Congressman Mike Capuano, who represents most of Jamaica Plain, offered his thoughts on the economy, the wars and other national issues in recent phone and in-person interviews with Josh Resnek, vice-president and executive editor at the Independent Newspaper Group, which publishes the Gazette.
Gazette: Your feeling about the economy today—are we in a tailspin? Where are we heading?
Capuano: I can’t tell you where we are heading. No one can do that with certainty. I know one thing—we’re not going to get out of what we’re in unless the government takes a proactive role. Private enterprise cannot and will not do it on its own at this time. There is no way we get out of what we’re in without government taking the lead. Slashing, burning and cutting does not work. It didn’t help before. It didn’t help Herbert Hoover or the nation when the Depression set in. It won’t help now. As for the economy, we all know it’s lousy. I’m not listening to other congressmen. I’m listening to economists—and the ones I know say we need a stimulus.
We talk about cutting government spending and continue the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq at huge cost in blood and money. What about that?
These wars aren’t going to stop tomorrow. The wars cost billions every month. I have never focused on the cost of the two wars because they were moral and just. The number being used is $1 trillion for them so far. Nothing has changed in Iraq. We’re way overdue to get out of there. It will end up not being worth the effort. Afghanistan—it isn’t worth it at this point in time.
If you were the president, what do you do with the economy right now?
I would vote for cuts I don’t want to make in order to bring balance to the budget. That being said, I don’t think there is a single thing the president can do at this very moment. Politically speaking, it is unrealistic to believe he can do anything without congressional approval and he won’t get it if he tries. I would have a 21st Century WPA [Works Progress Administration], but I don’t think I could get it through Congress.
What is it going take to fix the national economy?
Government infusion. But otherwise, nothing is going to change, not in the near future. We’re not creating jobs. The percentile expansion of the economy is not high enough to make a difference. We need bold, assertive action but that is nowhere within sight.
So what about President Obama? Does he get re-elected?
Too early to tell.
Can a Republican win?
Medicare. What do we do with that?
We have to get serious about it as a long-term problem. We need a major discussion about how far we want to go as a nation with this program. I think we’re going to have to face reality very soon. The indirect cuts will come first. Nothing directly will happen in the short term.
What about the people, the voters? What reaction are you getting from voters these days in general?
Most of the people I know understand the broad problems we face. I’ve been amazed and pleasantly surprised since coming back home for the summer recess. I thought I was going to come home and be attacked by everyone. I wasn’t. My people understand you don’t accomplish what you want to do by cutting and slashing.
Are you looking forward to going back into session? What kind of session would you expect?
I love my job. Going back to Washington is always a challenge. What kind of session is it going to be—frankly, I have no idea.