Republicans Offer Tough Solutions in 'CBS Town Hall' on the Economy

Key Republican leaders excoriated the Obama administration and Senate Democrats for crying the doom of joblessness and outsourcing, all the while sitting on their hands with no budget as the economy goes to pot. 

“We’ve got to get back to sound economic principles that work, instead of putting on another Band-Aid,” said Rep. Allen West of Florida. 

In the “CBS Town Hall” earlier this week, West, along with Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Tom Coburn of Maryland, responded to audience questions on the economy, offering concrete solutions and calling on their fellow lawmakers for immediate action. 

Washington’s bad habit is, we treat the symptoms of the problem rather than the problem,” Coburn said, referring to the President’s stimulus package passed in the wake of the 2008 economic downturn.   

“We don’t have any choice.  We have to eliminate $9.7 trillion out of the federal government’s expenditures over the next 10 years to not go in the tank.  Now, they can dispute that, but that’s the fact,” he said. 

Job creation and reducing the budget deficit were the primary themes discussed during the event. 

Audience member Crystal Grant, speaking, she said, for lower- and middle-class Americans who make sacrifices every day, asked the Republican lawmakers why they advocated tax breaks for wealthy Americans. 

Coburn responded that there would need to be compromise, but lower tax rates are generally good for the economy. 

“You’re taking away capital and saying that the government can spend the money better.  The fact is, if we were to lower tax rates, we could actually generate increased revenue,” he said. 

Coburn said the government could increase revenue by getting rid of ethanol tax credits and other subsidies and by eliminating programs—particularly economic stimulus programs—that are not effective.  He referred to 80 such programs out of 188, which, accounting for $6.6 million, have never been tested for effectiveness. 

All four Republican lawmakers on the panel criticized the federal government for creating conditions adverse to the growth of business. 

Haley spoke of her state several times as an economic model for the federal government. 

Although the economy is going down nationally, in South Carolina it is going up because the state is doing the right things, like tort reform and reform of Medicaid, Haley said. 

“Companies come with confidence to South Carolina.  We are fighting the unions every step of the way.  We are a strong right-to-work state and we’re going to stay that way.  That’s what gives a company confidence to come and say, ‘This is a state where we can make money.  This is a state where we can invest and know that we’re right to hire,’ ” she said. 

Haley criticized President Obama for allowing the National Labor Relations Board to sue Boeing for creating jobs in her state.  Situations like these create incentives for companies to do business overseas, she said. 

In South Carolina, the state government is cutting unemployment taxes for employers and cutting down some unemployment benefits, she said. 

“We are incentivizing those that are successful to want to be more successful,” she said. 

When asked why businesses seem to be sitting on capital instead of hiring the many unemployed, West said that government is not setting the conditions for the private sector to grow. 

“We’ve got a business tax rate of 35 percent, the highest in the world.  Who is going to be able to create a job in the United States of America, bring production and manufacturing back to this country, if you’re pushing them away?” he asked. 

When asked by CBS News business and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis why he focused so much on the budget deficit when Americans need jobs, Ryan responded, saying that the issues are interconnected.  Businesses see today’s deficit as tomorrow’s tax increases and interest rate increases, he said. 

“These massive deficits are showing businesses that there’s an uncertain future, an uncertain future they don’t want to invest in,” he said. 

“That is why a lot of businesses are sitting on capital.  I had a round table in Kenosha with business leaders last Thursday,” Ryan said.  “All of them are telling me the same thing.  ‘We don’t know what’s coming from government next.  So many new regulations coming down the pike.’ ” 

Coburn was very critical of his fellow senators for a focus on short-term political expediency. 

“We’ve got the lowest-level of votes in the Senate in 25 years.  People don’t vote because they don’t want to have the courage to defend it,” he said. 

Coburn even referred to instances where Senators introduced new legislation for programs that already exist.  There is hardly any oversight in the federal government, making for billions of dollars in duplication, he said. 

Haley said that the federal government should start with zero-base budgeting. 

“Ask, what do we have?  And go from there,” Haley said.