In a June 22nd forum of candidates for the Republican Party nomination for United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas sponsored by the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, candidates were asked about their plans to reduce the federal deficit and national debt.
The candidates and their campaign websites are Wichita businessman Jim Anderson, Wichita businessman Wink Hartman, Wichita businessman Mike Pompeo, Latham engineer Paij Rutschman, and Kansas Senator Jean Schodorf.
A question by moderator Steve McIntosh recited the current large debt and deficit figures, noted that Medicare and Social Security are headed down an unsustainable path, and said that Americans are worried about the negative effects of letting the Bush tax cuts expire. What is your plan for reducing the deficit and debt, while keeping taxes low enough to allow for economic growth?
Answering first, Rutschman said we need to look at our government agencies and make sure they are operating effectively and efficiently. She said we should start balancing the federal budget. She told the audience that we should look at Social Security and Medicare to see where we can start reducing these programs, and develop a long-term plan for handling the upcoming retiring generation.
Next, Schodorf said she had a plan for national economic development and growth, saying first that we need a balanced budget amendment. She said that the bipartisan commission on deficit reduction is really just a paper tiger, and what we really need are experts in different fields to work together to recommend how to reduce the deficit. She said the federal government needs to reduce its spending, recommending a 5% across-the-board cut if possible. She said we need to keep the Bush tax cuts in place.
Anderson told the audience that we need to reduce the size of government, starting with an overhaul of the tax system by replacing their current income tax with the FairTax. The fair tax, he said, is the best way to generate revenue for limited government, noting that the current tax code is the source of many of our problems. States should take care of their own needs, he added, and we should eliminate the system of earmark spending. He also said we need to look at each federal program, and if it is not constitutional, it should be eliminated.
Hartman said we need to get control of our government, and that one way to get started immediately would be a balanced budget amendment. He also believes in the FairTax. He said that 41 cents of every dollar government spends is borrowed and must be repaid at some time. The Bush tax cuts should be continued, he said, as they worked well once. He said he is also concerned about estate taxes, especially their impact on family farms. He said that a larger federal government has never — and will never — create jobs.
Pompeo said that growing the economy, creating a tax base that is broader and larger, is the first way that we can reduce the deficit. The second way is to reduce spending. He told the audience he supports eliminating earmarks, but noted that earmarks are a relatively small part of the budget. Entitlements, he said, are the real problem, and that we should start by repealing the recently enacted healthcare entitlement. On Social Security, Pompeo said he supports a plan developed by Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan. For people 55 years of age and over, there would be no impact, he said, but benefits for younger people would be reduced, adding that the promised benefits may really be a false promise. On the federal Department of Education, Pompeo said it is incomprehensible to him that send a dollar to Washington, only to get $.64 back along with instructions on how to run our schools. He also said we should reduce capital gains taxes by at least 50%, to create an incentive for capital.
Schodorf’s concern for spending and taxes must be balanced against her record in the Kansas Senate, which is a very liberal voting record. She voted for the big-spending budget this year, and voted to raise the statewide sales tax by one cent per dollar.
The FairTax, which many of these candidates support, is probably a better tax system than the system currently in place, but it does not address the issue of spending. According to FairTax.org, “Bottom line is that the 23% rate works it replaces the revenue generated by the repealed taxes, and maintains the real value of federal spending.” In other words, the FairTax is calibrated to provide the same revenue to government. For those looking to reduce the amount government takes in taxes — no matter what form — and to reduce government spending, the FairTax is not the solution.
The idea of eliminating federal programs that are not constitutional is also appealing to limited government advocates. The reality, however, is that every spending program that’s in place — with the exception of newly-passed legislation that hasn’t yet been challenged in the courts — has passed constitutional muster. The Constitution means what the Supreme Court says it means, after all.
Hartman’s concern for federal estate taxes is well-placed, especially, as he noted, in Kansas, where many families’ assets are in the form of land and other agriculture assets.
Pompeo, as he has in other forums, said he supports the Paul Ryan plan, known as the Roadmap for America’s Future. This is a specific set of proposals promoted by Ryan, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee and a rising star among conservatives. The plan goes farther than Pompeo did regarding taxes on capital gains, recommending eliminating the tax on capital gains entirely.