Romney, Schmidt, Fiorina on The Crisis

David Gregory’s tenure on NBC’s “Meet The Press” got off to a particularly interesting start over the weekend, with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Hewlett-Packard CEO  Carly Fiorina, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott among those discussing the economic crisis.

The consensus among the panelists was that the U.S. government needs to do more — a lot more — to help stimulate and stabilitze the economy. Fiorina, for example, says that more needs to be done to help small businesses that are being hurt because credit markets remain locked up. “When hundreds of small businesses can’t hire 10 and 15 people, over time that creates big unemployment numbers,” Fiorina, who had been an advisor to presidential candidate John McCain, said. “They may not have big unions to represent their interests in Washington.  They’re the little guy, but the little guy matters. When credit isn’t available, consumers don’t have the money they need to spend.  So I think we have to go back to the root of this problem, ultimately, which is credit is still unavailable.  And that is despite massive bailouts of big financial institutions who are still not lending.”

Schmidt, an advisor to President-elect Barack Obama, said the government needs to make the next stimulus package a “two-fer”, addressing not only the crisis but also long-term needs, such as infrastructure. “We have technology that’s been invented in America to create, to create solutions to get us off of foreign oil and start decreasing our use for, for climate-polluting things like coal,” he said, noting that Michigan has a number of unused plants that could be converted into battery or battery system making facilities for cars. “The effect of this [would be] we get a whole new industry started with this stimulus that’s going to happen anyway.”

Even the fiscally conservative Romney said that, as much as he hates to say it, the government stimulus package is going to have to include spending plans in addition to tax breaks. “The government is going to have to step forward,” Romney said, “not only with monetary policy to add funding and capital to the capital markets so we see more lending, but also for additional spending and lower taxes.” One area the government should spend, he said, is military equipment, some of which has been damaged or lost in the country’s Middle East military campaigns.