There’s a lot ahead of us in 2009

Published 11:59 pm Friday, January 30, 2009

As we usher in a new year, the U.S. Senate prepares for an active legislative calendar. Jan. 6, 2009, marked the beginning of the 111th Congress, which brings new challenges and opportunities for our state and country. It is my hope that we will use this time and your tax dollars wisely to promote the security and prosperity of our nation.

First and foremost, we need to ensure the continued security of our homeland. There is a reason that we have not been attacked on our soil since Sept. 11, 2001. It is critical that we continue to provide our intelligence community, military and law enforcement agencies with the authority required to combat terrorism and fight those who wish to harm us and the foundations of freedom upon which this nation was built. As we continue to fight to rid the world of terrorists, we must remember that if the terrorists are not defeated abroad, then the fight may once more come to our homeland.

Our nation also faces tough economic times ahead. Many economists suggest that our economic downturn has only just begun. In response, the President has proposed a nearly trillion dollar so-called stimulus package. In my judgment, this package will not stimulate our ailing economy – it will grow our already massive debt. In attempting to spend our way to prosperity, our children and grandchildren pay the price. Rather, I believe we need to get our priorities straight and first attack the source of the problem – the toxic assets on banks’ balance sheets – in order to stabilize our financial system and get credit flowing again. We must then turn in earnest to reforming the regulation of our financial system to prevent this from happening again. I believe that restoring stability and trust and promoting transparency will do more for our economy than any stimulus package ever has or ever will.

In order to promote long-term economic growth, it is also important that we ease the tax burden for all Americans. The current tax system directly punishes individuals and families by penalizing their economic success. The American people know better than those in Washington how to spend their own hard earned money, and we must alleviate the burden facing many already struggling to make ends meet. The best method to improve the financial well being of Americans is through steady, long-term pro-growth policies. This comes through the lowest possible tax rates for all Americans and through a tax and regulatory system that does not hold back the potential of American workers, entrepreneurs and businesses.

In spite of the downturn, we in Alabama have reason to be positive. We have a first-class workforce that is recognized worldwide. The increasing number of foreign corporations that choose to call Alabama home demonstrates our state’s ability to attract strong businesses and industries. We are home to stellar aerospace companies, first-class medical facilities and a flourishing defense industry. It is critical that we continue to create further opportunities in our state and focus on working to attract even more new businesses and jobs.

We will not do so by taking rights away from Alabama’s workers. Therefore, I do not, and will not, support the so-called “Employee Free Choice Act,” a bill that radically alters the existing process for worker unionization. This legislation takes away workers’ voting privacy and exposes them to the outside pressure of the union organizers who are the distributors and collectors of the vote cards. Eliminating the right to a secret ballot is the antithesis of democracy and is not an appropriate way for labor to organize. Alabama workers have partnered with business and together they have created a vibrant economy. The “Employee Free Choice Act” would do nothing but harm our workers, our businesses, and our economy.

One of the best ways to stabilize our economy and secure our homeland is to decrease our dependence on foreign oil. Achieving energy independence is one of the single greatest challenges we will face in the 21st century. We must expand domestic energy production and create a comprehensive energy plan that includes greater reliance on existing energy alternatives. Long term, we must consider any and all options that will alleviate our reliance on imported oil, including exploration and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Outer Continental Shelf. We must also encourage diversification away from oil with technology development that can compete in the market in its own right. The development of oil shale is a promising source, as is hydrogen fuel and renewable energy resources such as solar, hydropower and biomass. Further, one the most affordable, emissions-free and proven untapped energy resource is nuclear power. It is my hope that Congress will take swift action to address our nation’s energy needs.

As 2009 continues, I remain committed to supporting priorities I believe will truly help all Americans. I will continue to support funding for important economic development programs across our state. Alabamians can rest assured that the interests of our state will always be my top priority as I continue the honor and privilege of serving as Alabama’s United States Senator.