BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The vast majority of East Tennesseans participating in Tuesday's Tele-Town Hall with U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, said that they do not believe America will be a better place for their children and grandchildren than it was for them.
According to Roe's office, which conducted an informal survey during the conference call, nearly 400 participated from across East Tennessee.
Of those, 85 percent said they did not believe America would be a better place for the next generations.
Another 7 percent said they believed it would be better, and 8 percent said they were unsure.
The results came near the end of the call, after Roe had taken questions for nearly an hour.
Many questions addressed concerns about getting or keeping a job and the impact on employement made by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.
Roe, of Johnson City, addressed the poll's negative results in his closing statement, referring to his conversations with those who called in with these concerns.
"We have to change that [poll opinion]," Roe said. "We have to change that for Tim, who called and he's 21 years old. I want his future to be bright.
"Most of mine is behind me. I've been so blessed to live in America," he said. "America is still the greatest place on earth to live and be. We've got to turn that [opinion] around."
For many callers, however, it was obvious that the future appears uncertain, at best.
A man who identified himself as "Lou," from Greeneville, questioned the ACA's definition of full-time work as 30 hours per week.
"How can they expect people to feed their families on 30 to 32 hours per week?" he asked.
Roe acknowledged the concern, saying many companies are lowering hours below 30 to keep employees part-time in order to avoid offering them insurance coverage.
He also cited a Tuesday report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which predicted the ACA would prompt more than 2 million cuts to full-time jobs.
"People don't need less hours at work today -- they need more hours," Roe said. "Wages have been stagnant."
His solution? Increasing manufacturing.
"We can't reconstitute the middle class without manufacturing. You've got to make stuff," he said. "Down in Greene County where you live, you all still make a lot of stuff, but not as much as you used to."
"Mrs. Bass," of Mountain City, also called concerned about her job.
She said she has been a registered nurse for 36 years and has never worried about her job or the jobs of her coworkers.
Since the implementation of the ACA, she said, that has all changed, as she has watched workers being laid off.
"Like you, I have never seen this happen in my lifetime," Roe replied.
He again pointed to the Congressional Budget Office's report, calling it "scary," and noting the thousands of jobs already lost in East Tennessee.
"The Affordable Care Act has created a great disruption for health care in our country," he said.
And while he added that there will be some who benefit, who gain health care from the new act, he said many others will suffer higher premiums or the loss of their jobs as a result.
Then "Tim," the 21-year-old from Mt. Carmel whom Roe named in his closing comments, called concerned about life after college.
He told Roe that he is interested in accounting but concerned for the future economy. He questioned if he would have hope for a job after college.
Roe replied that many college students are justified in that concern, but encouraged Tim that he should be fine since he is in accounting.
The congressman cited President Barack Obama's administration and practices as the cause for the sluggish economic recovery.
"Without a change in policies, we're going to be mired," Roe said.