This post was originally published in CMCC News.
The key to America’s future economic and national security is figuring out how to “bring the diverse American family together,” said U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) in a conversation with Charleston Metro Chamber investors held earlier today at the Chamber in North Charleston, SC.
“The most important issue in America today is not one of party unity, but of family unity,” said Scott. “This applies to our educational system, our national security, and our economy.”
He pointed to his “Opportunity Agenda” as a blueprint for achieving this unity. The cornerstone of that agenda, which includes measures promoting educational choice and economic opportunity in distressed areas, said Scott, is building a strong educational system.
“Everyone deserves a quality education, even if you can’t get one through the public schools,” said Scott. “Whatever it takes to improve the quality of education will determine the type of nation we have in the next generation.”
Scott said the United States annually spends $700 billion on education, but ranks 14th in reading, 17th in math, and 26th in science. He pointed to a number of Asian countries that require year-round schooling and a longer school day.
“We’re going to have to reimagine our educational system for the future,” said Scott, pointing to Kahn Academy, a private, non-profit online educational portal which provides a variety of free programs.
He also stressed the importance of prioritizing early childhood reading and vocabulary, as well as continuing to increase opportunities for apprenticeships for middle and high school-aged children.
Scott addressed national security issues, saying he feels “we are heading in the wrong direction” in terms of investments in our military and intelligence capabilities.
“We’re looking at a trillion fewer dollars spent on our military over a ten-year period,” said Scott, referring to President Obama’s budgets, as well as the Budget Control Act (i.e., “sequester”) cuts of 2013.
“We are living in one of the most volatile periods in my lifetime, and if we don’t invest in our military, we will have major challenges in our future,” said Scott.
He explained that ISIS is using a “franchise” model that has never been seen before by our enemies. Rather than follow a traditional model of training, funding, and sending terrorists to their targets, ISIS recruits through the Internet. In addition, when ISIS “sees something it likes, they go and put their name on it,” explained Scott.
Patrick Bryant, the Chair-elect of the Charleston Metro Chamber and a partner at online auction start-up, Bidr, discussed with Senator Scott the importance of the North Charleston-based Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR). Bryant asked Scott about the threats facing the facility due to federal military spending reductions.
Scott reiterated his support for SPAWAR and his desire to see the facility spared cuts in the upcoming Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. Discussions about the BRAC process, he explained, have not begun, and he said the Obama Administration is “dragging its feet” on getting the process started.
He said that SPAWAR should be a major part America’s efforts to “confront our enemy in a new, innovative and interesting way.”
Scott also addressed infrastructure, saying that the passage of a federal roads bill last year was an “amazing” display of bipartisanship. He explained that while this bill was a good first step, it will “not be enough to solve our long-term infrastructure issues across the country.”
“Solving our national infrastructure problems will take a real partnership between the federal and state governments,” he said, adding that the South Carolina’s infrastructure challenges will only be solved “when the governor and the legislature get on the same page.”
Mary Graham, Chief Advancement Officer of the Charleston Metro Chamber, asked Scott about the pending Water Resources Development Act, which includes funding for the dredging of Charleston Harbor.
“It’s a mess,” said Scott. “But we’ll get it to a place where we can pass it. The funding is solid. The timeline is good. I predict we’ll pass it before we leave in October.”
Scott concluded by taking a swipe at the media, saying that mainstream newspapers and television “give the impression that nothing happens in Congress on a bipartisan fashion.”
He pointed to the “Federal Aviation Authority reauthorization, the roads bill, and the passage of an education funding apparatus” as examples of bipartisan cooperation on Capitol Hill.
“Good news isn’t covered by local news stations,” he said.
Scott concluded by saying that America will have to “reimagine what it means to be the world’s biggest economy.”
He pointed to the national debt, saying we will have to think about what it means to take only $3 trillion in annually in taxes, while spending $4 trillion per year.
“We have to reimagine what we’re doing on tax reform, our regulatory environment, healthcare, financial regulations, and entitlements,” he said.
Scott was sworn in to the U.S. Senate in January 2013, after being appointed by Governor Nikki Haley to fill the vacancy of retiring U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC). He won re-election in 2014, and faces election this year for a full, six-year term.
Top investors of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce receive access to special programs such as the Lunch with U.S. Senator Tim Scott held today.