Roe tells us what he is doing for Johnson CountyEditorís note: Directly following the town hall meeting at the Johnson County Crewette building on Thursday, September 5, 2013, Congressman Phil Roe sat down with Tomahawk staff for an interview. The interview is being published verbatim in three parts.
Todayís question, part two, is a combination from The Tomahawk Editor Angie Gambill and freelance writer Jonathan Pleasant:
ďPressing national issues aside, what types of programs or initiatives have you been involved in that will have a direct impact on this region and more specifically Johnson Countians? Tell us why we should vote for you in the next election.Ē
Congressman Roe: ďWell, maybe by the next year they wonít want to vote for me but I hope they will. Look, we have a couple things I think that can affect Johnson County in an extremely positive way. One is energy, and I mentioned it at our town hall. If I could be president for four weeks, thatís all Iíd want the job for, a month. You let me be president in September; I can promise you by October we would have a coherent energy policy in this country. I would do exactly like President Kennedy did when I was a kid back in the sixties; ďWeíre going to go to the moon in this decade.Ē I would say weíre going to be energy independent so whatever happens in the Middle East wonít matter to us. My dad lost his job in 1973; he was a factory worker, to Mexico. So 40 years ago he lost his job. We havenít just started losing manufacturing jobs. You will not recreate the middle class, and I know factories have closed right here in this town. You will not recreate the middle class without a strong manufacturing base in this country.
When I came to Johnson City in 1977 as a young doctor with a young family I had an eight-week old boy and a four year old boy. I look at their birthdays every year and thatís how long I know Iíve been in Johnson City. So I look at those two boys. When I came there, Magnavox had 4,000 people working in Greeneville, Tennessee. They had health insurance benefits. They had pension benefits. Iíve delivered their babies. I took care of patients there, and they had good health insurance. Texas Instruments had a 1,000 people, high tech jobs, great jobs. Five thousand jobs and two businesses are gone. I could go on. Pharmaseal made gloves. We shipped them over to somewhere. I could put one pair of surgical gloves and finish a case, and Iím using three when theyíre made in Indonesia because the things fell apart. Iím sure they were very cheap, and they were very cheap. So, staple energy independence, inexpensive energy would mean that jobs would come back to manufacturing. Theyíre beginning to now, and to your point, we educate for those jobs. Look at the Volkswagen plant down in Chattanooga. Theyíre blowing the wheels off that place. We are the most productive workers in the world. I was in China last year in June. One point four billion people donít produce as many goods and services as 300,000 people do. I started thinking about that when I was there in Beijing when I was wiping my eyes as it was so polluted. I said we have got to quit beating ourselves down. American workers are the most productive worker in the world, bar none, period. So, inexpensive energy and how it affects people here in Johnson County because they have to drive many times a fairly long distance to go to work. For every .25 that you borrow, but see, this is not politiciansÖ These are money people at Citi Corp and Goldman Sachs. They think if we can become energy independent by 2020 we can bring back 2,500,000 to 5,000,000 manufacturing jobs. Do you have any idea what that would do for our economy? Two and a half to five million jobs like that? Weíre ready to do that. We have the technology. Iím on a team in Washington called HEAT team, House Energy Action Team. So we have a lot of experts on energy. Iíll never forget what this guy from Goldman SachS said. He said you never bet against engineers, because if theyíve gone out and figured out how to get gas out of a rock. He said, you donít bet against them. And the Bakken oil fields, theyíre capping wells out there because they donít have enough pipelines to haul it out. The Keystone Pipeline, all you need to get that done is the presidentís signature. All the environmentals are done, everything. Why is that important? Well, for every dollar we send Canada, they send .80 cents back, so we donít lose much money there. Secondly, 850,000 barrels of oil per day will cut our need for Middle Eastern oil in half. We almost donít need anything. If they blow up, they blow up, if they donít blow us up with them. So, I think that is what I would do. And, just an aside, I passed a bill with Steny Hoyer, who is the minority whip, heís the number two guy in the Democrat Party, in allowing schools to put in epinephrine pens for students that have food allergies or even unknown food allergies. There are children who die across the country every year because of food allergies. They had a little 10-year old girl in Richmond, Virginia this past year that died. If they had had an epinephrine pen in that school she wouldnít have died. So, we got that passed out of the House and hopefully the Senate and president will. They havenít passed it in the Senate yet, but they just havenít taken it up. I think once Syria is bye the bye, weíll get that done.
I have re-written the Affordable Care Act. It is completed. It is not a 2700 page bill. It is a 225 to 230-page bill. It is one that is comprehensible. You actually can read it and understand it. It is not that complicated. So those are the kind of things that we have done.
I hope the people will have enough confidence to re-elect me. I certainly have tried to work hard. One of the things we have prided ourselves on is being available. We have really tried to be all over this large district. Itís a long way from here to Gatlinburg. I canít be everywhere all the time, but I really try to be out in these rural areas because I think unintentionally, because they are harder to get to, people just donít get to them as much. I keep a running track in my head and a record of how many times I have been somewhere. I will just feel like I havenít been to Mountain City. I need to go. They will say, ďYes, you need to go.Ē So, we go. That is sort of what we do. We go to Gatlinburg, Baneberry, and Baileyton. You get out where the people are.
There are three things I will never apologize for spending money on as long as I am a politician in Washington. Number one: As long as you are a soldier in the field I want you to have anything you need to protect yourself and comrades. I donít care what it is. Number two: When that soldier has served in the field and they come home, I donít want us to forget about them. I want them to have what they need and the VA to take care of them. I am one of these category eight soldiers. I make too much money to go to the VA and I am ok with that. I can get health care. Some of these boys canít. So, I want them to get what they need.
Number three: I will never apologize for taking care of farmers. I like to eat, and I donít want to buy my food from Mexico, China, and Canada. We are the best in the world at it. The past four years we increased food stamp spending by $40 billion a year. And our entire farm bill is $17 billion a year. It is nothing in the whole big budget. So, farmers and soldiers, I am on their side.