He returned to Cleveland again Monday with the same message, but this time, his remarks to Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce members were more optimistic.
In 2010, he spoke of the nation’s capital as being dysfunctional. During his latest remarks, the former Chattanooga mayor said if Congress could pass one 400 to 500-page bill dealing with pro-growth tax reform and entitlement reform, “we could put this issue (national debt) in our rearview mirror and focus on making our country stronger again. We could focus on infrastructure. We could focus on research and development. We really are one deal away from being able to put this in our rearview mirror.”
He said countries around the world do not want a weak America and every day, senators are inching legislation forward.
Corker was asked what he would do if he was king for a day. He replied his edict would be to implement the pro-growth tax reform stated in the Bowles-Simpson Plan. Erskine Bowles and former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson were appointed as co-chairs of President Barack Obama’s Deficit Commission in 2010.
“On the pro-growth tax reform piece, I would do what, generally speaking, has been laid out by the Bowles-Simpson group, but not everything. I want to lower marginal rates for individuals,” he said.
Corker said most companies file as limited liability corporations, which according to the Small Business Administration allows a company to function under tax codes as a pass-through entity. All profits and losses pass through the business to the LLC owners. Similar to partnerships, the members themselves report the profits and losses on their federal tax returns but not the LLC.
“Most of us file as individuals. I think most of you know the federal government gives away about $1.2 trillion a year in deductions, credits and subsidies. Congress tries to drive your behavior by putting certain things in the tax code that make you do certain things each year,” he said. “What I would do is eliminate a large portion of those to lower marginal rates on individuals and do so in a way that drives revenue.”
On the entitlement side, he would reform Medicare. He likes the premium support option of giving people the choice of a fee for services, as it now exists, and would keep it as an option.
“If you look at the health care bill that was deemed constitutional and you look at what the administration plans to do over time with Medicare fee for service, it’s to continue to pay providers less and at some point in time, it’s going to be a ticket to nowhere.” Reforms in Medicaid are needed to give states more flexibility and fewer strings through block grants. He said pro-growth tax reform would generate revenue through a growing economy and restructuring entitlements over a period of time instead of looking for an immediate fix would be a solution.
“I think there are 70 votes in the United States Senate for the kind of thing I just laid out if we could do it in a partisan-free environment which may occur after this election,” he said. Corker, who was elected to the Senate in 2006, said people are buying United States Treasury bonds because, “we are the least ugly duckling right now. But if we became the most charming entity because we put this fiscal issue behind us, I think our economy would go through the roof.”
He said if nothing else, the recent Supreme Court ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has clarified the November elections.
“People now know what they are voting for and what they are voting against, so I do think it’s going to have a big impact on the elections,” he said. “The bill cannot work.”
When former Gov. Phil Bredesen was in office, Corker said the state of Tennessee could save $160 million annually by moving its employees onto the new health care system.
“The subsidies are so high for anyone making up to $88,000 a year and the penalties are actually low for most companies. I know for restaurants, it’s still a huge burden. It’s going to be a huge hiring problem for restaurants and service entities that pay lower wages. The bill won’t work, it just cannot work the way it has been laid out,” Corker said. “The cost of this is going to be huge. I don’t know of anybody on the other side of the aisle that pays attention to health care who believes it will work.
“This election is about: Do you want to change it? Do you want to replace it with something that has common sense steps forward? We do have the issue in our country of the working poor not having access to health care. We need to figure out a way to create a mechanism for health insurance to be more competitive and that’s not what is happening in this bill.”
He said if President Barack Obama is reelected, his administration would work to engrain the health care plan into the social fabric as quickly as possible. After that, he expects changes made in the areas that would not work.
Corker believes Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is committed to a vote to repeal the act.
When asked if Romney had spoken to him about the vice presidential spot on the ticket, Corker said Tennessee is not a swing state and he has not been approached.