Tuesday afternoon, I had the opportunity to spend twenty minutes with Congressman Allen West (R FL-22) and ask him about the outcome of the debt-limit negotiations, the current state of the economy and U.S. foreign policy. Once the pleasantries were exchanged, we got right to the questions.
Rich: Moody’s cut the U.S. economic outlook for 2011 and people are still struggling to find jobs. What would you like to see done on to fix the economy?
Rep. West: I think One of the things that has to happen is the government has to set the conditions to incentivize long-term, sustainable economic growth in America. When we continue to talk about bigger government and tax hikes, that’s not how we do it. I think when you look at the corporate tax rate in America, which is the second highest in the world, very simply let’s take that tax rate and cut it down to 20-21% and remove all the loopholes, strategies and subsidies and give our corporations and businesses a competitive tax rate. For the individual tax rate, since many businesses operate as sub chapter S corporations, let’s flatten that out to somewhere between 13% and 16% and only have two deductions: the child tax credit and the mortgage interest deduction.
For clarification, I repeated what I’d heard and got even more insight into how the Congressman would kick start the economy. He mentioned that not only would he be in favor of the lower corporate tax rate, but would favor making it retroactive to January 1st of 2011. As Rep. West put it, it would allow companies to recalculate their liabilities and realize additional assets that could allow them to invest, expand and hire.
Rep. West also mentioned the repeal of Sarbanes-Oxley, the set of financial regulations intended to prevent market losses like those experienced due to the Enron scandal. Unfortunately, Sarbanes-Oxley is expensive to implement and lacks any real or perceived benefits. It has done little more than to burden American companies with complex regulations that make it difficult to compete in the global economy.
Stressing that the “Keynesian model just doesn’t work” Congressman West mentioned that instead of more “pie-in-the-sky gimmicks” like stimulus spending, we should be looking at real plans like the new legislation he has in the House Ways and Means Committee – H.R. 1663 is titled “The Small Business Encouragement Act” which, according to the Republican Study Committee, would:
The bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code to allow small businesses who hire an unemployed American, a work opportunity tax credit, saving employers up to $12,000 a year per hire in some areas of the country. To qualify, small businesses must have gross receipts in the preceding taxable year not exceeding $20 million, or they must employ less than 100 full time employees. The tax credit will double for employers hiring unemployed Americans in counties with an unemployment rate that is higher than the national average, which is currently just above 9 percent.
In the RSC blog post Rep. West was quoted as saying, “The Small Business Encouragement Act is a simple, effective solution to putting people back to work by encouraging the very backbone of our economy, the small businesses.”
Rich: In addition to the economy, what other issues would you like to see the House take up after the current recess?
Rep. West: I wish we had our tails back up there in Washington, D.C. right now. We have 12 appropriations bills that we have to pass through the House and get over to the Senate. We’ve only done 6 in the House so far and I think that the Senate has only taken up one of those.
We shouldn’t be waiting around for this joint committee of Congress to get going on finding spending cuts. We should get back up there and immediately implement the $300 Billion in cuts to duplicative and redundant government programs that the GAO (Government Accounting Office) report identified earlier this year.
I think we should be very concerned that China has rolled out it’s first aircraft carrier and the United Nations (U.N.) have a unilateral vote on Palestinian statehood in September.
The Congressman also expressed that while it was fantastic to get to speak with and meet his constituents, the prevailing feeling he was getting was that voters would rather Congress was in session getting these things done.
Rich: The news yesterday mentioned a “trial balloon”-style rumor that Obama may seek to solve our jobs dilemma by creating more government – The Department of Jobs. How do you feel about that approach?
Rep. West: That’s one of the most insidious things I’ve ever heard. Look, we have some government agencies that I don’t know why they exist. Why do we have a department of labor if we need a department of jobs? Why do we have a Department of Energy, that was originally created to make us energy independent and we still don’t have a diversified energy resource portfolio in the United States of America. When I hear the President speak, all I hear is a big government, liberal, progressive, socialist that does not understand that his policies that he has tried to implement over just less than three years has brought us incredible debt and increased our trillion dollar plus deficits over the last few years.
Even the liberal-leaning Huffington Post has an article that agrees with the Congressman on the silly nature of the President’s rumored idea. HuffPo’s Ken Blackwell points out not only the redundancy that Obama’s Dept. of Jobs would have with the Labor Department, but also the Commerce Department:
Then, of course, we have the U.S. Commerce Department. The Mission Statement of this department makes it sound like it, too, is a Jobs Department.
The U.S. Department of Commerce promotes job creation, economic growth, sustainable development and improved standards of living for all Americans by working in partnership with businesses, universities, communities and our nation’s workers.
We then changed the subject to the recent debt limit negotiations and outcome.
Rich: You voted for the negotiated debt-limit deal, correct?
Rep .West: Yes I did.
Rich: Out of all the plans and frameworks presented – the Ryan plan, Connie Mack’s Penny plan and cut, cap and balance, which was your favorite?
Rep. West: The Cut, Cap and Balance plan was my favorite and that was the one that 70-some-odd percent of the American people were behind. I think it’s reprehensible that Harry Reid, playing politics, tabled it. But the important thing is that you just don’t quit. The worst case situation is that the Democrats, that had no plan, no vision whatsoever, enabled a perceived or manufactured crisis to occur. Then they turned to the blame game and the next thing you know we have to succumb to their wild and crazy economic schemes.
The final debt agreement was not the 100%. It was probably a 70-75% solution for me. The cuts in spending are not great, but at least we don’t have tax hikes. It’s also the first time ever that we’ve had a debt limit increase along with cuts in spending.
Congressman West was also quick to point out that this sets a precedent. Debt limit increases are not going to come free and easy anymore. He also was not fond of the Joint Committee, but felt it would be something they could work through.
Rich: The negotiated deal also contains, as a trigger provision, significant cuts to defense spending if deficit reductions don’t happen. Considering all that our young men and women in uniform are asked to do, are you concerned about that provision?
Rep. West: What I found is really horrible is that we have to have this nuclear option hung over our heads as if we can’t do the sensible and the right thing and find the $1.5 trillion in additional cuts over the next ten years. I don’t think anyone wants to be there and say that “I decimated the defense structure of the United States of America on my watch”. You can best be sure that I will do everything possible on my side to make sure that this Joint Commission of Congress performs their duties. I sit on the Armed Services Committee, I have many a friend and also a nephew that is still serving. I am not going to allow them to be sent into a combat zone without the proper levels of readiness.
With the debt-limit situation covered, foreign policy was up as the final topic.
Rich: Considering the three conflicts that the U.S. is currently engaged in – Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq, which, if any do you believe we should be fighting?
Rep. West: Libya we should not be fighting at all. On this I have been very vocal. I believe the President is violating statutory law and going against the War Powers Act of 1973. I was one of the first to go into Iraq in 2003 with the Fourth Infantry Division. Now it’s going to be drawn down on the 31st of December of this year. I do have some concerns on the resurgance of Muqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi army which is supported by Iran. I believe that when you look at Afghanistan we got off-focus in being more concerned with nation building and occupation-style warfare instead of focusing on the enemy and his sanctuaries. On the tenth anniversary of 9-11,those attacks emanated out of Afghanistan, I don’t want to just pull tents and run away without having defeated the enemy to some measure of success.
Rich: There was a video put up by The Shark Tank that showed you discounting Representative Ron Paul as a serious candidate based on his foreign policy views, specifically on Iran. How would you like to see the United States deal with Iran?
Rep. West: The last thing I want to see us do is to take the Neville Chamberlain type of perspective and believe that we can compromise, appease and negotiate with Iran. You know, we’ve been in contention with Iran ever since the fall of the Shah, the rise of the Ayatollah and the hostage crisis. I believe there is going to come a time when we will have to take action against the military capability of Iran. Iran is supporting actions against our men and women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan. For anyone to sit and say that they want to be President of the United States of America, understanding that the most important title for the President is Commander-in-Chief, and say that they would not have problem with Iran having a nuclear device because everyone else has it – shows that person does not understand mutually assured destruction theory (M.A.D.). The religious fanatics that are truly in control in Iran – if they get that device, they’re going to use it for the purposes of having an apocalyptic event so that they can conceivably bring back the 12th Imam – the Mahdi.
Rich: Obama has stressed our relationship with one of our closest allies – Israel. There is mounting pressure for the U.N. to grant statehood to Palestine and this administration seems to be doing little to prevent it. What is your stance on the statehood of Palestine?
Rep West: I’m headed over to Israel this Saturday for a week. I think the most important thing is for the President, [U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.] Susan Rice, and Secretary of State Clinton should do is to come out, have a press conference and unequivocally state that they will not support a unilateral creation of a Palestinian state by the United Nations. We need to vote against it in the General Assembly. We definitely need to veto it in the U.N. security council. There should not be any quibbling about where we stand.
Congressman West expounded upon his answer by explaining that he had real concerns about a Palestinian government, Fatah, that has reconciled with Hamas - a known terrorist group that has in its charter the destruction of Israel. Hamas does not recognize Israel as a nation and now the U.N. would consider recognizing Palestine as a state. He also mentioned that if Palestine somehow were granted statehood, that the United States would respond by providing, “absolutely no funding to an illegitimate Palestinian State”.
There was much more from the interview, but I’ll be releasing that in separate articles as those questions were from unrelated topics. I thank Representative Allen West and his dedicated team for making this interview possible.