Sen. Shelby stops in Hartselle for town meeting
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
The war on terrorism, Social Security reform and highway funding were subjects Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., touched on as he spoke at the Depot in Hartselle Saturday morning.
The meeting was attended by approximately 60 people. They included Dwight Tankersley and Mark Mizell, Hartselle mayor and council member, respectively, Decatur Mayor Don Kyle, District Two County Commissioner Richard Lyons, Falkville Mayor Roy Coley, Sheriff Greg Bartlett, Revenue Commissioner Amanda Scott, and Clay Marlow, chairman of the Morgan County Republican Party.
Shelby, who ranks 10th in seniority among Republicans in the Senate, extended thanks to Morgan Countians for giving him a 74 percent majority vote in last November's general election.
"This is a serious job but it is an honor to represent you," he pointed out. "My main issue has always been and always will be what's in the best interest of America."
Shelby said he believes the war on terrorism will ebb and flow for 50 to 100 years.
"If we let out guard down, we'll have another 9-11. We're strong. We'll see it to the end.
"I believe things are looking up in Iraq. But this doesn't mean we're not going to sustain more casualties. Maybe the recent election was the beginning to a successful end. It is important for us not to cut and run. I believe President Bush is right to insist that we must prevail there."
He said the decision to disband the Iraqi army as part of the invasion was a big mistake. "We should have culled it. But I believe the efforts we are making to train Iraq's police and military forces is a good signal."
Shelby said his two sons want the opportunity to invest a portion of their Social Security deductions into private savings accounts. "
I have looked at the principals in President Bush's reform proposal. They sound OK especially for young Americans. But we don't have the details yet. Is Social Security in trouble today? No. If you're 55 or older, you're fine. Under that, without additional revenue, there's got be fewer benefits. What can we do about it now? We'll have to see. I'm keeping my powder dry.
"Some people are saying we'll have to borrow up to $2 trillion to start the program the president is proposing. I don't want to borrow more money. I want to see how this evolves. I want to find out more of his plan.
"The worst thing that could happen would be for people to be able to get their hands on their personal Social Security investments as windfall money. We don't want people to wind up as wards of the state when they reach the age of 60 to 65," he pointed out.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Shelby is a contact for local officials seeking federal money to fund highway projects. He pointed out that the amount of highway money returned to the state since1996 has increased from $300 to 600 million.
"Good roads and education is key to economic development," Shelby pointed out. "I'll work with you anyway I can to improve your roads, but I don't earmark this money. The bypass around Decatur is an important project. You need to work with your state senator and the governor to make sure you get your fair share of road dollars."
Shelby answered several questions from the audience during the hour-long meeting.
His responses are as follows:
Tax Reform: "I favor a flat base tax but I don't know about it this year. I would not favor a national sales tax unless it is ratified by constitutional amendment. I'm for the abolishment of the estate tax. I support the President's permanent tax cut initiative."
Judicial nominees: "A part of the fall election was about who is going to make appointments to the bench. The question now is how do we get them confirmed. There could be as many as four appointments to the Supreme Court during the next four years. We'll have to look at rules changes if the Democrats continue to filibuster the president's nominees. I'll do everything I can to get his nominees approved."
Illegal immigrants: "We have 8,700,00 illegal immigrants living in the United States. I'm not in favor of giving them amnesty. That would make a mockery of our laws. We can't afford to allow this trend to continue. We need to protect our borders and enforce our immigration laws."
Trade Deficits: "The Chinese have moved into the world economy. They will be our biggest competitor in military and economic affairs in the years ahead. We need to be careful about the trade agreements we enter into with them. We should try to negotiation with them on more favorable terms."