U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint brought his anti-government bandwagon to Rock Hill on Tuesday, telling a business audience that President Barack Obama is to blame for an unpredictable economic climate.
Amid concerns over what the government will do next, companies are struggling to get loans and grow operations, DeMint told 300 people at a monthly Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the City Club of Rock Hill.
"No one knows what to expect," DeMint told the capacity crowd. "This is not a failure of the private sector or the free market system or capitalism. This is a failure of the federal government that is now trying to micromanage all aspects of our economy, and our culture."
It took about 10 minutes for DeMint to make his first reference to the "s-word." He said President Obama's agenda, from the stimulus to cap-and-trade legislation to bank bailouts, has put the U.S. on a path toward socialism.
DeMint predicted passage of health care legislation would "destroy our health care system as we know it and it will bankrupt our country."
Obama wasn't the only target. The senator also blamed President George W. Bush for expanding federal control of education and prescription drugs.
Democrats: Give us solutions
It was the kind of speech that has made DeMint a darling of the national conservative movement. But it also showcased the fact that DeMint has no solutions for the problems his party helped create, said York County Democratic Party Chairman Richards McCrae.
"It is pretty much typical Jim DeMint," McCrae said. "It doesn't do one (darn) thing to improve the quality of life for middle class Americans. It helps him shore up his base on the fringes of the radical right."
DeMint, who faces re-election in November, favors limited health care reform that lets people buy insurance across state lines and allows small businesses to buy into self-funded plans.
The senator said people wrongly blame the tea party movement for violent incidents such as the man who crashed a plane into the IRS building in Texas.
"Any violence that goes on around the country ... (the perpetrator) is automatically a tea party guy," he said. "Folks standing up and speaking out are changing the dynamic of our country."
During a Q&A portion of DeMint's address, an audience member stood up and said it was his understanding that the health care bill creates a "ready reserve army" in the surgeon general's office.
DeMint said he didn't know what the guy was talking about, but quickly added there would be thousands more IRS agents as a result of the health bill.
Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee warned that the bill could require the IRS to hire 16,000 additional agents to enforce the new rules.