Republican Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate Tom Smith refers to Sen. Bob Casey as "Senator Zero," claiming his Democratic opponent has done little or nothing in office, including when it comes to creating jobs.
Mr. Smith says he would remove obstacles to job growth -- unnecessary regulations and President Obama's health care reform law, for example.
"It's just almost impossible for businesspeople like I was to expand and grow," said Mr. Smith, a farmer and former coal mine owner.
Mr. Casey points to his votes for middle-class tax cuts in the economic stimulus package and his leadership on the fight for Social Security payroll tax cuts. Both helped spur the last two years of job growth, he said.
Mr. Smith, as the founder of a tea party chapter, would be an obstacle to growth, the senator said.
"The question, though, in my race and in the presidential race and I bet most congressional races will be what comes next. Do we stay on the road we're on, which means continual recovery, strengthening of the economy and dealing with difficult issues? Or do you take a right turn and go right back into the ditch? Because that's what I hear from the other side," he said.
The two men were asked by The Times-Tribune about their plans to deal with unemployment and create jobs along with their feelings on taxation.
Mr. Casey said he wants to see more bipartisanship focused on creating jobs rather than more of the roadblocks Republicans have set up repeatedly since Mr. Obama took office.
With monthly job growth down somewhat from last year and not nearly as robust as it must be, "we're not growing nearly fast enough, and I'm not at all satisfied with where we are," Mr. Casey said.
Mr. Casey says he has tried to reverse the decline.
He points to his vote for Mr. Obama's economic stimulus package, which contained a major tax cut for 95 percent of Americans.
"That never gets talked about," he said, referring to frequent criticism of the package.
He also points to his sponsorship -- he was the chief sponsor -- of the Social Security payroll tax cut extension for this year, which dropped workers' share of the tax from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent.
"That was essential, I think, to keep job creation moving in the right direction," he said.
Noted economist Mark Zandi has said the unemployment rate would be 0.3 percentage points higher with 500,000 fewer jobs available without the payroll tax cut by the end of this year.
Mr. Casey also touted his push for $49 million in federal money for the Port of Philadelphia for a project that will boost imports and create jobs there.
"If you take me out of the equation, I'm not sure we would have gotten that," he said. "I was an indispensable part of that because I lobbied the president directly, one on one, and lobbied incessantly the vice president. And the administration, led by the vice president, worked very hard to get that done."
Mr. Casey said he also fought to re-obtain federal money for the County of Lackawanna Transit System's downtown transportation center project, which will host buses, retail business and eventually trains.
"That's not a bill, but it's action and momentum and progress," he said. "There are a lot of ways you get results, and it isn't just introducing a bill that you hope will be pristine by the end of the process. Sometimes, it will be amendments; sometimes, you get part of it, not all of it. I'm pretty proud of the results we get."
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