Ga. senator at home in Houston County school that bears his father’s name

WARNER ROBINS -- On a swing through Middle Georgia on Monday, U.S. Sen. David Perdue visited the school that bears his father’s name.

He spoke to second-graders in the gym at David A. Perdue Primary School in Warner Robins, fielding questions about politics and his own personal story.

“I read everything I can get my hands on, and that’s how you learn,” Perdue, R-Ga., told the students.

The senator added that reading and learning would make the students more informed when the time comes for them to vote and help make other decisions.

The worst part of being a senator, he said, was missing time with his family, but the job has its benefits.

“I think the best part of my job is the realization that one senator can make life better for people like you,” he told them.

While some of the students asked about Perdue’s favorite subjects when he was in school and stories from his childhood, others asked him about political issues. One of them touched on the status of an education reform bill, which has passed the Senate and awaits House approval.

“What we want to do is put more decisions about school back at the state and local level,” Perdue said. “We think the president will sign that, by the way.”

The students’ questions and interaction with Perdue impressed the school’s principal, Leslie Shultz. She said the chance to address a senator was a “once-in-a-lifetime experience” for some of the students, and that the second-grade focus on government helped get them ready.

“The teachers have been really working to prepare them,” Shultz said.

Perdue said the knowledge and focus he saw from the students made him “optimistic about the future” when they get older.

“The second-graders were phenomenal,” he said. “I’m just so amazed at how well-behaved those second-graders were.”

Later, he spoke at the Macon Rotary Club meeting at First Presbyterian Church. There, he turned his focus to what he described as “two crises” facing the federal government.

The first is national security, which he said has become more tenuous with the proposed nuclear deal with Iran.

“Today, in my opinion, we face a more dangerous time than any in my lifetime.”

Allowing Iran to become a “nuclear weapon state” would be a mistake, he said, and the deal with the country was a step toward that. A strong military is key to handling international relations, in Perdue’s opinion, but that tied to the other crisis he addressed: the national debt.

“The problem is, to have a strong military, you have to have a strong economy,” he said.

The first-term lawmaker pointed specifically to Social Security and Medicare as major expenses and what should be the “No. 1 financial priority” for the federal government.

When Social Security began 1935, Perdue said there were 16 workers for every one person drawing payments. Now it’s closer to a 3-to-1 margin, and coupled with a longer average life expectancy, the numbers create an unworkable equation.

“The math doesn’t work today,” he said.

Along with raising the age when future generations can draw Social Security benefits, Perdue pointed to means testing to determine if individuals even need to be drawing from the program in the first place as an option.

Much of his talks at both locations centered on the notion that he came in as a businessman and political outsider. Because of that, he’s taken some actions that weren’t popular with other legislators.

“I put in a term-limit bill in the first week I was in the Senate,” he said, noting that his two-term cap earned him a meeting to discuss the move with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has held office for 30 years. “These people don’t want to talk about that,” he told him.

Those types of stances help him connect with Rotary members, said the chapter’s president, Robbo Hatcher.

“It’s a great opportunity to see that someone in Washington understands them and feels what they’re feeling,” Hatcher said.

To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331 or find him on Twitter@MTJTimm.

CLARIFICATION: This story has been clarified. An earlier version of the story did not express Perdue's stance that measures for correcting Social Security would need to happen with future generations, not current enrollees.

By:  Jeremy Timmerman
Source: Macon Telegraph