Kansas Senator Jerry Moran: ‘Congress is dysfunctional’
Story and photo by Clarke Davis
The Valley Falls Rotary Club served as the host for a visit from Senator Jerry Moran with about 25 in attendance.
Moran was greeted by Rotarians and a number of guests that included Mayor Charles Stutesman and his wife, Anita.
The senator described the country as financially broke and led by a dysfunctional Congress whose members are often too embarrassed to admit what they do for a living.
“Too often we look like children having a fight without any results any of us would be very proud of,” he said.
He said every city, county, and school district in the nation can create and pass a budget, but Congress can’t.
“Congress has failed and the president has failed,” he said.
Moran did not vote to increase the debt ceiling the last time because, he said, he thought it would serve as leverage to force Congress to do something it did not want to do. He wrote to the president to encourage him to change the way the country does business, but to no avail.
“If we care about Kansans and the next generation, we have to get spending under control,” he said.
The debt now equals the Gross National Product, the senator said, and things could change very quickly if the people who loan us money decide one day to stop.
“The psychology of those who lend us money could change and we could become another Greece or Italy in a moment,” he warned. “Forty-two percent of the money we spend is borrowed money.”
Moran was raised in a small town and said his interest in public service—what motivates him—is not the big broad issues but rather “what can I do to make sure the way we live our lives in communities across Kansas is around for awhile longer.”
Too many members of Congress have no idea about the fixed costs of running a small business and how they are impacted by actions from Washington, he said.
In a small town, he said, there aren’t any more customers to sell more products to grow a business, so survival means holding down costs.
Moran represented the big first district in the House for 12 years before being elected to the Senate. He said his district ran from the Colorado line to the Shawnee County line and the only community that was growing was Junction City.
“So many towns were just holding their own, dwindling . . . trying to make ends meet,” he said.
The state has 126 hospitals, some of them hanging on by a thread, he said.
“People have to have access to health care,” he said, noting that if a community loses its hospital, it loses its physicians, its pharmacies, and the people, who leave to be where they can get health care.
“We have eight counties that don’t have a pharmacy,” he said. “How do we keep a viable main street is a main concern of mine.”
“Economic development depends on whether or not there is a grocery store in town and most members of Congress don’t understand that,” he said. “The decisions we make too often determine whether these businesses are there.”
On the educational front he said he cannot believe there is anything done in the Department of Education that benefits a child in Kansas.
“The best thing we can do is try to keep government from ruining education, which is best decided locally,” he said.
He said he voted against the current “No Child Left Behind” Act which did nothing but take the children away from the teacher to do more testing.
Moran supports the enhancement of vocational education and believes students should be taught to work with their hands as well as their heads. He decried the loss of so many FFA programs that teach these vocations.
The senator said he did not support efforts by the Department of Labor to regulate children’s work on farms. He believes the Environmental Protection Agency has overstepped its bounds with too many regulations in some affairs, and he fears for the small community banks whose regulatory compliance has become too costly for most of them to handle.
In working to save the postal system, he said there is a Moran amendment to a bill working its way through Congress that says the U.S. Postal Service cannot close any post office without sound reasons. The USPS must establish criteria based on demographics, age of the facility, distance to the next post office, and a whole set of things they have to review before they decide it should be closed.
“We want some standard by which we can judge their merit,” he said.
The USPS has a list of 134 post offices in Kansas that are facing possible closure.
“I’m not giving up on any community that hasn’t given up on itself. If it’s willing to fight for its future, i’ll be its ally,” he said.
While he knows the Internet has had a great impact on the postal service he still believes in the importance of universal service and noted that closing post offices doesn’t make much sense. Historically it has always been the big offices that offset the cost of the smaller ones. He said of the 10,000 post offices marked to close in the United States it would only save 7/10th of 1 percent of the revenue the USPS generates.
As for fixing government, he said terms limits was not as great a problem as former senators and representatives working as lobbyists.
“Taking a job as a lobbyist is lucrative and it changes the focus while in office,” he said. “One cannot offend the leadership who you will be asking for favors and you can’t offend the special interests because they might be your employer.”
Senate President Harry Reid asked Moran how he liked serving in the Senate and Moran said he replied by saying he liked it except “We’re not doing anything.”
Reid replied that there was little use until after the election and this was six months ago.
“The country’s problems are so great we don’t have that long to wait,” Moran said.
“What I’m about is the survival of rural America,” he said. “My goal has been to help create an environment in which opportunities exist for our communities — the places we call home — to be around for awhile longer and pass on the qualities we have to the next generation.”
The introductions were made by Rotarian Gary Coleman in the absence of President June Huston.
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