Sunday, October 15, 2000

Congressman Boehner on the issues

By Derrick DePledge
Enquirer Washington Bureau

        WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. John Boehner, a Republican from West Chester Township, discussed various issues with the Enquirer's Washington correspondent:

        Enquirer: What specific things do you have in mind to improve economic growth in areas that seem to have been left behind?

        Mr. Boehner: I think that the enterprise-zone bill that the president and the speaker agreed on and has moved through the House would help these depressed pockets that are spread around the country. It would encourage more money into these zones. It would provide certain tax advantages for companies that would locate there.

        Enquirer: How much credit does the Clinton administration or Congress deserve for the healthy economy?

        Mr. Boehner: We have very little to do with the economy. The great economy is primarily due to the creativity and ingenuity of the American people. They should get the credit for it.

        The credit I think we should take is in holding the rate of increase in spending near the inflation rate, as opposed to two to three times the inflation rate that we saw in the early 1990s.

        What that has allowed us to do — holding spending down, while revenues continue to increase — is to have the first balanced budget in 30 years. That would not have happened had Republicans not controlled Congress.

        Enquirer: at What should the next president and Congress do with the budget surplus other than preserving Social Security and Medicare?

        Boehner: The balance, roughly $2.2 trillion over the next 10 years, in my view ought to be spent in three ways.

        First, there are going to be additional expenses. You can't assume that government spending is not going to increase. So a portion of it should be set aside to maintain current levels of funding for the most important programs.

        The balance of it ought to be split between paying down the national debt and reducing taxes.

        Enquirer: Texas Gov. George W. Bush and other Republicans want people to be able to invest a portion of their Social Security money in the stock market. Do you favor this approach?

        Mr. Boehner: I don't know that he said stock market. But one of the keys to strengthening the Social Security system for seniors today and tomorrow is to get a greater return on the Social Security surplus. Today, under law, the only place the trust fund can invest the surplus is in a federal government bond that averages less than 4 percent yield. We know that in the private sector a very conservative number would be a 6 to 7 percent yield. ...

        But the idea here is to allow the American people to keep that surplus and to let them invest that money in a box of investments. .

        Enquirer: Everyone seems to agree that some form of prescription-drug coverage should be added to Medicare, but how do you think it should be structured?

        Mr. Boehner: Two-thirds of seniors have a prescription drug benefit of some sort. ... Let's help those one-third of seniors who don't have a prescription-drug benefit and who are in financial circumstances where they need help. That's realistic and it's doable.

        The president's plan, on the other hand, would say to all seniors, "You're all in one plan. You all get the identical benefit.' A lot of seniors who have the drug benefit frankly aren't willing to give it up in exchange for some federal government program.


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