By Frank Boyett
America is drifting in the wrong direction and needs to use the tools of capitalism to right the ship of state, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday during two appearances in Henderson.
That direction is toward a European-style welfare state, he told the Henderson Rotary Club, which met at the Henderson Fine Arts Center, and later said to employees at Methodist Hospital, where he criticized the so-called Obamacare health care initiative.
The election of President Barack Obama and Democratic control of both houses of Congress in 2008 left the door open for
"the agenda of the political left, which had been stymied for decades," he said. "They could do what they wanted to. And they did. We passed a trillion-dollar stimulus bill, we took over America's health care, we nationalized the student loan business. We now have a cumulative national debt as big as our economy. The debt alone makes us look a lot like Greece."
And that debt, along with the nation's budget deficit, represents "the single biggest threat to the country's future. Regardless of who wins this election the problem's still there. And until we fix that issue we can't fix this country."
The current administration, he maintained, "has been oriented toward security, and if you have a society that is completely consumed with security, pretty soon there will be no opportunity. People who are ambitious will go somewhere else."
McConnell likened the situation to a wagon. "In every society you've got people in the wagon and you've got people pulling the wagon. If you put too many people in the wagon, it won't move. And that's Europe.
"Now, don't misunderstand me. We are a compassionate country. We have decided as a society we want to have support for elderly people at the end of life and poor people during life. But for the most part, between those two situations, our society has been an opportunity society, one in which success is applauded and not condemned.
"If you want to have a growth-oriented, entrepreneurial, opportunity society, you cannot put everybody in the wagon. Because we can't afford it.
"I read the other day that 57 percent of Americans get a check from the government. There are a lot of people in the wagon already."
On a number of occasions he criticized the current administration for what he termed "bias against profit" and anti-business attitude. "I don't think we ought to be attacking our own success. It ought to be applauded. Instead you get the impression that every successful person in America is ripping somebody off, not paying his taxes, and needs to be punished for something.
"This is a very anti-business administration. They really think the profit motive is suspect and that you would only make a profit if you were doing things like cheating your customers or mistreating your employees."
Obama has been called a socialist in some quarters, but McConnell declined to go that far when interviewed after his second appearance here. "I don't put a label on it," he said. "But I do know that when you borrow and spend and have persistent, dramatic unemployment, it leads you in the direction of becoming a western European country. I don't think that's the direction our country ought to go."
He also said the Obama administration has been entirely too free with its regulatory power, and that he hopes one of the first things Mitt Romney does if elected president is impose a one-year moratorium on new regulations. "This administration has hired 150,000 new bureaucrats who are crawling over every business in America and they believe that if you're making a profit you're up to no good."
He agreed, however, that "some amount of regulation is necessary. I mean, we want to regulate food and drugs and other things, but there's a difference between focusing on things like safety and trying to micromanage everybody's business."
He maintained the health care act should have taken a different tack, and said he wants to preside over it being repealed. "To use a medical metaphor, instead of taking a meat ax to the finest health care system in the world, I would have pulled out a scalpel."
One thing that could have been done instead, he said, was to "harness the powers of competition to drive costs down." The health insurance market is divided into 50 separate markets by state, he noted. What would have been more effective, he said, is a national market to "pit all the insurance companies against each other to drive costs down."