ELIZABETHTON — Sen. Bob Corker seems to be going against the political grain these days. With highly partisan gloom and doom speeches in vogue, Corker brought a positive, bipartisan message to the Carter County business community on Friday as part of his campaign for re-election to the Senate. Corker told business people and local government leaders that he believes the nation’s largest problems are solvable and predicted that improvements in some seemingly intractable problems may be seen in the next six months to a year and a half.
Corker was a guest of the Carter County Tomorrow economic development campaign. As a former businessman, Corker was able to connect with the business-oriented audience, discussing such concerns as the high cost of energy and the nation’s fiscal malaise.
He brought the shared concerns about the high cost of energy to a higher level by discussing the need for outstanding persons to be appointed to the Tennessee Valley Authority Board of directors. He said these appointments should not be made for political reasons but based on getting the caliber of person who usually sits on the boards of multibillion-dollar corporations. He said the lack of good appointments has resulted in poor decisions that have proven costly over the years to TVA ratepayers.
Corker said this year’s presidential race is the most important since 1980. Although he said the campaigns up until now have not focused on the real issues, he was intensely pleased with Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan, a noted fiscal hawk, as his running mate.
“Finally, for the last 75 days, we are going to talk about the issues that are important,” Corker said. “I hope Americans will get involved and focus on the issues.”
The biggest issue is the fiscal condition of the country, Corker said. He discussed some of the biggest ailments, including the growing federal deficit, big government’s involvement in big business, and the mounting costs of entitlement programs.
But where most politicians simply use these problems to magnify their gloom and doom speeches, Corker told his audience “we are one fiscal reform deal away from the putting the fiscal malaise in the rear view mirror.”
He said the one issue that must be solved is Medicare. He gave a simple explanation for a giant problem. He said the average family pays in more than $100,000 to Medicare and that same average family takes over $300,000 out of Medicare. “Volume is not going to solve the problem,” Corker said, referring to the 20 million more citizens who will soon be eligible.
His solution is increased competition. That competition is in the form of private plans that will give seniors more options rather than taking benefits away from them.
During a question-and-answer session after Corker’s speech, Carter County Commissioner Charles Von Cannon praised Corker for the pertinent questions he asked during the federal stimulus bailout of the automobile industry. Corker accepted the praise and said his emphasis on lowering labor costs through negotiations with the United Auto Workers has helped change the automobile industry.
On the international level, Corker was asked about what the country should do in Syria and Iran. Corker favored a watch and wait policy because he saw things were going in the right direction in both nations. He said the opposition forces in Syria have the momentum and the sanctions are working in Iran, driving inflation to 20 percent.