RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Senator Mark Warner has been on the road the last several days, talking jobs and the economy with business leaders from across the commonwealth during the Senate's August recess.
The senator joins me now to talk about some of those issues and what can be done to improve the economic climate. Welcome back to first at 4:00.
Senator Mark Warner: Ryan, thanks for having me.
Ryan Nobles: Before we get to that, though we've got to talk about the DC rumor mill. You knew I was going to ask you about that. Of course, there's a lot of talk about whether Rahm Emanuel would stay on as Chief of Staff and your name was floated as a potential replacement. Do you have any interest in being White House Chief of Staff?
Senator Mark Warner: Not only no, but heck no. I was as blown away as anybody. I saw the email on it, my press guy Kevin called and said, 'What's going on here?' And, you know, my sense is, I don't know where it came from. I've been hired by the people of Virginia to try to do my part in the Senate, you know, and I still think we need more moderate bipartisan voices and I hope I can add some value there.
Ryan Nobles: You have talked extensively about now you think there needs to be changes within the inner circle of the Obama administration.
Senator Mark Warner: I do feel as a former business guy that sometimes the Obama administration and the business community talk past each other, and they're -- I think it is a valid critique that there's not anybody senior in the administration who's actually met a payroll, run a business, and understands from the private sector standpoint, not from an academic standpoint, but from a private sector standpoint what it takes to jump start jobs.
Ryan Nobles: You just don't think that's you?
Senator Mark Warner: It's not me.
Ryan Nobles: Do you think it's time for Mr. Emanuel to move on? Do you think that would be wise for the president?
Senator Mark Warner: Not my job to make that prediction. I've known Rahm for 30 years. I think he's a talented guy. I think he's often been a voice for more moderation than the public would think inside the White House.
Ryan Nobles: Let's move on.
Senator Mark Warner: Sure.
Ryan Nobles: You've been talking a lot about jobs and the economy. What do average people say to you what needs to be done on the ground to help the economy?
Senator Mark Warner: I think folks are concerned why we're still in a deep recession. I try to explain that we are in a pretty deep hole. Both parties were a part of that and folks got way too much into debt and the financial system came to an almost collapsed. What I try to tell folk is the government has been doing thing. We've lowered interest rates, used stimulus, and what we have to do right now and the good pieces of news is there's over two trillion dollars in cash on American large company balance sheets right now. American large companies have never been in better shape. We have to give them the predictability to go ahead and invest those dollars here in the United States.
Ryan Nobles: One of the things business leaders have complained about is they're concerned taxes will go up. One of the things the president seems unwilling to do is extend the Bush tax cuts. Where are you on extending the tax cuts?
Senator Mark Warner: I think we ought to give predictability on capital gains, dividends, set that rate at say 20%. We ought to go ahead and raise the personal exemption around the estate tax. On the Bush tax cut, I think 98% of them ought to go ahead and be permanently extended. On the top 2% for people like me, whether we extend them for a year or I could allow them to expire, but I would couple that with some additional business tax breaks. I think there is nothing wrong with saying, 'If I can make more money at the business level and then I personally have to pay a little bit more'; paying basically the same rates I paid under President Clinton or President Bush's father that would be a fair trade.
Ryan Nobles: What about the perception people have about the economy? They seem unwilling to spend and unwilling to lend on the other side of it. How do you convince people it's okay to jump back into the market and take those risks?
Senator Mark Warner: We all felt like the economy was taking off in the spring and then no problem, anybody in Washington actually, we had the Greek debt crisis and the oil spill and it seemed to rob people of confidence, so we've got to do two things to do right now. One is we have to make sure we can convince large companies with very healthy balance sheets right now, they're actually in better financial shape than they were before the recession, to start spending. We can do things around the edges in terms of spurring small business lending because two thirds of a job coming out of a recession come from small business and it's still tight credit flows. I have a bill that will be passed I think next week that will incrementally help that and all of us from the president on down need to keep our focus on being more positive about the economy and talking about job creation.
Ryan Nobles: Senator Warner, you will be the senator for the balance of your term, right.
Senator Mark Warner: You got it, Ryan.
Ryan Nobles: Thank you for being here, we appreciate it.
Senator Mark Warner: Thank you.
See the video at right for the full interview.