Kind: Country needs strategy for deficit reduction
His independent nature, his record in office and his understanding of what needs to be done are among the reasons he should be re-elected, says Ron Kind.
Kind, 47, a Democrat, has represented Wisconsin's 3rd District in the U.S. House of Representatives for 14 years. This year he's running for re-election with two opponents: Republican Dan Kapanke of La Crosse and independent Michael Krsiean of Houlton.
Using a statistical analysis of support of legislation, earlier this year an academic paper recently named Kind the sixth most "independent maverick" in Congress. It's a label Kind accepts.
"It's reflective of how I've been," said Kind, adding that sometimes that means taking a stand against his party's leadership.
As examples of his independence, he listed his opposition to earmarks, his work to overhaul farm subsidy policies and his support of defense procurement reform.
"I can be an equal opportunity critic of the leadership of both parties," said Kind.
The country, he said, needs a long-term strategy for deficit reduction. As first steps, he has refused to ask for special projects for his district and returned $1.2 million in unspent office operating funds to the U.S. Treasury.
The country's deficit-reduction strategy, said Kind, must involve:
--Getting control of rising health care costs. The best hope for that, he said, is to pay for health care based on value not volume. He said the country must change how it delivers health care as well as how it pays for it.
--Developing a new system for acquiring weapons systems for the military. Kind said the government must look at what it's buying rather than writing "the blank check defense contractors expect."
--Reforming the federal farm program that pays huge subsidies to large agribusinesses but little to smaller farms. "(The subsidies) are not helping out family farms back home," said Kind.
--Earmark reform. An earmark is a congressional provision that guarantees funds to particular recipients. Kind has called for the creation of a bipartisan commission to examine the earmark process and reform spending habits.
Health care bill
"It wasn't hard to figure out it was failing too many families," said Kind of his support for health care reform. The consequences of doing nothing were frightening, he said.
Opponents argued for waiting until a better plan could be proposed, perhaps in five years. But, said Kind, "Five years never comes."
We have the tools now to reform how health care is delivered in this country, he said.
Kind said he made his decision on the issue by listening to health care providers, businesses and consumers and has been "struck" by the number of people who have since thanked him for his vote.
Those included a young man in Black River Falls who donated a kidney to his brother and is now uninsurable, a mother whose infant has a stroke while in the womb and was born uninsurable, and a mother whose daughter was diagnosed with cancer shortly after the family lost its insurance.
"We had to start (with health care reform)," said Kind. "We didn't have the luxury of waiting."
Promises to vets
Among the accomplishments he's particularly proud of is his support for veterans.
The nation needs to assure that it keeps its promises to military vets, said Kind.
"We've got to live up to that promise," he said. "It's the right thing to do."
He helped pass legislation that extends GI Bill educational benefits to surviving spouses and children of veterans.
"It's just another layer of comfort and support for the families," said Kind.
He is also especially proud of having authored the Veterans History Project, through which volunteers record the experiences of veterans and their families.
In the last decade, over 80,000 veterans' stories have been recorded and entered into the permanent collection of the Library of Congress's American Folklife Center, making the VHP the largest oral history collection in the world.
"It's really the last thanks of a grateful nation to our veterans," said Kind.
The main focus now must be the economy, said Kind: "A growing economy solves a lot of problems."
When President Obama took office, the country had a $1.4 trillion budget deficit and was losing 800,000 jobs a month, he said.
"That was from Day 1," said Kind. "That's what he inherited."
Now the country has had eight consecutive months of private sector job growth.
"It's not coming as fast as we'd like to see," admitted Kind, adding "It won't happen overnight. That was a deep hole that was created."
He pointed to a change in behavior among consumers. While the personal savings rate had been a negative two percent, it's now risen to 5-7 percent. People are paying off their credit card debts rather than making more purchases, and that's a natural correction that needs to happen, said Kind.
Some progress is also being made in the manufacturing and service sectors and helping small businesses get the credit they need to operate will help, he said.
"We're starting to turn a corner, but there are a lot of struggles out there," said Kind.
The need to listen, both at home and in Washington, is important, said Kind, as is the willingness to find common ground.
"We need the ability to come together and find common ground," he said, worrying about the "the hostile take-over" of the Republican Party by politicians intent on "saying no to everything" once elected.