Chris Murphy has been hosting St. Patrick’s Day pancake breakfasts since he served in the Connecticut General Assembly nearly two decades ago.
“There were about 25 people back then, as I recall,” Murphy, who is now Connecticut’s junior U.S. senator, said Monday before a crowd of more than 100 at the Waverly Tavern.
Murphy served up equal helpings of pancakes and political conversation at this year’s event. He told constituents that federal lawmakers need to make radical changes to Medicare and Medicaid as well as the way the nation’s higher education system is run.
“We’ve got to find a way to structure it so that (health care) providers and the individuals they treat both have incentives to achieve better outcomes,” Murphy said. The senator said he is also troubled by the shift of hospitals from being run as nonprofits to businesses that are for profit.
Murphy said he would “blow up” the higher education system in the United States. The average college student in the United States has $30,000 in debt from financing their education, he said.
“My wife and I took out big college loans,” he said. “This (student debt) is bankrupting kids and families across the country.”
Murphy said he thinks liberal arts degrees should be de-emphasized and more focus should be place on educating students for specific careers. The senator said he also favors awarding college degrees based upon skill mastery rather than the amount of time spent in a classroom.
That would enable some students to finish college in two or three years rather than four, which would reduce the amount of debt an individuals incurs, Murphy said.
Peter Talbot, a Democratic councilman from Cheshire, said Murphy’s political stature has grown over the years that he has been holding the breakfasts.
“He’s become quite prominent,” Talbot said of Murphy. “The fact that the national media regularly seek out his opinion is a testament what a force he has become.”
Not everyone who attended Monday’s breakfast spoke in such glowing terms of Murphy. Mike Evans, a Cheshire accountant and certified financial planner, who once ran a failed bid for a seat on the Town Council, said Murphy’s opposition to tax cuts enacted by the Trump administration “read like Democratic Party talking points.”