“Thank you for coming out on a cold morning,” Shelby said to the residents who gathered at the Pell City Civic Center to hear what the longtime senator had to say.
Last November, 84 percent of St. Clair County voters helped re-elect Shelby, who has served in the U.S. Senate for the past 25 years. “First thing I want to tell you — I appreciate the people of this county.”
He said St. Clair County was one of the top Alabama counties he got support from in the November election.
Mayor Bill Hereford introduced Shelby at the town hall meeting.
“He’s probably one of the most influential people in our Congress,” Hereford said.
Other local elected officials attended the event, including St. Clair County Commission Chairman Stan Batemon, County Commissioner Ken Crowe and Dr. Eric Hicks, one of the most senior members of the Pell City Board of Education.
Shelby is a ranking member of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, and the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittees. In addition, he is a senior member of the full Appropriations Committee and the Special Committee on Aging.
He said Republicans made the first big step to change in November, getting the majority in Congress and picking up six Republican seats in the Senate.
“The cavalry is coming,” he said, adding that he hopes the Republicans will pick up at least four more seats in the Senate in 2012.
Shelby told residents Wednesday he believes in the concept of market forces, supply and demand, and that smaller governments are more efficient than big governments.
“This is a great county. The richest country in the world,” Shelby said.
However, he said he is worried about the growing U.S. debt.
“Most of our debt has come in the last few years,” he said.
Shelby brought a couple of charts to emphasize his points to the public.
He said in 1980, the U.S owed $909 billion but in 2010, the debt was $13.5 trillion, and that estimate is expected to hit the $23 trillion mark by 2020, unless there is change.
“This is a road to financial destruction,” Shelby said. “No family could operate like that. … We continue to borrow instead of cutting spending. The day of reckoning is coming.”
He said tough choices have to be made.
Shelby said government should streamline.
“I honestly believe we could cut 30 percent across the board,” he said.
He also said programs that were started 20 years ago need to be reviewed and analyzed to see if the individual programs are still working.
“We don’t know if a program we created in 1980 is still working today,” he said.
Shelby said he believes in a flat tax because it’s the fairest way to tax Americans.
“I opposed all bailouts,” he said, asking why certain banks or industries were singled out for bailout money and others were not.
Shelby also commented about Saturday’s shooting in Arizona of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
“What happened in Arizona is uncalled for, but it could happen anywhere,” he said. “I’ve been threatened before.”
Each year Shelby travels Alabama holding town hall meetings in every county of the state.
Residents were given the opportunity to ask Shelby questions at the end of the meeting.
Contact David Atchison at email@example.com.