Jan 09 2009
Senator Warner called into WRVA's Morning Show this morning, to talk about his new job as Virginia's junior Senator and the economy.
Here is the transcript:
JIMMY: Sworn-in earlier this week, our next guest. Now we can call him United States Senator Mark Warner. Good morning Senator.
MARK WARNER: Good morning Jimmy. How are you?
JIMMY: So is the weight of the office already bearing down on your rather broad shoulders?
MARK WARNER: There are days already where I’m saying, on every front, we’ve got a crisis. From the economy to national security issues to a host of regional issues in Virginia like the basing of the new aircraft carrier, and obviously there are some big shoes I’ve got to try to fill. John Warner was a great senator for 30 years. To me, he epitomized somebody who brought civility and always but the interests of the country and Virginia first and he will be missed. But I think I’m ready to go to work and rarin’ to go.
JIMMY: Alright then let me put a couple of bricks on your shoulders. The unemployment numbers just came out. We’re up to 7.2 percent. A lot of those job losses are in manufacturing, retail, and construction. We’ve had some quote-unquote economists on earlier this morning who think the answer is to keep throwing trillions of dollars at the issue. We’ve had a little hindsight now on what’s been done so far, and the couple of trillion we’ve spent hasn’t had the positive impact everybody hoped for. The question is: What do you think of what we’ve done up till now and what do you think we need to do in the immediate future in order to keep the economy from getting worse?
MARK WARNER: Great questions. First, I think there is a consensus from economists from the left to the right that the only entity that can shock the economy back into action is the government by spending, so there is going to be a need for a stimulus package. I think the first $350 billion that has been spent from this so-called TARP program, some of those dollars probably needed to be spent, but boy, has this program been poorly laid out, poorly explained to the American people. Why in the heck we don’t have a website out there that says where every one of those dollars went, where we’ve invested those dollars, into which banks, what kind of return we’re going to get. Most Virginians think we’ve flushed that money down the toilet.
JIMMY: I think a lot of Virginians think, and I don’t think they’re wrong about this Senator, that we gave this money to these banks without strings attached, and instead of putting the money into motion, they’ve horded the money.
MARK WARNER: They’ve tried to increase their reserve accounts with this, and some of that probably was needed because they had gotten the reserves so low, but they’ve not been at all transparent to the American public and that was crazy. There should have been strings attached, there should have been clear about what kind of deal the American taxpayers are going to get. If we lose those monies, we’re going to be in much worse shape because that means all those banks have gone down.
The second thing is: we’ve got to make sure that if we’re going to put any more money out, that these banks are willing to start lending money. If we don’t get the credit markets open, we are going to go down the tubes.
In this stimulus package, what I’m going to try to bring to the table is -- we’ve got to make sure that the focus is on job creation. We’ve got to make sure we’re going to use these dollars on things like road projects that actually put people to work. We’ve got to make sure as well that we do not get seduced by $2/gallon gasoline that we’ve got right now, and we ought to use some of these dollars for creation of new jobs around this new energy sector. We’re still spending $500 billion of your money and mine buying oil from countries that don’t like us.
So there are ways we can spend some of this stimulus money, but it’s got to be more transparent and there’s got to be a lot higher level of accountability.
JIMMY: As a final point on the banks and what’s going on with credit here. Granted I am one person with my own experience here, but here’s what I’ve found: the money that is supposedly not available to you or me to borrow to go out and buy a car, it’s there. You can get it and you don’t necessarily have to have a solid gold credit rating. Do you think there’s a problem right now with perception versus reality when it comes to the credit markets?
MARK WARNER: There may be and the only way I can relate, though, is what is the amount of money being lent by some of the statistics. We do have to make sure that if there is any more dollars going out, that it’s clear that if there is dollars going into these banks to shore them up, there is going to be a requirement that they publicly acknowledge they are going to use this money in terms of lending. We have not done that to date. We’ve put out a lot of this money; unfortunately some of this money probably had to be put out because some of these banks were in such positions that you could have the absolute financial system crumble. But boy, oh boy, has it not been done in a way people can understand or see how we’re going to get a return.
If there’s one thing I’m going to try to bring to the table is – Jimmy, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about this and I hope your listeners will remember – I’m pretty much a dollars-and-cents, bottom-line guy. I do not think we can afford to just throw away a lot of this money without greater accountability.
JIMMY: Right, and as you know, one of the things the President-elect said yesterday that a lot of people found a little bit scary is that we are not only looking at 10 percent unemployment but the idea that we could be looking at trillions and trillions of dollars of red ink as far as the eye can see. Of all these spending things, what isn’t being balanced in at this point is the idea that our United States government is looking for ways, finding other areas that are not working, that we’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars and cutting back in those areas in order to try to make some debt in the red ink.
MARK WARNER: He has appointed a chief accountability officer but I think that needs to be a much higher profile, number one. And number two, if we’re going to be spending this money, there ought to be a bipartisan group looking at how we can put some mechanisms in place so we don’t continue on some of these entitlement programs, just spending as far as the eye can see. If we don’t bring some budget discipline along with this once-a-century need to stimulate the economy, then again shame on us.
JIMMY: Right, I agree with you more on that one. So, other than that, how’s the first week in office been?
MARK WARNER: Other than that, I’m down in the basement, still trying to find my way to the bathroom sometimes, recognizing that I’m no longer “His Excellency, The Governor of the Commonwealth,” I’m “The Junior Senator, No. 95.” It’s going to take a little while to learn the ropes, but luckily John Warner has said he will continue to give me some advice and counsel. And I sure as heck believe, what I tried to do and what I did as governor, as I go and see some of these senior senators, I go to see Democrats and Republicans. We’ve got to be sure we maintain some level of bipartisanship.
JIMMY: Well I know one thing, I anybody knows where the landmines are, it’s the other Senator Warner, so if you can glean that information from him, you’ll be a little ahead of the game, won’t you?
MARK WARNER: Well I’m hoping so and again, I was so pleased when we did the swearing-in this week that he was there to introduce me later when we had a little reception. I may be succeeding him, but I’m not replacing him. John Warner was irreplaceable.
JIMMY: Good to talk to you.