Cassidy

Sen. Bill Cassidy speaking with a crowd of local residents and leaders in Opelousas on Monday afternoon.

The national debt is exploding because of the number of Baby Boomers becoming eligible for Medicare and Social Security, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy said during a meeting in Opelousas on Monday. 

Cassidy said some of Washington's biggest issues need a balanced, bipartisan approach. Topics ranging from infrastructure and the debt to reducing pharmaceutical drug costs, poverty and gun control.

With poverty, opportunity zones, the national debt and pharmaceutical drug cost reduction, Cassidy gave much more definitive answers as to what he saw as the best path forward.

"The reason we have an exploding debt and deficit is that 10,000 Baby Boomers a day become eligible for Medicare and Social Security," Cassidy said. "A Boomer will on average die with a man at 82 and a woman at 84 and those extra years of life are expensive.

"First way to fix this is to ramp up the economy so more people are working and putting more money into the fund. Another way is to gradually raise the age of eligibility but only on people who are pretty far off from retirement."

Cassidy said he is working with Democratic senators such as U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, on a paid family leave bill that has been endorsed by President Donald Trump and a bill he's been working on with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to address student loan debt through more transparency in the prospective costs students will accrue and the prospective incomes after graduation.

However, with issues such mass shootings and student loan debt, Cassidy said these were much more difficult issues that would need to balance many approaches as he didn't believe there was one easy solution. For tackling mass shootings, Cassidy said he believed the issue was difficult due to having to balance individual freedoms against the threat to the common good.

"That's a big challenge right now," he said. "I think anybody who's elected understands that is a concern. We have a 2nd Amendment to keep and bear arms, but then we have these rashes of incidents that are incredibly tragic and the question is how do we address them.

"We'll discuss that when we go back in September. Again, it's one of those tensions in a free society. How do you balance a constitutional right with tragedies that are occurring to regularly."

Cassidy brought up the Mental Health Bill of 2016 that made more money available for mental health and trying to make it harder for criminals and those who have been ruled by a court to be mentally unstable to get a gun. He added though that when people like the El Paso or Dayton shooters are radicalized secretly online, it becomes much harder to stop.

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Email Dan Boudreaux at dboudreaux@theadvocate.com.