Rep. Pete Hoekstra on the Economy and the Stimulus

Rep. Pete Hoekstra on the Economy and the Stimulus

By John King, USA - July 15, 2010

KING: The president was on the road for a few hours today in one of the places hardest hit by the punishing recession. The unemployment rate in Michigan still above 13 percent and today's trip was a snap shot of the White House political argument in this tough mid-term election year.

Just four in 10 Americans approve of how the president is handling the economy and many Americans don't think the nearly trillion dollar White House stimulus plan was worth it. Add in high unemployment not only in Michigan but across the country and history suggests it could be a punishing year for the president's party when voters pick a new Congress this fall.

But the president wants you to think again. Out in Holland, Michigan he highlighted a new factory that will make batteries for electric cars. It was financed in part by $151 million in stimulus money, money the president says would not exist if Republicans had their way.


OBAMA: There are some folks who want to go back and think that we should return to the policies that helped to lead to this recession. Some of them made the political calculation that it's better to obstruct than to lend a hand. They said no to tax cuts. They said no to small business loans. They said no to clean energy projects. Now, it doesn't stop them from being at ribbon cuttings (ph).


KING: In fact among those on hand for the ribbon cutting was the local congressman, Pete Hoekstra, he's a Republican and a Republican who voted no on the stimulus funding. He is running for governor in this year's campaign. He joins us from Grand Rapids.

Congressman Hoekstra, let me just with that question. Isn't it at least a tad hypocritical for you to be on hand for this event at a ribbon cutting at a factory that's being funded in part by stimulus money that you said was a bad idea?

REP. PETE HOEKSTRA (R), MICHIGAN: No, not at all. I was invited by L.G. (ph), the company that benefited from that. It's an honor to have L.G. (ph) moving into our community, moving in with federal tax dollars, much of that money came either from the citizens of West Michigan or their kids will end up paying for the debt. No it's not at all inappropriate to be there and to join with people in our community to welcome this new company into our community.

KING: Is it any evidence on your part now that perhaps that vote was a mistake, that stimulus money is helping creating jobs in a state that still has a 13 plus percent unemployment rate?

HOEKSTRA: No, absolutely not. Since the passage of the economic stimulus bill our unemployment rate in Michigan has gone up. The number of jobs employed, the payroll in my hometown has gone down by 2,000 people. This stimulus bill has not helped my community or helped the state.

KING: And yet the outgoing governor, Democrat Granholm, she says without this money there would not be thousands of jobs being created at new battery plants, just these battery plants around Michigan and there are other ones in Massachusetts, in North Carolina, out in California. Would you prefer then that the federal stimulus money not come to these factories and that these batteries be made and therefore the jobs be in Japan or South Korea?

HOEKSTRA: I think what we have to do is we've got to overall improve our economic climate on a federal level and at the state level. These jobs probably would not have come to Michigan without the stimulus money because we've got the worst tax code in America. It is expensive. It is complicated. We are over regulated. We've created an anti-jobs environment in Michigan. I wish the governor rather than looking for incentives was out trying to create a better business climate for the state of Michigan and we'd all be better off.

KING: Help me understand how you would approach that then. Is it that all federal money like this is bad? The federal government has loan guarantees or direct assistance leveraged with some private money. Is that a bad idea? Government money leveraged like that for example if you're elected governor -- you're running for governor in this year campaign -- would you do away with any Michigan economic development funding that said did the same thing. Here is a piece of seed money from the state. You have to match it with private money and create jobs right here at home?

HOEKSTRA: I would get away with most of those types of economic incentives. This is not seed money. This was $150 million paired up with $150 million of additional tax breaks at the state and local levels. Just before the ground breaking I talked with another local company in Michigan. They said, Pete, we're creating as many if not more jobs than what this plant will create and we're doing it with all of our own money. We're not getting one dollar of federal money. Why should this company get $300 million of tax breaks from the federal and the state level and this company gets zero? You know, it's an unfair system where the government is picking winners and losers.

KING: Then why not stay away from the event today and say I'm sorry I'd like to be there but I can't lend my name to a factory that I think is getting money from a source that should not exist?

HOEKSTRA: My constituents, the new company coming into my community, they wanted me to be there. They invited me to be there. I'm going to respect the office of the president. I respectfully disagree with his policies, but I respect the office. It's a great honor to have the president come into our community, you know, you know what we need is we need that type of civility in politics if we're going to address the tough issues that face us as a nation.

KING: Another one of the tough issues facing you and your colleagues here in Washington and it could face you if you win this race for governor this year is what about help to the states for teachers and firefighters and police officers? There was some of that money in the stimulus program and as you know there is a debate in Washington now about whether states like Michigan should get billions more from the federal government because they're still having a lot of states including yours is still having budget problems. Do you think that there should be more money for states, for teachers and firefighters and police officers or is it time that states figure out how to do this by themselves?

HOEKSTRA: Yes, don't ask Washington. Don't ask the federal government to do what states should do. States should hire their firefighters, their police officers, and their teachers. Get rid of the bureaucracy and the mandates. Imagine how much money would stay in the states if we didn't have to fill out all of the federal mandates under "no child left behind" or the money under race to the top, the mandates there. Cut bureaucracy and red tape. Make the system more efficient. The federal government should focus on what its constitutional responsibilities are. The states should focus on what their constitutional responsibilities are and we'd all be better off.

KING: Congressman Pete Hoekstra is a Republican candidate for governor in the state of Michigan. Sir, we thank you for your time today.

HOEKSTRA: Hey, great, thank you.


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John King, USA

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