Health care, tax reform and getting the federal debt under control were a few of the topics members of the Cookeville Rotary heard yesterday from Senator Lamar Alexander.

“We’re one budget amendment away from getting our economy moving again, and we simply have to get our economy moving again,” he said. “We simply have to get this federal debt under control.”

He spoke about the legislation he and Senator Bob Corker have presented, called the Fiscal Sustainability Act of 2013.

“It would reduce federal spending by $1 trillion over the next 10 years in the entitlement programs,” he said. “What this does is helps make Medicare solvent so people can depend on it when they turn 65. The Medicare trustees have said that 10 years from now, there won’t be enough money in Medicare to pay for the hospital bills. What we’re trying to do is make the money come closer to the payout. Right now, the average family who retires and pays into Medicare will pay $1 in and get back $3. That’s not a sustainable model.”

He not only addressed the subject of federal debt, but student debt, with some people in the audience saying it’s being looked at as the next housing crisis.

“The student loan bubble is a point of concern,” he said. “A lot of students are borrowing more money than they can pay back.”

Tennessee Tech, he said, is an example for the rest of the country.

“They’ve had over the years one of the lowest rates of debt per student and one the best rates of repayment per student,” he said. “We’ve got to infuse some realism in the decisions the young people — 18, 19, 20 years old — make. The money may be there and the interest rate may be low, but you’ve still got to pay it back. Don’t take on more money than you can afford.”