• Thomas Russell

Sen. Cotton offers his perspective to NEXT attendees

WASHINGTON — Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas shared his views on legislative matters ranging from health care to tax reform during the 2017 NEXT Conference at Washington Nationals Park here.

In an on-stage interview with Matt Slaine, CEO of Progressive Business Media, Cotton shared his thoughts on these and other areas of interest including the subject of mentorship, a key theme of the NEXT Conference.

Cotton, 40, is the junior senator from Arkansas. He grew up on his family’s cattle farm and later attended Harvard and Harvard Law School. Following the Sept. 11 attacks, he served nearly five years of active duty as an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army.

It was there that Cotton learned some of his most valued lessons in leadership, including those he learned from others with more experience in the field. Being a good leader, he said, means being a good follower and a good listener.

“You still have to answer to someone,” he said, adding that in matters of politics, he answers not to the president but rather his constituents, his family and his own belief system.

He also noted that sometimes one has to “settle for progress and not success,” another lesson he has learned as a legislator.

“My foe on an issue today will be an ally tomorrow,” the Republican senator said, noting that his ally on an issue could very well be a Democrat.

On the issue of health care, he said, he has been disappointed over the results over the past few months.

“That law is not getting better with time,” he said of the Affordable Care Act, noting that premiums continue to rise while marketplace networks continue to shrink.

“We may not return to it in the next month, but we will have to fix it sooner or later,” he said of health care reform.

He did note that he feels stronger about the prospects for tax reform than health care reform, at least in the near term. This, he believes, is due to the potential to reduce tax rates for working families and also to simplify the tax code.

A proposed Border Adjustment Tax that would have effectively imposed a 20% tax on imports is all but dead in the water.

“It would have been bad for a lot of people I represent, and it would have affected businesses like yours in the furniture industry,” he noted.

That said, he acknowledged that manufacturing has lost a lot of jobs to China in the past 25 to 30 years. This issue, along with piracy of intellectual property, remains an issue “we need to be seriously concerned about” not just because of the impact on manufacturing, but also relating to security issues.

On the domestic front, he said, labor shortages remain an issue, but one that can be addressed with more adequate training through apprenticeship programs and other training programs that skills needed by today’s employers.

“I think we need to do more of that in this country,” he said, adding that through such training, workers would have a better chance of a middle-class life with just a high school diploma.

Thomas RussellThomas Russell | Associate Editor, Furniture Today

I'm Tom Russell and have worked at Furniture/Today since August 2003. Since then, I have covered the international side of the business from a logistics and sourcing standpoint. Since then, I also have visited several furniture trade shows and manufacturing plants in Asia, which has helped me gain perspective about the industry in that part of the world. As I continue covering the import side of the business, I look forward to building on that knowledge base through conversations with industry officials and future overseas plant tours. From time to time, I will file news and other industry perspectives online and, as always, welcome your response to these Web postings.


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