By Lance Griffin
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby told residents here Saturday that sequestration is "only the beginning" of significant spending cuts that need to happen in order to save the country from economic collapse.
"We've got a few years, but not too many," Shelby said during a stop at Huggin' Molly's restaurant in downtown Abbeville.
Shelby said he would not accept any alternate deal to sequestration that included tax increases, a stance shared by other Republican senators and representatives.
"Tax increases are not the way to go. It will strangle the economy," Shelby said. "The President's idea is if we just tax more, we can spend more and spend our way out of it. Then, he wonders why the economy is in the shape it is in. He doesn't have a clue, obviously."
Shelby said he opposes sequestration because it mandates across-the-board spending cuts. He said he favors targeted cuts. However, Shelby said even targeted cuts in discretionary spending will not solve the country's economic issues.
"Even with the sequester, it's just the tip of the iceberg," Shelby said. "Sooner or later, we're going to have to deal with entitlements. If we don't, we're going to be a bankrupt nation.
"And this isn't even being talked about right now. Social Security could be saved for our younger people if we ran the (retirement) age up to 70 over time. We have to have the political will to do those things. Either we will do it, or the ratings agencies will do it for us," Shelby added.
The Abbeville stop was Shelby's third of the day. He started the morning in Barbour County, then headed over to Bullock County before having lunch at Huggin' Molly's. He went from Abbeville to Ozark and finished the day with a stop in Hartford. Monday morning, Shelby will speak at a "meet and greet" at the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce building at 7:30 a.m.
Shelby touched on a handful of other issues during his Abbeville stop, including:
» Military spending cuts: Shelby said although he opposed sequestration, he believes the military will be able to withstand the cuts, including Fort Rucker.
"I think they will survive. I know they don't like it. That's why we should look at every program, decide at that level what needs to be cut and what doesn't."
» Tax policy: "I personally believe no one should pay more than 25 percent (income tax)," Shelby said. "And I also believe everyone ought to pay at least a little something."
» Healthcare law: "It's going to increase taxes and spending. I am shocked the law was not overturned by the Supreme Court. I think it's going to lead to mediocre health care. I hope I'm wrong but I don't think I'm going to be."
» Gun control: "We're getting ready to have a big debate about this very soon. Of course I believe gun safety is important. Of course I am not the one to decide if someone is dangerous with a gun, and I don't know who would be."
» Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel: "I voted for him. I had a good relationship with him for several years. He has said some things I don't like of course. But what I had to ask myself was who else would we get? And I had to think that he was probably going to be the best we were going to get from Obama."