Americans know tough times are ahead, and they want leaders that will level with them in order to do the hard work to “master the challenges of a new century,” Sen. told a full auditorium Sunday night at Elmhurst College.
Kirk was the guest speaker in the college’s series, The Democracy Forum.
In broad strokes, Kirk outlined an economic recovery plan he said would “save the economic future of the country.” Kirk, a Highland Park Republican, said the plan includes closing lobbying loopholes in the federal tax code that would allow the government to lower income tax levels for the top tiers from 39 percent to 29 percent. Additionally, the plan calls for ending agricultural subsidies and reforming Social Security and Medicare.
Kirk said the plan has the support of about 45 senators from both sides of the political aisle, including Illinois’ senior Sen. Dick Durbin. Additionally the plan calls for the D.C. Super Committee, comprised of members of the Senate and House, to “go big” by seeking $4 trillion in debt reduction, rather than its mandate of $1.2 trillion over 10 years.
The Super Committee has until Nov. 23 to come up with its recommendations or face automatic cuts in military and entitlement spending. Kirk said he was fairly confident the committee would meet its deadlines for a plan to reduce the nations’ $15 trillion deficit, so it can take advantage of a special dispensation that would allow the Senate to pass recommendations with only 51 votes.
Kirk warned that if federal lawmakers don’t get control of the national “spending problem,” the nation could face financial unrest of the likes currently seen in Greece and other European countries.
During his 30 minute address, Kirk hinted at the need to end military aide to Pakistan in light of accusations of that country’s intelligence organization’s involvement with terrorism. He also pointed out the threat of Iran and highlighted the political corruption in Illinois.
Kirk took the time to respond to questions from the audience, which ranged from immigration reform to taxes to jobs.
Kirk said improving the national infrastructure, which he said could be paid for through public and private partnerships like the type used by Abraham Lincoln to fund the transcontinental railroad, could put about $100 billion into the economy.
“We could give new life to Lincoln's economic legacy by building roads, airports and railroads using public-private partnerships," Kirk said.
Kirk also touted the need for a 401(kids) program, which would allow parents to set up a tax-deferred account to begin saving for their children’s future. He said parents could use it as a teaching tool to “teach savings and investments to young Americans.” Such a savings plan would have resources under the control of average Americans and not the government, he said.
Rachel Nelson, a student at Elmhurst College, asked Kirk about supporting the DREAM Act, which would help those brought to this country illegally as children by providing a path to citizenship if they go to college or join the military.
Kirk, who has not supported the DREAM Act, said the southern U.S. border needs to be secured to protect national security interests before any real discussion of illegal immigration can take place.
Former Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives Lee Daniels, also an Elmhurst College staff member, called Illinois’ junior senator one of the top leaders in the United States “representing all that is good and just in our complex society.”
“We need, more than ever, a leader that will guide us through these challenging and tumultuous times. Sen. Kirk is just such a man,” Daniels said.