Foster discusses jobs, economy at meeting with Naper Chamber
By Hank Beckman For The Sun September 13, 2012 7:20PM
Updated: January 31, 2013 1:42PM
Job creation was the main focus as Congressional candidate Bill Foster talked to the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce during a luncheon Thursday.
Foster, a Naperville resident who served as representative in the 14th Congressional District from March 2008 to January 2011, is locked in a tight race with U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Hinsdale) in the newly-created 11th Congressional District which includes Naperville, Aurora and Joliet.
“In the early 2000s, we fell off a cliff,” he said of the economy. He blamed what he called misguided policies that failed to protect the American manufacturing sector.
Foster specifically pointed to the Bush administration’s budgets and wars as the major causes of both the federal debt and state of the economy.
“My opponent voted for every single one of these budgets and wars,” he said.
Gill Stevens, Biggert’s communications director responded by email, saying: “When he was in office, Congressman Foster rejected every single budget aimed at bringing down spending. He voted for double-digit increases in federal appropriations and now he wants the voters to forget about the $5.4 trillion in debt” accumulated during the Obama administration.
Foster also criticized what he called the “Ryan Budget” for cuts in education and research, including a 30 percent cut in non-defense research.
“Cutting education and research has no impact on the coming election, but it shows up in the long term,” he said.
Again, Stevens responded by email.
“Once again, Congressman Foster is making up his own facts to justify a political attack,” he said.
Stevens denied that there was a 30 percent cut in spending under the Ryan plan and called Biggert’s record on science “outstanding.”
At one point, Foster spoke of conversations he’d had with U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, victim of a 2011 shooting by an apparently deranged individual, a shooting that forced her to eventually resign from Congress.
Foster seemed to link the shooting with the Tea Party movement, saying some of his conversations with Giffords were about how to respond to criticisms from the group.
When asked if he had any knowledge of a connection between Gifford’s alleged shooter and the Tea Party, Foster backed off.
“I don’t believe there’s any connection,” he said, admitting that the individual was simply deranged.
But he maintained his position that the country was extremely polarized politically.
“The level of discourse in politics has gotten really unpleasant these days,” he said.
Asked by an audience member how to best get the economy back on track, Foster pointed to what he said were signs of improvement, particularly in the fact that housing prices were on the rise.
At one point he indicated that the Jan. 1 expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts would not be the problem for the economy that many predicted.
This claim was rejected by Tami Andrew, the Chamber’s interim president.
“The Naperville Chamber disagrees with the assertion that the fiscal cliff isn’t a big deal,” she said later. “We’re surprised to hear it characterized as such during today’s session.”
This time the Foster campaign responded in the form of Communications Director Eleis Brennan, who explained the candidate’s position as one of advocating for fairness in taxation, and she sought to clarify that Foster did realize the importance of the nation’s fiscal problems.
“Bill supports tax cuts for the middle class,” read her email, “he does not support tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy and corporations that ship our jobs overseas.”
Foster said that his first priority if returned to Congress would be to kick-start the district’s high tech sector.
“I want to continue (the enhancing) of the high tech corridor in the district,” he said.