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October 20. 2011 9:46PM

Santorum touts 0-0-0 plan at town hall meeting


Former Pennsylvania Sen. and current GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks at a town hall meeting in Manchester on Wednesday. (MARK HAYWARD/Union Leader)
MANCHESTER — Rick Santorum said income disparity in the United States is a real issue as he touted his 0-0-0 plan for reviving manufacturing jobs.

Santorum made his remarks during a town hall meeting Thursday night, which capped a full day in New Hampshire that started with him filing as a candidate in the New Hampshire presidential primary.

The former Pennsylvania senator said Occupy Wall Street activists have a point when they talk about income disparity.

“Initially, the idea of Wall Street getting compensated and no one looking out for the little guy; this is a legitimate complaint,” he said.

Santorum said the way to reduce disparity is to create manufacturing jobs for skilled and semi-skilled workers who don't go to college.

His 0-0-0 plan calls for a 0 percent corporate income tax; he would eliminate regulations that cost more than $100 million; and 0 tax on offshore money if it is invested in manufacturing in the United States.

“We can turn this around, create millions of jobs overnight,” the former Pennsylvania senator said.

Santorum, 53, welcomed news that Nevada may be easing its insistence on a Jan. 14 but said he will continue to fight for New Hampshire's primary.

He was among the first to join the boycott of the Nevada caucus after Republican officials there moved their event close to New Hampshire's. Santorum said he canceled two entire days of events in Nevada in protest.

“I've been defending you all over the country,” Santorum told Secretary of State William Gardner as he prepared to sign his candidacy papers.

The town hall meeting was sponsored by We the People, an organization trying to provide forums for all presidential candidates. The event was suppose to begin at 7 p.m. But remarks by the organization's founder, Jennifer Horn, former Cornerstone director Kevin Smith, and Santorum meant that he didn't get his first question until 7:40 p.m.

People asked about education, civilian bombings and tax policy.

Santorum said “it's a good thing” that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is dead.

“He has blood on his hands, American blood on his hands,” Santorum said. But he gave President Obama no credit for the Libyan revolution.

He said Obama said nothing for a long time, then said Gadhafi must go, then did nothing again until pressured by France, the United Nations and the Arab League.

“That raises the specter of a paper tiger,” Santorum said. He also faulted Obama for Iran and its near assassination of a Saudi diplomat in Washington and its nuclear ambitions.

Santorum said he would undermine the Iranians with a strike fund to support striking civil servants.

“Get money to the bus drivers, sanitation workers,” Santorum said. That would create chaos, he said.

He was generally well received by the crowd. Harry Doutt wore a Pittsburgh Steelers jacket and said he came from western Pennsylvania. He praised Santorum for his convictions.

“Are you electable? You are electable,” Doutt said.

As a senator, Santorum said he often heard from voters who said they didn't agree with him on every issue, but trusted him to follow his convictions.

“If you look at my record, I didn't change a bit,” Santorum said.

Most of Santorum's remarks to reporters Thursday morning dealt with the primary and New Hampshire's place on the calendar. Small states provide the best proving ground for candidates, he said.

In New Hampshire, he said, politics is “a full-contact sport”

Santorum's political career has been marked by involvement in the pro-life movement, family life issues and opposition to embryonic stem cell research, as well as his an active role in welfare and other government reform.

Santorum has trailed in polling, but said he is excited about a New Hampshire campaign.

“I know we can do well here. I know it's an uphill battle for first place, but I've been in uphill battles before, but I like the position I'm in,” he said. “Let the other horses run out there and exhaust themselves, and down that home stretch I'll catch them from behind. That's the way I've done it in the past.”

Santorum said he doubts the 9-9-9 tax reform plan the Republican Herman Cain advocates will gain much traction in New Hampshire. The plan includes a 9 percent sales tax that could cascade throughout the economy each time goods are bought and sold, he said.

“That's an embedded, hidden tax,” he said. Combine the sales tax with a 9 percent flat income tax, he said, and tax rates for many take a serious turn upward.

“For retirees, and there's an increasing number of them in New Hampshire, that is a huge tax increase,” he said. “It's a huge tax increase for families. It's a huge tax increase for middle-income people.”

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