Braun focused on health care, federal budgeting

Tuesday, February 18, 2020
Chatting with a patron at The Breakfast Co. in Greencastle Tuesday morning, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun talks issues such as health care costs, climate change, the economy and the federal deficit. The senator was in town as part of his mobile office hours.
Banner Graphic/BRAND SELVIA

It is not every day that a U.S. senator comes into town. However, it offers a rare opportunity to engage face to face with he or she who is charged to represent local interests on a national platform.

Sen. Mike Braun (R-Jasper) made such a stop in Greencastle to chat with locals at The Breakfast Co. through his mobile office hours Tuesday morning.

The U.S. Senate is in a state work period until Saturday, and Braun is taking the opportunity to travel and connect with his constituents while on recess.

The senator sat down with the Banner Graphic during the session and talked about what he hopes to accomplish or contribute to as he continues into his second year on Capitol Hill.

“Everybody has been generally enthusiastic about the economy,” Braun said about his prior discussions with patrons. “(We’ve also talked about) the election year which we’re in now.”

He briefly touched on the recent impeachment against President Donald Trump, which he cast as being an “interesting” way to end his first year in the Senate. However, this was the only reference he made to the contentious issue.

Braun currently serves on five Senate committees: the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; the Budget Committee; the Environment and Public Works Committee; the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; and the Special Committee on Aging.

“I’m one of the few members on the agriculture committee that’s involved in farming and forestry,” he said. “I’ve been actively involved in it, and still am to the extent that I have time and can do it.”

Braun provided that he has thousands of acres of timber ground in Dubois County which he has built up and maintained since the 1980s.

He also commented about his serving on the budget committee, saying that it does not accomplish much more than convening and appropriating spending, which he characterized as “unsustainable.”

“I complain about that all the time,” Braun added. “They’ve gotten away from budgeting, which is sad, and they need to get back to it.”

Braun pointed to the cost of health care as the issue he is most committed to tackling at the congressional level. He opined that the health care industry itself must encourage more transparency, as well as competition and involving consumers to bring prices down.

“The industry’s fighting it,” he said, however. “They’ve grown to like their lack of competition and transparency over the years. It’s easy for them and hard for consumers.”

Publishing prices in print or on the internet is one avenue for change on this front. In essence, Braun believes that health care companies and hospitals have to earn consumers’ trust through this transparency and other “common sense stuff.”

At the state level, Braun said he has heard the most discussion with regard to the workforce, though he went back to the point that the national economy is thriving. Nonetheless, he implied that the main issue was getting trained people to fill jobs.

“That’s not a bad problem to have,” he added matter-of-factly. ”That means your economy is doing well.”

To a question about local teachers and their criticisms toward state budgeting, Braun was optimistic about education in Indiana improving in terms of being more competitive.

“I come from a place where public education is really good in Jasper,” he related. “I think teachers do need to be enabled to where it’s a competitive job, and where it’s worthwhile to attract people to the profession.”

Braun claimed that since he served in the Indiana legislature from 2014 to 2017, teachers have seen “significant” pay increases. Still, he said the “proof is in the pudding” when it comes to offering attractive pay and benefits.

In these terms, he added that education makes up half of the state’s budget. With the further belief that Indiana is also a healthy state financially, he feels that education in general will continue to improve.

“I think we’re still trying to find that right level, but I think we’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “When you’ve got a group as large as teachers, I think they’ve got a full right to be able to talk about what they think needs to be improved.”

When it comes to both major parties in Washington, D.C. working together on different issues, Braun said that the majority of senators have found “common ground” on reforming health care.

He also acknowledged climate change as a critical issue for young people. Along with Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, Braun introduced a caucus focused on environmental concerns last October. In this case, he says that industry has brought solutions. Health care is different.

“I see some possibility there when it comes to wanting the federal government to do more, which Democrats generally do,” Braun said. “I don’t know where they’re coming from there, because we don’t pay for all of it currently. We borrow 23 percent of what we spend each year.”

Braun gave the statistic that the federal government budgets $4.5 trillion, but that only $3.5 trillion is raised through taxes. As such, the rest is “borrowed” from the younger demographic who might eventually “foot the bill.”

“They keep doing it year after year when (they) should have the political will to fix it,” he said. “Sadly, if you don’t do something proactive, you’ll solve it by a crisis.”

That crisis, Braun believes, is impending with a $23 trillion debt. However, he did not specify or speculate what would or could come about from it.

Health care costs, discussions on climate change and “reining in” the “monstrosity” of the federal budget are Braun’s long-term concerns. To the last point, he compared this task to responsibly managing a business.

“I’ve been part of building a business where you have full accountability, you gotta live within your means, you gotta earn your revenues,” he said, inferring his family business manufacturing truck parts. “You can’t have losses year after year. You go out of business.”

While Braun holds regular office hours in Jasper, he said he was cognizant that not everyone can make the trip. As such, he said he plans to have visited all 92 counties in Indiana come November.

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    Typical politician...talking out of both sides of his mouth.

    One side says we have a spending issue, which is true enough with $23 TRILLION in debt.

    The other side talks about healthcare, climate change, and lots of other things that the Federal government has no business being involved in.

    But at least he gets to pad his wallet a little more from the pocket of the taxpayer with his five committee spots.

    (If you weren't aware, Congress gets paid for being on committees... which is way there are lots! of committees.)

    -- Posted by dreadpirateroberts on Wed, Feb 19, 2020, at 8:45 AM
  • Has the banner done away with its rule of no comments on political articles? Just curious. Thank you.

    -- Posted by taylortwp on Wed, Feb 19, 2020, at 1:26 PM
  • cloverman, Mike Braun is our current US senator. Why not let people voice their thoughts?

    -- Posted by Raker on Wed, Feb 19, 2020, at 2:16 PM
  • I don’t believe I said they could not voice their concerns. I asked if the banner had reversed a policy they had eliminating comments on political articles.

    -- Posted by taylortwp on Wed, Feb 19, 2020, at 2:52 PM
  • Okay I understand. Does the Bannergraphic really have a policy for that? They should let people leave comments and have discussions about politics if they want to!

    That's what I meant to say.

    -- Posted by Raker on Wed, Feb 19, 2020, at 4:11 PM
  • Raker-during the last general election they did impose a comment ban.

    -- Posted by taylortwp on Fri, Feb 21, 2020, at 7:09 PM
  • Cloverman- Thanks for the update, I still disagree with this policy. Definitely disagree with blocking comments on current elected officials...

    I would like to hear other people's thoughts or stories about candidates running for office. Thanks for keeping me posted!

    -- Posted by Raker on Fri, Feb 21, 2020, at 10:05 PM
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