Obama, Romney both blamed for economic plight

The Colorado Statesman

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, joined local business owners on Monday in a press conference call for Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, alleging that President Barack Obama’s regulatory measures have created a “hostile” workforce environment in America.

As the election season heats up, the Romney campaign has increasingly attacked Obama over his administration’s regulatory practices, most recently suggesting that last week’s weak jobs report for May — which indicated that unemployment inched up to 8.2 percent and 69,000 jobs were created — implies that the administration is making little progress in getting the economy back on track.

Tipton carried that torch on Monday for the Romney campaign, suggesting that, “We’ve seen policies from this president — he’s inhibiting our ability to get access to capital… His health care plan is creating uncertainty.”

Tipton continued, “We’ve got to get people back to work. Gov. Romney has a plan and a proven track record of not only paying down the debt, but also creating jobs, and this is what America needs to get our people back to work.”

Tipton was joined by Mike Anson, owner of Craig, Colo.-based Anson Excavating and Pipe, Inc., and Scott Cook, owner of Craig- and Steamboat Springs-based Cook Chevrolet, who spoke of regulatory burdens they experience as business owners that are impacting their hiring abilities and facility to provide benefits.

Romney was in Craig last week where he took to the rural part of the battleground state of Colorado to argue that Obama’s energy policies are costing jobs in the energy sectors of the nation, including Craig. But while Romney’s remarks focused on harmful energy policies that are costing jobs in places like Craig where there is a large mining community, local miners there told reporters a different story, suggesting that the local coal industry in that part of the state has been stable.

It was unclear whether the Romney campaign had specifically chosen Craig-area businesses for the conference call on Monday after the coverage of the event there last week, but both Anson and Cook remained steadfast in their opinions that Obama’s business policies are costing profits and jobs. The business owners spoke specifically about regulatory burdens that are causing “uncertainty,” including costly business filings and demands and health insurance mandates that are raising costs.

Cook is especially concerned about Environmental Protection Agency fuel standards, and he is worried that new requirements will raise the price of cars and prohibit consumers from buying them.

“All industry and small businesses should be and have to be consumer driven, not government regulation driven,” said Cook. “The added costs with all this new technology to get that fuel economy standard are going to raise the prices to the point where a lot of people won’t be able to afford buying new cars… If the public wants 50 mpg electric cars, they’ll buy them and the industry will produce them, and we’ll sell them.”

Cook also says that under the Obama administration his group health insurance rate — which Cook had carried for about 50 years — jumped from $1,400 to $2,800. As an employer, Cook had paid for half the group rate for his employees’ families. But he says that with the increase, employers weren’t able to pay for insurance and Cook wasn’t able to pay half anymore.

“We had to do away with our group health insurance plan. So now our employees have had to go out and get health insurance individually, and probably a third of the people that had health insurance in our group plan, they’re uninsured now,” he said.

Anson said that the “uncertainty” is costing him projects for his construction and excavating company. He said that while it used to be commonplace to land contracts anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million, now it is difficult to get a $100,000 contract. As a result, Anson says he has been forced to cut back health insurance and other benefits for his employees.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty out there in the world,” said Anson. “We can’t get anybody to spend any money.”

State Republicans took up the cause last week as well following the May jobs report, criticizing Obama and his fellow Democrats for the relatively stagnant economic progress.

“Numbers don’t lie, and today’s report confirms that President Obama and the Democrats’ failed economic strategies aren’t working,” Rep. Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland, said in a prepared statement. “As a small business owner, the Democrats’ continued pursuit of a failed tax-and-spend agenda shows how out of touch Democrats are with the state’s job creators and highlights the important role House Republicans have played in bringing balance and fiscal responsibility to the legislature.”

DeGette defends Dems, puts blame on GOP’s ineptness

But U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, during an Obama campaign conference call later on Monday with equal pay champion Lilly Ledbetter, pointed out that under Obama’s administration, jobs have been created for 27 months straight.

“We were all dismayed by the jobs numbers last Friday,” said DeGette. “But I would just suggest to Congressman Tipton and to the Republicans, is that part of the problem with the recovery is not so much the regulatory environment, as it is the refusal of the Republican-led House of Representatives to pass jobs legislation.”

DeGette encouraged her Republican colleagues in the House to pass a “clean” reauthorization of a transportation bill that is currently being negotiated in a conference committee. The bill would extend federal highway construction and transportation projects set to expire on June 30.

Democratic leadership is asking Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to allow a vote on the two-year $109 billion measure that has already been passed by the Democratic-controlled Senate. The holdup is that Republicans are demanding that the controversial construction of the Keystone XL pipeline be included as a provision in the bill. Many Democrats oppose the pipeline linking Canadian oil fields to the Gulf Coast over environmental concerns.

DeGette says it is not mandates on businesses or environmental regulatory schemes that are costing jobs in America, as Tipton and other Obama critics stated on Monday. DeGette believes those are the regulations Americans want and deserve.

“I don’t think that getting rid of bills like the Clean Air Act, or the Safe Drinking Water Act, or other environmental regulations is the way to go, either for our state, or for our children,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Golden, also stepped into the debate for Obama on Tuesday, speaking out against a recent ad from conservative Karl Rove’s advocacy group, Crossroads GPS, which hammered the president on his handling of the budget and the national debt. The ad appeared in 10 swing states, including Colorado.

Perlmutter released a statement distributed by the Democratic National Committee in which he passed the responsibility back to former President George W. Bush’s administration. “Crossroads and the GOP continue misleading the American people,” he said. “What added to the debt is prosecuting two wars and giving additional tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires without paying for them.”

Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio also came to Obama’s defense following the ad, attacking Romney for his record as the former governor of Massachusetts. “Romney claims that he is ‘Mr. Fix It’ and he is the man for the job to reduce our national debt,” said Palacio. “But Mr. Fix It didn’t fix it in Massachusetts, and his tax and spending plans won’t fix it now.”

Peter@coloradostatesman.com