Coffman calls Obama's stimulus ‘agenda-driven,’ says it won't boost economy

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By AJ Vicens

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman said the economic stimulus package signed by President Obama in Denver on Feb. 17 will do little to pull the country out of its economic doldrums.

"I'm obviously very disappointed in the legislation itself, that seemed to be strong on agenda-driven policy and light on economic stimulus," Coffman said in an interview hours before Obama signed the legislation at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

The $787 billion economic package, consisting of tax breaks and spending, comes with virtually no Republican support. Three Republican senators voted for the package, with no House Republicans supporting it, including Coffman.

Coffman, the first-term representative who succeeded five-term 6th District congressman Tom Tancredo, says he hopes passage of the legislation at least will mean that the president will begin focusing on the positive.

"The hope that I have today is that the president will begin to speak positively about this economy and inspire confidence in it," Coffman said, "instead of promoting fear in order to galvanize support for this legislation. I hope this is a real turning point.

"Confidence in this economy is so important," Coffman continued. "People aren't going to participate — invest in this economy, spend in this economy — unless they have confidence in this economy."

Coffman said something needed to be done, but the current stimulus package was not the answer.

"I think it had to be, No. 1, targeted. All the items in this should have been targeted to creating jobs." Investment in renewable energy and health care reform should not have been part of the legislation, Coffman said.

"I hear Democratic leaders talking about (the stimulus) in terms of its transformative characteristics," Coffman said. "Moving toward a new-energy economy, health care reform, changing welfare — to me, that's not the purpose of this bill. The purpose of this bill should be one singular purpose — that is, saving jobs that people have today and creating jobs in industries that people work in today."

Coffman said that is accomplished only by "putting money into people's hands that creates jobs, (helps) small-business owners, and by putting money in the consumers' hands that spend the money that keeps this economy going. I think that this legislation is wide on both."

Obama's economic team has projected roughly 3 million new jobs will result from the bill, but Coffman is skeptical.

"The way they phrase it — you can't quantify it," Coffman said. "They phrase it, 'save or create.' They can claim any job is saved by their policy. I don't know how you quantify that."

Coffman said he plans to "monitor" the spending as best he can to ensure the money is spent correctly and in a timely manner.

In a break from traditional Republican ideology, Coffman said a lack of regulation led to the current economic morass.

"The demise of this economy was really a failure of government to properly regulate the economy," Coffman said. "We had these subprime loans infecting a lot of balance sheets. I don't see the appropriate oversight there, and it eventually brought the economy down."

The lack of discipline wasn't limited to profit-seeking banks, Coffman said.

"Essentially, the problem was spending beyond our means," the congressman said. "Too much easy money, too much easy credit, and spending beyond our means as individuals and collectively as a nation. I don't know how, again, spending and borrowing is going to be the cure here. It's a real concern."

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.