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GOP candidate talks about economy

Joel Pollak, the Republican candidate for the 9th Congressional District seat that includes Evanston, says the federal government needs to cut spending over the long term to encourage economic growth.

In an interview with Evanston Now, Pollak also said Chicago is lagging behind much of the rest of the nation economically.

Here are some excerpts from the conversation.

Joel Pollak, the Republican candidate for the 9th Congressional District seat that includes Evanston, says the federal government needs to cut spending over the long term to encourage economic growth.

In an interview with Evanston Now, Pollak also said Chicago is lagging behind much of the rest of the nation economically.

Here are some excerpts from the conversation.

Joel PollakJoel Pollak: 290,000 jobs were created last month according to the bureau of labor statistics … but Chicago is lagging very far behind. We’re still the dead last metropolitan area in terms of job creation. We’ve actually lost 112,000 jobs year-on-year March 2009 to March 2010.

So, what is it about Chicago that can’t get it right? And I think it’s because we face in a microcosm here in our city and our state what the nation is facing as a whole, which is a climate that is unfriendly to business, that spends on a lot of things that don’t provide returns to taxpayers and that’s looking at higher taxes.

Evanston Now:  What would you do about it?

Joel Pollak: There are some immediate things we could do right now. One is a temporary investment tax credit. That was actually introduced by President Kennedy and worked. It was then phased out in the 1980s, partly because they wanted to close it as a tax loophole, which it had become. But if you have it on a temporary basis, what it can do is get small businesses over the hump of uncertainty.

If we were giving small businesses something back for every dollar they invested in new capital and new investment that will sustain jobs in the medium term, I think that will get a lot of businesses over the hump and encourage people to borrow more and invest more and that will boost economic growth.

In the longer term what we need to do is get serious about cutting spending. Obviously in a recession you want government spending to play some role in sustaining aggregate demand. But what we’ve got now is way beyond what our economy needs and what our economy can sustain. We’ve just got out of control spending with no end in sight and no political will to rein in it.

Evanston Now:  What chances do you think you have of getting that accomplished given that when the Republicans were in control they ran up the deficit dramatically, and that Democrats, at least as long as the economy is in the tank, are not likely to do much to try to trim deficits?

Joel Pollak: I look at this moment as a moment very much like the early 1990s. Our employment crisis right now is worse, but in the early ’90s in the middle of a recession people were also worried about government’s inability to control spending and worried about tax increases and things like that. They were disappointed in both parties, so much so that we had a third party, Ross Perot’s party, coming out. But his big issue was the deficit, that if the federal government were a business, you would have fired the CEO and liquidated the assets.

And even though that wasn’t a major plank for Clinton or Bush in the beginning, Clinton made it an agenda item. And so when he got elected, one of the things he did was make sure that we were cutting spending, getting our revenues right, and I think that restored some confidence in the economy.

The crisis of that time focused minds on both sides of the aisle and what this election is about is getting leaders into Congress who place that at the top of their agenda, who are going to do it.

So I think there is going to be bipartisan support for measures that bring us back to the fiscal center. Unfortunately, I think that there are some folks who don’t see that as a problem and don’t see any urgency about it at all. I think [incumbent U.S.] Rep. [Jan] Schakowsky was quoted in the New York Times last week as saying that she doesn’t think that balancing the budget is a goal, in-and-of itself. And I think that’s just out of touch with the needs of our economy and our district today.

Evanston Now:  Given the political composition of the district, what do you think your chances of winning are?

Joel Pollak: I always tell people better than average. (Laughs) Which means I think we can do it. Look, a Republican is leading in Hawaii in the congressional race there for the first time in two generations. We saw Scott Brown in Massachusetts. Maybe these are special cases because they are special elections. But we are seeing a moment when Americans are saying "What do we really care about? And why do we keep sending the same people back to Washington to do the same things?"

I think there’s a hunger for new leadership and I think that’s shared in this district as well.

We have areas of the district where there are significantly more registered Democrats than Republicans where there are Republicans representing those areas in the state legislature.

There are also many independent and unaffiliated voters who I think are very independent and that’s one of the great things about our district, and it’s been true for a long time, that this district has an open mind. And I think this year there are a lot of other factors at the state level and the county level that are helping out in terms of people really understanding the need for change.

A map showing the boundaries of the 9th Congressional District.

Much of the western part of the district has a strong conservative and Republican history. Part of it used to be Henry Hyde’s district, before the redistricting.

Evanston Now:  She won with 75 percent of the vote last time. Looking from the Evanston corner of the world, you wouldn’t think much chance of a Republican winning this district.

Joel Pollak: Well, 40 years ago you wouldn’t have said there was much chance of a Democrat winning in Evanston, but I think that the district is diverse.

Martha Coakley, when she ran for attorney general in Massachusetts, got 73 percent of the vote, and suddenly when the issues were different and the race was different and the opponent was different, she was defeated (in this year’s special election for the U.S. Senate).

And I think that tells us that it’s really about the contest, and the choice voters face. Nothing is inevitable in a democracy, that’s one of the great things about us, about our system.

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