Kuster ties Bass to Bush

Last modified: Tuesday, October 05, 2010
President Obama and former president George W. Bush are not on the ballot in 2010. But listening to 2nd District congressional candidates Ann McLane Kuster and Charlie Bass talk, they might as well be.

At a Nashua Rotary Club forum yesterday, Kuster, a Democrat, tried to tie Bass, a former Republican congressman, to Bush's economic policies.

'I am disappointed that during (Bass's) years in Washington he was part of the problem that drove the economy into the ditch,' Kuster said. 'Congressman Bass and his colleagues during the Bush years voted to end the financial regulations that safeguarded our market ever since the Great Depression.'

But Bass responded that it is President Obama who is harming the country today - through his expansion of health care and through government spending. '(Kuster) was quick to criticize my record in Congress over a 12-year period,' Bass said. 'But for 25 minutes, we didn't hear one single word about what has happened in this country since the beginning of last year.'

Kuster and Bass spoke to a crowd of about 75 Rotarians and guests - including state Sen. Bette Lasky and Executive Councilor Deb Pignatelli, both Nashua Democrats. Each candidate had 25 minutes to speak and answer questions. The event was one of five forums and debates that Bass and Kuster are participating in before the general election. The next one will be an Oct. 14 debate sponsored by AARP and the Concord Chamber of Commerce.

With the recession weighing on the minds of voters, both Kuster and Bass focused on what they would do to fix the economy and help small businesses.

Both also acknowledged the problem of a large deficit spurred by government spending.

Kuster said she has spent her career - as an attorney, lobbyist and volunteer for nonprofits - bringing people together to solve problems. As congresswoman, Kuster said she would bring people together to create jobs.

'There is no silver bullet that's going to fix the economy overnight,' Kuster said. 'Not the deepest, deepest tax cut or the biggest, biggest stimulus.'

But Kuster said she would support several initiatives to help the economy recover. She would eliminate the capital gains tax on small-business investment. She would increase lending to small businesses. And she would help create incentives for companies that create jobs domestically.

Kuster said she would encourage further reform of Wall Street to make 'the big banks pay back those bailouts in full.' She would get government spending under control by 'ending the pork projects, the earmarks and the big, massive subsidies in oil and gas.'

She would freeze congressional pay until the deficit is erased.

Kuster criticized Bass for voting for subsidies for gas and oil companies and said she wanted to 'level the playing field' to make room for new jobs in renewable energy.

One questioner asked Kuster about the effects of the recently passed financial regulation bill on small banks that face new regulatory reporting requirements.

Kuster said she wanted to ensure that small banks 'are not buried in regulations actually intended for big banks.'

Kuster said she would try to address the difficulty that small banks have accessing credit by having the Small Business Administration increase its lending. She blamed some of the trouble on cuts to the Small Business Administration budget made during the Bush administration.

She similarly blamed problems with outsourcing on tax loopholes passed by the Bush administration, which were aimed at helping American multinational corporations but resulted in giving tax breaks to companies that send jobs overseas.

'Congressman Bass and his colleagues in Washington voted for those tax loopholes that would reward companies that shipped jobs overseas,' Kuster said.

Bass defended his credentials as a fiscal conservative and a supporter of alternative energy. In his eight years on the House Budget Committee, there were four surplus budgets, he said. On the House Commerce Committee, he worked on alternative energy issues, and he has consulted for renewable energy companies since leaving Congress.

Bass said he got into the race to oppose the debt and deficit that have been growing under President Obama. 'The entire budget of the United States in 1995, the first year I served in Congress, was just a hair bigger than the deficit this year,' Bass said.

Bass characterized Obama's $787 billion stimulus package as a failure.

And he criticized Congress for adjourning last week without passing a budget or appropriations bill, or acting on the extension of Bush's tax cuts.

Obama and the Democrats have favored extending the tax cuts for the middle class but not on individuals earning more than $200,000 or families earning more than $250,000. Republicans favor extending the tax cuts for everyone.

Bass warned that if no action is taken during the next congressional session - after the election but before the new Congress is sworn in - every New Hampshire family would see a tax increase. 'This is no time to be raising taxes in the teeth of a stuttering economy,' Bass said.

Bass defended the Republican position on the Bush tax cuts, arguing that if wealthier people are able to retain more money, they will invest that money.

And if the president's proposal passes, many limited liability companies will end up paying higher taxes, he said.

Bass also criticized Obama's health care reforms for creating jobs only for federal bureaucrats. 'The health care reform bill was not health reform. It was health care expansion,' Bass said, warning that government restrictions on raising premiums would force health insurance companies to stop selling policies.

'It institutionalizes higher costs, mediocre service and an enormous new government bureaucracy,' he said.

Bass said he would cut taxes on consumers and businesses. To solve the outsourcing problem, Bass said, the country must become more competitive, partially by lowering corporate taxes.

Though Kuster said repealing the capital gains tax on small business investments would spur investment, Bass questioned the idea. Bass said cutting the tax rate to zero would create 'an incredible amount of mischief' with all businesses trying to dodge paying taxes.

Rather, Bass said he would make a research and development tax cut permanent, would temporarily allow businesses to write off more of their expenses for buying new equipment and would eliminate the uncertainty businesses feel over what government will do next.

A large group of Kuster supporters - and some Bass supporters - waved signs outside the event.

'(Kuster) is for the middle class, for health for everyone, for better jobs for everyone,' said Linda Gathright of Nashua, a retiree who worked in communications.

Inside, Ernie Marino, a retired surgeon, said he planned to vote for Bass.

'He's more conservative,' Marino said. 'He believes in support for lower taxes, a more balanced budget, a reduced deficit.'

Brad Vear, who works in commercial real estate, said he is still undecided. For Vear, the decision will come down to who can handle the economy better, or, as he put it: 'How we can get spending under control without hurting job growth.'

(Shira Schoenberg can be reached at 369-3319 or sschoenberg@cmonitor.com.)