U.S. Senator Tim Kaine visited the assembly plant for Volvo in Dublin yesterday to tour the facility. The stop included a town hall type meeting in an assembly room.
After a welcome from Volvo’s Communication Manager Marcus Thompson and a brief introduction from Director of Operations Joel Fenstermaker, Kaine took the microphone and briefly addressed the assembled Volvo employees before answering questions.
He commended Volvo for receiving a certification for its energy efficiency work and described it as “doing high-quality work and doing it in an innovative way.” He added, “American manufacturing is alive and well…so one of the reasons I wanted to come here was to get some folks from the press to tag along with me, to tell the story of American manufacturing success.”
“We all know that we’re in a global world, economically. And so trade and international development, these things are absolutely critical to our economy,” said Kaine, who serves on armed service, foreign relations and budget committees in the Senate. He mentioned the removal of the international customs agent from the local airport as being an issue affected by the federal budget. “We have big-picture budget issues that we have to deal with,” he said. “Even if you disagree 80 percent of the time, if you keep communicating, and try to keep relationships going, you’ll find those areas where you do agree, and that’s what I’m trying to do in my way, and that’s what the senior Senator, [Mark] Warner is trying to do as well.”
One employee asked, “Can you give any insight on when and how the country will get its financial house in order?”
Kaine said that in terms of the deficit, America spends about $3.6 trillion a year and brings in about $2.5 trillion a year. “Now, that’s starting to narrow. That gap is starting to narrow up. It will probably come down to about $700 billion next year, but that’s still too big.” He said that making the wrong kinds of budget cuts would only harm the economy further. “The best strategy is the thriving economy,” said Kaine, “because that actually helps you drive the deficit down. I think the right strategy is to make meaningful, targeted cuts. There can’t be any sacred cows.” He also recommended cutting spending, increasing revenue and eliminating loopholes.
Another employee mentioned the topic of the coal industry and where it might be headed.
“There are two big obstacles to coal right now,” said Kaine. “The first obstacle is there are regulations on the table.” Kaine said there is currently a proposed EPA regulation for new coal plants that would set CO2 emissions limits at the same level as that of a new natural gas plant. “That’s just unrealistic,” he said. “I sent a letter to the new EPA administrator saying, ‘It makes no sense to have one standard. These are different technologies, and you ought to have a different standard for each technology.’ And I hope the administration follows that.”
A third employee asked about the social security program. “It’s considered and entitlement by both sides of the aisle,” said the employee. “It’s kinda hard to accept that as an entitlement, when it’s something that we financed.”
“The word ‘entitlement’ has different meaning to different folks,” said Kaine, “So I’ll get off the terminology and get to the meaning. “That’s something that people have been chipping into their whole lives. You can’t just treat that as a budget line item. There’s a promise to that.”
He said that when the program was instituted, there were about six people contributing for each beneficiary, but now there are less then three contributors per beneficiary. “Social security isn’t in jeopardy tomorrow,” he said, “but if we don’t make some adjustments, and Congress has done that 17 times since the program passed, there would be a day, 2030, where we would run into problems and we wouldn’t be solvent. But the good news is, you could pass a law right now that says, ‘Beginning 20 years from now, there will be this change or that change.’ You can put the changes out there and that will continue to maintain solvency.”
After a few more questions, the meeting was dismissed and Kaine took a tour of the Volvo facilities.