When The Jackson Sun’s editorial board met with U.S. Sen. Bob Corker last week, we were encouraged by his cautious optimism that Congress is poised to tackle the nation’s fiscal problems and “do something great for the nation.” We have come to know Corker as a realist not given to pie-in-the-sky political rhetoric. We only can hope, along with countless other Americans, that he is right.
The day after our meeting with Corker, we were greeted with a disappointing national jobs report that saw a paltry 69,000 jobs created, and the national unemployment rate rise to 8.2 percent. That led Corker to reiterate his plea for Congress to act and to move toward passing pro-growth tax reform, sensible entitlement reform and responsible deficit reduction.
For some time, Corker has argued that cranking up the nation’s huge economy is the answer to our staggering debt problem. Economic growth will create jobs and increase revenue. The nation’s banks and businesses are profitable and poised to begin investing cash reserves in capital projects, research and technology. Corker even cited evidence that manufacturing is returning to the U.S.
His call for pro-growth tax reform makes sense. It would lower tax rates for everyone and eliminate the dizzying array of tax loopholes used by companies and individuals. This would create a new sense of economic stability that businesses depend on before they will risk new investment in growth.
Nearly everyone agrees that the nation must address the unsustainable positions of Medicare, Social Security and other government entitlement programs. There still is time to implement long-term structural change that protects current beneficiaries and sets the stage for sustainability of the programs for future generations. But time is running out. The longer Congress waits to act, the closer these programs come to insolvency and disaster. Trillions of dollars and future economic stability are at stake.
Corker also took a strong stand on spending cuts. He called supercommittees’ top Republican and Democrat lawmakers’ inability to come up with a single spending cut a failure of the job they were elected to do. Now, faced with $1.2 trillion of mandated spending cuts under the Budget Control Act of 2011, Corker urged his congressional colleagues to come together to meet this challenge with responsible alternative cuts, and to avoid the temptation to circumvent the mandated cuts.
Corker’s pragmatic approach to the nation’s fiscal challenges stems from his strong background in business and his service as Tennessee’s finance commissioner. His willingness to negotiate and to compromise in order to make progress is a breath of fresh air in the stale atmosphere of our ineffective Congress.