The Edmond Sun

Local News

August 13, 2012

Coburn speaks at town hall in McAlester

McALESTER — Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Dr. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, didn’t offer his constituents any sugar Friday with the strong medicine he told them the nation will have to swallow to cure its burgeoning financial woes.

Coburn spoke to an overflow crowd of approximately 80 individuals Friday afternoon at The Meeting Place restaurant in downtown McAlester. The senator said he called the meeting to hear from his constituents, and hear from them he did.

However, regardless of the subject, most of the talking reverted back to Coburn’s opinion of Congress and the federal administration as a group of overspenders in many areas.

Still, Coburn offered some hope — but only if stringent steps are taken and the nation’s leaders ... lead.

Although Coburn never spoke the name of presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney during the town hall meeting, he did say several times a change is needed.

“We don’t have one problem in front of our country we can’t solve. What we need is leadership,” said Coburn, who’s into his seventh year in the U.S. Senate.

“We can fix it,” Coburn said. The question is, he added, “Will the pure politicians let us?”

Coburn then surveyed the room and said “It’s going to require sacrifices on everybody’s part.”

Judging from the tone of some of the questions, some may be more willing to make what Coburn perceives as sacrifices than others.

Some questions centered on more personal issues, such as a request from a father for help in obtaining the U.S. Army records his daughter is seeking so she can get the medical help she needs. Coburn said his office will continue to assist in the matter.

Others covered issues that affect more of the population, such as Social Security.

“The people who are on Social Security today will take $21 trillion more out of Social Security than they paid in,” Coburn said. “How long do you think that will last?”

Coburn also set his sights on Medicare.

“The average working couple will pay $110,000 into Medicare and takes out $350,000,” he said.

Coburn then returned to a theme he’d used during his initial campaign for the Senate, that the entitlement payments being made today are being placed on the backs of future generations.

“We’ve actually stolen benefits today from our kids,” Coburn said.

Returning to questions from the audience, Coburn heard from B.L. Cozad Jr., who asked him to take a stand against United Nations Agenda 21, which Cozad contended is aimed at destroying private property rights.

Coburn replied that “A UN agenda, no matter what it is, isn’t our agenda.

“I stay disgruntled with the United Nations most of the time,” Coburn said.

He then returned to his initial theme.

“Change the administration, change the leadership — and solve the problem,” he said.

Coburn went on to say that Americans should be more concerned about fiscal matters and those who hold the nation’s debt in the form of bonds, than United Nations agendas.

“It won’t be the UN telling us what to do,” Coburn said. “It’ll be bond-holders from Saudi Arabia and China.”

McAlester resident Jess Davis asked Coburn when Congress will have to live under the same rules as others.

Coburn replied that in 1995, the congressional retirement program was cut by two-thirds.

Still, Coburn said, when he retires, he could get $2,000 a month for 18 years of service.

McAlester resident Mel Stubbings asked Coburn about the “fiscal cliff” the nation is about to plunge over in January — a reference to $1.2 trillion in spending cuts set to begin next year, along with the expiration of tax cuts enacted during President George W. Bush’s administration.

Coburn talked about the growth of the federal government, indicating that the plunge has already been taken, blaming Republicans as well as Democrats.

“The federal government is twice the size it was 11 years ago,” he said.

“There’s no way our government would be twice the size it is today without Republican hands on it.”

During the meeting, District 7 state Sen. Richard Lerblance, D-Hartshorne, posed a philosophical question to the Republican senator, regarding U.S. Senate confirmation of federal judicial nominees.

Following a discussion between the two, Lerblance asked “Would you agree with me we should do away with Senate confirmation?”

“Absolutely not,” Coburn replied. Coburn noted that the appointment of federal judges is a lifetime appointment where it’s possible to wield enormous judicial power.

Asked by two other individuals if he would pledge increased funding for cancer and Alzheimer’s research respectively, Coburn said he’s for committing the nation’s dollars where they will do the most good.

Returning to spending, Coburn said “One in 17 Americans right now is collecting Social Security disability payments.

“Do you really think one in 17 Americans are disabled?”

Allen Williams asked why the nation still has anything to do with Pakistan, and Coburn replied it’s necessary to have a relationship with Pakistan to help protect Afghanistan.

Not every conservative in Congress calls for more widespread taxes, but Coburn did — although he added a caveat to it.

“Broaden the base and lower the rate, so everybody pays,” said Coburn.

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