By Beth Perdue
WESTPORT, Mass. — U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., told area businesses that the country must continue to invest in communities like Fall River at the same time it is making spending cuts.
Kerry, was the featured speaker at the March 16 Fall River Area Chamber of Commerce of Industry annual meeting where he argued that cuts must be balanced by revenue increases.
“You have to invest to grow,” he said. “We believe very deeply that we’ve got to be able to invest in these communities.”
In his comments, Kerry said health care is the biggest budget problem, rejecting proposals to reign in spending by targeting discretionary funds.
“It’s not discretionary spending where we are going to be able to solve this problem,” he said. “Most of the budget problem is inside of health care, Medicare and Medicaid.”
The U.S. spends 16 percent of its gross domestic product on health care and that figure is rising, Kerry said, contrasting that with health care expenses in other countries which are at 11 percent or less.
“And,” Kerry said, “They have better health outcomes.”
Kerry strongly supported the use of earmarks, where funds are identified for a specific purpose, saying they are not the problem and have been used successfully to support local communities. Instead, he called for ending backroom deals that take place without committee review. “I’m against those midnight deals. I think we ought to ban them,” he said.
But despite his tough financial message, Kerry concluded that the moment holds real opportunity for the country, if, he said, “We can make the right choices.”
“We’re beginning to see manufacturers return to Amercia,” he said, noting a rising cost of doing business in China.
Kerry said he supports rebuilding America and noted that for every $1 billion spent on infrastructure, 27,000 to 35,000 jobs are created. He pushed for building a nationwide energy grid, describing today’s energy market as having the same or even more growth potential than the booming technology market of the 1990s.
The energy market is a $6 trillion market, he said, with a potential 5 billion users.
Kerry criticized the current partisan atmosphere in Washington, describing the fighting as a function of the people involved, not Senate rules. He has seen those same rules work in the past, he said.
“It’s not the rules, it’s the people,” said Kerry. “It’s whether or not you want to reach across the aisle.”
Fall River mayor William Flanagan also addressed the crowd at White’s of Westport, praising the chamber for its advocacy efforts on important community issues.
“Whenever there’s an issue facing our community, the chamber has been there as a strong advocate,” said Flanagan.
March 23, 2012 4:52 PM