At a public hearing Thursday sponsored by Rep. Eric Cantor and the Republican Working Group, House Republicans solicited input from a panel of economic experts and executives — including former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Ebay CEO Meg Whitman — on what Congress should do to help solve the economic crisis.
Romney emphasized that any stimulus package needed to show a commitment to reform entitlement programs, such as social security and Medicare, since they have become a major liability. He saved his strongest language, however, for card check legislation which would eliminate secret union ballots in workplace, saying that would have a “devastating impact” — short and long term — on the economy.
“Card check is a bad idea under any circumstance,” Romney said. “And in these circumstances, it would be calamitous.”
Whitman said any sensible stimulus plan will focus on small business and wants to see an end to the lending freeze for this sector. She suggested that a small business lending plan, in partnership with the private banking community, could be worked out with the small business administration. She also said one criteria for any project in the stimulus package should be whether it will create sustainable jobs.
Both also said permanent tax cuts would help stimulate the economy, with Whitman pointing out that permanent cuts work — and rebate checks will not be sufficient — because people can plan around them.
“The best medicine for a sick economy is permanent tax relief,” said Romney, who recommended eliminating tax on savings for middle-class Americans.
Whitman, as well as Romney, wanted to see investment in the military, since that is “the branch of government that is performing well.”
“With any new spending on the agenda, I believe that we Republicans should make it clear that this is not going to be a parade of pork,” Romney said. “Smart regulation is good, dumb regulation is bad. The right course is to make the legislation we have effective.”
Rep. Paul Ryan asked what figure they would ideally like to see business tax rates. Both said around 25 percent, which would make America competitive globally. Right now, the rate is 35 percent.
Romney and Whitman took questions from the representatives themselves and also addressed topics that concerned constituents submitted to congressional representatives via video.
“I actually think the decision to form a working group of this nature and putting someone with such extraordinary intellectual capacity as Eric Cantor in charge is a really wise move,” Romney told HUMAN EVENTS. “It brought a lot of media attention and public visibility to the fact that Republicans are very engaged in the stimulus process and that we want to make sure it’s an actual stimulus, not a power grab on the part of the federal government.”
Romney said the Obama administration has not reached out to him personally to ask for his input and that he doesn’t anticipate being asked to hold any formal position. Romney said his future plans to help promote the economic ideas discussed will include meeting with legislative leaders and speaking to influential thought groups within the party — and, of course, writing op-eds.
“I keep reading articles that say America’s stature is slipping,” Romney said. “We can’t afford that. The world needs a strong America, and I’m gonna be speaking out about ways to strengthen our country.”