The shutdown of part of the federal government and the battle over the raising of the federal debt ceiling reflect a lack of leadership in Washington, says Karen Handel.
“The people that we have elected have failed to do the job that we sent them there to do,” she said, referring to Congress’ failure to approve a budget during the past four years.
“If this were a private business they would have been fired,” she said.
Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state and chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, is seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat that will be vacated next year by the retiring Saxby Chambliss. She spoke Monday with the editorial board of The Daily Citizen.
Handel pointed to a recent Congressional Budget Office report showing that federal spending is expected to rise to 26.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2038 from 20.6 percent today, and that federal debt is expected to rise to 100 percent of GDP from 73 percent today, largely because of rising interest costs and growing spending for entitlement programs Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
That’s the best case scenario. Under the worst case, the federal debt could rise to 250 percent of GDP.
“That’s financial Armageddon,” Handel said. “And again, we got to this point from a lack of leadership in both parties.”
Handel said Congress needs to reform entitlement programs to bring down their costs. But she said the American public has lost so much trust in Washington that such reform would be difficult at this time.
She said that to regain that trust Congress first needs to show its fiscal responsibility by reducing waste such as federal overpayments on contracts.
“How can we get people to trust us to handle the big stuff if we haven’t shown we can handle the small things,” she said.
She said that the retirement of the Baby Boom generation also presents an opportunity to reduce the federal workforce and spending on personnel through attrition.
“Imagine that for every five retirees we hired only one replacement,” she said.
Handel said she supports defunding and repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, pointing to the massive computer problems experienced by those trying to sign up for its health care exchanges last week as well as reports that health insurance prices in the individual market are soaring.
Handel is one of seven individuals who have said they will seek the Republican nomination for Senate in 2014. The others are fellow U.S. representatives Jack Kingston, Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey, businessmen David Perdue of Macon and Eugene Yu of Augusta, and Derrick Grayson of Stone Mountain.
Michelle Nunn, daughter of former U.S. senator Sam Nunn, Atlanta physician Branko Radulovacki and ex-U.S. Army Ranger Todd Robinson of Columbus are seeking the Democratic nomination.
Handel said her record in government and in the private sector — including management positions with CIBA Vision and KPMG as well as serving as president and CEO of the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce — shows that she’s not afraid to stand up to the status quo but can also get things done.
“Some of my opponents will talk about how they voted no and how they opposed something. Well, what were the results? They’ll talk about how they sponsored something or signed some piece of legislation. Well, what were the results?” she said.