Ted Simons:> Healthcare and national security -- two big issues before congress right now. And here to talk about those concerns and other topics is Arizona Senator Jon Kyl.
Jon Kyl: Good to be back.
Ted Simons: Let's get to healthcare because we're going to talk about that later on in the program as well. Before we get to the wherefores and whatnots, at its core, why does healthcare cost so much right now?
Jon Kyl: There are a lot of different reasons and that's why there's no silver bullets to reduce the costs. You can start with physicians who practice defensive medicine for fear of being sued in court. One of the first reforms would be tort reform. You could save billions of dollars every year and physicians wouldn't order those extra tests or procedures so they wouldn't be reflected in your insurance bill and insurance would cost less money. There are new devices, new pharmaceutical products, new techniques that are developed every year that make our medicine better and the quality of medicine, advances, but that costs money and sometimes at least at first, those things cost quite a bit of money and when mass produced cost less. I don't think we want to give up the care simply because it costs more. And there are variety of other reasons congress is trying to identify those reasons and tackle them and that's where a lot of differences of opinion are in how to accomplish healthcare reform.
Ted Simons: I know Republicans like the idea of giving folks the incentives to take care of themselves by way of tax credits and these sorts of things. How does that work though for those who simply can't afford healthcare as it is right now?
Jon Kyl: To give you another example, states passed laws that tell you what has to be in insurance policies. These mandates add to the cost of insurance. Because every time a special interest lobbies the state legislature to add their particular type of care -- and, of course, this adds to the cost of insurance. People talk about hair transplants and Botox, and all the rest of it. That increases cost and it doesn't help anybody who can't afford the care to get it. What we've said is let's try to eliminate those mandates and get malpractice reform, lets have competition across state lines so that you can literally-- I know the insurance companies don't like it, they’ll have more competition, but they’ll have to reduce their premiums. Small businesses and associations should be able to aggregate their employee groups into large risk pools so they have the ability to negotiate with insurance companies just like big business does. There are a variety of ways in which you can draw down -- cause the cost to go down without upsetting the system for all those people who have insurance and frankly, think their insurance is just fine.
Ted Simons: With that in mind, you've got the house version, the senate version, the reconciliation right now. Something is going to come out of this. Are there any aspects of either bill that you are somewhat positive about or it sounds like Republicans just don't like anything they're seeing right now?
Jon Kyl: No, it's not that. The deals with preexisting conditions. Everybody wants to do that. The problem is the bills are so balled up and part of the reason for -- let me finish my sentence. There so balled up that it's hard to pick one thing out and say we'll take that. Everything is connected to something else. What they've done in order to get the votes is to have so many exceptions to the exception going back to subsection such and such. For example you have all of these great ideas and than because they're going to be harmful to states senators exempt their own constituents. Medicare advantage, many Arizonans are on Medicare advantage. If they have Medicare, there’s going to be a big cut in your benefits under Medicare advantage. Senator Nelson from Florida, not the Senator Nelson from Nebraska says, “Well that’s going to hurt my constituents, I’ll grandfather them”. So he grandfathers them in. The rest of them are on the hook. The other senator Nelson got a special deal for Nebraska and so on. All of those things are interconnected, so I don't think you can say we'll take A, C and F. You have to unravel it and I would suggest start from scratch, identify the specific problems, target the solutions to those problems, and don't try to undo what works for people today and try to get a large government intrusion into literally the care and decisions between the doctor and patient.
Ted Simons: Last question on healthcare. Will Republicans have any say in what comes out?
Jon Kyl: Not unless Democrats don't have 60 votes in the senate. In other words, if they can just do it within their own party, they'll do it and won't pay attention to Republicans. That's why I’ve been trying to get some democrats to say no, so that at least the Democrats will have to sit down with Republicans and say, now let's see if we can work out some kind of compromise. But as of right now it's being done behind closed doors with democratic leadership.
Ted Simons: Let’s talk about the economy really quickly here. Administration saying by way of the president's council and economic advisers that the stimulus has worked added two points to the fourth quarter GDP. Your thoughts on that.
Jon Kyl: I think that's baloney, if you want to know the technical term. We lost 85,000 jobs last month. Unemployment now is over 10%. If you take the systemic unemployment, people have stopped looking for work, it's 17.3%. I was in Tucson all day yesterday, I’ve been here today, people are hurting and to suggest that somehow the stimulus has made things better I think is a real stretch. It's true you can't spend that much money and not have it do some good. And frankly, it has helped the state, the state of Arizona somewhat, but I don't think it's an economical way to create jobs. And that’s what should be job one, put people back to work.
Ted Simons: And yet the same council projects that without the stimulus 1.5 to 2 million jobs that are here now would be lost as well.
Jon Kyl: Well, no one can say that. And so I fault these people for trying to suggest to the American people they can calculate the number of jobs that have been saved. That's an impossibility. It is true there's a bunch of new government jobs. And to just give you an idea the new healthcare bill will cost between $5 billion and $10 billion for new IRS employees to enforce the bill. There are going to be government jobs created to be sure. I don't think those are the kind of jobs that Americans are really going to count on for the long term.
Ted Simons: And so, when the same council says that they look to see again another projection. That the impact on jobs this year will be greater than last year, you say?
Jon Kyl: This is the same council that predicted if we pass the stimulus bill unemployment would go no higher than 8%. As I said it's 10%. And so I cannot put a lot of confidence in their predictions. They're political predictions.
Ted Simons: I can't let you leave without talking about terrorism and concerns there. The system failed with the Christmas day attempted bombing there. What happened?
Jon Kyl: Well the president described it correctly. He said we had the intelligence, but the agencies responsible, primarily the national counter terrorism center and the CIA failed, to use the trite phrase, to connect the dots, but it's a pretty good description. They had enough pieces of evidence, if everybody had been on the ball and if the software programs had worked properly. It would have added all of these different pieces and they would have finally said wait a minute, this is a guy we have 6 or7 different indications on him, he should not get on an airplane and as a result that system did fail.
Ted Simons: I thought that was supposed to be -- I thought agencies were supposed to be working together.
Jon Kyl: This was supposed to be all done. Richard Clark, who worked in the previous administration said he was astonished that it wasn't working because he said we had those systems in place when I was there. Part of it may be illustrated by the last line a January 8th editorial by USA today, they said what's needed is a renewed sense of urgency which the president has so far failed to supply. What they meant was, we've got the things in place to do the job, but there doesn't seem to be the sense of urgency to pay attention to these things, treat every one of them as important and make sure that it all works. When they let the head of the national counter terrorism center go ahead and go on vacation after this event has occurred, that gives you the message that it's just not that urgent.
Ted Simons: It’s interesting, I was reading where a CIA analyst back in 02 to 05, a couple of analysts actually, were saying that we're safer now than we were in 2001 because al Qaeda, if the best they can do is to get some kid who sets his pants on fire in a plane, if that’s the best they can do, granted there have been other acts that have actually succeeded in taking lives, but he says because things are relatively in place, we're safer than we are in '01.
Jon Kyl: We are as a result of all of the things we did, the ? law, the patriot act, all of the different things that have been put in place since 9/11, we definitely have more capability than we did, but we're still making very stupid mistakes. When the attorney general takes this fellow, the Christmas day bomber, and indicts him, gives him a lawyer and tells him to stop talking when what we really need is intelligence, and we need timely intelligence -- were there any other people that week who were growing to try do the same thing? Who was he working with? Where did he get this kind of bomb? Why didn’t it go off? What are they doing to make sure it does go off? Instead of just having a couple of FBI agents in Detroit question him immediately, bring the professional interrogators from the CIA, question him until you have all of the intelligence you’re going to get from him, and then if you want to indict him, go ahead. But there’s no reason to indict him right than and there, reading him his Miranda Rights and cut off the intelligence. When the president says we'll use all the tools at our disposal, that includes gathering intelligence, and he just threw all that away.
Ted Simons: Last question before you go, Somalia, Yemen -- relatively newer players on the terrorist battlefield.
Jon Kyl: Back and forth.
Ted Simons: Exactly, what do we do about these folks?
Jon Kyl: It just shows you that these folks will organize and recruit wherever they can. And while we have very important business to do in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, there are a lot of other places in the world that we have to work on too and Somalia and Yemen are two of the big ones.
Ted Simons: All right. Good to see you.
Jon Kyl: Thank you, Ted.