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Ensign calls for stronger antidote to economy
by Jessica Garcia
Oct 16, 2008 | 1076 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<a href=>Tribune/Debra Reid</a> - U.S. Senator John Ensign discussed business, health care and labor issues with Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce members on Thursday.
Tribune/Debra Reid - U.S. Senator John Ensign discussed business, health care and labor issues with Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce members on Thursday.
U.S. Sen. John Ensign has a practical analogy for the current state of the economy.

"If you think of the economy as a patient, you have to stop the bleeding," Ensign said. "As time goes on, bodies do heal themselves but you have stop more trauma from happening and more bleeding from going on. If you have give medicine, you don't want to give medicine that will make the patient sicker."

At a public policy forum at the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Ensign, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, discussed the major issues facing the nation and offered his thoughts and insights as to what the Senate is doing to find solutions in what Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce CEO Doug Kurkul called "a wake-up call" for businesses.

The first of Ensign's concerns was the federal bail-out package. He traced its roots back to the 1990s during the Clinton administration, saying the executive order of the authorization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to join the subprime market was a "laudable goal" to help low-income people get into homes as long as home values increased. But, as the Bush administration's efforts to secure a regulator for Fannie and Freddie in 2003 fell apart, Ensign said it was becoming too late and began impacting the economy.

"How we got here, all that created a perfect storm that led to a huge runup in prices and when you have a fast run in prices in the dot-com era ... it affects portions of the economy," he said.

He went on to talk about where that history has led us with the approval of the $7 billion bail-out package.

On Tuesday, Ensign discussed, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced a strategy to inject $250 billion into banks and other financial institutions in need of capital.

Ensign said Paulson considers it to be the "simplest, cleanest" solution.

But, Ensign added, "Is it enough to stop the bleeding? It's all psychological. It's a herd mentality: If people believe it's enough, it's enough. If they don't believe it's enough, it's not enough. It's frustrating in a lot of ways."

As for housing, on which a question was raised by a chamber member, Ensign said he voted against the Housing and Economic Recovery Act passed by Congress in July because the housing market has not yet "hit bottom" and because it was a loan as opposed to a tax credit.

But the situation is survivable, Ensign said.

"The bottom line is we're going to get through this," he said. "We just hope the pain's not too bad while we try get through this."

Ensign also discussed the merits of alternative energy, for which geothermal, solar and wind is becoming prominent in Nevada.

"They call Florida the 'Sunshine State,' but it's really Nevada," he said. "Solar is huge ... and for the future it's actually going to be very good for jobs."

Ensign noted America needs to become less dependent on foreign oil and tap into the oil shale in the Rocky Mountains.

"For long-term economic security, it's important to have American supplies of oil and natural gas," he said. "Why haven't we been doing this? Lawsuits have been tied up by environmentalist groups."

Also of concern to the senator is health care. He said there's a "disconnect" between people who receive care and the people who pay for it. He called for electronic health care records to offset some of the costs of processing paperwork from doctor to doctor.

"It's a mess, "he said. "If we had electronic health care, like the (Veterans Administration) has electronic health care, you can build in best practices," which could send a red flag to health care providers which physicians are using best practices or not.

Ensign said many young people are choosing not to purchase insurance, which burdens the insured with higher costs from visits to the emergency room.

Ensign serves on the budget, finance, rules and administration and commerce, science and transportation committees. In the private sector, he's a veterinarian.

His outlook, ultimately, is optimistic, but he said the nation has to embrace these tough times and give the problems the proper "medicine."

"It's all about confidence," Ensign said.

Kurkul said his address to the chamber members was "a real wake-up call that there could be dramatic changes coming from Washington D.C. in early 2009, including the proposed elimination of secret ballots for union organizing and substantial tax increases on entrepreneurs."

For Kurkul, Ensign's presentation was a call to advocacy for businesses trying to survive in troubling financial circumstances.

"In this challenging economic environment, we need to be very careful that we don't place further burdens on those people, (the small businesses that) we're counting on to create jobs over the next couple of years," Kurkul said.

Inviting government leaders to speak at forums, Kurkul added, is especially helpful because politics and businesses do make an impact on each other.

"I think connecting the business community with elected officials on a regular basis will remind business people they need to be involved in public affairs because government policies have a very dramatic impact on the ability to run a business," Kurkul said.
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