LAKEWOOD RANCH — Rep. Vern Buchanan startled a crowd of business leaders when he opened a discussion by declaring strife in Washington is as bad as it seems.
Then, he settled the group and told them he once sat where they do now.
As a businessman for more than 30 years prior to his political career, he dealt with the same external forces that impact running a business today.
These forces come from Washington, where Buchanan serves now in an effort to limit government’s force.
In an open discussion with members of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance and business leaders June 10, Buchanan said small government, with few regulations, promotes business growth.
As the only Florida congressmen on the House Ways and Means Committee, Buchanan provides jurisdiction over tax policy, international trade, health care and Social Security.
He said 70% to 80% of businesses created in Florida are small businesses, but start-ups are down 30% nationwide.
He blames the downturn on disincentives, such as expensive health insurance and tax loopholes, that make it more difficult for small businesses to stay competitive.
Buchanan believes the federal Affordable Care Act, a reform of the U.S. health-care system designed to insure 37 million uninsured Americans, will continue to drive up the costs of entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
“The Affordable Care Act does not bend the curve on health care,” Buchanan said.
The health-care reform will only add to the nation’s deficit, Buchanan said, adding it will create an unsustainable debt load that “hangs like a black cloud over everything.”
That statement comes after the Congressional Budget Office projected the national deficit will shrink to $642 billion this year, from more than $1 trillion the past four years.
Buchanan also talked about efforts to amend the tax code. He referenced a recent trip to Hong Kong, where he saw a rise in economic activity backed by simple, low taxes.
Buchanan supports a flat tax at 20%, with no deduction or exemptions, but he called a 25% flat tax more realistic and passable.
Buchanan visited Beijing in the 1980s, a time before the nation’s No. 2 economy enjoyed the prosperity it has today, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
At the time, Buchanan was “apolitical.”
The rise of China and Russia pushed Buchanan into politics in 2007.
Now, China has declared its No. 1 goal is to create 20 million jobs per year, Buchanan said.
“Our No. 1 priority should be to create jobs and make it easier for small businesses,” Buchanan said. “But, there’s the big battle between free enterprise and big government, and I’m not sure that is our top priority. My task every day is to make sure that it is.”
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