U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt speaks to local business leaders at Lynch's Furniture in St. Robert.
SAINT ROBERT, Mo. (July 8, 2010) — Speaking Wednesday afternoon to local small business owners gathered at Lynch’s Furniture on Missouri Avenue, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt said he should be the Republican nominee to succeed Kit Bond in the U.S. Senate because he’s a friend and supporter of small businesses.
“Everybody seems to understand that small businesses drive the economy, but nobody seems to want to do what is necessary to power that engine up,” Blunt said. “Why is the government spending so much more money than it ever has before and why are we not worried about who is going to pay that off? … We cannot continue to spend this kind of money.”
Blunt told his audience that President Barack Obama attempts to help American economic recovery have actually done more harm than good.
“We’re tired of seeing this level of spending,” Blunt said. “There is a growing sense of embarrassment about not wanting to be one of the first generations of Americans who instead of wanting to leave wealth to our kids try to leave debt to our kids. To have whatever we want to have and give them the bill is the wrong thing to do.”
Blunt didn’t get a “free pass” from a purely friendly audience. Sue Williams, the retired co-owner of a Buckhorn restaurant, said few elected officials come back from Washington without enriching themselves.
“Everybody that goes to Washington takes care of themselves first,” Williams said. “We need to stop playing games with policies and priorities that aren’t really good for the whole country.”
Blunt said it’s not true that all national level politicians do well financially, and said he knows a number of people who leave Washington with less money than they brought.
However, Blunt said the main focus of people elected to national level office should be on core national issues, not matters that can be handled better by other levels of government or by people outside government entirely.
“Let’s get the government back to what the government should be doing instead of what everybody else should be doing,” Blunt said. “The local government is going to fix your sidewalk better than somebody a thousand miles away is going to do.”
Even legitimate national priorities for spending can often be run more efficiently, Blunt said.
“We’ve got to get this spending under control and that means everything on the table, even defense. I think the primary responsibility of the federal government is to defend the country but we ought to be doing that in the smartest possible way,” Blunt said. “The government is the last place left in America that believes that you show how much you care about something based on how much you spend on it rather than on the results.”
Despite being just minutes from the main gate of Fort Leonard Wood, which has benefitted greatly from federal spending priorities led by U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton, a Democrat who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, nobody in the audience questioned Blunt on military spending issues.
However, local commercial developer Randy Becht acknowledged that Fort Leonard Wood has provided a cushion for the local economy.
“We’re in somewhat of an economic development oasis here with things that are going on at the Fort,” Becht said. “But we can’t get the companies, these corporations that might come to an area like this, and getting the financing is just tough however you do it.”
Blunt did receive numerous questions about health care and banking policies, especially on how they affect small businesses and small community-based banks.
“The best thing to do with this Obama heath care thing is to repeal it. It won’t work,” Blunt said. “It will send insurance rates through the roof and the best thing to do is repeal it.”
As an alternative to benefit small businesses that can’t afford to provide insurance for their employees, Blunt suggested allowing businesses and individuals to buy insurance across state lines or perhaps through an insurance pool sponsored by organizations like the National Federation of Independent Business.
Don Mayhew, a self-employed surveyor and engineer from Crocker, asked why alternative methods weren’t used to stimulate the economy.
“Why wasn’t a payroll tax holiday considered for a stimulus rather than a trillion dollars and spending it on special interest groups?” Mayhew asked. “You’re talking about something that would have instantaneously stimulated the economy.”
Blunt agreed that a payroll tax holiday, a 100 percent depreciation of capital expenses, and other ideas could have worked to stimulate the economy, but said the $800 billion federal spending plan happened in 2009 because President Barack Obama has a fundamentally different view of how to help the economy than most Republicans and many rural Americans.
“It was a terrible plan and it was a plan that relied largely on one-time government spending … This was about government jobs, unfortunately, not private-sector jobs. Government jobs don’t pay the bill; government jobs are the bill,” Blunt said. “I was totally opposed to what they did, vigorously and vocally opposed. Eighteen months later, the economy is in worse shape than it was then. The only difference is we now owe about $800 billion.”
Sarah Steelman, a Rolla Republican who was previously the Missouri state treasurer before she ran in and lost the 2008 Republican primary for governor, said uncertainty about the consequences of the $800 billion increase to the deficit and possible health care insurance expenses has led to crippling small business expansion.
“What we’re hearing everywhere today throughout the state from small business owners is there is too much uncertainty in the economy to many any decisions about expanding their businesses and creating jobs,” Steelman said. “We have an administration that doesn’t understand economics, how the economy works, how you create jobs and wealth.”
Blunt concurred, and said much of what the president and congressional leaders have done has been counterproductive and actually damaging, due in large measure to centralizing power in Washington.
“With this current growth in power its like any circumstance they get, they figure out how to do the worst possible thing instead of what you would ordinarily do to create jobs,” Blunt said. “It’s a different view of the economy, it’s a different view of the country, it’s a view that government knows the answer to everything better than we do … It’s like an administration full of people who are totally out of touch.”
The result has been that a number of Democrats have balked at accepting Obama’s plans on issues such as “cap and trade” legislation, which is intended to reduce greenhouse gases and stop global warming by making it more difficult to be involved in industries such as coal-fired electric plants which produce greenhouse gases.
“(Cap and trade) is a terrible thing for the country and an even worse thing for us (in Missouri). It’s a tax on coal-based utilities and 80 percent of our electricity comes from coal … Utility bills would virtually double at home and at work,” Blunt said. “The untold story of Washington in the last 18 months has been that the bipartisan vote has been the no vote, over and over again: 34 Democrats voted with all the Republicans against the healthcare bill, 40 Democrats voted with almost all of the Republicans against cap and trade.”
Charles Bassett, a Dixon-area residential developer who also has numerous other businesses, asked Blunt what should be done on other issues important to rural America.
“Besides being a builder, I am a farmer, and agricultural trade is very important to us,” Blunt said. “Having markets fairly opened to us is a good thing. We are the most competitive in lots of things, including agriculture … Extreme environmentalists and the labor unions are incredibly big backers in that party, and we all know it.”
Mayhew said the results of Democratic policies include more unemployment, not less — and some Democrats don’t seem to mind.
“When the Speaker of the House says that unemployment benefits are what stimulates the economy, you don’t have to be a genius to know that something is wrong,” Mayhew said.
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