RALEIGH -- Jobs and the economy were the hot topics discussed during Thursday’s visit by U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers to students at Campbell’s Norman A. Wiggins School of Law.
Ellmers, the Harnett County Republican who unseated longtime Congressman Bob Etheridge in the 2010 election, told the few dozen law students on hand what she and her fellow lawmakers are doing to improve the nation’s unemployment rate, which currently sits at 9.1 percent.
“My goal in Washington is to see that when you finish school, you’ll have a job,” Ellmers said. “About 63 percent of you may have to move back with your parents after college, because you won’t be able to find a job immediately.”
The discussion Thursday was a timely one. Media outlets like the Wall Street Journal and New York Times have recently reported that legal jobs -- like many professions -- have taken a hit in the poor economy. WSJ reported in September there is one job opening for every 100 working lawyers, making it the career most difficult for job placement.
Ellmers said several factors have led to the economic downturn, most notably the high taxes and regulations placed on businesses that have prevented them from hiring.
“Some people feel that those who make more money should be paying more taxes,” Ellmers said. “But in fact, they already do. The top 10 percent of earners pay 70 percent of the nation’s income taxes. That’s a lot of money. (By doing this), we’re attacking the job creators. When you become successful, does that mean once you’re there, you should be punished?”
November will mark one year since Ellmers’ election, and the former nurse told the students Thursday that her jump into politics came as a surprise to even herself. Ellmers said her initial decision to run came after attending a town hall meeting on health care in Lillington, just minutes from Campbell’s Buies Creek campus. After winning the Republican primary in spring of 2010, Ellmers defeated Etheridge in November despite being a relative unknown and despite coming in a distant second in campaign contributions.
She attributed her stance on President Obama’s health care plan as a big reason for her victory.
“From a law perspective, (the health care bill) is something you’ve spent time reviewing,” Ellmers told the students. “There’s a Constitutional level to it … is it Constitional to require someone to buy a product? Health care is a product … how do you mandate that everyone use that product?”
Following her 20-minute presentation, Ellmers field questions from the students, the majority of which dealt with the nation’s budget deficit. She also answered questions about student debt, the Defense of Marriage Act, highly paid CEOs who continue to reduce their workforces and her thoughts on the Republican primary (Ellmers said she thinks it will come down to Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, though she would like to see New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie enter the race).
Campbell Law School Dean Melissa Essary said she hoped Ellmers’ visit would not only be informative for students, but inspiring as well.
“Never doubt you can have an impact … not just on your community, but for your country,” Essary said. “Just look at Renee Ellmers. In 2009, she disagreed with what was being said at a town hall meeting. In 2011, she’s walking the halls of Congress.”
Andrew Norton, president of the Campbell Law Republicans, said he attended to show his support for Ellmers and to offer to help her campaign in any way.
“I was interested in her discussion about deregulating the tax structure,” Norton said. “I agree it’s preventing businesses from growing, and I like what she had to say about changing that.”
Ellmers told students she will have an internship opening at her Dunn office this year and encouraged those interested to apply. More information can be found at her campaign website, http://www.reneeforcongress.com.
Story: By Billy Liggett, Assistant Director for Publications
Photo: U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers visits with Campbell Law School Dean Melissa Essary before addressing law students Thursday in Raleigh (photo by Billy Liggett)