EDWARDSBURG — Looking for improvement in the economy? It’s not likely to happen over the next 14 months, as President Barack Obama and lawmakers occupying U.S. House and Senate seats focus their attention on keeping their jobs, says Pete Hoekstra.
There isn’t likely either, he said, to be significant accomplishments in any area in Washington until the new Congress is seated.
“I think you’ll see a new president in 2013 and a new Congress with a certain energy to get things done,’’ the former congressman told a group of some 40 area residents during a stop Tuesday at the Ontwa Township Hall.
Hoekstra’s plan is to be among those lawmakers looking to reverse the country’s direction. The Holland, Mich., conservative is the front-runner for the GOP nomination to challenge next year two-term Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan.
But he knows his early lead in a field of hopefuls is tenuous at best, as he also led current Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder for a period in 2010 before Snyder claimed the GOP nomination. As Hoekstra said in Niles in April 2010, a pre-election lead means only that he’s wearing a target on his back.
Looking to make his edge stand up, Hoekstra spoke just briefly about himself and instead used his 90-minute allotment to answer questions. He was critical of Obama, saying he’s “very concerned’’ about the president’s international dealings, and he quickly defused an issue involving Social Security by calling for open discussion on the program’s problems.
“The No. 1 thing is, is the system sustainable? If not, how do we fix it?’’ he said. “I’m all for cutting spending, for reforming entitlements, but if we expect to cut the budget we need more. We need to grow the economy and put people back to work in high-quality, high-paying jobs.’’
As if to show he’s willing to buck the trend in Washington, Hoekstra pointed out he was one of few Republicans who voted against President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind legislation. Also, he said he served on the budget committee when the federal government briefly shut down in the mid-1990s.
“We didn’t cut spending but we slowed down (spending) growth,’’ he said, promising to seek spending cuts once more as a senator.
He said he’d work to give states the authority to control K-12 education, highway construction and Medicaid, thus eliminating the need for various federal departments. Also, the former chair manufacturer executive said he’d turn to private enterprise to develop the country’s natural resources and he vowed to develop trade agreements that put the U.S. on an equal footing with countries it trades with.
Regarding the Environmental Protection Agency, it has too much latitude and needs to be reigned in so it functions within a certain framework, he said. As an example of it overstepping its authority, he said it had no business classifying carbon dioxide a pollutant.
Staff writer Lou Mumford: