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McCain proposes free-trade agreement at forum
Acknowledging the staggering unemployment rate in Yuma County, Arizona's Republican Sen. John McCain believes enacting a free-trade agreement with three foreign countries will drive the local agriculture industry and in turn create jobs.
“Well obviously I can pursue issues that would help the entire country and the state of Arizona (which) hopefully would affect Yuma as quickly as possible given the very high unemployment that we have here,” he said after a Town Hall meeting Wednesday afternoon at the county health department building.
“One thing we need to do is a free-trade agreement. We could increase our agricultural exports by some $27 million if we signed free-trade agreements with Colombia, Korea and Panama. This being an agricultural area, we have an immediate affect on that respect.”
During the Town Hall, McCain spoke of a new Obama administration policy on illegal immigration that could halt thousands of cases in federal immigration court if they do not involve criminals or people with egregious immigration violations. Such immigrants, classified as low-priority, could receive a stay of deportation and a chance to apply for a work permit.
“If they don't commit a crime they are basically home free,” he said. “That is not right. There are people from all over the world who want to come to our country legally.”
McCain also responded to a question in the audience about the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm's “Fast and Furious” program which allowed gun smugglers to funnel American weapons to Mexican cartels, ultimately resulting in the death of a Border Patrol agent who was shot with one such gun.
“This issue is not dead or finished by a long shot,” he said. “I don't know who gave the orders for Fast and Furious. I don't think probably that it was the U.S. Attorney (Dennis Burke). I think it came from Washington. We don't know the depth of the involvement.”
McCain said a congressional committee is looking into the matter.
“The American people need a full and complete accounting of what took place. People should be held responsible, but also we've got to make sure that something like this never happens again. It should not be so easy for these people to come and buy these weapons in the United States and send them down to Mexico.”
While he supports making it harder for cartels to obtain American weapons, McCain was quick to tout his support for gun rights.
“I am a staunch advocate of the second amendment — don't get me wrong I have a perfect record from the NRA — but we need to do what we can to make sure that someone can't come to a gun show or some place and exploit a loophole.”
McCain also spoke on the issue of taxes. He wants to cut taxes on corporations and business owners by at least 10 percent.
He also stated that about $1 trillion in American business interests are overseas, having been chased away by a 35 percent corporate tax. Unless the corporations are given a tax holiday they will not return, he added.
He proposes offering corporations such a holiday if they agree to return to the U.S.
“If you'll invest that trillion dollars in jobs and in our economy then we will charge you no taxes,” he said theoretically. “Just bring it back.”
He also spoke in defense of the GOP's hard-line stance on refusing to increase taxes on the wealthy, a strategy employed by the Democratic party recently during the debt ceiling crisis.
“History shows when you raise people's taxes in hard economic times, it makes the situation worse,” he said.
“The message of November of 2010 was to stop the spending, so when somebody comes up to you and says ‘well McCain won't compromise…' look I came here to Yuma and I told you I wouldn't raise your taxes and I told you that I would do everything I could to cut spending.
“So am I supposed to betray the commitment I made to the people of Arizona in the name of quote ‘compromise?' Of course not.”
Another priority on McCain's agenda — cutting government spending by reforming Social Security and Medicare.
“We have to reform the Medicare system,” he said. “It is just too big a part of our spending. But we have to proceed on the fundamental principle that we will not do anything that would change the benefits that present-day retirees enjoy. It would have to be changes made for future retirees.”
When asked what that would mean for younger generations who won't retire for several more decades, McCain said, “I think we really have two choices. We either bankrupt the country or we make changes in these entitlement programs.”
He was clear that he didn't want the changes to happen immediately, but over time.
“In Greece, after their economy collapsed the first thing they cut was the benefits – and they cut it for everybody. It was Draconian. We don't want to do that. We want to make sure that we have an economy for (future retirees) to inherit — that it's not bankrupted the country.”
Chris McDaniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6849.