In 2016, very few East Tennesseans were optimistic about the direction and future of our county, but today there is a sense of revitalization and hope. Since the president’s inauguration, our country has experienced historic economic prosperity. His vision for the country — one I’ve supported every step of the way — includes creating jobs through economic growth spurred by comprehensive tax reform and eliminating unnecessary government red tape. We are currently in the midst of the longest positive job streak on record with over 4 million new jobs created since the election. The unemployment rate currently is 3.9 percent, the lowest since 2004, and this rate is even lower in Tennessee at 3.5 percent, with expanded opportunities for every segment of the population. Additionally, we’ve seen wages grow 2.9 percent over the past year and job satisfaction is at its highest in 13 years. Under the previous administration, businesses were constantly under attack and faced with regulatory uncertainty, but thanks to President Trump, our economy is flourishing and job creators have the certainty they need to grow their businesses. It’s great to see the positive changes in our local economy.
There’s so much more good news the president will be able to tell us about. It’s been an honor for me to see up close the president’s incredible commitment to supporting our veterans. As chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, we’ve worked very hard to ensure these heroes get the care and services they deserve. One of our first accomplishments was bringing accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs by making it easier to fire employees who engage in egregious conduct. We’ve expanded GI Bill benefits, reformed the disability appeals claim system, and just this summer, President Trump signed my bill, the VA MISSION Act, which ensures veterans continue to receive quality health care and expands the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Caregiver Program. President Trump also just signed the largest VA budget ever with $208.8 billion.
President Trump promised we would rebuild our military, which was getting outdated when he came to office. In our most recent defense bill, we provided the Department of Defense $674.4 billion and increased our troops’ pay 2.6 percent, the largest in nearly a decade and which was on top of a 2.4 percent pay raise last year. Our armed forces deserve to have the best training and equipment in the world, but the previous administration’s cuts to our military put our troops and national security at risk. Under the leadership of our president, the men and women who serve don’t have to wonder if their Commander-in-Chief has their back.
Another one of President Trump’s top priorities is to strengthen border security and enforce our immigration laws. In Johnson City, we’ve seen what tragedies can occur when dangerous criminals are allowed to stay in the country without consequences. I often think about Shirra Branum and the heartbreak her family has endured. By not enforcing our nation’s immigration laws, our country failed her and her family. Immigration reform has to begin with enforcing our laws. I’ve also traveled to our southern border and have seen myself the need for the border wall that President Trump promised. We need to get this done.
One of the reasons I wanted to come to Congress was to work on health care reform, but in my first two years I watched as Democrats tried to give the government control of patients’ health care decisions with Obamacare, then watched the previous administration block every common sense change to the law for six years. President Trump promised we would repeal and replace Obamacare with patient-centered care. Even though the legislation I supported in the House fell short in the Senate, we still succeeded in repealing some of the worst parts of Obamacare, like the individual mandate and my legislation to repeal the Medicare rationing board, the IPAB. Despite Democrats’ claims these reforms would cause costs to explode, premiums are actually going to come down for the first time since Obamacare was enacted, both nationally and here in Tennessee. We have more work to do to make health care more affordable, but this is good news.
While some want to resist, we want results and are just getting started. Our results speak louder than the rhetoric of the president’s political opponents. It’s a privilege to welcome our president, Donald J. Trump, to East Tennessee!
Dr. Phil Roe is vying for his sixth term in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District.