Fiorina keeps campaign focus on waste, bureaucracyBy DAVID SOLOMON
New Hampshire Union Leader
May 26. 2015 8:23PM
MANCHESTER — The backlog of files at the Veterans Affairs regional office in Winston-Salem, N.C., grew so large that the weight exceeded the load-bearing capacity of the floor and compromised the structural integrity of the building.
That’s one of the stories Carly Fiorina likes to tell as she campaigns for the presidency, with a focus on government waste and a bloated bureaucracy.
The former Hewlett-Packard CEO and unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate from California was back in New Hampshire on Tuesday, fresh from a strong showing at Iowa’s Lincoln Day Dinner earlier in the month.
In an interview with Union Leader editors and reporters, Fiorina hammered away at the themes that are winning applause from Republican primary voters wherever she speaks — less government, less bureaucracy, less regulation.
Whether the subject is military spending, the shrinking middle class or banks that are too big to fail, Fiorina sees a common thread.
When it comes to the Pentagon, she says the bureaucratic tail is wagging the fighting-force dog. “The tooth-to-tail ratio in the Pentagon is as bad as it’s ever been,” she said, referring to the imbalance between spending on administration versus spending on troops. “We are not investing enough in tooth, and we have way too much tail.”
Middle class prospects for prosperity are being diminished by regulations that are crushing small business, she said.
“We are now destroying more businesses than we are creating,” she said. “Our government has gotten so big, so powerful, so costly, so complicated, so inept — and so corrupt in some cases — that only the big and powerful and wealthy and well-connected can handle it.”
The near-collapse of the financial industry? A consequence of big government agencies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac injecting politics into the housing market.
“And when the crash happened, we had 25 regulatory agencies that were supposed to be overseeing the banks. They weren’t. Do we reform any of the 25? Do we reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? No. We create another big bureaucracy,” she said, referring to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “We created Dodd-Frank (regulations), and 10 banks that were too big to fail are now five banks, and 3,000 community banks have gone out of business because they are not big enough to deal with the complexity.”
While touting her own humble roots as a secretary and her husband’s as a tow truck driver, she said the kind of upward mobility that landed her in American board rooms is rapidly disappearing.
“Americans don’t have the possibilities they once had,” she said. “When I talk to voters, I see a deep disquiet in this nation, and it’s not partisan, not political. People feel we are losing the sense of limitless possibilities that has always defined this nation in large part because we are crushing our economic engine — the small businesses like the nine-person real estate firm that I started in, or the body shop that my husband started in, the dry cleaner, the nail salon, those little companies that employ most of the people, provide most of the jobs and innovate the fastest.”
Fiorina calls for zero-based budgeting for the federal government, in which every program, every department has to be justified in every budget, with no assumption of building on the last appropriation.
She also favors a merit-based pay and promotion system for government employees, with accountability that she says has been lacking.
“You can watch pornography all day long in the federal government, and get paid the same vacation, benefits and leave as someone who is working hard,” she said. “Why don’t we actually fire people who don’t do their jobs?”
While not calling it a hiring freeze, Fiorina proposed a unique solution to reducing government payroll.
“In the next five to six years, we’re going to have tens of thousands of baby boomers retire out of the federal government,” she said. “We could say as a design principle we are not going to replace any of those jobs.”
• Health care: “The federal government should not be regulating the health insurance industry. We ought to have states managing high-risk pools,” Fiorina said.
• Common Core: “However it started or was intended, it is now a bureaucratic program coming out of Washington that is trying to standardize how teachers teach and how students learn, because that’s what bureaucracies do.”
• Foreign policy: Fiorina thinks the Obama administration has become too committed to a deal with Iran, at the expense of longtime allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia. “Saudi Arabia pays attention when we treat Israel the way we are treating Israel,” she said. “The Saudis don’t trust us anymore. That’s a bad thing.”
Although well below the top 10 in a field of two dozen Republican candidates or potential candidates, Fiorina takes no issue with criteria issued by major media as to which candidates will take center stage during debates this summer.
In order to make the Fox News debate on Aug. 6, for example, she will have to poll in the top 10.
“I come from a world where results count,” she said. “They’ve laid out a set of goals. We understand them, and I am going to work hard to achieve those goals. Based on the progress so far, and the momentum we are building, I believe we are going to be on that stage.”