An early Friday afternoon luncheon at Sycamore Shoals Hospital provided U.S. Senator Bob Corker with the opportunity to discuss the economy, healthcare reform and the upcoming election. Corker visited Elizabethton at the invitation of the Carter County Tomorrow Economic Development Board.
Corker’s comments to a large crowd of elected leaders, business officials and other residents echoed a positive tone as the nation prepares for the November presidential and congressional race. “This is the most important presidential race since 1980,” said Corker. “I hope that Americans will get involved in the election.”
Moving into the final 75 days of the election, Corker said he is optimistic that President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will refrain from negative remarks and political attack ads. “I think we’re going to finally start talking about the important issues. Up until this point, it has been about something that happened 15 or 20 years ago,” Corker noted.
Corker noted that many Americans have lost faith in the direction of the country and the nation’s ability to address the current social and economic problems taking place. “A lot of self-doubt has crept into the psyche of Americans,” he said. “This presidential race will hopefully be about the substantive issues and not the usual rhetoric of most elections.”
With Americans looking for answers to the economic and fiscal problems that have faced the country since 2008, Corker believes the two issues will be the primary motivation for the way most citizens will cast their vote in November. He added that the President and the Congress must work together to reach a consensus on developing a fiscal reform bill that will lead the country out of the four years of high unemployment, sluggish economic growth and record-setting federal deficits.
“Business and economic growth are firmly based on the current state of government,” Corker commented. “The economy and the fiscal issues are tied together. If we deal with one, we deal with the other. I truly believe we are one fiscal reform deal away from improving the economy.”
Before the federal government can address the impact they have on the economy, Corker advocated for reforms to take place in the area of entitlements. He explained that the federal level is spending approximately $3.5 trillion every fiscal year. Of that amount, close to $2.5 trillion is being spent in the area of entitlements. He noted that annual tax revenues of $2.5 trillion merely pay for those programs, while leaving the government with deficits of more than $1 trillion. “That trend cannot continue,” Corker argued.
The former Tennessee businessman also addressed Medicare and the need for reform to take place in the program. Corker explained that Americans bring home an annual salary of around $43,500, with an average two-person earning level of $87,000. During their working years, he stated that the average married couple and their employers will contribute $119,000 into the Medicare program, but will take out $357,000 in insurance benefits.
Corker added that Medicare benefits will be further taxed over the next decade with an expected 20 million Americans added to the program. “The Baby-Boomers are going to continue to retire over the next decade and that will only further exhaust the Medicare program,” Corker said.
Corker believes that the federal government must embrace competition from the private insurance sector to offer Medicare recipients a greater level of choices for their medical and prescription drug coverage.
Despite a federal debt of over $16 trillion, Corker said the American economic system is still the greatest and most successful. He noted that he still has faith that the country can “rise to the occasion and face our problems.”
Citing the example of economic prosperity and its impact on personal happiness, Corker compared Tennessee businessman Jimmy Haslam, owner of the Pilot Corporation to the couple who operates a small store in Carter County. “Even though the couple does not make the same amount of money as Haslam does, they still are as happy with their success in business. The reason is because both of them earned it through hard work and determination. We need to continue to foster the free-enterprise system that we have in America. The last thing we need to do is to shrink away from free-enterprise. In a lot of ways, however, we have moved away from supporting free-enterprise in this country,” Corker said.
In regards to the upcoming race between Obama and Romney, Corker said he was optimistic that presumptive Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan of Wisconsin will benefit the GOP ticket. Corker stated that he believes many Republicans who have doubts about the conservative credentials of the expected nominee will take some hope that Ryan’s selection will lead to a stronger ticket in November and more conservative policies in a potential Romney administration