This morning in Sedalia, Senator Claire McCaskill (D) held a town hall meeting, taking questions from the audience on the economic recovery (and other issues), in the Parkhurst Commons, Stauffacher Building on the campus of State Fair Community College. There were approximately one hundred fifty people in attendance. After the meeting ended she spent a few moments taking questions from the media. A transcript of that press opportunity follows. Transcripts of the town hall meeting will appear in subsequent posts about the hour long event.
…Senator Claire McCaskill: Well the most important thing is job creation. You know, we’ve got a, a recession is obviously a retraction, where people lay off people, and, and hunker down, get smaller. We now have to turn that corner and see that growth. We’re beginning to see the green shoots of growth. I think the stimulus money has helped. I think the TARP funds have helped in terms of loosening up credit. And now it’s just a matter of us continuing to put one foot in front of the other. I think in another eighteen months we should be back to where we were, maybe not when the recession began, but certainly in a much healthier position.
Question: Sure. What do you think of the banking regulations? Should they be back in place…[crosstalk]
Senator McCaskill: Yes.
Question:…like they were twenty five years ago?
Senator McCaskill: Well we have to have some kind of regulation over investment banks. When we unhooked investment banks from regulation everyone thought, well, if we just let ’em go, they’d only act in their best interests, ’cause it’s not in their best interests to, to over leverage. Or to slice and dice exotic security instruments. To the point that nobody even understood what they were buyin’ and sellin’. But it made their salaries go up. So yeah, we’re gonna have to have some more oversight there. The tricky part is making sure we don’t go too far. We don’t want to squeeze the life blood out of the economy by over regulating, but obviously, we’ve gotta have some kind of framework of regulations in place.
Question: Thank you….
…Question: Some of our major employers in town [Sedalia] are auto industry suppliers. [garbled]…manufacturers and compressor manufacturers. Is there any plans to, well, you know, support these industries that are struggling right now? We had one file for bankruptcy in town [crosstalk]…it, in lieu of…
Senator McCaskill: Well that would. The company you refer to, we did help. And were, they were able to get a reprieve because we made an effort to try and intervene and at least talk to the, their creditors and explain that. And that’s what’s happened, when this, when credit retracts companies that are profitable, that are employing people, actually end up having to shut their doors. And this was a situation that this was the case. I mean, this wasn’t a company that was in economic distress. It was just, they weren’t able to get the credit they had gotten before. And so we were pleased that we were able, I think it was seven hundred jobs? Seven hundred jobs out there that we were able to hold on to. And, in fact, I was gonna try to get by there today, and I’m just not gonna have a chance, but hopefully some of them were here.
Show Me Progress: What, what are the prospects of for procurement oversight with, with your subcommittee, in making accountability more permanent?
Senator McCaskill: Well I think we’ve got a lot of work to do. And I am, it’s almost unhealthy how excited I am about the opportunities we’re gonna have in that committee. We’ve got waste and fraud and abuse in almost every agency in the federal government as it relates to contracting. No one’s been minding the store. No one’s been watching the contractors. I mean just between Department of Defense and Homeland Security you have contractors watching contractors that are writing their own contracts and getting performance bonuses on contracts where they didn’t perform. It is really almost like, it, it’s nuts how out of control it has been. So, it, there’s so much work to do and I’m excited that we’re gonna be able to have some hearings. I think the hearings we have are gonna be dramatic and I think they’re gonna help. We have one coming up on, on ANCs, which is a thing that was created to allow cer…, certain corporations [to] not compete at all. We have some other hearings coming up as it relates to cost plus contracts and oversight of them. Cost plus is a contract where the contractor gets to make whatever the contract costs him plus. So, I mean, where’s the incentive there? I mean, it’s like, okay please, let me take more taxpayer money than I need to, if I’ve got a cost plus contract. When you look at the LOGCAP contract alone in Iraq, which is the KBR contract that has become so famous. That was cost plus, noncompetitive in the beginning, and they were writin’ the contract. And, so no wonder that they were monogramming hand towels for the battlefield.
Show Me Progress: So, what do you believe are the prospects for, for fixing this?
Senator McCaskill: I think they’re pretty good. I have been encouraged by Secretary [of Defense] Gates’ commitment in accountability. He has fired generals. On accountability issues. He got rid of the general that was over Walter Reed [hospital] when we realized that that situation had run amok. He got rid of the head of the Air Force. There was a bad contract there. There was some insider taking care of a friend contract. And he, he, unlike some of the secretaries of defense before him, he is not content to let the low level folks get in all the trouble. He holds the people at the top accountable. And in the budget he announced he has a huge plus up for acquisition. Somebody said to me. “Well you don’t want to grow government. Why are you doing acquisition?” Said, “Are you kiddin’?” That’s exactly the problem. We have to have government people who understand contracting, that know how to oversee it, so his announcement of additional personnel in acquisition was music to my ears.
Question: Senator, what would you like to see happen with Guantanamo Bay, in your opinion?
Senator McCaskill: Well, I think there does need to be a plan. I think first and foremost, everybody needs to take a deep breath and realize the President is not interested in doing anything that would jeopardize the safety of Americans. It is almost silly the way people have begun bandying about this notion that we’re gonna let terrorists loose all over America. And, you know, that’s not gonna happen. [crosstalk]
Question: Our prisons are secure.
Senator McCaskill: Our prisons are very secure. We have terrorists right now in America in our prisons. Dozens of ’em. And they are secure because we don’t let dangerous people escape from prisons in America. I’m hopeful still that the vast majority of those folks will be placed other places than America. And I think that there is a, a likelihood that may happen. So I think Guantanamo will close, it should close. It is going to take some time. And I think just because the President announced he was gonna close it, I think everyone understood that he set the right tone when he announced he was gonna close it right after he was inaugurated. But that doesn’t mean he’s not gonna do it carefully and with caution. And that’s what you’re seeing now.
Question: Thank you very much.
Senator McCaskill: Thank you guys.
A part of the audience listening during the town hall.