U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle said Friday that she's sorry for calling the unemployed "spoiled," but she believes repeatedly extending jobless benefits doesn't solve the nation's economic problems or encourage people to find work.
In an interview with the editorial board of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Angle offered a two-track solution to solve Nevada's record high 14.2 percent unemployment rate. She said people who accept low-paying work should receive partial jobless benefits. At the same time, government should cut taxes and regulations to give companies confidence to invest capital and hire workers again.
"Government shouldn't always be putting Band-Aids on big problems," Angle said, referring to unemployment extensions. "They need to be looking at real solutions. And the real solution is we need jobs. People don't want to be unemployed or on unemployment insurance. They want to be at work."
As for Angle calling the unemployed spoiled, she said, "It was a mistake. I apologized for it."
In the wide-ranging, hour-long interview, the Republican defended her views that private business, not government stimulus, creates jobs. And she talked about her tough campaign against Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader of the Senate and the No. 1 GOP target for defeat this year.
Angle said her campaign is raising money faster than expected and anticipates bringing in more than $10 million through Nov. 2. She said that would allow her to compete toe-to-toe with Reid, who has $9 million in cash on hand and plans to raise about $6 million more.
"The people we hired to do fundraising said they've never seen a response like this," said Angle, a staunch conservative backed by the Tea Party movement that's sweeping the nation with its anti-big government message. "It's totally off the charts. ... It's just the national nature of this campaign."
The Tea Party Express endorsed Angle during the GOP primary and spent more than $500,000 to promote her, which helped propel her to a surprise victory last month.
The organization, the most aggressive political offshoot of the movement, continues to raise money to back Angle, although it's against the law for her campaign to coordinate with the group.
On Friday, one of the group's leaders, Mark Williams, resigned in the wake of criticism for writing a racially derogatory blog post that he described as a satire. He wrote it in response to an NAACP resolution that called on Tea Party leaders to crack down on racist elements in the movement.
Angle on Friday condemned the remarks Williams made. She also made it clear she welcomed continuing help for her campaign from the Tea Party Express despite calls from the Nevada Democratic Party for her to give back all donated money to the organization and cut all ties.
"I believe they've taken care of their problem internally," Angle said.
In the past six weeks, Angle's campaign has been struggling, and she has come under attack from Reid for having what the Democrats call "extreme" and even "dangerous" ideas, including closing some federal agencies such as the energy and education departments to reduce government spending.
Angle said the money could be better spent by states on education and energy.
The Reid campaign also has attacked Angle for saying it's not a U.S. senator's job to create jobs and for saying she wouldn't have phoned banks such as Reid did to urge continued funding for CityCenter. The $8.5 billion hotel-casino project opened on the Strip last year and directly employs 8,000 people.
Angle calls what Reid did for CityCenter another "bailout," although the project didn't receive any federal funds like some failing banks and big carmakers did from the Obama administration.
"I still believe that's simply what it is," Angle said, defending her bailout description. "CityCenter is one of those businesses considered by the senator as too big to fail."
Angle said no private business should get special treatment from the government. She noted that neither CityCenter's opening nor the original $787 billion stimulus program has improved Nevada's or the nation's jobless situation, and unemployment has skyrocketed during the past two years.
"Creating jobs is never the job of government, and we've seen that through the stimulus. ... Obviously, it's a failed policy that has put us deeper into debt," Angle said.
"In capitalistic societies and free market societies, businesses, entrepreneurs, small-business people, corporations: That's where jobs are created," she added. "And they're meaningful jobs. They're full-time, well-paying jobs with a future. They're not temporary jobs that last, you know, a few months like the Census jobs or construction jobs on a road someplace that will end."
Reid and President Barack Obama argue the recession that Democrats inherited from the Bush administration would have been worse without the bailouts and stimulus spending.
But Angle said corporations are holding on to $2 trillion in capital and are reluctant to spend it because they fear new taxes and regulations.
Angle said she wants to extend the Bush-era tax cuts that are scheduled to expire at the end of 2010. And she wants to permanently do away with the estate tax, which after a one-year hiatus is supposed to return in 2011 at a rate of 55 percent for rich estates.
"We know that capital produces labor," Angle said, invoking Reaganomics. "It's the capital that we need to flow into the economy that creates those jobs, pays for those jobs."
Reid wants to extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for middle-class families making less than $250,000. And he wants to reinstate the estate tax at 2009 levels, a maximum 45 percent rate.
Earlier this week, Obama signed an extension of unemployment benefits, something Republicans opposed because they wanted government to find the $34 billion to pay for it instead of adding to the growing deficit.
Angle said she, too, would have voted against the extension unless it was paid for.
"We have maxed out our credit card right now," said Angle, pointing to the nation's record $13 trillion debt. "The Republicans, to their credit, said since you want a pay-as-you-go policy, then pay for this."
Angle said unemployment benefits are "supposed to be a safety net, a way to get from one job to the next," but instead have become a way for the government to pump some money into the economy without providing real incentives for people and business to get back to work.
"I think we need to be very, very careful that we're not incentivizing instead of providing safety nets for folks," Angle said of the unemployment benefits.
Asked how an average benefit check of $300 a week is an incentive not to work, Angle said some people would make less money if they took a low-paying job. She said a woman who works in an unemployment office in Elko said she has lists of $9-per-hour jobs but people don't want to take them because they're bringing home the equivalent of $11 per hour in jobless benefits.
Angle suggested people should take those jobs and the government should pay a partial benefit to make up the difference .
"Someone who's working is also keeping their skills up to date," she said. "They've got a good feeling about themselves. That's really important. We don't need a discouraged work force. We need an encouraged work force. We need people that really feel good about getting up in the morning and going to work."
Asked whether jobless benefits should ever be cut off, Angle said not if someone really can't find work.
"When you're legitimately trying, we don't want to pull the rug out from under you," she said.
Angle said the unemployment issue has become an election year football.
"What has happened here is that Harry Reid has politicized the 195,000 people who are out of work here in Nevada by bringing up an issue, which is truly not addressing the solution," Angle said. Instead, she said, extending benefits is "just creating a fear climate that says this is all we can do."
Angle has long expressed opposition to the new federal health care law, arguing it's unconstitutional because it requires people to buy a product and business to sell one.
She also said she is opposed to the newly passed Wall Street financial reform, calling it a "perpetual bailout" that again would protect companies that are "too big to fail."
The Tea Party favorite, who has always been an outsider in her own party, said both the Republicans and Democrats have failed to hew to the Constitution and rein in spending.
"There seems to be a disregard on both sides of the aisle for constitutional principles," Angle said. "And I think that we're looking now at a class of candidates coming up that I have some confidence in, yes, because they share my constitutional values."
She mentioned by name Mario Rubio, a Republican running for the Senate in Florida, and Nikki Haley, another Tea Party favorite Republican running for governor in South Carolina. As for sitting lawmakers, she said she admires conservative Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Jim DeMint, R-S.C.
Contact reporter Laura Myers at email@example.com or 702-387-2919.