Mike Doyle On Issues:
- On Jobs and the Economy
My highest priority throughout my service in Congress has been promoting economic growth and the creation of good jobs in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Over the last few years, in response to millions of Americans losing their jobs due to the housing bubble and the near-meltdown of the financial industry, I have been working with other Democrats in Congress to rebuild our economy and get us out of the mess that the Bush Administration got us into.
I have been working in Congress to enact legislation that will promote economic growth, put Americans back to work again, and provide help to people who have lost jobs through no fault of their own.
At a time when many factories sit idle and there are 5 people for every job opening, I believe the best way to get the economy moving again is to increase our nation’s total demand for goods and services. That’s why I voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which:
- invested billions of dollars in important investments like roads, bridges, and research – not only are these investments necessary for economic growth in the years to come, but they’re also creating more demand for workers, goods, and services right now, which puts people back to work;
- helped state and local governments maintain important services like education, public safely, and health care;
- extended unemployment benefits and COBRA health insurance coverage for workers who lost their jobs in this recession through no fault of their own;
- cut taxes for 95 percent of working families to help them get through these tough times and increase their purchases of goods and services to create more demand for new jobs.
Most respected economists agree that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which all of the Republicans in Congress opposed, has helped turn the economy around and created 2 million jobs so far – and will create more jobs and economic growth this year as well.
In addition, I voted for legislation that would help families that were victimized by sub-prime mortgage lenders stay in their homes -and which would help state and local governments get foreclosed homes back on the market quickly.
Finally, I have been working to enact banking industry reforms that will ensure that a few Wall Street bankers can never again destroy our economy and throw millions of Americans out of their jobs and their homes.
Moreover, throughout my service in Congress, I have worked hard to make the region a center for cutting edge research and advanced manufacturing.I have been successful in securing federal research funding and contracts for our outstanding local universities and world-class high tech firms, as well as working to support local federal facilities like the Supercomputing Center in Monroeville and the National Energy Technology Lab in Pittsburgh.I also helped establish a local center (“Dynamic Supplier Network Innovations”) to help local manufacturing firms acquire the advanced technology they need to remain competitive in the global economy.
- On Health Care
I believe that the richest, most powerful country on Earth ought to be able to figure out how to guarantee all of its citizen’s affordable, high quality health care. Americans are justifiably proud of the remarkable medical advances our country has made, but we should be ashamed that tens of millions of Americans are currently uninsured and that many Americans can’t afford to get the care they need.
That’s why I worked with President Obama and the Democrats in Congress over the last year to develop and pass a comprehensive health care reform bill that will make high-quality affordable health care available to all Americans:
- INSURANCE REFORMS: This bill, which the President signed into law recently, ends harsh insurance industry practices like discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions and dropping people’s coverage when they get a serious illness like cancer.
- INSURANCE REFORMS: It also prohibits the insurance industry from putting caps on policy-holders’ annual and lifetime benefits; instead, the new law puts annual caps on policy-holders’ out-of-pocket expenses. That change was greatly needed since roughly half of all bankruptcies in this country are caused at least in part by high medical expenses.
- CONTROL HEALTH CARE COSTS THROUGH MORE COMPETITION: The new law also contains a number of provisions to get health care costs under control by injecting more competition into health insurance markets. For example, since most regions of the country are, like Southwestern Pennsylvania, dominated by one or two large health insurance providers – which in the face of virtually no competition are free to charge pretty much whatever they want – the new law will establish health insurance exchanges – essentially health insurance supermarkets – across the country where a number of insurance companies will compete for individuals’ money. Changes like this are essential to get the skyrocketing cost of health care under control. Health care costs in the United States doubled over the last 10 years, and they were projected to double again if nothing had been done.
- HOW WILL IT AFFECT YOU? For most Americans, little will change in terms of their health care. Senior citizens will continue to get their health insurance through Medicare. The poor will continue to get health insurance through Medicaid. And the majority of working-age Americans will continue to get their health insurance through their employers. Everyone will still have at least as much choice of doctor, hospital, and other health care provider as you do now (barring any decision by your employer to change the insurance policies it offers). But small businesses and individuals who currently have no health insurance will be able to buy insurance at reasonable rates through the new health care exchanges.
- HOW WILL IT AFFECT YOU? The new law also extends insurance coverage to 30 million Americans who are currently uninsured now through no fault of their own – by banning the insurance industry discrimination that has kept millions of Americans from getting insurance because of pre-existing conditions and by providing tax credits to low- and moderate-income households that couldn’t afford health insurance before.
- HOW WILL IT AFFECT YOU? These reforms will reduce the growth rate of health care costs in the years to come by increasing competition in the health care and health insurance industries.
- On College Costs and Student Loans
Student loan debt is exploding, creating a crisis that threatens our economy. Outstanding student loans now total more than $1.2 trillion, surpassing total credit card debt – and every year, students are taking on more.
Federal watchdog agencies are sounding the alarm – student debt is crushing the middle class. Key federal economic agencies like the Federal Reserve, the Treasury Department, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have weighed in on the dangers of exploding student debt. This debt is stopping a growing proportion of families from buying homes, saving for retirement, and making purchases that will keep our economy on the road to recovery
Young borrowers are failing to keep up with payments. One in seven borrowers defaults on federal student loans within three years of beginning repayment. Other borrowers are just barely keeping their heads above water – in total, 30% of Federal Direct student loan dollars are in default, forbearance, or deferment.
Most good jobs today require some kind of higher education, but two-thirds of Americans earning bachelor’s degrees graduate with debt, and the total student loan debt in this country is now more than $1.2 trillion.
Student loan debt can limit your career choices and make it harder to purchase a home. And it’s not just a problem for young Americans; it’s also a huge drag on our economy. It hinders economic growth by delaying graduates from buying houses, starting their own businesses, and saving for retirement.
In 2013, interest rates were set to double from 3.4% to 6.8% without Congressional action. There was bipartisan support for keeping student loan interest rates low, but there was no agreement on the pay-for. Democratic proposals cut tax breaks for oil companies while Republican proposals targeted the Affordable Health Care Act and impacted funding for initiatives like child immunization and mammograms for women. In the end, Republicans passed a bill tying loan rates to the spring rate of the 10-year Treasury note. Each year the rates change, but rates are fixed for the life of the loan.
Banks are getting a better deal than students. Even though the federal government is by far the biggest student lender, it offers no refinancing option. With interest rates near historic lows, homeowners, businesses, and even local governments with good credit regularly refinance their debts – but students have few options.
In an effort to address these issues I am a cosponsor of H.R. 1434, the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, introduced by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), which would lock in students at a 3.8% interest rate. With 40 million Americans squeezed by this debt, refinancing high interest loans to this year’s rates would reduce federal profits and give a much-needed break to young people struggling to build a future.
Additionally, I am a cosponsor of H.R. 649, the Student Loan Refinancing Act, introduced by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), which would allow borrowers to refinance any time a lower interest rate is available.
Efforts like these are just the beginning of addressing the problem of overwhelming student debt, and part of the solution must include addressing the skyrocketing cost of a four year degree also. I stand ready to work hard with anyone ready to tackle these issues and believe it should be done on a bipartisan basis because Republicans and Democrats know this is a huge problem for all of our citizens.
- On Energy Policy and Global Warming
I believe that Americans deserve affordable, reliable energy supplies -and that most Americans share my desire to free our nation from its current dependence on oil from unstable parts of the world. Consequently, I have been working for years to put in place a comprehensive national energy policy that would make the United States energy-independent. I believe that such a policy should include expanded conservation efforts and increased emphasis on energy-efficiency, as well as greater utilization of alternative fuels and new energy technology like fuel cells and gas-electric hybrid motors.
I also believe that the United States, as well as the rest of the world, needs to reduce the amount of air pollution that we create – especially emissions of the gases that are causing global climate change.
Fortunately, many of the same policies can achieve both goals – as well as promote economic growth in the decades to come by creating good-paying new clean energy jobs.Moreover, many experts share my view that there doesn’t have to be a trade-off between protecting the environment and promoting economic growth. In fact, many measures that conserve energy and tap alternative resources like wind and solar power also save businesses and consumers lots of money over the long run – even though they may require a somewhat bigger investment up front.
As a member of the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee, the House committee with jurisdiction over energy issues, I have been actively working to reshape the country’s energy policies to promote energy-efficiency, conservation, and alternative and renewal sources of energy while reducing pollution and our dependence on oil from overseas.
In recent years, for example, I introduced and worked successfully to enact legislation to promote increased public and private sector use of green building technology. I also supported legislation to increase energy-efficiency standards for lights and other electronic appliances – as well as new fuel economy standards for cars and trucks. I also worked to establish a federal tax incentive for consumers to buy gas-electric hybrid-powered automobiles. In addition, I have worked successfully to double funding for federal research on fuel cell technology.
I was very involved on the Energy and Commerce Committee for much of last year in drafting legislation that would halt global warming without harming American jobs and our economy. I am very proud of the bill we produced – the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act, which the House of Representatives approved in November 2009.
This bill would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050 while costing most American households only pennies a day and creating millions of good-paying jobs here in the United States.
The American Clean Energy and Security Act also contains strong policies to encourage the development, manufacture, and widespread adoption of new technology to tap alternative and renewable energy supplies and use the energy we produce more efficiently. It also contains provisions to make the use of fossil fuels like coal safer and cleaner while the transition to more sustainable energy sources takes place.
I am convinced that transforming the way we produce and use energy will have the same job creation potential in the coming years that the development and adoption of computers, the internet, and wireless technology are having now. I believe that the United States must be a leader in this field if we want to preserve and improve our standard of living in the coming decades.
Finally, I was successful in working to include a provision in the bill that will protect our nation’s energy-intensive trade-sensitive industries like steel, aluminum, and glass manufacturers from unfair competition from foreign countries that don’t adopt comparable policies to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions. This will prevent the devastation of domestic manufacturing industries and the outsourcing of American manufacturing jobs.
Americans have nothing to fear and everything to gain from enacting energy policies that will reduce our country’s energy consumption, create new clean energy jobs and “green” homes and businesses, and curb global warming.
- On Education
The most important thing we can do to ensure that all Americans have a decent standard of living is provide them with a good education. And if we fail to provide a good education to everyone in this country, it’s safe to say that our country will be in great danger of losing its place as the richest, most vibrant country in the world.
Consequently, it’s essential that we take steps to greatly improve the K-12 education system in the United States and make higher education affordable for every American. In order to make certain that all our young people have the educational skills they need to succeed in life, we as a nation need to dedicate substantially more resources to education, and I am deeply committed to making that kind of investment in our nation’s future.
I recently supported legislation to make college and graduate school more affordable to millions of Americans. This legislation increased the maximum Pell Grant size, made it easier for students to repay their education loans, and expanded programs to keep students in school and help them graduate. This bill was the most significant financial aid bill enacted in decades.
I also supported legislation to expand the G.I. Bill to restore its purchasing power and ensure that the federal government will once again pay most if not all of the cost of a college education for our military personnel (or their dependents).
The No Child Left Behind Act hasn’t lived up to all its promises. Millions of children across the country aren’t getting the education they need and deserve. I look forward to working with the President and my colleagues in Congress in the coming months and year on legislation to reform K-12 education in this country.
- On Veterans
- Our veterans who have served the nation so bravely in Iraq and Afghanistan deserve our help in returning to civilian life once their military service ends.
I supported legislation to modernize the GI Bill so that it once again pays for most if not all of a college education for the men and women who have served our country with such courage and dedication.
I also supported legislation to improve the services that our veterans receive – and to address the head injuries and traumatic injuries to arms and legs that have accompanied the widespread use of improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- On Social Security, Medicare, and Retirement
Older Americans deserve freedom from fear of poverty and from unmanageable medical expenses. The American people have earned the right to a decent income and affordable high quality health care through their many years of contributions to the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds.
Before Congress enacted Social Security and Medicare, most senior citizens in our country lived in poverty. Social Security and Medicare have been tremendously successful in lifting tens of millions of older Americans out of poverty and treating their health problems. Today, a third of all older Americans live on their Social Security benefits, and more than half of all older Americans rely on Social Security benefits for most of their income.
I am steadfastly committed to preserving Social Security and Medicare in their current forms and ensuring the solvency of the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds. Throughout my service in Congress, one of my highest priorities has been ensuring that senior citizens are guaranteed affordable high quality health care and a decent minimum standard of living.
I have worked hard to protect Social Security benefits for current and future generations.
Some Republicans have raised the idea of reducing guaranteed Social Security benefits for future generations and creating risky private accounts where individuals’ retirement savings would be gambled on Wall Street investments. I have opposed such proposals in the past, and I will oppose them whenever anyone proposes them.
I opposed Republican efforts in 2005 to privatize Social Security and to reduce future guaranteed benefits for all Social Security beneficiaries. I’m pleased to note that Democrats in Congress were successful in opposing President Bush’s radical plan to privatize Social Security.
Thanks to Republican scare tactics, most people don’t realize that the Social Security Trust fund can be made solvent for future generations with modest minor adjustments. For example, lifting the cap on payroll taxes so that millionaires pay the same percentage of their income into Social Security as minimum wage workers do would eliminate 95 percent of the Social Security Trust Fund’s unfunded liabilities. That’s just one of many ways we could eliminate the shortfall in the Social Security Trust Fund. Major benefit cuts aren’t necessary to make Social Security Solvent in perpetuity, and adamantly oppose Social Security benefit cuts.
I have strongly supported the Medicare program in its original form throughout my service in Congress, and I will continue to do so. I also support Medicare Advantage programs that are able to provide all of Medicare’s guaranteed benefits as well as additional health and wellness benefits paid for with savings that private insurers have achieved by increased efficiencies.
Republicans in Congress have proposed phasing out the original Medicare program as we know it today and replacing it for future generations with a voucher program in which seniors would be given a voucher and left to shop for health insurance from private insurance companies. To add insult to injury, the value of these vouchers is expected to drop in the face of increasing health care costs – eventually shifting most of the cost of older Americans’ health care from the government to individuals. I find this abandonment of future generations completely outrageous and irresponsible. I will do every possible thing I can to oppose any such a proposal.
In marked contrast, I recently supported legislation too eliminate the Medicare Part D “donut hole,” create new benefits for Medicare beneficiaries, eliminate patient co-pays for others, and significantly strengthen the Medicare Trust Fund (by eliminating outrageous wasteful giveaways to private insurance companies that the Republican-controlled Congress enacted in 2003).
I promise both senior citizens and younger Americans that I will work to preserve Medicare in its original form for current and future generations – and that I will work hard to ensure that all Americans, regardless of age, are guaranteed affordable high quality health care.
I strongly believe that senior citizens (and for that matter, all Americans) should have the right to choose their own doctors. I have consistently supported legislation to guarantee seniors the right to choose their own doctors. But that right will mean a lot less if the doctors seniors wish to see drop out of the Medicare program because the amount Medicare pays them doesn’t fairly compensate them for their service. Consequently, I have consistently supported Congressional efforts to enact a permanent “doc fix” – legislation to fix the formula used to determine how much doctors will be paid for the health care they provide to Medicare beneficiaries – and I will continue to do so. I have also supported legislation to increase the number of doctors and other health care providers serving seniors and medically underserved communities like inner-city neighborhoods.
Waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare and other government health care programs raise health care costs for seniors and damage the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund. Consequently, as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, I have been actively involved in Congressional efforts to crack down on waste, fraud, and abuse in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. For example, Congress recently enacted legislation I helped draft that contained over 30 new measures to help federal investigators find and crack down on waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid. I am wholeheartedly committed to continuing to develop effective ways to combat waste fraud and abuse in these important health care programs.
Social Security Cost of Living Adjustments
While the measure of inflation (the CPI-E) the government uses to calculate Social Security Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) didn’t rise enough to authorize a COLA for 2010 or 2011, I am well aware that the cost of living for older Americans has risen significantly. Consequently, I believe the federal government should act to help senior citizens struggling to get by on fixed incomes to deal with the rising cost of health care and other goods and services.
I have consistently supported efforts to help older Americans who have been hard-hit by the current economic downturn like, for example, giving several $250 payments to Social Security beneficiaries. These payments can’t begin to offset the economic losses many of our senior citizens have suffered, but they can help make up for the unprecedented denial of Social Security Cost of Living Adjustments in two subsequent years..
I also believe that Congress needs to re-examine the way it measures the cost of living for seniors to determine whether changes should be made to more accurately reflect those costs and assure that Social Security beneficiaries receive fairer cost of living adjustments in the future.
For more information on my position on Social Security click here for a speech I gave several years ago about privatization of Social Security and better alternatives that would make the Social Security Trust Fund solvent for generations.