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At Sterling Rally, Carson Presses For Greater Fiscal Responsibility

© Leesburg Today - 09/28/2015

Just as a new poll showed he was tied with Donald Trump in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, Dr. Ben Carson brought his campaign to Sterling on Sunday night.

More than 1,500 people gathered in the school's gymnasium to hear Carson's message advocating increased fiscal and personal responsibility.

Carson is the first 2016 presidential candidate to hold a rally in Loudoun, but more are expected to follow as they seek to impress voters in the key swing county in an important swing state. Both have gone Democratic in the past two presidential elections.

Speaking for an hour, Carson covered a wide range of policy proposals.

""The stuff that I'm talking about is not Democrat or Republican stuff. It is American stuff,"" he said.

Much of his message focused on addressing the nation's fiscal challenges, an $18 trillion debt and a $200 trillion ""fiscal gap"" of unfunded government obligations, including Social Security and Medicare.

""This is not something you'll hear any traditional politician talk about, but I'm not a politician so I can talk about it,"" Carson said.

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His suggestions for paying down the debt and closing the budget deficit all involved bureaucratic belt-tightening-a three- to four-year federal budget freeze, reducing the size of the government workforce by not replacing retirees for three or four years, and requiring all agencies to reduce spending by 3 to 4 percent. While focus on spending reductions in most areas, Carson identified a few needing increased investment-reversing reductions in the military, providing better medical and mental health care to service men and women, and pursing space missions that help drive technological innovation.

""We need to get our act together. We cannot just continue doing this,"" Carson said. ""And you know, when somebody comes along and says, 'Hey America, everything is wonderful and how about free college for everybody.' Well, when you know what the fiscal gap is, your correct response is laughing and saying, 'What are you talking about? How are we going to pay for this when we are already about to go over the financial cliff?'""

Carson frequently reflected on the worries expressed by the founding fathers about vote apathy and on the character traits that allowed the fledgling nation to so quickly rise to become an international powerhouse.

""It was that 'can do' attitude that allowed them to so quickly rise to the pinnacle of the world. And that is why the 'can do' attitude must be returned, and we must get rid of the 'what can you do for me' attitude,"" Carson said, drawing the loudest applause of the night.

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Other campaign planks highlighted during his remarks included:

• advocating a lower corporate tax rate to encourage corporate investment, as well as a six-month tax holiday that would allow U.S. companies to bring back without penalty $2 trillion sitting in accounts overseas to avoid taxation, provided at least 10 percent of that money is used for domestic job creation.

• supporting a simplified tax code that would be proportionate across all income levels and would remove loopholes and deductions.

• strengthening the nation's electrical grid and stepping up cyber security efforts.

• allowing the U.S. military to more directly fight ISIS in the Middle East.

• addressing illegal immigration through a guest worker program that would allow those with spotless criminal records to remain in the U.S. They would be required to pay any back taxes owed, would not be permitted to vote, and would be offered citizenship.

• addressing health care and concerns about the government mandates of the Affordable Care Act by expanding the use of health savings accounts-including for Medicare and Medicaid patients-to provide individuals with more control over their medical service and to promote greater personal responsibility.

• developing natural gas reserves to the extent that the U.S. could be the chief provider of liquid natural gas to Europe. He supports construction of the Keystone Pipeline.

Carson wrapped up his program with an invitation for questions from the audience. One of those came from 15-year-old Ryan Sorensen of Hillsboro, who was among the first in line and secured a spot standing at the foot of the stage. The Woodgrove High School student asked if Carson supported affirmative action policies.

Carson said the program had a place 50 years ago when beliefs that African-Americans could not serve as doctors or pilots, for example, were widely held. Today, though, the efforts to support society's underdogs should not be based on race, but on circumstances. He cited an example of a student who grew up in poverty in Appalachia but recorded outstanding grades and high SAT scores might deserve to move ahead of his own son in the line for admission to Yale. Carson said it was important to maximize the development of talent of American students to enable the nation to compete economically with China and India.

In addition to asking his question, Ryan was also among those lucky enough to leave with an autographed copy of one of Carson's popular books.

One goal of Carson's appearance was to encourage supporters to help out with the first step in Virginia's nomination process-getting enough petition signatures to have his name listed on the Republican Party's March 1, 2016, primary ballot. Candidates need to collect 5,000 signatures, including 200 from each of the state's 11 congressional districts. The signature requirement was cut in half after 2012 when only two GOP candidates-Mitt Romney and Ron Paul-qualified for Virginia's ballot.

Also addressing the rally crowd was Republican Party of Virginia Chairman John Whitbeck, who stressed the importance of turning out the Republican vote during next year's election. He noted that Loudoun's swing county status gives local voters more control over the election outcome than those in other states, where the electoral outcomes are known far in advance.

The majority of Loudoun voters backed Barack Obama in 2008 and in 2012. Prior to 2008, the last time the county supported a Democrat for president was 1964.

""We're done losing, ladies and gentlemen. We're done losing in Virginia and we're done losing nationwide,"" Whitbeck said. ""I need your help uniting the Republican Party once and for all.""

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