Exclusive Interview: Rep. Bob Goodlatte, part onePolicy

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA06) joined me tonight after the president addressed a joint session of congress to offer his immediate views on the speech and proposals being made by the administration. Here is part one of our conversation. Part two will be available tomorrow is now available too.

Jim: Obama spoke a lot about energy, education and health care spending. Of the address, what do you think was the most significant?

Rep. Goodlatte: Well, I think he sounded a lot of themes that a lot of people could agree with.

Certainly the few polls that I have already seen on some of the networks would say that the public responded very well to it, and I think somebody just sitting and listening to the speech would react that way. But the fact of the matter is it’s in the policy, and not in the overarching themes, that we find the disagreement.

All three things you mentioned – energy, education, and healthcare – are very important to everyone, and everyone recognizes that there are problems with each of those. But the solutions can take very different courses, and we’ve already seen that in a very short time with the massive amount of spending that the president and the leaders of congress view as the course that the country should take.

The president said a few weeks ago that only government can solve these problems, but Governor Jindal and I and most Americans feel that it is the American people that will be the foundation upon which there will be an economic recovery. The president, I think, tried to tap into that theme tonight, but he kept coming back to massive government programs, yet never addressed them with much specificity.

So you can like a lot of what the president had to say, until you get the bill for it.

Jim: Are there going to be areas such as banking reform where Republicans are going to be able to work with the president?

Rep. Goodlatte: Well, we’re certainly going to try. In fact, we have tried ever since the president won the election last year to go forward in a bipartisan fashion.

I thought President Bush was very graceful in the way that he worked with the president-elect to make a very smooth transition. Obviously [the administration] has hit a lot of bumps in the road, but those weren’t caused by a lack of cooperation from Republicans.

The president’s vision for how to stimulate the economy [is when relations with Republicans] started getting very difficult. If you truly had a bipartisan stimulus package, it would have much greater reliance on trusting the American people to grow the economy through targeted tax relief and not massive government spending that really expands the size of government at every level and in an unsustainable way that the president admitted tonight was not sustainable. It’s of concern that two weeks later we have another massive spending bill coming forward.

But when it comes to if the president would open up the process to bipartisanship, sure, everybody recognizes that there are problems with our regulatory system. There will be plenty of disagreements about how best to make sure that some of the things that happened in the banking crisis last year, some of which is continuing today, doesn’t occur again. But I will tell you that most of the people on my side of the aisle believe that it’s a combination of both over-regulation, with things like the Community Re-investment Act, and under-regulation in areas where SCC really didn’t do things that a good watchdog agency should be doing.

So, yes, I think there is a great opportunity to work together, if the party that’s in power doesn’t decide that they want to seek only smothering government regulations as the solution to the problem; that will simply make matters worse. And, if they want to exclude one party from the process,which they’re pretty much capable of doing, particularly in the House, with the majorities they have.

Jim: How much of a challenge is it for Republicans to be credible on fiscal restraint, given how much spending Republicans did while in the majority?

Rep. Goodlatte: Well it’s certainly made easier when decisions that a Republican president made (that I and many others in my party questioned and voted against) are eclipsed by what I think are even more serious broaches.

You know the bailouts that I voted against last year at least had the promise of saying we’re not going to turn this money over; that we’re going to invest in these businesses and we have some prospect of getting the money back. Personally, I thought that was the wrong way to do it; I thought we should have guaranteed things. That we should have guaranteed the warranties on automobiles so that they could go through a chapter 11 reorganization, yet people could still go buy a car with confidence and know that the warranty would still be honored. That might not have cost the American taxpayers a penny. Instead we put tens of billions of dollars into these [automobile] companies and now they’re back for more.

Even worse problem with the financial industry.

We could have guaranteed these complex securities much like we guarantee deposits in banks – that has worked quite well through the FDIC – instead, we set out first to buy these assets, manage them for years, then we thought that someday we’d sell them and get our money back to then saying, “Well, let’s buy the businesses themselves.” Now, the next step that’s coming since that didn’t work is, “Well, since throwing some money at it didn’t work, let’s really go whole hog and nationalize these banks and solve the problem that way.”

The government approach now of spending huge sums of money primarily on government related programs is not going to work.

The only thing that’s really going to work to rebuild the economy is to trust the American people.

The American people understand that when you are in difficult times like this government at every level needs to do the same things that families are doing: that is to tighten the belt and achieve efficiencies. After you’ve done that, then the economy starts to re-grow.

Part Two