By Wade Coggeshall
PLAINFIELD — Brad DuBois had told Brenda Goff, southwest regional director for U.S. Sen. Dan Coat's office, that if the Indiana Republican ever had time to visit here, the Chamber of Commerce would gladly host.
The request was obliged on Thursday. Coats spoke to the chamber during a noon meeting at The Coachman restaurant.
"This is a great opportunity to meet Sen. Coats and hear his views on the way things are going," said DuBois, the Plainfield Chamber's executive director.
Also in attendance was Plainfield High School's We the People class. It's a program centered on the study of the U.S. Constitution, divided into various themes like the history of its founding and potential future problems it may face. A team of students develops a presentation for each that's given before a panel of judges. Plainfield's We the People class placed second in the state this year, earning them a spot in the national competition.
"We're proud to have them with us," DuBois said. "We think it's appropriate they be here today."
Coats, now in his second senate stint, used the students as an example for why the federal government's debt needs to be addressed. If it's not, young people like them won't enjoy the same opportunities as their parents and grandparents, he said.
"It has to involve spending," Coats said of the fix. "The government spends like there's no end to the money. None of you can run your business or family that way, or any entity. It's got to be changed. That's what the fight is about in Washington."
He also said that tax reform is needed. Coats noted that the United States' corporate tax rate is the highest of 36 countries it competes against. Government regulations also put our businesses at a disadvantage.
"No one wants to take away valid health and safety regulations, but there are senseless regulations coming out of Washington that are putting extra paperwork and a compliance burden on businesses, particularly small businesses that don't have the big back room or the stable of lawyers to deal with all that," Coats said.
It's not just the national debt that could saddle future generations. Coats warned of major tax increases if Social Security and Medicare aren't reformed.
"We've got to stop bumping along with these short-term fixes and get to the grand fix that puts us on the path to a balanced budget and gives us certainty for the future," he said.
The other current battle in Washington is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. Coats described it as "jammed through by one-party control" that violated legislative procedures and had no bipartisan support.
"That thing is a colossal mess," he said. "There's not enough office space in Washington to house the bureaucrats necessary to oversee the processing of this health care."
Coats mentioned one small victory in the fight against the legislation. The U.S. Senate had a non-binding vote of 79-20 in favor of repealing the 2.3 percent medical device tax that's included in Obamacare. Indiana has a large medical device manufacturing sector. There were 33 Democrats - including Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly - who voted for repeal.
But there's still work to be done. Coats says he's heard from business owners all over the state, both of large and small enterprises. All are concerned about the deficit and healthcare legislation. One business owner in particular, from Lafayette, said he had 48 employees and wanted to hire more, but going over 50 would trigger numerous Obamacare provisions that he can't afford.
"I think (Obama) will rue the day this was jammed through," Coats said. "This year and particularly 2014, as all these provisions kick in, the negative impact it will have will be something the public won't stand for."