Congressman Smith discusses healthcare, trade, national security

Staff Writer

U.S. Congressman Adrian Smith of Nebraska’s 3rd District stopped by the offices of the Custer County Chief Tuesday. Smith was on a mobile office tour as well as meeting with supporters later in the day.

Reforming the U.S. tax code is one of Smith’s top concerns. “The tax code is broken,” Smith said. The complicated code makes it easy to cheat, even if a tax payer doesn’t mean to, he said.

One change he’d like to see is equal tax treatment on insurance premiums. Currently, if a person pays for insurance through an employer, the premiums can be itemized. If a person purchases their own insurance, premiums are not tax-deductible. Smith would like to see both tax-deductible. “It’s likely to increase consumerism,” he said. “There would be more shopping around (for insurance) and more choices, which tend to bring costs down.”

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has gone by the wayside for the U.S. Nebraska ag stood to benefit from TPP as Japan is a major red meat market. Smith has introduced a resolution supporting bi-lateral trade with Japan and is hoping for action sooner rather than later.

“The longer we wait, the more our competitors, such as Australia, gain,” he said. Currently, the tariff Japanese pay on U.S. beef is double what is paid for Australian beef, according to Smith. “The President has said he’s pro-trade,” Smith said.

He said ag producers are somewhat nervous about potential for changes to NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). The Ways and Means Committee, of which he is a member, met with the Trump Administration to stress successes seen with NAFTA. “I think they’ve been listening,” he said.

Reforming health care is also a priority. He believes replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA/ObamaCare) is important. Also important is convincing young, healthy adults to participate in health insurance which might be done with better choices and lower premiums a new health care plan could create.

The recent U.S. bombing of a Syrian airbase has Smith’s support. “We live in a dangerous world and there’s growing evidence of that,” he said. “When quick and decisive action is taken, we gain respect. It also sends a message of confidence to our friends.” He also said North Korea is “an example of why we (the U.S.) need to have our defense up...Certainly things are tense.”

One issue Smith sees bi-partisan support for is attending to the aging infrastructure of the U.S.”And that should include irrigation,” Smith said noting that many canal systems are older than many of the roads.