• U.S. Senate candidate focuses on deficit
    Vermont Press Bureau | September 30,2012
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    Mark Collier / Staff Photo

    Republican John MacGovern is running against incumbent Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., in the upcoming election for U.S. Senate in November.
    Deficit hawk John MacGovern says he has 16 trillion reasons Vermonters should elect him to the U.S. Senate in November.

    Sen. Bernard Sanders, the popular first-term independent who’s raised more than $5 million toward his re-election effort, looks poised to cruise to an overwhelming victory this fall.

    But as the nation’s debt exceeds its gross domestic product, MacGovern says an economic house of cards is on the verge of collapse. And when it does, this former four-term Republican lawmaker in the Massachusetts House of Representatives says voters will look to fiscal conservatives like him to reconstruct the broken country.

    “When the economy was doing well and growth couldn’t end, Vermont could afford to have someone there mouthing off with his silly ideas,” MacGovern says of Sanders. “But now that things are serious, I don’t believe we can afford that anymore.”

    Raised on a dairy farm in Massachusetts, MacGovern, who is married and lives in Windsor, arrived in Vermont by way of Dartmouth College, where he majored in Chinese language and culture. His proficiency in the language would form the basis of his business career, which involved brokering deals in Taiwan and China on behalf of U.S. firms looking to broaden their reach into Asian markets.

    “Those were the days when the U.S. didn’t have official relations with China,” MacGovern says. “In fact, I was in Taiwan when (Jimmy) Carter broke relations there.”

    Since moving to Windsor in the 1990s, MacGovern has served as president of the Hanover Institute, an alumni organization that has proven a thorn in the side of the Dartmouth establishment. Most notably, the organization succeeded in getting four “dissident” trustees elected to the university’s board of trustees.

    MacGovern said he “took on extraordinarily powerful interests at Dartmouth” in order to restore power to alumni.

    Now, he aims to bring the fight to federal politics.

    “I’ve been in elections where there are these kind of tidal waves that upset apple carts,” MacGovern says. “And I think we could easily see that in this race.”

    MacGovern is no stranger to long-shot bids for higher office. When he took on incumbent Massachusetts Democrat Chet Atkins in his race for the U.S. House in 1990, “we were in a situation much like the one we’re dealing with here.”

    “And I nearly won,” says MacGovern, who lost that race by two percentage points.

    He’s been far less successful in Vermont, where he launched three failed bids for the Vermont Senate, and lost a race for the Vermont House in 2008 by a nearly 3-to-1 margin.

    He says he thinks Vermonters are now ready to rally around a deficit-reduction economic platform that targets Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for major reforms.

    MacGovern says the so-called “Ryan budget,’’ a plan authored by Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan that would have replaced Medicare with a voucher system, is probably “too timid.”

    “We need the courage it takes to save these programs and it disturbs me that those rare political figures who talk this way are demonized and attacked by the likes of people like Bernie Sanders,” MacGovern says.

    Asked how he’d reform Social Security, for instance, MacGovern says he’s not ready to tip his hand.

    “I’m not going to here and now suggest a global solution for Social Security except to say two things: One, everything should be on the table. Two, those who are currently receiving it would not have any of their benefits jeopardized,” MacGovern says.

    MacGovern says once he’s in the Senate, it’s just a matter of working with some like-minded people and hammering out a deal.

    “I’m not saying what I would support in the negotiation,” he says. “You just need to have some serious people who say what I’m saying and then all get in a room and work it out.”

    As he enacts reforms to federal programs, MacGovern, 60, says he would simultaneously ease regulations on U.S. business.

    “What needs to happen is government needs to get out of the way, and stop putting burdens on businesses and entrepreneurs, and people who are creative and inventive — the kind of people who built America,” he says. “I know that kind of person is still there.”

    For more information on MacGovern’s candidacy, visit his website at www.johnmacgovern.com.

    peter.hirschfeld@ timesargus.com
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