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Linder delivers harsh words on stimulus bill, U.S. Department of Education
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BRASELTON — A year after President Barack Obama signed the stimulus bill into law, U.S. Rep. John Linder shared his thoughts on the plan, the health care debates in Congress and other issues facing national leaders today with the Braselton Rotary Club.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 introduced a $787 billion stimulus package meant to create jobs and spark the economy. Some of the funding went toward extending unemployment insurance, which Linder said could be extended further in the coming weeks.

“Unemployment insurance used to be 13 weeks and study after study shows that the closer and closer they get toward losing their coverage, they work harder and harder to get a job. You now have 99 weeks of unemployment insurance. And we’re going to pass another one in the next several weeks to make it three years,” he said.

Linder — who represents the 7th District that includes Gwinnett, Walton and parts of Barrow, Forsyth and Newton counties — said Republicans may want to consider not spending the rest of the stimulus funds and using that to appeal to voters in an election year.

“I’m pushing on the Republican conference some ideas to run on. And I think we can run on them and win,” he said. “The first thing I’d say is no more spending. Of the half of the stimulus money that hasn’t been spent, we won’t spend it. We’d just put it back. We’ll just stop all that.”

Linder also said the government should “gut” the U.S. Department of Education and change the way education funding reaches students.

“We spend over $200 billion a year on our education department. Our education department has not educated kids since it’s been built,” he said. “We take that money and make scholarships for any kid to go to any college and gut the education department. Use that money for education, but put it right in the kids’ hands so that a 6-year-old in an inner city school can walk in and believe he can be a doctor or a lawyer.”

Linder also spoke to the Rotary about the health care bills in the House and the Senate, which will become the main topic of discussion when Obama holds a bipartisan meeting on health care reform Feb. 25.

“Eighty-five percent of the American people are just fine. We should do something about the other 15 percent. But not change the whole health system for everybody. We need to do three or four things, and then do them one at a time,” Linder said.

One of the first things he said Congress should address is tort reform and limit the amount of damages awarded by juries in malpractice cases.

“We know that between 10 and 15 percent of all health care procedures are done for defensive purposes — the doctor, if he or she doesn’t do them, is going to get sued,” Linder said. “All the states that have had tort reform have had 100 percent recovery of economic losses but limited pain and suffering. That’s where the lawyers come in. It’s brought down the insurance costs and more importantly, it’s brought down the defensive medicine. We should do that.”

Linder also said he believes residents should be able to purchase insurance plans across state lines, and opt into associated health care plans.
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