are in 2010.

Congressman Cassidy:  well that has kind of set the stage; there have been several other issues, as you mentioned before the stimulus package the caps in rates, several other issues than have disturbed people, which I think has made them more an activist on this health care issue.

Locke Meredith:  And let's talk about it, the economy has been in shambles for two years now, it hopefully has began to plateau but you've come in when there is just a lot of turmoil and as I recall you voted against the stimulus package, as I understand it, less than ten percent of it has been spent.  Less than fifty percent will be spent in two years.

Congressman Cassidy:  I did vote for a stimulus package, just not the one that passed.  The one I voted for gave, I think, eighty thousand dollars in construction projects.  Because if we are going to deficit spends, then lets have something to show for it.  So we can say, if I had had more money, we could have finished widening I12 going further east, we could have taken I10 going to Ascension and made that wider.  We could have gone to the various communities, north Ascension for example, Pointe Coupee, The Feliciana and helped them with water projects,  There’s lots of stuff out there that would have provided infrastructure that long term would have made a lot of difference to the economic future of our country.

Locke Meredith:  But that didn’t get passed?

Congressman Cassidy:   Well, the eighty billion was cut to twenty nine billion in infrastructure.  The second thing I voted for was more tax breaks for middle class Americans and frankly, when middle class folks keep more money in their pockets, they feel more secure, they are more likely to keep their house, more likely to be able to afford their children's education, and ultimately our country benefits from that.

Locke Meredith:  Well when these packages, whether it be the stimulus package at 800 million or the bank bailouts at six or seven hundred billion or so, or the bailout for the automobile folks which was billions also.  You’re taking that money from us, your children or your grandchildren, we’re not spending it, it’s staying with the government and they are saying where it needs to be spent.

Congressman Cassidy:  Well, the package that passed, according to the congressional budget office, which is the non-bias, neither republican or democrat, the congressional budget office said that the package that passed will actually hurt our economy,  in ten years, because it borrows so much money, that there won’t be the money then to expand our economy.

Locke Meredith:  so that tops it, the deficit is what?  Well over a trillion dollars at this point?

Congressman Cassidy:  1.8 trillion or 1.6 trillion, I believe, is what it’s projected for this year.

Locke Meredith:  and taxes are scheduled, President Bush had passed reduced tax rates and that will end at the end of 2010.  President Obama is proposing taxes on 2015 and above even higher.  So not only re they taking money away from the United States folks and spending it for them then they are going to raise the taxes and take even more money.

Congressman Cassidy:  in fairness, I just have to compliment the American people because they kept hearing we are not going to raise your taxes, and it turns out we are going to allow tax reductions to go back.

Locke Meredith:  ok, let’s continue that on the next segment.  I’m Locke Meredith with legal lines and United States Congressman Bill Cassidy.  We’ll be right back.

Locke Meredith: Welcome back to legal lines.  We are very pleased to have with us United States Congressman for the state of Louisiana, Bill Cassidy.  We were talking about taxes and of course, we got a lot of wars going on and hundreds of thousands of folks overseas, I know there was a bit of head butting over the appropriations bill, what is your view on that?

Congressman Cassidy:  The department of defense bill, if I may back up and introduce another topic,

Locke Meredith:  Sure.

Congressman Cassidy:  Earmarks, there are lots of concerns among Americans that our earmark process is broken, earmarks are not inherently bad

Locke Meredith:  In fact, President Obama said he was going to fight it, and Senator McCain was against it, and I think we have nine thousand earmarks.

Congressman Cassidy:  we have more earmarks than ever before.  The senate appropriations bills have some earmarks in them.  Now, you’re going to vote for the senate appropriations bill because that’s the way we fund our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.  You’re going to vote for that.

Locke Meredith:  because you’re going to support your troops.

Congressman Cassidy:  You are going to support your troops, but what you know is that some are going to take the opportunity to slip in earmarks where they are not needed.  One example is, John Murtha is the head of the committee that runs the department of defense appropriations committee and he put in for extra airplanes to fly members of congress around.

Locke Meredith:  I remember hearing that.

Congressman Cassidy:  I’m going back on Delta, US Air and Northwest,

Locke Meredith:  like to have those planes, huh?

Congressman Cassidy:  I would, it would make my life easier, but in all seriousness, if for example, a group of congress ask to fly to Afghanistan for a boots the ground perspective of what our troops are doing, that’s fine.  But don’t ask for more planes than the military thinks you need.  At some point, the American people think that the earmark process is broken.

Locke Meredith:  as I recall, they withdrew that request.

Congressman Cassidy:  they withdrew that request only because it came up to the light of day.  That brings me to the next thing, President Obama, when he got sworn in, said the American people should have the opportunity to read bills before they are signed.  I agree with that, I am co-sponsoring a bill that between the times it is given for us to vote and the time we voted would have to be at least 72 hours.   now Locke, that doesn’t just give me time to read that gives you time if I read and the viewers time to read, log on, read, and if its healthcare, they have 72 hours to figure out as much as they can, and contact their senator or representative to see what’s going down.

Locke Meredith:  Bill, I was even reading that when you first got there, they handed you four to eight hundred documents you had to read, and there was a lot of stuff in there you thought you would have supported but you didn’t support because it seems like everyone is sliding in stuff.

Congressman Cassidy:  well there is a bill that came up, I am smiling because I got there, my family’s in Baton Rouge and they give us a 500 page bill at 5pm and we are voting on it the next morning.  I didn’t know that it was 500 pages so I said to my staff, well bring me a copy, and BOOM!  They laid it on the table, I didn’t have anything to do so I just started to read, and I emailed my staff at midnight and said I was missing the last 50 pages, but you can’t get through it.  But then they began dropping off thousand page bills for the stimulus at midnight and we voted on them the next day, and for cap and trade they put a three hundred page amendment down at three a.m. and we voted on it the next afternoon.  Now the American people do not…..

Locke Meredith:  that’s just cramming it down our throats

Congressman Cassidy:  That makes a mockery of the deliberative process, go back to tenth grade civics, where we are supposed to participate.  This keeps us from participating if you don’t have time to read it.  That’s wrong.

Locke Meredith:  It is wrong.  Well, let’s talk about the wars a little bit more.  The Afghanistan war, it appears we are going to have to increase the troops there, what are your thoughts?

Congressman Cassidy:  I think that decision should be left to the generals on the ground.

Locke Meredith:  so you defer to the generals basically on any of the military actions.

Congressman Cassidy:  Yes, because that one is clearly in play.  We had a briefing which reflected general press, that they need to have so called metrics, how do we know we are succeeding?, how do we know that we aren’t just pouring in troops and sacrificing lives with lots of  money  that we don’t have a measure of success.  I think what the American people have to ask, and it’s a fair statement, and it’s what the military is asking to be asked, how do we know 6 months from now that we are making progress?  Now, if we are not making progress than we have to change our tactics.  Apparently, what happened with this recent change is they felt we were not making progress.  They changed the commanding general and he has put in different strategies, and we’re having elections and we will see how it goes.  But there has to be a way of measuring.  I’ve not been to Afghanistan, I don’t have feet on the ground, so to speak, but I am looking forward to them giving us those metrics.  Then we as the American people can say, we’re making progress or we are not making progress, if not, we should change tactics.

Locke Meredith:  What are your thoughts on Iran?  I read recently, like in the last day, that the president of Iran is saying he is willing to enter into no preconditions nuclear talks with President Obama.  What are your thoughts?

Congressman Cassidy:  My concern is the Iranian leadership is dishonest with its people, can we trust them to be honest with us?  So, clearly that last election, where many of the Iranian people felt that when you announce a result just hours after the polls close and they are paper ballots and you have people voting overseas that the fix was in and that the voice of the people was not heard.

Locke Meredith:  The bottom line is you don’t have any level of trust in that regime at all.

Congressman Cassidy:  Ronald Reagan said of the Soviet Union, trust but verify.  So if we are going to go into binding negotiations, there should be a binding method of making sure they comply.

Locke Meredith:  What do you think if Israel is going to indicate that they are going to bomb Iran?  What are your views?  Because it sure seems like the international community is not going to do anything or is powerless, frankly, to do anything if they’re not going to impose sanctions to get the Iranian regime to quit pursuing the nuclear arsenal in which case, from what we read, Israel’s going to come in and try and take it out.

Congressman Cassidy:  I think fortunately there may be a middle way that’s developing; the middle way is that Iranians are very dependant on imported gasoline.  The Saudi’s have become apparently very upset with the Iranians as well.  And so there is, or so I read, a thought that the Saudi’s may stop allowing shipments of gasoline into Iran.

Locke Meredith:  so a sanction that is not via the United Nations but by a neighboring country in essence.

Congressman Cassidy:  It’s by a key supplier.  Right now, as it comes to oil field parts, they’ve been heavily dependant upon the west for those, there own oil production has been crippled, there own gasoline production has been crippled, and they have become more dependant upon foreign suppliers the more that they try to export revolution, to say, Saudi Arabia, the Saudi’s will just say, we’re not giving you gasoline.

Locke Meredith:  so the Saudi’s will do to them basically what they have been trying to do to us.  The reason I am interested in this topic is because we do receive a significant portion of our energy from that part of the world.  And if there is turmoil there and we don’t receive out supplies from there, gasoline prices are going to skyrocket and this fragile economy may not be able to withstand the shock.

Congressman Cassidy:  So clearly, the world’s economy flows upon affordable energy.  There are already stresses on that in the sense that India and China are growing so rapidly that they are absorbing more of the world’s oil.

Locke Meredith:  I’ve read that they are tying up contracts with all the providers and suppliers

Congressman Cassidy:  and so we do need to have a stable oil supply, which is, by the way, the reason we have to get Iraq as best as possible stabilized so it can rejoin the exporters.  But that also makes us give more attention to Iran but as we spoke, Iran can’t meet their own energy needs.  And so the sanctions have worked to an extent to the degree that the other nations in the Middle East try and strengthen that is frankly to the degree I think unrest will increase and the increase of the likelihood that we will have political reform there.

Locke Meredith:  and of course all of this is great justification to us for going ahead and drilling here in the United States.

Congressman Cassidy:  well there needs to be an all of the above policy.  Green energy is important, renewable energy and nuclear energy but right now we, in Louisiana can tell the rest of the country that we can do it.

Locke Meredith:  that we can do it.  Lets talk about that on the next segment; this is Locke Meredith with legal lines and congressman bill Cassidy.  We’ll be right back.

Locke Meredith:  Welcome back.  I’m Locke Meredith with legal lines.  We are very pleased to have Dr. Bill Cassidy.  He’s our United States congressman.  Bill, we were talking about taxes, how they’re increasing, how million and billions of dollars have been used to bail out the bank, and auto industry and others, the federal reserve has pumped trillions of dollars in interest free loans to banks, where’s this leading us?

Congressman Cassidy:  the American people are wise and so they know that even though they are being told that their taxes won’t increase, they understand that there is no way we can borrow all that money and not raise taxes to pay it back.

Locke Meredith:  that’s right

Congressman Cassidy:  plus there is this ambitious agenda, that’s according to, again, objective criteria, that healthcare is going to cost a trillion dollars over the first ten years and maybe a trillion the next ten, well then, they understand that taxes will go up.  Part of their concern is that they feel like they are being told one thing and then common sense tells them another.

Locke Meredith:  in fact, I had read that every man, woman and child that is an American citizen has a 35 thousand dollar tab that their going to have to pay and in eight years it will be seventy thousand.

Congressman Cassidy:  I didn’t know the second, but that’s reasonable, right now its in the high thirties.  And that’s our debt and the American people understand that taxes will go up for all if you have that much indebtedness.

Locke Meredith:  the famous tax date, where you work a certain amount of months out the year for the government and then you finally get to the point of the year that you get to keep your money is getting bigger and bigger.

Congressman Cassidy:  It is. But it going in the wrong direction.

Locke Meredith: lets talk about cap and trade because I know that was initially pushed by the current administration.  What are your views on that?

Congressman Cassidy:  in Louisiana, we produce oil, and for those people who don’t know about it, the fear is that climate change is being driven by carbon release.  And it doesn’t matter where in the world that carbon release is; it can be a coal power plant in china,

Locke Meredith:  it could be me breathing.

Congressman Cassidy:  it could be you or it could be someone in Canada. It all contributes to the global carbon increase, so the idea is that if we in the United States control our carbon release, our CO2 emit ions, then that would somehow benefit, on the other hand, you talk to people and you project them, there is an organization called the Brookings Institute, and its left of center, I mention that it is not conservative, it is actually left and they say that the cap and trade in the united states under the bill that was passed by the democratic house, because republicans voted against it, forty percent of out petrochemical jobs will be lost in the United States.

Locke Meredith:  but I thought we wanted to be less dependant on foreign oil?

Congressman Cassidy:  we want to be less dependant and we want to have more domestic jobs but we’re going to lose forty percent of our petrochemical.  Look at Louisiana, look at Baton Rouge, look at Exxon Mobil and Dow and people that work for Motiva, and you can just go up and down the plants and those are good jobs with good benefits.  Exxon Mobil is the largest private employer in my district. 

Locke Meredith:  They generate enough wealth that they could be the fourth or fifth largest economy in the world.

Congressman Cassidy:  and there are city benefits but under this bill forty percent of that employment would be lost.  This isn’t just people working at the plants, it’s the people who sell them groceries, the people who sell them cars the people who sell them insurance, those jobs would be lost too because those folks no longer have the income.

Locke Meredith:  Not to mention the fact that even if we were to be able to control our carbon emissions what about China, whose growing but 20% a year, India and the other countries who are coming on line so to speak?  They are not agreeing, as I understand it, to these standards.

Congressman Cassidy:  They’re not and that’s a good point. It something called carbon leakage, so instead of refining in Baton Rouge, bringing the jobs here, you just move the plant to the Caribbean.

Locke Meredith: because we can’t compete because our guys have to comply with all these rules.  Which increases our expenses and those guys don’t.

Congressman Cassidy:  so there is still the global increase in carbon dioxide, there’s still the negative effect to the environment, but now you’ve lost the domestic jobs.  I think there’s better ways to go about it.  Exxon Mobil for example, favors a climate change policy which they will accept a carbon tax, if you use that money to fund technology which will pull carbon out of the atmosphere. So the industry is not necessarily opposed, they just think as it is being proposed it is the wrong solution.

Locke Meredith:  what do you think about green energy?

Congressman Cassidy:  we just had a seminar on green energy because there are dollars coming down.  I think we can all agree to become less dependant on foreign energy

Locke Meredith: that’s a big deal

Congressman Cassidy:  it is a big deal and frankly a security issue, if we send a seven hundred billion dollars a year to other countries, some of which hate us, then we are supporting terrorist in other countries.  If we can decrease our dependence there, we will never be independent, but if we decrease our dependence then we are more secure, more of our jobs are here, and hopefully there’s less money going to folks who don’t like us.

Locke Meredith:  it sure seems like a common sense solution.  Lets talk about the war.  Wars really, Iraq, we still have some folks over there, hundreds of thousands of men and women putting their lives on the line, their families suffering the sacrifice.  Where are your views on that?

Congressman Cassidy:  Well one, I will just say, one of the reasons my wife and I were discussing whether we should run and she said oh it will be some sacrifices and we thought about it and prayed about it, there was a guy in my church that went to Iraq for a year, I am sitting there thinking, ‘wow, he can go to Iraq for a year”, I taught his daughter Sunday school.  And that sacrifice and commitment to our country should inspire us all.

Locke Meredith:  look, Jeff Mitchell in fact, is on his second tour.

Congressman Cassidy:  Pastor at the chapel on the campus.

Locke Meredith: a lot of people are serving right now.

Congressman Cassidy: We can all, as Americans, draw inspiration from what those folks are doing.

Locke Meredith:  I notice there is considerable; it seems like an escalation in the bombings that take place as we start to withdraw.
What are you hearing?

Congressman Cassidy:  well I think the news today was that there were a lot of bombings in the green zone of Baghdad and now is the time for the Iraqis to step it up.  Whether they didn’t want us there, we were ready to leave, that transition is occurring, its up to the Iraqis to see if they can establish security system which can prevent that from happening.

Locke Meredith:  do you support pulling out with the current time frame that the current administration has?  Or do you think there are factors to change that.

Congressman Cassidy:  Well the Iraqis have said they want us out.  At some point you have to say the Iraqis are a sovereign people, they’re not a colony, and if they want us out and they think they can handle it, then we need to pull back, I don’t think we should sacrifice gains but Ideally there needs to be a working relationship between our military and theirs so the transition is safe and smooth, and effective but the bottom line is they’re a sovereign country.

Locke Meredith:  what do you think about Afghanistan, they’re bringing in more troops, and I saw McCain is actually recommending an additional surge in essence of troops over there, what are your thoughts?

Congressman Cassidy:  Its apparently a different war than the Iraqi war, its a war in which its almost a guerilla warfare against the Taliban, on the other hand, people, the Afghanis are less supportive of the Taliban, so they would like to have safety from them.  On that one, Locke, frankly I am going to defer to the judgment of the generals I’m reading that they consider it a different war and I prefer that they make the calls on the ground then that we in Washington make the call from here.

Locke Meredith:  tell the folks about the grants you’re bringing to the state, a lot of money that you’re bringing here.

Congressman Cassidy:  yeah, the federal government dispenses, earmarks have a bad name and rightfully so it’s a process that’s abused, on the other hand the federal government dispenses some of its money through a grant process.  We have a lady in my office named Dale Marino and if you are a government entity or non-profit then you can contact her and she will help you access that money.

Locke Meredith:  I encourage folks to go to your website its an excellent resource.  Bill thank you for being here.  I’m Locke Meredith with legal lines and Dr Bill Cassidy.  Thank you for being with us.

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