Senator Claire McCaskill (D) held a town hall in Concordia, Missouri at the Community Center Gymnasium on Tuesday, August 10th. Approximately sixty people attended.
The fourth and final part of the transcript for the audience question and answer session follows:
…Senator McCaskill: Well, let me, let me tell you what the stimulus did and is doing. Just about every orange cone you see in Missouri is stimulus money. Now I know those people working out there on those road projects would say those are jobs. The money that is being spent in the State of Missouri is stimulus money for all the road projects right now. The money that went to Jeff City that kept them from having to cut a total of three billion more than they’ve cut from the state budget over the last two years, that was stimulus money. Now I guarantee you, there’s a school superintendent that’s here, if those cuts would have gone through she would have lost teachers. Those are jobs. Those teachers would be out of work. Uh, they weren’t put out of work because of the stimulus. Of that state stabilization money was one third of it – going straight to state governments to decide how they needed to spend to keep there from being an economic disaster within each and every state. Almost a third of it was tax cuts. Those tax cuts are still coming out of people’s, uh, they’re still getting more money in their paychecks as we speak. [crosstalk]
Question: If you work.
Senator McCaskill: If you work. That’s exactly right. If you have a job, any kind of job, you don’t have to be rich. You can have any kind of working man job, working woman job and you’re getting less money taken out of your paycheck right now. That was all [inaudible]. And then we’ve got high speed rail money and I think for this community and communities near here they understand what high speed rail could do for Missouri as it relates to the speed and the efficacy of train transportation between Kansas City and St. Louis. Being able to clear those lines so our freight trains move more easily – that includes commerce. That’s money, thirty-one million in Missouri right [inaudible crosstalk] there.
Question: But what about all the wasted things that, that are constantly shown on the Internet about, you know, [inaudible] crossings and, and, you know [inaudible][crosstalk].
Senator McCaskill: Well, I’m not aware, I, I, do I think that there are mistakes made with how federal money spent? I spend a great deal of my time trying to focus on that. I can’t argue with you that there are, every single dime is spent appropriately. I will tell you that most economists believed at the time that our country was teetering and that stimulative spending, which is classic economic one-oh-one, was necessary by the government. And that’s why I voted for it. Because I believed it was gonna help us in the recovery. And if you look at the job numbers we lost three million jobs the last six months of the Bush administration and another three million jobs the first three months of the Obama administration. That has stopped. We cauterized that wound. [applause] It is not, we [inaudible] losing jobs like that now. [applause] And I believe the stimulus helped with that. [applause]
Question: We continue to lose jobs, and [crosstalk]…
Senator McCaskill: No. We’re gaining jobs.
Question: We continue to have four hundred fifty thousand new unemployment claims every week.
Senator McCaskill: We [inaudible crosstalk], there’s no question unemployment is still a major issue in this country. But we are net creating jobs now every month. It’s not a huge number, but we’re not losing seven hundred thousand a month like we were at the end of two thousand and eight and the beginning of two thousand nine. That was the crises we were trying to address. I was making a good faith attempt to do what I thought, and here’s the interesting thing about this, you’re kind of darned if you do and darned if you don’t. Because when I run into people all the time they say, you know, you guys need to quite spending, what are you gonna do about jobs? You guys need to quite spending. What are you gonna do about jobs? Well, there’s only so much the government can and should do. I think what we did was the appropriate amount. I don’t think we can continue to do major stimulus spending going forward. Because there’s a point that you’ve gotta pivot and really begin to fasten down the ends in terms of how much spending’s going on. That’s why capping the growth, the amendment I’m supporting makes sense right now. We’re not cutting, because if you cut right now it could send us into another tailspin economically. But capping the growth is a reasonable approach in terms of the economics of it to do it. I think I talked about health care. And what was the final one?
Question: Financial reform.
Senator McCaskill: Financial reform. Um, it is a public bill. It is available for anybody to read. It exempts the community banks. There are only, the big national banks and two other banks in Missouri that are impacted by the new regulations, UMB and Commerce, because they’re over ten billion. And I gotta tell you the truth, I don’t ever want there to be another time where I have to cast a vote to put your money to save a major financial institution in order to save the financial health of this country. I don’t ever want to have to do that again. And this bill allows the government to go in like they do for other, like you do in a bankruptcy, like you do with a bank. If the local bank down here was about to go under the federal government can come in through the FDIC, they can make sure all the a, the deposits are protected, they can shut down the bank for one afternoon, a
nd reopen the bank on Monday [inaudible crosstalk], and by reorganizing the finances and it’s almost like a structured bankruptcy type process. We didn’t have the authority to do that with these giant mortgage bankers, these investment bankers. We couldn’t do that with Goldman-Sachs or AIG [crosstalk].
Question: [inaudible] that with Fannie or Freddie?
Senator McCaskill: You know what? Fannie and Freddie [inaudible], there will be, the main reason more wasn’t done with Fannie and Freddie when we did financial reg was the real estate community said, please don’t shut off Fannie and Freddie right now as we’re in the midst of this recovery. We are busy trying to make sure that our home prices don’t fall off the cliff, that we can still sell, and that is still a very needed source of funding for many banks loans, good bank loans, in this country, those guarantees. So, um, the, I mean, I know that, that, uh, some stations on the Internet, it’s all about Fannie and Freddie and financial reg was bad. But I honestly believe that we have taken a major step to keep the government from ever having to do that again.
Question: And there are bad things in it and I think you’re aware of that.
Senator McCaskill: Well, I, there, I’m, I, I, can’t say there are bad things in it. I’m not saying that any bill’s perfect [redacted] but I think it was the right thing to do to prevent bailouts in the future [applause] and I gotta [inaudible] now.
Question: I was wondering on the illegal immigration you keep saying that there’s no money in that for illegals. How do you prevent that when an illegal shows up at a hospital? [inaudible] Any politician says, we’re not paying and [inaudible] If they go to [inaudible] so the hospital is [inaudible] [crosstalk].
Senator McCaskill: It depends. He wants to know what happens to an illegal immigrant when he, when he goes to the hospital. It depends on what the present with. Honestly, if it’s life threatening I think most hospitals probably take in any human being that shows up that could die. [inaudible crosstalk] But [crosstalk]…
Question: But we still pay.
Senator McCaskill: I, I, there’s no question about that. And, but I’m not sure we’re ready in America to say that we need to let people die in emergency rooms.
Question: I agree absolutely.
Senator McCaskill: Yeah.
Senator McCaskill: Well, I will tell you that, uh, I have some personal experience with, uh, immigrant communities that, I mean, if you, there’s a priest up in St. Louis that’s very proud at, at, uh, St. Louis University, a Jesuit university in St. Louis, Father Biondi has just opened a clinic where they are trying to provide pro bono care for illegals that are in the St. Louis area because they can’t get health care anywhere else. And he’s doing it through donations at his church and throughout the St. Louis University community. That kinds of stuff goes on for, for medical care, um, but there’s no question there’s a price that the government pays, uh, for illegal immigrants that are in this country. [inaudible crosstalk] Direct and indirect. [inaudible crosstalk] Well, oh, I think what the reason it says that is people were saying that in the health care bill we didn’t prohibit illegal immigrants from getting the benefits of the health care bill. And that is strictly prohibited. They cannot buy insurance on the exchange. They cannot get subsidies to help them buy insurance on the exchange. That’s what that’s referring to, sir, it’s not, it’s not saying that somebody who presents dying at a, at a hospital is now gonna be told go die on the curb. It’s saying that within the provisions of the health care bill it strictly prohibit giving any government benefits [inaudible crosstalk] to the illegal immigrants.
Question: One other thing they, that I also hear talks about, uh, mainly the cost of [crosstalk]…
Senator McCaskill: Uh, huh.
Question:…Starting to watch TV, and it says people are getting injuries to [inaudible].
Senator McCaskill: And that will happen for another couple of years. That will happen because the, the, the exchanges don’t go into place until twenty-fourteen. So, now, what will begin to happen next year, this is good news. We’re gonna have medical loss ratios that they have to begin reporting on next year. So, insurance companies have been hiring a lot of people to figure out ways to deny your claim. They make more money the more claims they deny. They, they’re now gonna have to report those expenses, how much of every dollar they collect from their premium holders, from their insureds. And they’re gonna have to report how much of every dollar they spend on health care versus how many people did they deny health care, their advertising, or salaries. And if they spend more than eighty-five, eighty-five cents, they spend more than fifteen cents of every dollar on something other than health care they gotta rebate to their insureds, not to the government. It goes back to their policy holders.
Senator McCaskill: Well, I, I don’t think it’s realistic to think we’re gonna have a good handle on changing the cost curve until provisions of the bill come into effect. So it is gonna take a few years. And yes, it’s gonna be hard for all of you who don’t like the bill, it’s gonna give you a lot of righteous indignation the next couple of years ’cause you’re gonna say, well look, we’re not any better off. But for a lot of people, for kids who can stay on your insurance policies longer, for seniors who are gonna get help with the donut hole, for small businesses that are gonna get, for people who have preexisting conditions, there’s a program now in Missouri they can sign up for. There are some good things that’ll happen the next two years, but in terms of really getting a handle on the costs I’m the first to admit that’s not gonna happen in the next two years.
Senator McCaskill: Well, the, his [crosstalk]…
Senator McCaskill: Well, I, I think the frustrating part for me, sir, I understand what you’re saying, but I run into people all the time that have the wrong information about what is and isn’t in the bill. All the time. And I had a whole bunch of people say to me, you know, I’m not really sure what’s in it, but I just figure it’s better to vote no against it than anything else because if the government’s involved it’s probably a bad idea. So there’s some of that out there, too, in fairness. I mean, I bet if I started quizzing you on all of the things that are in the bill I think you’d probably wouldn’t get a hundred percent on the quiz.
Question: I don’t think there’s anybody in America who’d get a hundred percent on that quiz. [inaudible]
Senator McCaskill: Well, I, I don’t [inaudible] a hundred percent, but I think I’d get, I’d be put in B plus territory. I’m pretty sure I would.
Senator McCaskill: But that’s my job. I’m supposed to know it, right?
Senator McCaskill: Thank you guys very, very much for being here. [applause] [inaudible] Thank you very much.