U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is serving his third term in the Senate representing Georgia, cited former Presidents John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan as his favorites during a luncheon address to the Kiwanis Club of Atlanta on Tuesday, Oct. 10.
Mr. Isakson, who has served as a Republican in state and national governments since he was first elected to the U.S. House in 1976, demonstrated his familiarity with a wide range of issues.
He currently is chair of the Senate Ethics and Veterans Affairs Committees, and as a member of the health, education and pension committee, as well as the labor, finance and foreign affairs committees.
He told the Kiwanians, who filled the dining hall at the Loudermilk Center downtown, that he preferred Presidents Kennedy and Reagan for the same three reasons.
During their administrations, he said, they lowered taxes, were tough on national security and possessed the gift of being able to change the opinions of those opposed to them into supporters.
Mr. Isakson discussed current efforts to change the tax, health and immigration laws, praised improvements taking place in the care of veterans and highlighted the development of the state’s cybersecurity resources.
He took a forceful line in his comments about how to deal with the regime of Kim Jong Un in North Korea. Given, in his opinion, North Korea’s ability to deliver nuclear weapons to the West Coast of California, he said that the U.S. “has got to do something to stop him.”
“We learned that a red line has to be enforced,” he added. He backed President Trump’s bellicose pronouncements because “Trump knows that he has got to deliver and it’s better to do it before it’s struck than after it’s struck. We have to show North Korea that we mean business.”
He recounted the Kennedy’s administration’s response to the Cuban missile crisis with the naval embargo, which, he said, faced a similar question as the current administration, “Are we a paper tiger or do we mean business?”
President Trump will have to come up with a “demonstrative example” in the way that the Kennedy administration did, he said, adding, “I don’t know what our demonstrative example is going to be, but we must be prepared to send a message.”
Mr. Isakson also warned that the national debt of $20 trillion would expand to $150 trillion in 10 years if tax laws aren’t changed.
While he said that the details of Mr. Trump’s tax plan still had to be filled out, he appeared to favor the president’s “framework” including a reduction of the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, lowering the individual states’ passthrough taxes, the reduction of seven individual marginal rates to three and doubling the standard deduction.
This “framework,” as he called it, would stimulate economic growth and provide tax relief for the middle class. He also said that the details around depreciation regulations would have to be worked out later.
Mr. Isakson also addressed threats posed by murderous incidents such as experienced in Las Vegas, Nev., and cybercrime. He called on the Kiwanians to be vigilant, and he praised Georgia’s capabilities to fight cybercrime being developed at Fort Gordon and the Augusta Cyber Institute at Augusta State University.
He drew a laugh when he talked about building a wall around “the cloud” to prevent hacking incidents such as that experienced by Equifax, which experienced the loss of personal information to more than 140 million customers.
Concerning immigration, he remained pessimistic that the Congress could develop a comprehensive solution, and called on Mr. Trump to provide leadership on the issue. “Somebody, and it should really be the president who provides the direction and leadership,” he added.
“There are many parts to it (immigration), and they all have different constituencies,” he said. “A lot of people with little bits of clout are keeping us from doing what we should do,” he added, pointing to the need to deal with the issue as it relates to agriculture, businesses. H1B visas and high tech workers.
As a counterpoint to the deadlock experienced on most legislation in Congress, he cited passage of the Accountability and Choice Acts that affect treatment of veterans.
“In the last three years we have had a total renaissance in the treatment of our veterans with six major reform bills,” he said, praising the leadership of David Shulkin, the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. He also pointed to the modernization of the appeals process for the 657,000 disabled veterans.
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