Newsletter: Listening to Alabamians
Twenty-one years ago I promised that each year I would visit every county in the state to listen and learn about the issues most important to Alabamians. Since making that commitment, I have held 1407 county visits throughout the state and I have gained invaluable information about the issues and concerns of Alabamians at every stop. On Saturday, March 10, I held my last meeting of the year in Chilton County, my 67th meeting since January 5th.
Over the years, these meetings have provided Alabamians an open forum to voice their concerns, frustrations, successes, suggestions, and opinions on the activities of our government. This year was no different. Every citizen in attendance had an opportunity to discuss the important issues facing our state and our nation with their fellow Alabamians and with me.
This year, as in years past, a few issues dominated the discussion. In particular, Alabamians seemed to be most interested in the economy, taxes, immigration, and the war in Iraq. While some of the issues we discussed were of national significance and others specific to Alabama. Hearing the different views of citizens across the state helps me better represent all Alabamians in the United States Senate.
Like many Alabamians, I am watching the economy closely. Today, Alabama's economy is hot and our national economy is doing well. In fact, the economy in Alabama is better than I have ever seen. Businesses are succeeding, consumer spending remains strong, and new jobs are being created throughout the country and more importantly, in Alabama. Alabama's unemployment rate is 3.7 percent, lower than the national average of 4.6 percent.
Already this year, we have heard promising news about the possibility of a German steel mill locating in Mobile and Kia suppliers looking for locations in Alabama to feed the new plant that will be located in West Point, Georgia- all with the potential to bring new jobs. While there are still those counties that struggle with high unemployment levels, these opportunities and others offer a chance to bring jobs to those communities and make a difference. I will continue to work to create conditions and an environment in Alabama and the nation where businesses can flourish.
I believe that the American economy grows when people are allowed to keep more of what they earn. Since the passage of the 2003 tax cuts, 4.5 million new jobs have been created and unemployment is at its lowest rate since September 11, 2001. The American economy is strong due to these pro-growth policies, and I believe we should make a concerted effort to continue to sustain and broaden this positive economic growth. I also believe that we should make the American tax code more understandable for taxpayers and more efficient for the government by simplifying the taxpaying process. While I believe a flat rate tax provides the best method to ensure that our tax system is understandable and equitable, I will continue to support measures that will extend the current tax cuts and look for avenues to return even more of the hard earned dollars Alabamians work for every day.
The exploding problem of immigration is an issue that troubles many Alabamians, and I share their concerns. Our nation must have strong controls on the influx of illegal immigrants. I believe that the President's immigration proposal is headed in the wrong direction. I will not vote for any plan that grants amnesty to illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States. Ours is a nation of laws. The President's proposal sends the wrong message to legal immigrants and those who are waiting patiently and following the law to come to the United States. The number of illegal immigrants crossing our borders unchecked each year is proof that our current system is broken and must be fixed. Unfortunately, it appears the majority in Congress and the President believe amnesty must be a part of any so called immigration "reform" package. I disagree and will do everything I can to prevent any attempt to roll back our immigration laws.
Finally, the topic of Iraq weighed heavily on the minds of Alabamians. I agree that there are serious problems with the war. Though we experienced great military success in the first months of the war, we have since been plagued by terrible mistakes in our Iraq policy. There is no easy solution and no easy exit plan to our problems. I will never join my colleagues in the Senate who call for the U.S. to cut and run or end financial support to our troops. I am proud of the work our warfighters have done to accomplish these goals, and I am committed to providing them with the resources necessary to complete their mission. Our troops need to know that they have the full support of their country and their government and I have committed to never vote to cut off funds or support for our servicemembers while they are in harms way.
I support the President's plan to send more troops to Iraq. I wish we could send 100,000 more troops and get the job done right. While it may not be enough to end this war, we clearly need a greater military presence to secure Baghdad. I have talked with General Petraeus and he assures me that he can accomplish his goals. He is a smart man and I have faith in his ability to achieve his mission.
I extend my thoughts and prayers to those still serving in Iraq, their families here at home, and especially those who have lost loved ones defending our freedom in the War on Terrorism. Like all Americans, I eagerly await the day when our armed forces can return home from operations supporting the War on Terror.
Throughout my travels in Alabama, we discussed many other issues and I will keep the priorities of each county in mind as we move forward in the 110th Congress. I look forward to starting off each year traveling the state and hearing from Alabamians. I am honored to represent Alabama in the United States Senate, and I will continue to work in the best interests of our state and our nation.