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Sen. Corker criticizes 'generational theft' during Kingsport visit

Hank Hayes • Aug 21, 2014 at 3:55 PM

KINGSPORT - U.S. Sen. Bob Corker continued Thursday to be critical of what he called "generational theft" by Congress on federal spending issues.

The Tennessee Republican, in a breakfast talk to about 150 business leaders and elected officials at the MeadowView Marriott, insisted Congress is still "shying away" from the nation's fiscal challenges.

"I call July 'Generational Theft Month' because people are up for re-election, and they want to make sure people are happy with them," Corker told the group. "They pander. So we steal money from future generations in the general fund."

Corker cited two recent examples: Congress temporarily patching the Highway Trust Fund by transferring nearly $10 billion from the general fund, and legislation to shore up veterans' health care amid a Veterans Administration scandal over primary care appointments.

On the Highway Trust Fund, Corker had filed legislation that would have increased federal gasoline and diesel taxes by six cents in each of the next two years. Those taxes haven't gone up since 1993.

Revenue raised from the tax hike, according to Corker's bill, would have been offset by extending some of the tax provisions in the so-called "tax extenders" bill.

Instead, Corker said Congress passed an 11th short-term Highway Trust Fund measure.

"It's totally unpaid for and we've done it to make ourselves look good," Corker said of the measure.

The veterans' health care bill, said Corker, had a $35 billion price tag.

"I never voted for any of these solutions," Corker said of both bills.

Corker said Congress' actions on spending were on the minds of Asian leaders during one of his recent foreign trips.

"South Korea and Japan were nervous," Corker said. "As for meetings in China, they looked at me this way 'Glad to see ya, but ya'll are a nation in decline. Ya'll don't have the capacity to have the discipline to do the things you need to do. We're watching.'"

Meanwhile, Corker pointed out the federal government is $17 trillion in debt and not trying to deal with it.

"In Medicare...no one has a notion to harm seniors, but we have 20 million people coming on to the rolls," Corker said. "The average family with two wage earners pays into the system $122,000 in today's dollars, and takes out $387,000 over their lifetime...It just doesn't work...(The federal government is) a big ship and we've got to begin tweaking it and moving it in a direction that makes it solvent but we're not willing to do that. People run from that...It's a greater threat to America and our prosperity."

While Tennessee has stuck to its non-partisan vision in state government matters, Corker said Congress hasn't with regards to the federal government.

"Without vision, people bicker," he explained. "The country becomes polarized. People divide. And that is what's happened in Washington."

The political climate is so bad that Corker noted it would be tough "to pass a resolution honoring motherhood."

Corker pointed out he is looking to see who will emerge victorious out of the 2016 presidential race.

"The only place to create vision is in that lead job," Corker said. "I hope we will have a national debate. I hope out of that we will end up in a place where we will have a vision for this nation, a vision which is bold that is clearly defined and people can rally behind, where we rise to the challenge.

Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, also defended his successful effort to get Volkswagen to add another 2,000 jobs to its existing Chattanooga manufacturing plant.

That jobs announcement, Corker stressed, would never have happened if the United Auto Workers had been successful unionizing workers at the facility.

"We love Eastman (Chemical Co.) and we love all the things that are happening, but we are developing a state here that is the automotive manufacturing state in America," Corker said of Volkswagen. "Once you develop an expertise, and once you become known for being excellent at something, all of a sudden you build momentum."

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