Tuesday, February 2, 2010

John Barrow Visits Jefferson County

About 45 people attended a meeting back on Jan. 6, at the county extension office in Louisville.

The meeting was one U.S. Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., holds periodically to allow his constituents a chance to talk with him.

Barrow addressed the group and then gave time for questions.

The congressman thanked everyone who helped organize the meeting and said he wanted to account for his votes.

“First, I voted against the TARP bill,” he said, referring to the Troubled Asset Relief Program begun in 2008 to assist financial institutions.

“All three times,” he said. “I did it because I don’t write blank checks for $700 billion.”

He said he voted against the budget calls for deficit spending and that although he voted against the energy bill, he was not against the entire bill.

“We have to come up with new forms of energy,” he said, adding those new forms of energy should not rely on people who do not support America’s best interests.

He also addressed the health care bill, saying insurance companies need to get back in the business of insuring people rather than denying service.

He talked about Peach Care, a program for low income families to provide insurance for their children.

It gives families the help they need if they can’t qualify for Medicaid but can’t afford insurance, he said, adding he voted to double Peach Care.

He said there were things in the health care bill that needed doing but he could not support the entire bill.

“I’m for doing things that’ll fix things that are broke,” he said.

He opened the floor for questions, which included the cost of living adjustment for Social Security recipients.

“Under that formula, no COLA is due,” Barrow said, adding the formula should be updated. He also said citizens should know the formula allows only for increases. If the cost of living decreases, the COLA stays the same.

Other issues discussed included clean energy, natural gas and jobs.

Barrow said there is a lot of potential for jobs in alternative forms of energy.

He said current forms of energy or dirty energy have global consequences.

“There are real issues here,” he said.

A citizen mentioned the North American Free Trade Agreement, an agreement involving the United States, Canada and Mexico.

“It is time for congress to reconsider NAFTA,” he said.

Barrow responded by saying government’s job is to create a climate where private enterprise can create jobs, adding that NAFTA and similar treaties look good on paper but do not work when the other party can’t be held to the agreement.

“We’ve incorporated the cost of doing it right here in this country,” Barrow said, adding that increases the cost of doing business in the United States and allows other countries that do not follow the same labor standards to have less overhead.

“We cannot possibly compete when we’ve got an un-level playing field,” he said.

The congressman then mentioned CAFTA, which is similar to NAFTA but is between the United States and Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica.

Barrow called this treaty, “NAFTA on steroids.”

A citizen mentioned a recent attempted bombing on a US plane and said security is going to become more invasive.

“It was a very, very big deal,” Barrow said about the event, adding other countries do not always inspect airline passengers to the level performed in the United States.

“Either they do it right, up to our standards or we go there and do it up to our standards or you just don’t fly into our country,” Barrow said.

A citizen asked the congressman why insurance companies are exempt from anti-trust laws.

Barrow said a law enacted in the 1940s said insurance companies would be subject to state anti-trust laws rather than the federal law.

“Have you heard of any state anti-trust laws?” he said. “The few states that have tried to do this have gotten burned bad.”

Barrow said when the state of Kentucky tried to do this, most of the insurance companies stopped doing business there.

“I think we’re going to realize we’re going to have to regulate insurance companies like we regulate Georgia Power,” he said.

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