Senator Mark Warner spoke at the University of Mary Washington for a “conversation about jobs and innovation,” a subject Warner recognized as being on the forefront of many college students’ minds, in Monroe Hall on April 3rd at 9:30 a.m.
Warner’s opening remarks centered on what he called “the good news,” that the economy is showing growth and the JOBS act passed, and “the bad news,” which is the $54 trillion deficit.
The economic growth Warner cited is the drop in the unemployment rate and record levels of growth in the market.
Warner stated that he focuses on the national debt more than any other area, and it is growing by four-and-half billion dollars every day. According to Warner, if the U.S. does not address the debt, American citizens will pay it off.
Warner, pointing to the audience, added, “It would freak you out if you know how much that was for each one of you.”
For 70 out of the past 75 years, the United States has run a federal deficit, leading Warner not to blame presidents Bush or Obama, but the accumulation of debt. He warned if the deficit is not tackled, foreign investors would hesitate to invest in the U.S. and interest rates will spike.
Warner also explained why tackling the debt is the single biggest factor in creating jobs, and emphasized entrepreneurship and innovation as a way to improve the economy.
“Eighty percent of new jobs created have not come from Fortune 500 companies—nor have they come from the traditional small business; they have come from start up companies,” said Warner. Some of the start-up companies he highlighted include Lululemon and Underarmor.
Warner said he supports the JOBS act because it will make it easier for start up companies to grow.
Warner spoke repeatedly about his efforts as part of a bipartisan “gang of six” dedicated to fixing the deficit. He cited working past pressures from the party to remain partisan and stresses bipartisan solutions.
Warner stated he is not afraid of criticism directed at Congress, acknowledging that he is a part of a Congress that, “90 percent of Americans think is dysfunctional.”
“There have been times I’ve wanted to jump out of the window in this job,” Warner stated. “There are a lot of things about Congress right now that are frustrating and not within our best historic traditions.”
The town hall was open to UMW students and Fredericksburg community members, who were able to question Warner.
The questions dealt with immigration reform, how to reduce the deficit, education policy, balanced budget amendments, reintegration of ex-convicts into society, the Iranian threat and how to reduce partisanship in Congress.
Rachel Martin, a sophomore international affairs major, asked Warner if he supported making it easier for low-income migrant workers to come to the U.S. because Warner had previously stated his support of the Dream Act, along with making it easier for immigrants with high levels of education to stay in the U.S.
“He talked about guest worker programs, but the answer I was really looking for was creating a path for low-income migrant workers to obtain citizenship, because they are an important part of the economy and do jobs Americans will not,” said Martin. “Overall, I thought he was great, though.”
Warner does not think a balanced budget amendment is necessary, but advocated cutting the defense budget and reforming the tax code. He said that tax cuts are the biggest source of federal spending.
Additionally, Warner does not agree with the entire “Ryan budget,” saying he does not see how America can stay competitive while spending so little on education.
The Ryan budget is an alternative Republican budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
Warner also discussed Iran, stating, “The greatest threat to global stability at this point is Iran. We cannot under any circumstances allow Iran to have nuclear weapons.”
To decrease partisanship, Warner said he would support a change to the filibuster rule, and he condemned “gotcha amendments.”
“Gotcha amendments” are amendments one political party attaches to a bill popular with the other political party designed to make the bill unacceptable to that side.
Ending on the continued theme of bipartisan solutions, Warner encouraged students to take in multiple news sources with different political angles and asked students to demand the truth of their congressmen.
“If we don’t get this fixed, you ought to fire us all,” said Warner
Warner previously attended UMW’s 2011 Devil-Goat Day, which he called “kind of a weird experience,” and was UMW’s commencement speaker in 2004.
Warner served as Virginia Governor from 2002 to 2006 and as a Virginia Senator since 2008.