Today, Mitt Romney campaigned in Virginia at a company called Carter Machinery. I just got off the phone with the company’s CEO, James Parker, who spoke at the event, and he shared some views that might seem surprising.
Parker favors heavy government spending on infrastructure, which he sees as a valid means of creating jobs, favors paying for such spending with a gas tax, sees the federal stimulus spending in his area as a plus, and favors government investment in alternative energy.
To be sure, Parker was also very critical of Obama, and said he thinks Obama’s specific stimulus bill and leadership had failed. But his views on the proper role of government spending in securing the country’s future suggest the debate is a bit more complex than Romney’s soundbites would have you believe.
I called Parker because he’d been quoted in a local paper saying Obama was hurting his business because he’d failed to get a highway bill passed, which seemed suggestive of more heterodox views on government than Romney subscribes to. Also, House Republicans are blocking that bill.
“I believe that there’s got to be an economic plan to take care of our roads and our bridges,” Parker said. “Half a trillion over five years — over all of the United States.” Parker disagreed with Obama’s prroposal to pay for his own infrastructure plan with a surtax on the wealthy, but he did say he favors a “gas tax” to pay for it.
“You have to have tax revenues to make it happen,” he said of his hope for a massive infrastructure plan.
Parker stresed that such projects shouldn’t be launched to create jobs as an end in itself, but said such government spending does, in fact, create jobs and that this is an additional positive. ”If we fully fund a surface transportation bill, and put that in place, you are going to create jobs,” he said. “It will create jobs and that’s a good thing.”
Though Parker said he thought Obama’s stimulus was poorly designed, he said he supports the stimulus spending in his area, and suggested some of it may be going to projects his company services. There’s been “a lot of road paving throughout the territory. A lot of that was funded by stimulus dollars,” he said. “We support the contractors that do the work that may be getting stimulus money.”
At one point Parker volunteered that higher gas prices might encourage less fuel consumption. I asked Parker if his support for government spending on the country’s future extended to alternative energy.
“To remain globally competitive, we need to be innovating in a wide variety of areas, energy being a very important one,” he said, arguing that.”continuing to invest in finding those alternative energies” would be in the country’s long term strategic interest. How would that be paid for? A mix of “private and government funds.”