Boxer, Fiorina disagree on recession cause

October 21, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina has closed the gap with Democratic incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer; the latest polls show it's a very tight race.

In the past 10 days, I sat down with both Boxer and Fiorina for one-on-one interviews in an effort to get a side-by-side comparison of where they stand.

Both Fiorina and Boxer see the slumping economy as the biggest issue, but a big difference between them is clearly illustrated by what they think caused the recession.

"Wall Street, Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, the regulators who were asleep at the switch and didn't do their jobs," said Fiorina.

"Eight years under George W. Bush of tax breaks for the wealthiest on the credit card, deregulation on steroids, Wall Street run wild," said Boxer.

And how would they get the economy going again? Boxer says Democrats are doing it.

"We saved this country from a great depression," said Boxer.

Boxer is talking primarily about the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act often referred to as the stimulus.

"The unemployment rate in California was 10.2 percent the day the stimulus bill passed. It's now 12.4 percent. In other words unemployment has gotten worse; clearly it's failed," said Fiorina.

"Well she's wrong and that's not just me speaking that's Mark Zandi," said Boxer.

Zandi was a senior economic advisor to John McCain when McCain was running for president and Fiorina was campaigning for McCain. Zandi said the stimulus worked.

"The stimulus did exactly what it was intended to do. It was to end the recession and jumpstart the economy, and it did that," said Zandi.

Zandi said the stimulus increased employment by 2.5 to 3 million jobs and the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said employment increased somewhere between 1.4 and 3.3 million jobs.

"It's interesting because the mayor of San Francisco has said that the stimulus bill was a failure, the controller of the city of Los Angeles has said the stimulus bill is a failure," said Fiorina.

What the controller of Los Angeles said this past summer was that of the $111 million the city received for public works, only 55 jobs had been created because 87 percent of the money hadn't yet been spent.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said, "It is not wrong to criticize parts of that stimulus as disproportionately saving jobs in the public sector and not stimulating private sector economic growth. That is not something I'm proud to say as a Democrat, it's not something I want to say, but it's true and I must say it."

"Have you seen the Caldecott Tunnel? Have you seen the 405, the 805?" asked Boxer. When asked if Newsom was wrong in saying 'we didn't do enough, we spent too much on services, not enough on job creation,' Boxer said, "My opinion is I would've supported a much bigger jobs section of building roads, I fought for that, I double it, I would've done more."

"What if instead we had helped small business owners out? What if we had done what I've suggested all along, give them a two-year payroll tax holiday for every unemployed worker they hire. Would that have made a bigger difference? I think so," said Fiorina.

Fiorina supports tax cuts for small businesses and so does Boxer. Where they sharply disagree is extending the Bush tax cuts for those making more than $200,000 a year.

"My view is I want to extend those tax cuts to the middle class, not to millionaires -- she wants to, not to billionaires -- she wants to," said Boxer.

"Well you know Washington D.C. has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. When somebody has a spending problem, you quit sending them money it's not their money to spend," said Fiorina.


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