It was a double shot of Georgia politics on Tuesday’s “Mornings unPHILtered” show. Georgia's two United States Senators, Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss appeared on the show—Isakson via a segment he taped Monday inside the Statesboro Herald’s audio studio and Chambliss via a live call in.
Isakson, a Republican who is running for a second term, also spoke Monday at the weekly Statesboro Rotary Club luncheon meeting and then met with some of his supporters at the Spring Hill Suites for a fundraiser Monday evening.
Isakson’s Democratic challenger is former Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond. Isakson said he is traveling around the state asking the voters of Georgia to send him back to Washington to continue to fight for their best interests.
Isakson said over the years he has continued to fight to keep the national debt down, keep taxes as low as possible, and support the military so that it will be able to protect our nation's interests around the globe.
Asked about the Georgia Tea Party movement, Isakson said that he bought coffee and doughnuts for the group when they came to Washington for the first time. After meeting them, he said he became convinced that they are examples of the average American who loves their country, but are frustrated.
As such, he is pleased to meet with Tea Party representatives and hear their concerns. He said he has tried his best to help them whenever he could.
Asked about the health care bill passed in the spring, Isakson said he, himself a Medicare Part A recipient, believes that the plan robs Americans of their right of self-determination. He said he believes it is the duty of the federal government to take care of the health needs of its seniors and military.
It is not, he stated, the American government's job or right to tell everyone else what they must do.
Isakson added that Americans agree that they should be able to make up their own minds about how they get the health insurance.
He said he has heard that many more doctors are getting out of federally-funded health programs.
Doctors cant afford to provide their services for what the government pays. They also are afraid of the tremendous influx of new patients that they have no way to handle, he said.
Isakson said he wouldn't be surprised if people soon discover they have nowhere to go to get their healthcare at all.
As someone very familiar with the No Child Left behind program, Isakson the program’s one real accomplishment is that it created a system of accountability. When he visited the new Julia P. Bryant Elementary school, he said it was clear that its principal, Shawn Haralson, is the one who makes the difference.
When a school is a bad school, he said, its usually because they have a bad administrator and not because the teachers are bad. Asked about the idea of Adequate Yearly Progress guideline, Isakson said AYP has one major problem.
While the state's top-performing schools always manage to get better, there are many schools that just can't seem to make the grade. Upon examination, the reason became crystal clear.
In almost all cases, it is not that the school is under-performing. Instead, it is that there is one group is being asked to meet unrealistic requirements. One such example would be special needs students.
Instead of expecting them to display the abilities of regular students, Isakson said, for instance, rules should be rewritten so that each of the special needs students is given an individual assessment of their abilities. That is fair to both the student and the school, he said.
Asked about what would happen if Republicans gain control of the Senate and what changes they would make, Isakson replied that he would first recommend that the private sector be allowed to use its knowledge to solve some of the nation's most pressing problems.
He said he would allow groups to assemble into a single-risk pool in order to get group rates with others who are in their profession. Secondly, he is in favor of selling insurance across state lines.
Isakson also shared that some of the greatest improvements in health care coverage have already taken place inside corporations such as IBM, who now reward the good health practices of employees with financial incentives.
Isakson said that concerning the balanced budget issue, he is not a spending kind-of-guy. He said we cannot afford to spend more than we make. As he told the Rotary Club, if there is a war, then that would be the only reason to spend more money than we take in.
Isakson said when he went to Washington in 2004, he began looking to spend as little as possible of his office's budgeted funds. He is very proud that since becoming a Senator, he has managed to return to America's coffers millions of dollars that he didn't have to spend.
Isakson stated that he will fight all of the tax increases that are scheduled to go into effect when the Bush tax cuts end on Dec. 31. The taxes are confiscatory, he said, and will wreak havoc with the average American's financial well-being.
Asked by Boyum about the upcoming gubernatorial contest, Isakson said that as he is in his own race, so is paying attention to that most of all. However, Isakson said he has known Nathan Deal much of his life, and said he is truly a gentleman.
Next on the show was Senator Saxby Chambliss. Chambliss started out his interview by stating that he really enjoyed being in Statesboro and was pleased to be able to support his best friend.
Talking about the expensive nature of campaigns, Boyum asked Chambliss his opinion on public funding of campaigns. Chambliss said while it is a necessary evil to get out and raise money to run a campaign, it is also a constitutional matter.
Because of the First Amendment gives Americans the right to contribute to political campaigns, he said it is extremely unlikely to move to public funding of all political campaigns, despite his own personal feelings on the matter.
Continuing the theme of what government can do for us, Chambliss said people running for office should not run by making promises of all the goodies that they'll bring home, but rather how they will go to Washington and make changes for the nation's betterment.
Chambliss said things are turning around and more and more are running for office so that they'll be given the opportunity to make things right.
Show host Phil Boyum why both Isakson and Chambliss voted against extending unemployment benefits to 99 weeks (or nearly two years) Chambliss said he knows that things are tough, but stated that we couldn't afford to pay two years of wages to all unemployed Americans.
Chambliss said that Republicans made a different offer in February: they would vote for another 30-day extension of unemployment if the Democrats would find a way to pay for the benefits up front instead of just printing more money.
Unfortunately, when the 30 days was up, Chambliss said Democrats had not only failed to come up with any plan to pay for these benefits, but instead had added many items to the bill which would cost the taxpayers even more money.
Chambliss said we shouldn't leave our children and grandchildren with a nation whose finances are in total ruin. Agreeing with Chambliss, Boyum asked Chambliss about how Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security costs can be controlled.
Chambliss said Congress has virtually no way to control the Social Security program costs, as they are mandatory expenditures that could only be changed if the program itself were totally rewritten. Chambliss said Social Security was never intended to be the sole source of people’s income.
He said, instead, it was supposed to be a supplement to other income. Unfortunately, many Americans now have no other income. In addition, the average life expectancy of Americans has risen to the point where the future Social Security costs have far exceeded projections.
Chambliss said even President Obama has begun to realize that Social Security reform is something that must be addressed. Chambliss said that no matter what happens, he will ensure that every American gets back everything they put into the program.
“Mornings unPHILtered” airs live Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on statesboroherald.com and also simulcast on WWNS-AM 1240 on the radio. You also can listen anytime at BoroLive.com on statesboroherald.com