Program Report: Senator Richard Burr

Bill Stokes got a big laugh when he made a point of introducing his wife, Lucy, as a liberal, just minutes before Republican Senator Richard Burr got up to speak.

Mrs. Stokes was not alone, certainly, but there was a buzz in the packed conference room that could be attributed to the big-name guest. (He asked to speak to us, not the other way around. We’re big time, y’all.)

Senator Burr laughed with the Stokes and the rest of us, then enjoyed the standing ovation he received on his way up to the lectern. But the laughing stopped once he started laying out what he sees as a looming deficit disaster.

For the second time in a month, we got a sobering reminder of how deep a hole our country is in financially.

Burr’s hope is that Congress will rally by the end of the year and pass comprehensive tax reform along the lines of what Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson have proposed. (Burr didn’t let the opportunity pass to point out that he’s now backing a plan devised by the man he defeated for his Senate seat. Burr noted that Bowles never would have had the chance to run the UNC system if Bowles had gone to the Senate. Bowles is quick to remind Burr that the senator wouldn’t have gotten the same opportunity had he lost.)

“Why should you be concerned [about the deficit]?” Burr asked. “Because it’s morally the right thing to do. There’s no way we can shove this to a generation we won’t even have a chance to know and feel good about it.”

His solution beyond tax reform was more general. He argued that Americans need to stop looking to the government for solutions, a common Republican refrain, though he wasn’t wrong to note that groups like Rotary are actively creating their own solutions to societal problems.

Burr also weighed in on health care, arguing that patients need “skin in the game” to discourage them from clogging the system by pursuing unnecessary care.

No matter your political leanings, it was all pretty heavy stuff. Which is why it was interesting when Burr said this: “This is going to sound like a strange statement, but

I’ve never been more optimistic about the future of this country. It’s within the capacity of the American people to pull off something this big. The No. 1 challenge is, can we find someone with the leadership to be able to do it?”

He restrained himself from doing the “cough, cough, Romney, cough, cough” thing.

It was an honor to have a sitting senator – in a non-election year, no less – visit our club and speak his mind. In the interest of equal time, Mike Woodard is working on getting Senator Kay Hagan here soon.

                     Submitted by Matt Dees

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