On the first of his two-day Iowa tour, Congressman and GOP presidential hopeful Ron Paul, R-Texas, visited TPI Composites in Newton Friday afternoon.
After a 12:15 p.m. closed door meeting with plant staff and members of the American Wind Energy Association and a private tour of the wind-blade manufacturing facility, Paul spoke in front of approximately 25 attentive TPI employees. Covering monetary policy reform, reduced military spending overseas, including his proposed base closings in Europe, South Korea and Japan, and limiting the scope of the federal government, the libertarian leaning Paul continued his mantra of smaller government and personal liberties.
“I’m proposing that the government cut, and cut significantly. This year the federal government spent 1.5 trillion dollars more than it took in,” Paul said. “To me, it’s a modest suggestion to cut $1 trillion in spending. The easiest place to cut is overseas – assistance, aid and DOD (Department of Defense).”
Paul suggested that military spending to the extent which the United State pursues actually makes the county less safe, noting that the U.S.’s involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya has increased the nation’s deficit $4 trillion in the last 10 years – a proposition that puts the congressman at odds with some of his GOP rivals.
“I think it’s a bad investment,” he said.
As he arrived with his wife and two granddaughters in a white SUV Friday, Paul was asked by NBC to react to a breaking announcement by President Obama at a White House press briefing that troop withdraws from Iraq would be completed by December.
In tune with his belief of limited U.S. involvement in the middle eastern country, he said he believed the embassy and military support personnel would remain.
“That’s a lot of people,” he told the NBC reporter.
But for TPI employees, jobs were the pressing issues. One plant worker told Paul in a question and answer session that he was a 20-year employee of British Petroleum (BP) before being laid off. He believed that government regulations have hindered development of domestic energy such banned oil drilling in the Alaskan Arctic Wildlife Refuge.
“Government shouldn’t dictate it,” Paul answered. The congressman went on to explain that he believed in removing government restrictions from the equation. Citing oil shale, natural gas, wind and ethanol, Paul claimed deregulation could allow companies to produce a host of resources.
“As a believer in the free market, I don’t look at a tax credit as a subsidy,” Paul said in his initial speech to the conference room referring to the Production Tax Credit (PTC) gives breaks to wind energy companies.
TPI Group Operations Director and General Manager Mark B. Parriott met privately with Paul and said he stressed the importance of this program to his industry. He said that TPI doesn’t benefit directly from the PTC, but companies who buy and use TPI wind-blades receive the credit, and eliminating could it hinder their growth projections.
“2012 is shaping up to be as good as our best year,” Parriott said. “But the PTC is scheduled to expire a the end of next year, and it creates uncertainty.”
Paul continued his Iowa tour Friday afternoon with stops in Davenport, Burlington and Iowa City on the University of Iowa campus. On Saturday the presidential candidates took part in a 10 a.m. town hall meeting at the Embassy Suites in Des Moines and participated in the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Presidential Candidate Forum at the Iowa State Fair Grounds Knapp Learning Center at 5 p.m.
Mike Mendenhall can be contacted at 792-3121 ext. 422 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.