By Jeff Keeling
Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee recently appeared on MSNBC to discuss his role in leading reforms to global delivery of food aid.
Corker told of the work he and Democrat Chris Coons of Delaware had shepherded through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and through the Senate. The reform enables food aid to reach more people on the same limited budgets, Corker said, “but we still are very antiquated. The agricultural community and the maritime community have still hemmed us in to a degree, and we could be so much more efficient. If so, we could serve and feed four to six million people more each year.”
Corker also touted the committee’s work on helping with clean water as well as the passage of Electrify Africa, which he said will help 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa gain access to electricity for the first time.
“These are the type of initiatives that Republicans and Democrats ought to join together in, because it enables us with the same amount of dollars to serve even more people,” Corker said.
Hear, hear. And such initiatives don’t have to be limited to America’s role globally. As our sister publication The Business Journal’s October “Market Facts” reveals, some fairly stark realities face the greater Tri-Cities. Stagnant population. Poor population health. Low incomes. Low education levels. Low wages that, sorry to say, aren’t quite offset by our lower cost of living.
This is a beautiful area with a wonderful quality of life – although that quality of life is somewhat diminished for many people beset by the stresses of poverty or near-poverty. Empowering people here to move toward a better standard of living is certainly as important as doing the same around the world.
At the national level, the road to that kind of empowerment isn’t being effectively laid out by either major party presidential candidate. As I watched the first presidential debate, Hillary Clinton’s opportunistic lurch leftward was evident in passing references to debt-free college and a higher minimum wage. In my opinion, such policies can serve to erode people’s motivation to determinedly pursue self-improvement. Better ways exist to improve college affordability and to address the struggles many working families face trying to make ends meet and climb the ladder of economic success.
Those better ways must include methods to, “reach more people on the same limited budgets,” to use a phrase from Corker’s comments about food aid. At the same time, they must include a willingness to increase those limited budgets – ie, raise revenues – if the programs are proving their efficiency and effectiveness. Publicly funded efforts that work to improve people’s lives should not be sacrificed at the phony altar of fiscal conservatism.
On the first count, cost-efficiency and effectiveness, Donald Trump actually had a brief moment of clarity and common sense. In the midst of his divisive rallying cries to disaffected voters and stream of consciousness monologues Trump spoke of his project converting the old post office on Pennsylvania Avenue in D.C. into a luxury hotel. He bragged that the project is being completed under budget and ahead of schedule. (I’m sure all the dozens of Hispanic construction workers who’ve helped make that happen would have been welcomed through the big door he plans to put in his giant border wall.)
Trump contrasted the hotel project with the cost overruns and delays common to government projects. He has a point. Trump, though, doesn’t possess the temperament to lead America in a fashion that even approaches a standard of justice, humaneness and wisdom we need. His style would not spur the kind of Congressional bipartisanship necessary to effectively address the kinds of challenges that manifest themselves in this month’s Market Facts numbers.
I’ve often wished Bob Corker or someone like him could gain enough traction to have a viable shot at the presidency. Learning of his latest work surrounding global aid reminded me why.