Cochran: Peace and Prosperity Linked

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One of the country's chief discussion points is the budget. Does Sen. Thad Cochran believe we will ever see a truly balanced budget again?

"We certainly have an opportunity to get back to a balanced budget and it all hinges on economic growth, creating jobs, having people earning money, paying taxes," said Cochran. "The economic downturn has been the big problem and then the added expense of the war in Iraq has aggravated the problem but we are a strong country. We've got the strongest and biggest economy in the world, wonderful opportunities in the years ahead. The key to it all, of course, is a vibrant society of hard working people and we've got that."

Cochran said the outcome of the war against Iraq would be a positive factor for peace.

"I think it's something that makes it a more stable and peaceful environment and opportunity to contribute now in a more effective way to peace in the Middle East and that Persion Gulf region, which has been so volatile for so long," Cochran said.

Some people believe the net effect of the war will be to impress the rest of the world with America's muscle. The senator says that's not what the war is about.

"We're not there to claim a country as our own," said Cochran. "We're there to bring peace and stability to a region that can be a catalyst for peace throughout the world."

Cochran is Mississippi's senior senator. He is expected to assume the chairmanship of the key Senate Appropriations Committee next year.