SOUTH MILWAUKEE — Speaking over the dull roar of hundreds
of busy factory workers in a manufacturing plant Wednesday morning, Republican
presidential candidate John McCain delivered more of his signature
“straight talk” about the future of the U.S. economy.
The invite-only event hosted two panels of state CEOs and
business leaders to discuss the economic plans McCain outlined in Pittsburgh
McCain opened his remarks in front of hulking mining
equipment at the Bucyrus International facility by harking back to the last
president to visit the plant, his “hero,” Theodore Roosevelt, who
came to inspect machines used to dig the Panama Canal.
He continued his forceful push for economic action by
defending his proposed long- and short-term programs, including a summer gas
“We need to act quickly and decisively to meet the
economic challenges,” McCain said. “Families are discussing around
the kitchen table how they will be able to afford their home, travel somewhere
or even keep their job.”
McCain’s economic strategies garnered mixed reactions across
the nation Tuesday with many quick to point out the tax cuts would cost the
The Arizona senator addressed these concerns with emphasis
on eliminating pork barrel spending with what he called unfairly earmarked
funds currently “cranked into projects.”
“We’ll give you some of that back with the ability to
deduct the expenses of raising a family,” McCain said of his proposed
doubling of the $3,500 per child tax credit.
McCain also mentioned an overall audit of government
agencies to free up more money.
“Every single agency of government should be able to
say, ‘Here’s what we’re doing, and here’s how much our budget is,'” he
said. “Do you know there’s never been a successful audit of the Defense
Paul Jones, chairman and CEO of A.O. Smith Corp., a water
heater manufacturer that employs 16,800 workers nationwide, encouraged McCain
to maintain free-trade agreements allowing corporations to compete in a global
economy, and agreed with his proposed 10 percent decrease in corporate taxes.
McCain questioned the leaders on outsourcing jobs and many
executives pointed to high corporate tax rates as a source of economic
problems, citing the 40 percent combined state and federal rate in Wisconsin.
“We look at markets where we can bring our innovation,
not as a location of low-cost labor,” Jones said. “It’s for the
market, and the tax rate where we can reinvest in the most capital.”
Many critics of McCain across Wisconsin, however, questioned
the senator’s decision to meet with corporate officials in a closed setting
instead of the state’s blue-collar workforce.
“It simply illustrates where his heart is,” Ike
Edwards, Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1473 representative, said in a
phone interview. “We’re the guys losing our homes as we’re caught up in
this economic situation. It strikes me as disingenuous to talk to the people
[who] were affected by this the least, instead of those who are affected
Mike Knetter, dean of the University of Wisconsin Business
School, served as one of the twelve panelists questioning McCain on his support
of subsidized research like UW’s National Science Foundation funding.
The senator cautioned that government funding decisions too
often are decided by the strongest lobby as opposed to a panel of scientists.
“It seems like the senator is very committed to
supporting innovation in the economy. … I think mainly he’s troubled by the
fraction of dollars going to earmarks,” Knetter said. “At the University
of Wisconsin-Madison, we’ve always prided ourselves on being able to compete,
and so I liked what I heard.”
Jon Hammes, chairman and CEO of Hammes Company in Milwaukee
and a 1975 UW graduate, shared McCain’s call for a simpler tax code, adding he
cannot understand his taxes even with a master’s degree in economics.
McCain described a simplified two-part system where those
making less than $100,000 would have a $27,000 automatic deduction — plus
deductions for children on top of a 15 percent tax. Those making more than
$100,000 would have the same system with a 25 percent tax.
McCain both raised and fielded a barrage of questions about
displaced workers, energy concerns, health care systems and immigration as
related to the economic environment.
The senator closed the panel with a final call to action to
utilize the resources available within the country.
“We have to act, and we have to act in a bipartisan
fashion,” McCain said. “I want to have the ability to make use of the
knowledge and expertise of the people I’ve been able to travel across the
nation and meet.”