With President Obama stumping in Tampa on jobs and free-trade, Republican Mitt Romney’s team hosted a call conference call to hit the Democrat from every direction: His flip-flop on Colombian trade, ObamaCare, regulations, cutting the military tricare program, the Solyndra loan debacle, stalling the Keystone XL pipeline, the stimulus, his tax-the-rich Buffett Rule and his proposed spending plan that failed to garner a single Democratic vote in Congress.
On the call: U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz Balart of Miami, U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross of Lakeland and state Rep. and soon-to-be Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford of Wesley Chapel.
Their bottom line: The economy’s bad, the recovery’s slow and the president’s largely to blame.
But, wait, Florida’s economy is something to brag about for Republicans, isn’t it? After all, the Republican Party of Florida is boasting about all the good things that are happening under Gov. Rick Scott.
And that raises the questions: If the state government can be credited with the shape of the economy in the state, does it bear some blame for the problems? So what role does the state Legislature and government play?
“I think the state of Florida has a significant role to play in fostering the developing of private-sector jobs,” said Ross, a former state legislator in 2008 – when the economy in Florida and nationwide started to tank under a Republican Legislature and a Republican president.
Ross said he wants the federal government to reduce regulations and allow states to “be more creative about economic incentives.” While glossing over the fact he was in the Legislature when the economy started tanking, Ross recalled the halcyon budget days of 2006 when the Florida budget was in surplus after two vicious hurricane seasons.
“History has shown, in the Florida Legislature, Republicans have been very sensitive to job creation,” Ross said. “This governor has done a phenomenal job pulling through on his campaign promise of bringing more private sector jobs to the state of Florida. I would like to see Florida do more. I think we all would. I would like the federal government to do less so Florida could do more.”
Said Weatherford: “I don’t know if…you’ve ever tried to run into a 30 mph headwind, but that’s what it feels like to serve in the Legislature in Florida. We’re trying to create a peninsula of prosperity where job creation can and will flourish and were doing a good job of that under the governor’s leadership. We are running into a headwind of federal over-regulation by the executive powers, by the threat of potential tax increases by the President and, frankly, by ObamaCare and the uncertainty that that creates….The president and his party and frankly his principles have put a headwind in our face.”
So what are those regulations? Wasn’t President Bush in office when the economy went south? Were his regulations to blame? And, if the Obama stimulus is so bad, why did Weatherford vote for three state budgets stuffed with billions in stimulus money?
Alas, no follow-ups allowed on the conference call. Since each side wants to blame
Diaz-Balart gets a pass, of sorts, because he served in the Legislature long before things went bad. He was in Congress, however, during the Bush years when deficits weren’t such a slur.
On the conference call, he kept most of his comments focused on trade. A sample:
“It’s really ironic the president is kind’ve now trying to talk of trade. I created the Colombia caucus in the House of Representatives and the purpose was trying to promote free trade with Colombia.
“The reason it took five years to get done was because the first two years Speaker Pelosi refused to allow it to go to the floor. And then President Obama was holding it back...“The only reason it took this long was because President Obama to satisfy his needs….
“He held it back for 2.5 years of his administration. And in that time the United States lost an incredible amount of market share of business and frankly it meant a loss of jobs. In agriculture sales alone to Colombia, we lost over $1 billion....
“It’s ironic that now this president is out there trying to take credit for something that he frankly held back, was not supportive of and was obviously initiated by President Bush. Again, adding to the irony: President Bush in his terms started and got through and negotiated 10 trade deals. President Obama is trying to take credit for the ones that President Bush initiated and negotiated.
“How many new ones has he done? Where are the Obama trade deals that he initiated, that he started, that he’s working through? We’re still waiting to see one of those….”