N.C. Rep. Walter Jones talks TARP with America’s Right
I woke up this morning still chuckling about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s mind-bogglingly feeble attempt to rationalize the stimulative nature of spending more than $100 million on contraceptives via her rapidly ballooning $825 billion “stimulus” proposal. As maddening as it may be that Democrats seem to think that spending hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer money somehow will “reduce costs” and propel us out of this economic downturn, the total abandonment of common sense is almost funny. If it weren’t so downright dangerous, it would be hilarious.
My sarcastic grin turned to a scowl, however, upon reading that Citigroup was in the process of purchasing a brand-new, $50 million corporate jet with the very funds provided to them by taxpayers like you and me thanks to last October’s Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. There’s nothing funny, after all, about the overt misappropriation of taxpayer money, no matter who does it.
This, along with Citigroup’s prior refusal to back out of a commitment to purchase naming rights to the New York Mets’ new ballpark for $400 million, just reinforces the notion that our federal government should pull out of the banking business rather than increase its sphere of influence, that we should not bail anybody out, and that the now-worn argument that entities like Citigroup are somehow “too big to fail” is a slap to the face of our nation’s founders and to free market principles in general.
If the Democrats’ handling of and plans for our country’s economic downturn has any silver lining, it’s that we’re finally seeing the cream of the conservative movement rising to the top. True conservatives in both the House and Senate such as Sen. Jim DeMint, Rep. Mike Pence, Rep. Ron Paul, Rep. Spencer Bachus and Rep. Walter Jones are among many–though not nearly enough–who have thankfully stood up for all of us, and stood up for conservative principles.
Rep. Jones, who represents the 3rd District of North Carolina, voted against the bailout in October and again against releasing the leftover $350 billion in TARP funds last week. I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with him late this afternoon and, while my need to finish work and get to class was such that I was forced to cut things short, I hope to speak with him again soon. That being said, here are the highlights of our [unfortunately] brief conversation:
America’s Right: After accepting billions of taxpayer dollars back in the latter months of last year, Citibank refused to abandon plans to spend $400 million to acquire naming rights to the New York Mets’ new ballpark, and just recently reportedly paid $50 million for a new corporate jet. Is this the kind of behavior, the same behavior seen by executives at Merrill Lynch (who spent millions renovating office space) and at AIG (who went on expensive corporate retreats) which you had in mind when voting against this disastrous piece of legislation?
Rep. Walter Jones: Yes. It absolutely infuriates me on behalf of the taxpayers in this country. We knew there were no checks and balances with the first bill and, to me, it’s just unfair to the taxpayer what has happened since.
I’m a good friend of Ron Paul, and I consider him a good friend of mine. He and I agree on so much. Listen, I’m just an average-income American who happens to be a Congressman, and I resent the fact that this attitude has taken over Washington. A lot of this blame goes to former President Bush — I was one of the small number of Republicans that voted against him on the Medicare Part D, which was the beginning of the end for President Bush becoming one of the bigger spenders in American history.
In terms of the bailout bill, the banks that failed should have failed. Why in the world, when these banks’ greed got them in trouble, should the average taxpayer in eastern North Carolina–and should the average taxpayer in the 3rd District where I’m from and where the average income is $38,000 to $39,000 each year–bail out the fat-cats on Wall Street? Why should we pay for their mistakes? Listen, I’m sorry that people made those mistakes, but they have no one to blame by themselves. I have no sympathy for someone who, smart enough to know the difference between right and wrong and good and bad, consciously made the bad decision, the wrong decision
It’s not fair to younger generations of Americans. Jeff, you sound like a young guy, many of the people on my staff are younger — well, this money is going to have to be paid back eventually, or else China and the U.A.E. may end up saying “no,” saying that they don’t want our paper anymore. We’re saddling our future generations with the consequences of bad decisions made today.
AR: What can we learn from the way the TARP funds have been misappropriated and misused, as we now turn our attention to Nancy Pelosi’s $825 billion “stimulus” package, which contains millions and millions of dollars for programs which will arguably have little or no stimulative effect on the economy?
WJ: Its going to be interesting as things go along because, I think, we need to look at the effects of any package. I had have two people in my office today from an economic council in my district; their concern was that, if the stimulus package doesn’t have money for counties and projects–public and private–within the counties, it won’t do a single thing to stimulate the economy.
If there’s no money coming from federal government to immediately help infrastructure like roads and bridges, then I don’t know how its going to help anybody.
AR: We’re going to be spending $600 million on preparations for universal healthcare, $200 million on rehabilitating the National Mall. Is there anything you specifically would like to see come from the so-called “stimulus” package, anything we should spend money on?
WJ: One thing I would like to see, one thing that this country has a responsibility and an obligation to, is our wounded veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with injuries and with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These people, we should take care of.
A little while back, I went along with Congressman Gene Taylor from Mississippi to visit wounded troops at Walter Reed. I’ll never forget this one young man; as we came into the room to sit down with him and talk with him, his mom comes in at about 41 or 42 years old and has this look in her eye of “who are these people?” Well, we introduced ourselves and she looked us right in the eye and asked, “my son 21 years old, can you promise that the government will take care of him when he’s 40?”
One of us said to her that this country should take care of him. Given his sacrifice and his dedication, of course we should. But wouldn’t it be better if we could have said “we will?”
The war in Iraq is another example of problems that are not Republican problems or Democrat problems, but problems for all of us, same as the economy. We never should have gone into Iraq — if we spent the money we spent in Iraq in Afghanistan and on taking care of our wounded veterans, we’d all be better off. If we exercise sound judgment and common sense with the economy, we may be able to avert disaster.
AR: Congressman Jones, when does it end? How do we change this mentality of extending your hand for a bailout instead of rolling up your sleeves and getting to work?
WJ: Good question. This mentality, I think it’s going to get worse before better — and we’re going to realize that you cannot borrow and spend what you don’t earn.
This mentality of “throw money at it” — it won’t work. You cannot buy your way into prosperity. It just cannot happen. And at some point in time, the severity of the problems facing America will get so bad that we’ll understand that we shouldn’t be taking care of the world. Sending jobs overseas, free trade stuff, it needs to stop.
Someone has to tell President Obama, and he has to say it himself, that we need to take care of America before we take care of the world. That’s what we need to hear out of an American leader, and that mentality will work its way down to Raleigh, NC and help us all.