COEUR d'ALENE - When U.S. Sen. Jim Risch responds to jabs about why the federal government doesn't create jobs, his answer is simple.
The government can't create jobs.
It can only help nudge Americans in that direction.
In three ways, specifically: "No. 1, lowering taxes, No. 2, getting rid of regulation and No. 3, getting out of the way."
The Republican senator, elected in 2008, agreed during a visit with The Press editorial board on Friday that jobs and the economy are the chief subjects fixing public interest.
But if citizens want their financial woes resolved, he said, they have merely to rely on their own enterprise.
"If you're looking for the government to change America, that's not going to happen," he said. "America needs to change itself."
How, Risch acknowledged, is a tricky question, especially as citizens have diverging visions for the country.
But he believes "the American people can do this," he said.
"We've proved it for two centuries," he said. "We can do it without the government."
Risch noted that Americans have spanned the financial spectrum in that duration, but that's part of our capitalist legacy, he said.
"Were there really rich people? Yes. Were there really poor people? Yes. Was there everything in between? Yes," Risch said. "You know why? Because we're free. The minute the last rich person disappears in America, we're not free anymore."
Risch dubbed the country's most urgent issue as the $16 trillion federal deficit.
He fears that other lawmakers aren't as determined to find a solution, he added.
"There's about 10 or 12 of us that think this is a crisis, in the Senate. The other 85, to a large degree, think this is a problem," he said. "They say what I said, before I got there. 'This is America, nothing can possibly ever go wrong here.' You know what? I don't believe that anymore."
He disagrees with the theory of filling the deficit by taxing the wealthy, he said.
Risch pointed out that President Obama's recent push for a tax on the super-rich was projected to net $4.5 billion, insignificant in the grand fiscal scheme.
"That's what it takes to run the federal government for 11 hours," Risch said.
Although he had no definite solutions, Risch said the problem is clear.
"It's a spending problem," he said. "It's not an income problem."