By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
The shaky U.S. economy dominated the discussion at the Elks Lodge Tuesday morning, where U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson spoke as a representative for Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign.
Audience members expressed frustration about the $700 billion federal bailout plan, citing the recent case of AIG executives who spent $400,000 on a retreat right after being saved from collapse with taxpayer money.
One audience member, who said he has lost close to $30,000 from his retirement since the mortgage crisis started, asked Wilson what she and McCain will do to protect him, his family and friends.
Others expressed anger over executives exiting failing companies with millions in personal assets.
“You’re going to spend my money faster than you can tax me on it,” railroad conductor Bill Ingram said.
Wilson said she and McCain made sure there were protections against golden parachutes in the bailout plan. She said McCain is proposing no income taxes on unemployment benefits and reducing to 10 percent the tax for people withdrawing up to $50,000 from retirement accounts.
“I think that we are in tough times and we all know it,” Wilson told the group of about three dozen.
“I’m with you on corporate greed, but in my anger at the jerks that caused this, I don’t want to make the problem worse.”
Wilson said small businesses depend on credit to get the capital they need to function. Lost jobs and revenues without that credit would affect almost every American.
“Small business is the engine of this economy. We need to get back to growing jobs,” she said.
McCain wants to address the root cause of the mortgage industry collapse that has infected the markets, she said.
“They were taking way too much risk and not being honest about the risk they were taking… That was the spark,” she said.
Supporting the recent bailout plan was a necessary evil. “I really hated doing it. … You just wanted to wring their necks,” she said of corporations that engaged in sub-prime lending.
Wilson also told the group, which consisted of many railroad employees, McCain wants to reform Amtrak and foster competition in the rail industry.
And she explained McCain’s proposed three-part strategy for energy that would call for exploration of more American resources, expansion of existing U.S. sources and research and development.
Following the meeting, Wilson, who lost to U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce in June’s Republican party primary for the senate seat being vacated by the retiring Pete Domenici, would not disclose her political plans for the future.
“There are a lot of options, and I’m keeping them open. … (First) we need to get John McCain elected for the country,” she said.