While physician-turned-Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma admittedly describes President Barack Obama
as a “good personal friend,” he doesn’t pull any punches in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV when asked if the president deserves a second term.
“No, he does not,” Coburn declared flatly on Tuesday. “I think his leadership is sorely lacking on the major problems facing our country. He was handed a tough economy. I think many of the programs he put forward and passed when they had absolute control of the Congress have been exactly the opposite prescription that we should have for our country.”
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Dr. Coburn, who has delivered more than 4,000 babies since graduating from the University of Oklahoma Medical School in 1983, insists that it’s possible to oppose someone’s political positions but still be the person's friend.
“So even though I’m a good personal friend of him, I absolutely disagree with him on 98 or 99 percent of the issues,” said Coburn, who is married to a former Miss Oklahoma. “You actually can oppose people and still be friends with them. It doesn’t have to be rancor and harshness. You can actually have a disagreement. I yearn for the date when we have real debates in the Senate again.”
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In his new book, “The Debt Bomb: A Bold Plan to Stop Washington from Bankrupting America,”
Coburn unabashedly prescribes firing 90 percent of Congress to address the burgeoning national debt and other issues that threaten to plunge the U.S. into what he fears could be an economic collapse worse than the Great Depression though he admits that the percentage is somewhat of an exaggeration.
“I said that tongue in cheek in terms of relating to Jack Welch’s program at GE where they drop the bottom 10 percent of their employees every year and replace them,” Coburn says of his book, adding that the point was an important one: “We owe almost 16 trillion in debt. Everybody knows that’s not sustainable. But we’re going to add $1.3 to the debt this year and you’ve not seen one thing come out of Congress that addresses that. Why is that?”
He blames career politicians.
“Congress is not addressing the problems in front of the country and the reason is careerism,” he stressed, adding that most people are not aware that the government is twice the size it was in 2001. “People are not going to do what is necessary because they think it might affect their re-election. And when we’re thinking about the next election — always ahead of the problems of the country — the country is ill-served and my prescription for that is you have to change who’s here.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has failed to address the critical issues facing the country, according to Coburn. “Where is a plan to fix Medicare? Medicare’s Part A trust fund will be bankrupt in 2016,” he explained.
“The sooner we address it, the less pain it’s going to be to fix it. No plan. No talk about it — blocking anything to go to the floor that would have fixed that. Where’s the plan to re-stabilize Social Security and give it a life so that so many people who are so dependent on that can be assured that their Social Security will be there?”
He blames career politicians from both parties, saying, “Are they thinking about the short term and their short-term political career, or are they thinking about what’s best for the country in the long term?”
The answer to America’s problems ultimately comes down to shared sacrifice and difficult choices.
“We lack the courage and we lack the character to do what the country needs us to do,” Coburn insisted. “We need to talk to Americans like adults and say ‘here are the problems. Here are the options. Which would you have us do?’ We are all going to make some sacrifice if we’re going to solve the problems that are facing our country and you cannot belie the fact that the last 30 years in this country we’ve lived off the backs of our kids to come.”
Coburn believes that the Obama administration made a “major mistake” by not adopting the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles committee report on spending cuts.
“They were thinking politically instead of policy and what was in the best interest of the country,” explained Coburn, who served on the bipartisan committee. “There were some hard things in there, especially in terms of Social Security — in terms of fixing it, making sure it’s solvent forever. There was very little in terms of Medicare. There was significant discretionary spending cuts, non-mandatory, non-Medicare cuts in it. I think they made a major mistake in not endorsing it and ask that we move on it.”
He said that the U.S. faces the prospect of having to fund an additional $600-700 billion in interest payments in the coming years if there is even a 4 percent rise in interest rates.
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“You diffuse the debt bomb by doing three things — three critical things,” he said. “One is you reform the tax code. And you put back in place a pro-growth tax program where you flatten the rates. You broaden the base and you create an incentive for capital to be invested. We have $3 trillion sitting on the sideline that’s not being invested right now.
“The second thing you do is you eliminate the waste, duplication, and fraud that’s ongoing right now in the federal government,” he continued. “That buys you $3.5 trillion over 10 years, and then finally what you do is you markedly expand our natural resource base by utilizing our own energy.”
Coburn said that the U.S. has more carbon-based fuel than China, Canada, and Saudi Arabia combined, which could save $300-400 billion a year.
“It would create millions of new jobs. It would create millions of wealth for our country and would put us on a growth again,” he said. “There’s not a problem in front of us we can’t solve. What we lack is leadership and vision to solve those problems and an adult conversation with the American public about the severity of our problems, the urgency of our problems, and that we can fix them.”
While acknowledging that wealthy Americans may have to pay more to help solve the financial crisis, he dismissed President Obama’s proposed Buffett rule.
“They’re operating on a politics of division. And it’s another sign of the failed leadership of the president,” he said. “It’s easy to divide people. Real leadership brings people together.”
Coburn, a three-time cancer survivor, also predicted potentially devastating consequences to the American healthcare system if the Supreme Court upholds the president’s controversial healthcare reform law and if Obama wins re-election in November.
“You will see the quality of care in this country decline. You will see the cost of everybody’s healthcare markedly go up,” he said, adding that some states will be bankrupted by the expansion of Medicaid and the absence of market forces from healthcare.
“There won’t be any insurance companies left. And the default position will be a government-run, single-payer healthcare system and they know it,” Coburn added.
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