Sen. Shelby visits Atmore
Published 4:57 pm Thursday, March 18, 2004
By By Arthur McLean Editor
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby came to Atmore Tuesday morning for his annual town meeting. Shelby addressed the economy, the war on terror, and took questions from the audience.
Shelby said his first priority is "securing this nation. I take that very seriously."
Closer to home, Shelby said the challenges this coming year in Washington D.C. included improving the economy. "It's pretty good in Alabama, but there are areas of high unemployment in this state," Shelby said.
One of his primary economic concerns is the trade agreements the U.S. has made with foreign countries. Agreements that have taken U.S. jobs, like textile work, out of the country and disproportionately harmed rural and small towns like Atmore, Shelby said.
"We have to be careful with the trade agreements we enter," he said. "Some countries, like Japan and China, are not playing fair, they wink at the trade agreements we make, while the U.S. abides by them fully."
Shelby said some foreign nations like China are artificially manipulating their currency values to keep good from their countries at a cheaper price point.
In answering questions from the assembled audience, Shelby expanded his viewpoint on trade and outsourcing jobs to foreign nations. "Basically, outsourcing is taking jobs from this country." Despite some economists saying that outsourcing will benefit the country in the long term, Shelby said. "We have to trade tough. We're the big elephant on the block, do we keep letting these smaller economies eat at our feat?"
Education, and staying on the cutting edge of technology, especially in the manufacturing sector, is what Shelby believes will help America retain its edge in the global economy.
"The government shouldn't do everything, but we can lead with good public policy," he said.
One way to help the nation's economy is by passing a balanced budget amendment to the constitution, forcing the Congress to pass balanced budgets. Shelby has repeatedly introduced legislation proposing a balanced budget constitutional amendment. "We can't keep borrowing today and saddling our children and grandchildren with our debt."
Sheriff Grover Smith asked about diminishing funds for multi-agency drug task forces. Shelby said being on the Senate appropriations committee allowed him more power to make sure such programs were not cut, and he would fight to make sure funding continued in the fight against drugs.
Shelby also responded to a question affirming his support for a national right to work bill. Alabama is a right to work state, which, Shelby said, has helped the state land high profile manufacturing facilities like Mercedes and Hyundai.
In a brief interview with the Atmore Advance, Shelby said the outsourcing of jobs to foreign countries hasn't gotten the attention of lawmakers until recently, with the outsourcing of technology jobs.
"I think we need to defend our industrial base without being protectionist," Shelby said. "We've been losing jobs in textiles for years," Shelby said.
During the interview, Shelby was also asked about the reduction in benefits, and the number of companies eliminating fully funded pension plans. "A lot of the big companies made promises to their workers that they can't keep now. I believe people should be able to take care of themselves, but these companies should keep their promises to their employees who've been working for them under these promises for 20 years. They ought to honor those agreements."