What issue would be your top priority if you were elected to represent North Carolinians in the Senate?
Creating jobs and restoring our economy are the top concerns for North Carolinians, and they will be my top priorities as a U.S. Senator. I have proposed comprehensive and detailed plans to address economic issues, which are available on my website, www.calfornc.com.
In the short term, we must get businesses hiring again. Spurring small business growth means providing tax breaks for companies that hire more workers and ending the freeze on small business lending. In the medium term, we must fix our failed trade policies. Long before the current economic collapse, our state was hurting because of tax breaks that encourage companies to ship jobs overseas, bad trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA that must be renegotiated, and currency manipulation and unfair trade practices by China. A recent report showed that North Carolina has lost almost 100,000 jobs to China alone in the last decade. In the long term, rebuilding our economy means investing in education. We must prepare children for the 21st century workforce, and do so in a way that encourages innovation. Innovation is essential for economic success, and a high quality education is the best vehicle we have for passing innovation from one generation to the next.
This year, North Carolinians are worried about the economy, specifically finding and keeping jobs. What measures would you take as a U.S. senator to spur job creation?
I have proposed a comprehensive job-creation plan with a number of specific measures to spur economic growth. They include:
- Tax credits for small businesses. The federal government should offer a tax credit for a percentage of each new employee’s salary over a multi-year period. For example, 25% of the first year’s salary, 15% of the second, and 10% of the third. Congress and the Small Business Administration must exercise oversight of the credit to ensure that the program operates without waste and inefficiency.
- Cutting capital gains tax for small businesses. We should also temporarily eliminate the capital gains tax on small business investment, which can boost growth among small businesses, and will, in turn, promote indirect economic benefits to the communities around them. As small businesses purchase real estate, invest in equipment, and hire employees, the effects will be felt all around them. Rather than providing tax benefits to companies that ship our jobs overseas, let’s put our money where it really counts – on America’s main streets.
- Bonus manufacturing tax credit. Despite the fact that American manufacturing has slowed in the past decade, the industry remains a bulwark of the American economy, employing about one-tenth of all U.S. workers responsible for over 12% of total gross domestic product. Economists agree that manufacturing has a higher “multiplier effect” than other sectors of the economy, which is precisely what our country needs. We need to create a new bonus manufacturing tax credit to reward companies that research and manufacture their products in the United States. In 2007, 71% of the federal Research and Development tax credit was collected by U.S. manufacturers. The bonus manufacturing tax credit would build on the R&D credit by offering an incentive to those companies engaging in R&D to manufacture their products here in the United States. The added tax credit can be put towards hiring workers.
- Extending tax credits for homebuyers. Finally, by extending homebuyers’ tax credits through 2010, our federal government can not only help America’s middle class achieve the dream of homeownership, but can also provide a boon to construction jobs, creating up to 350,000 construction jobs nationally.
There's been a lot of talk about budgets and deficits lately. What do you believe should be the nation's fiscal priorities? Is there any area of current spending that you think should not be a priority? Are there any areas that you think should have a higher priority?
I believe we need to return sanity to our federal budget. Congress must restrain unnecessary spending, root out inefficiencies and loopholes in the tax code, enforce "pay-as-you-go" budgeting and, most importantly, reignite job growth in the economy. America’s record deficits are caused by both overspending and decreased revenue. I would replace the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of Americans with tax cuts for middle class working families. We must be careful in the very short term to ensure that the government is sufficiently priming the pump to help businesses create jobs, so that we exit the recession as quickly as possible but avoid setting off inflation and growth-stifling higher interest rates.
One area I would cut spending is the 2.4 million contractors added to the federal payroll by the Bush administration. Private contractors frequently come with diminished accountability, greater gaps in service and higher costs. Given that spending on government contracts more than doubled between 2002 and 2008, we have to ensure that companies are bidding competitively for these lucrative contracts. Taxpayer dollars are at stake and, according to estimates, the reform will save up to $50 billion annually. Corruption has no place when we’re spending Americans’ hard-earned money. I have considerable personal experience with private contractors from my Army service in Iraq and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award for work to hold them accountable for fraud and misconduct. I have also supported closing a number of corporate tax loopholes that encourage outsourcing of jobs and allow companies to avoid the same capital gains taxes individuals and families must pay. By eliminating waste and inefficiency in the way the federal government does business, we can invest in what’s really important to our economic recovery: American jobs.
Trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA have sent countless jobs overseas and forced many manufacturers to close their doors forever. The United States must level the playing field and renegotiate these unfair trade deals to include better labor, safety and environmental standards. We must also end China's ability to take American jobs and technology while selling us products that endanger the health and well-being of our families. As long as these trade deals are allowed to exist in their current condition, American businesses will find it increasingly difficult to hire locally.