By Bret H. McCormick
River Parishes bureau
August 16, 2012
GONZALES — Congressman Bill Cassidy spent about an hour Wednesday afternoon talking with Ascension Parish residents about some of the major issues he believes are facing the nation.
Cassidy, a Baton Rouge Republican who qualified for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday morning, spoke with a couple of dozen Democrats and Republicans at the Ascension Parish Chamber of Commerce office about what he said are important national issues, such as health care, national security, immigration and the nation’s debt and deficit.
Rufus Holt Craig Jr., a Libertarian Party member from Baton Rouge, also qualified on Wednesday to challenge Cassidy for Louisiana’s 6th District seat.
Cassidy, who works as a physician at Earl K. Long Medical Center in Baton Rouge, spent most of his time discussing health-care issues.
“I’m so aware of the importance of Medicare and Medicaid,” he said.
Without drastic changes, he said, Medicare will be bankrupt in 12 years, and Medicaid will continue to swallow up state budgets “like an Assumption Parish sinkhole.”
John Scanlan, president and vice chairman of Eatel Corp., asked Cassidy how the health-care system could be fixed. Cassidy responded by saying the federal government had to find “real solutions,” then outlined plans he supports to overhaul Medicare and Medicaid.
Glenda Shaheen, a member of the chamber’s board of directors, said she was worried that election debate already has turned “nasty” with 82 days still remaining before Election Day.
“The American people have to insist we talk about the important stuff,” Cassidy said.
Earlier Wednesday, Cassidy spoke to a group of about 40 people at a roundtable event at Sno’s Seafood and Steak House that was sponsored by the Ascension Republican Women, where he delivered a similar message.
He told audience members what they could do “to influence this election,” both locally and on the national level. Cassidy spoke of his support for the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan presidential ticket and encouraged audience members to use their “sphere of influence” to make a difference in the “seven to nine states that will determine the election.”
“This is a time for we, as Republicans, to step forward and serve our country like we have always served our country,” Cassidy said.
Ascension Parish Assessor-elect M.J. “Mert” Smiley Jr. asked Cassidy at the chamber town hall session when the nation would get out of debt under Ryan’s budget roadmap.
“Under the Ryan plan, when will we break even?” Smiley asked. “When will we stop our debt?”
Cassidy explained that today there are fewer young employees paying into the Medicare system, which is supporting more and more baby boomers. In 13 years, he said, the last of the baby boomers should be retired, and the Ryan plan puts Medicare on a “very small glide path down” until the budget is balanced in 2050.
Cassidy acknowledged at the town hall meeting that fixing the health-care system is a “complicated issue,” but he said it was one that Washington needs to address as soon as possible.
“The longer we wait to make changes, the harder those changes will be,” he said.