U.S. Senator Bob Corker visited Claiborne County on Election Day last week as part of a tour of the state.
Corker, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was on hand at Woodlake Lodge, Golf and Country Club for a luncheon hosted by the Claiborne Economic Partnership, England Inc. and Woodlake. Several local officials and business people were present for the event.
He touched on several subjects during his visit, including three issues he thinks are important to the people of Tennessee.
“Economic issues are driving discontent,” he said. “The challenge is making sure people are trained up for jobs.”
He went on to give an example of a company in neighboring Hancock County that has job openings but needs people who are trained appropriately.
“The second issue is not being discussed,” he said. “There is not a focus on the federal deficit as there should be.”
The country is $19 trillion in debt, and “tough decisions have to be made that are important to the nation’s future.”
The third issue he named was national security and foreign policy, something he said is important to people and something in which America’s role needs to be determined.
“A world without U.S. leadership is a world we don’t want to live in,” he said, adding that people around the world are paying attention to the presidential race.
Corker added, “It’s an incredible privilege to serve in the Senate.”
He took questions from the audience as well.
Claiborne County Republican Party Chairman Stan Leonard asked, “What are some of the tough choices we need to make to reduce the deficit?”
Corker responded that $4 trillion is spent each year but only $1.1 trillion is voted upon. That $1.1 trillion is made of discretionary spending, half military and half domestic. The rest is “on autopilot” as entitlement programs, he said.
“When you talk about changes in those programs people get upset,” he said, adding that just small changes are needed to help reduce the deficit.
Businessman Dion Mountain chimed in, stating that in his business, Homesteader, “the biggest competitor is government.” He went on to explain that people can “sit at home doing nothing” and “do better on welfare.”
Mountain added that workers are hard to retain and his company “can’t get decent employees for minimum wage.”
Rodney England, another local businessman, added that employers are being asked to contribute more and more to their part of programs and “…regardless of what you’re making, when you put that price on the product no one in America will buy it.”
Several other local business people echoed their sentiments and Corker replied that changes are definitely needed.
“This is still the greatest nation on Earth,” Corker said. “You can go anywhere and compare it.”
Reach Marisa Anders at 423-254-5588 or on Twitter @newsgirl88.