The National Association of Manufacturers hosted five Republican presidential candidates at a forum this morning in Pella. Iowa’s governor was one of the forum’s panelists and he asked Texas Governor Rick Perry about the federal regulation which requires a certain level of ethanol be produced in the United States.
“Would you support retaining the renewable energy standard which has helped us reduce our dependency on foreign oil?” Governor Terry Branstad asked.
Perry replied: “I happen to believe the federal government needs to be completely out of the energy business, picking winners and losers…Whether you’re in the oil and gas business and the tax credits that they get, whether you’re in the ethanol business and the renewable fuel standard, or whether you’re in the wind side — from Washington, D.C., I do not think it is the federal government’s business to be picking winners and losers.”
Each candidate was given 15 minutes to answer questions focused on the economy, trade, taxes and regulations. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum cited the “Occupy Wall Street” movement as he made his argument for complete elimination of the federal corporate income tax on manufacturers.
“They’re concerned that you know sort of the middle of America is being hollowed out, that the wealth that’s being created by the innovators is not trickling down, if you will, to those who would make those products, and so I’ve actually focused my tax plan on manufacturing,” Santorum said.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul expressed support for the Occupy Wall Street protesters who share his dislike for the Federal Reserve, but Paul disagrees with protesters who suggest college loan debt needs to be reduced or eliminated.
“We should give ’em jobs so they can start paying that debt down,” Paul said. “That’s where our real problem is.”
Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann said the biggest drag on the economy is the level of uncertainty among business owners.
“They have no idea what’s going to come out of Washington, D.C. when they wake up in the morning and that’s why we need to have an immediate moratorium on regulations. It’s killing us and we also need for the president to make some statements that he’s going to bring some certainty back into the regulatory world,” Bachmann said, “and for taxes, that there won’t be new taxes.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich highlighted his proposal to require Americans who’re getting unemployment benefits to sign-up for a job training program.
“You have 99 weeks of unemployment, that’s an associate degree, In 99 weeks, you can train virtually anybody. You establish the principle, ‘You do not give people money for doing nothing,'” Gingrich said.
One of the panelists asked where the money would come from to pay for that training. Gingrich responded: “You go to the businesses. You say to every business in this country, ‘We’re going to provide you free personnel. You can provide distance learning.'”
After the forum concluded, Governor Branstad suggested candidates Mitt Romney and Herman Cain made a mistake by skipping the event.\
“They missed out on the opportunity to address the number one issue in this campaign and that is creating jobs,” Branstad said. “…It was not a situation where (there were) a lot of gotcha questions, but it was really an open-ended opportunity to talk about reducing regulatory and tax burdens and revitalizing the American economy.”
Branstad told reporters he hasn’t closely followed recent revelations that Herman Cain’s previous employer paid cash settlements to two women who accused Cain of sexual harassment.
“Iowans are pretty fair-minded people and just because somebody makes an accusation and anybody that’s in a high-profile position (has) the potential to have people make these kind of accusations,” Branstad said. “I think Iowans will, you know, carefully look at the real situation and not jump to any conclusion.”
Today’s National Association of Manufacturers forum will be rebroadcast tonight on Iowa Public Television at 8 o’clock.