Friday, July 15, 2011

Mark Amodei Interviewed

Mark Amodei, Republican nominee for Congressional District Two, was interviewed by The Rural Republican on July 8. The interview was recorded and transcribed verbatim for publication on the DCRCC website. Words in italics are those of the interviewer.


David Limbaugh recently said that conservatives feel frustration about the federal government's virtually unchecked growth over the past 75 years.  Ann Coulter further describes leftists as having shown willingness to twist the constitution and thwart its provisions so as to achieve their policy ends.  Her solution to both problems is to throw out the bums and replace them with those who respect the idea of limited government.  Do you agree with  that problem resolution?  Explain your position.

Well, I agree with the analysis. I can't speak for the whole 535 folks. I can tell you this...I understand and feel the frustration.  I guess I would respond [that] you have to start changing the direction because the direction we've come to in the present is absolutely opposite of any, for most intents and purposes, any constitutional respect.  It's absolutely opposite any common sense fiscal policy and a lot of the foreign Policy stuff; energy policy defies logic, energy policy, a lot of it defies logic recently.  So I agree, in a sense, that it is time for a wholesale change.  I don't have an opinion on personnel other than I know what one side of the fence...the donkey side of the fence is saying...we ought to keep going the same way.  I fundamentally disagree with that.  So if the Republican side of the fence can't deliver meaningful change in thatdirection, I guess you would do that.


There are some who advocate convening a constitutional convention to "make modest changes" to the Constitution.  What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of a constitutional convention?

Well, I see mostly...I'm very leery of those because once you open the document up, it's open for all sides.  It's a phenomenally political time.  I don't think that the base foundations of the existing document are flawed.  I think that they provided a strong foundation over the centuries.  So, I guess I fall in the category of convening one, even though you say you need a balanced budget amendment, stuff like that.  It's like yeah, but when you weigh that against other forms of mischief, with some inroads, especially in the last couple of decades, some of the talk about how some things might need to change constitutionally, I would be very leery about providing a forum in which would provide some folks a chance to do that.  If you go back and start changing the base statute, if you will, then it calls all that into...I mean that would be a phenomenally chaotic thing to do.  The system's working pretty well; it has been for a few hundred years plus and let's leave it alone.

Pending a Supreme Court case as to the constitutionality of the War Powers Act, President Obama seems to have violated it provisions by committing our troops to the conflict in Libya without consent of Congress.  What is your view on his decision?

I agree with the folks who say he violated it.  You know, there are specific time frames in there that have been ignored.  Just the whole thing of... to go to a little higher altitude on the general policy...what was the objective?  What are we doing nation building in Libya?  Maybe there are answers for that, but they certainly haven't been clearly communicated to the American people at this point in time.  And so, that fact that congress did the little, 'we think you violated it', but then we turned around and continued funding. I understand and respect the need for Operations and unified fronts in a foreign policy sense, but this is an area that I think doesn't fit into that at all.  This is, I mean it just leaves you scratching your head.  So, I think he's clearly violated it, the War Powers Act.  Congress was right to call him on it.  I just don't understand why they kept funding it after they concluded that he broke the law, because nothing has changed.


The U.S. Government has been in serious financial crisis for more than two years.  The Democrats say the only way out of the crisis is to raise the debt ceiling.  Do you agree with that assessment and if so why?  If not what alternative do you see that would prevent the lowering of our credit rating?

First of all I think it's a media-driven misconception that if you don't raise the debt ceiling then you automatically get fiscal catastrophe and credit rating catastrophe and those sorts of things.  When you look at the cash flow of the U.S. government, there is sufficient cash flow to manage service on the debt, continue to make payments throughout most of the areas.  So, I reject the premise that if you don't raise the debt ceiling, all of a sudden things are going to start crashing from the sky, in terms of not paying the military, no Social Security checks...I think that is political drama and demagoguery put forth by folks who just want the debt ceiling raised and don't really care about the facts.  The facts are these: if you continue you raise the debt ceiling you will continue to incur more debt.  Since the Democrats took over control of both houses of congress, I think it was in 2008, and maybe it was even before that, but anyhow whatever year it was, we have...I mean in the last two years we got 40% increase in debt.  You go back a few more...before that it basically doubled.  And so, this culture of 'the answer to everything is federal government spending' when it has to borrow to spend, I patently reject.  You have to live within your means.  We need a balanced budget amendment.  We need spending caps.  We need super-majority [votes] to increase taxes.  We need a plan that starts drawing down the debt, the debt amount and lowering the ceiling as it draws down. So I'm a 'no' on raising the debt.  If I'm elected to this post, the 14, 15 months that I'm serving in that position, Barack Obama will still be President of the United States and Harry Reid will still be the majority leader of the Senate.  Under those circumstances, I'm a 'no' on raising the debt ceiling.


The deficit seems to be the subject d'jour these days.  What is your solution  to reducing the deficit?

We will have to have some spending discipline.  There's a lot of things: you have money that's going out for defense purposes in the military engagements we're engaged in right now which I think right now you should realistically plan for... to say those expenditures should be able to start being dialed back.  In say, a five to ten year scenario where you're trying to go out and set forth a budget.  I think you also need to address, realistically address, entitlement programs.  Some people take offense to the word entitlements; we can call it whatever you like to call it, but I think you've got to start telling people the truth.  If you are fifty-five years old or older, then your horizon for planning is pretty limited and I don't think it's fair or appropriate to try to change the rules for people in that [situation].  But if you're younger than fifty-five, we need to start talking about actuarially responsible solutions to things like Medicare and to Social Security and other things along those lines, Medicaid, where you say, "You know what, it's not going to be the same program it was for your parents."  But, you're going to have time to plan for it.  Obviously, there are things on it; there are means issues, there are eligibility-age issues, there are management issues in terms of waste and fraud.  There's a need for insurance reform, there's a need for medical care reform,  the cost of medical care, tort reform is one of the things that ought to be done that will have an impact on this.  So there's a whole horizon of things that, you know what, pick two or three out and try to get those done this year.  And then next year try to get the other things done.  But that all rolls into the deficit especially after you have a large segment of the population...I'm a when you talk about deficits and economy and stuff like that, baby-boomers getting into the age where we're accessing health care more, you need to realistically assess what that age wave brings with it and set your budget realities accordingly.  This is what we can afford; this is what we think it's reasonable to ask to folks to contribute as part of the program and beyond that, it has to go back to the private sector.  So when you talk about the budget stuff, the federal government I don't think was ever intended to be all things to all people.  The Tenth Amendment [and] state's rights are still important things and so our need...or there's a culture which assumes that when in doubt, the federal Government will be responsible to it, I think it's something that needs to be reexamined as part of getting the budget back under control.


Would you actively support a balanced budget amendment that limits spending to no more than actual revenues collected?

I support that concept but I don't thinks it's a standalone concept.  I think you need you need to have spending caps which tie spending to objective criteria.  For instance, some of the ones that have been tried on the smaller scale at State [of Nevada] level that have had some success, a function of population growth, a function of CPI increase, those sorts of things, I think you also have to have as super-majority requirement for tax increases.  So, that drives home the point, we have that here in Nevada; that drives home the point that when you increase taxes or fees or revenues like that, that it is a fairly momentous thing and you need to have given it a lot of thought and it needs to be well thought out and supported by a super-majority of votes.  I think you have to have a component that says we need a super-majority to increase the debt limit.  And you also need to have a component in there that says as you pay the debt limit down, it decreases also, so you don't leave the debt limit up there, for instance the present's sitting up there waiting for someone to try to absorb a few years down the road maybe when there's a different makeup in Congress or something like that.  So I see a bundle of about a half-dozen things that would be part and parcel of any sort of discussion on balanced budget amendments which deals with spending caps, super-majority requirements for debt limit increases, super-majority requirements for tax increases, and that you have that debt ceiling march down as you pay it down so that it's not somewhere you can rock it back up there at any given time.


Would you support an amendment limiting terms of office for congress to two six year terms for senators and six 2 year terms for representatives?

I would.  I mean I just know I was a product of term limits in Nevada and I think it was a healthy thing. I don't know what else to say other than I think it's a good idea.


Would you support an amendment to establish two 12 year terms for the Supreme Court where it would still be an appointed office by the president, with the advice and consent of the Senate, allowing the sitting president the option to re-nominate a justice or nominate a new one at the end of that term?

I don't know that I'm opposed to that either.  You know I think this kind of representative form of government even though that's judicial branch and the whole voting process is something where...I think that ultimately belongs to the voter.  And so instead of seeing it as somebody's territory, where once you've been elected a few's like...I know, a 12 year term for the Judicial branch is something that, I don't know if that's the right number, it's certainly not too low. I think that's a healthy thing.  Yes.  Doesn't sound, off the top of my head, doesn't sound real radical to me.


ObamaCare is purported by the Democrats to be the cure-all for our health care system.  Do you agree with that?  If not, what do you offer as an alternative?

You know what, there's...when you harken back to statements that Nancy Pelosi made which is you need to pass the bill in order to find out what's in it.  When you have the reporting that everything's going to be open and much of the negotiations were behind closed doors.  When you have all the premises that went leading up to the vote on it which was phenomenally not transparent...two-thousand plus pages [with] no opportunity to read...very little...which translates to...the real problem with that is you describe the symptoms, but the overall policy that was 'we really don't want input from shareholders or stakeholders unless they are ones that we are trying to curry political favor with'.  That's an awful way to make policy. What you're seeing now is you have the vote; you have multiple states with waivers.  There's a huge potential fiscal impact to the states; to the industry; all at a time when we're in a recession or depression; at a time when our population is aging and we're accessing health care more, so it becomes that much more magnified impact on the economy as well as the health care issues.  There are some things in there that are steps in the right direction, but in an overall context, it was an awful example of how not to do legislation; how policy was driven by political considerations and not5 factual ones.  You won't be able to repeal it in this [presidential] term because Barack Obama will obviously veto it.  But there is very much work that needs to be done in terms of...and also you've got the court cases that may end up wiping the whole thing out too.  There's a ton of work that needs to be done on health care.  Tort reform needs to be done.  Insurance reform needs to be done. Portability of health insurance between states is a good idea.  There's a lot of fertile ground, if you will, for improving health care; improving the delivery; improving the cost and minimizing the impact on the economy as we pivot into that.  That work needs to move forward post haste.  The sad thing is there's a lot of wreckage out there right now from that being rushed through for partisan political purposes.  That needs to be cleared out also before those impacts become fully developed.  The last thing I'll say is's got to tell you something when there is a provision in the bill that says it doesn't swing fully into effect until 2014 which is after the prime sponsor and mover, the president's last election.  I don't know what else you need to know.  If it was that good, why wouldn't you running on it in 2012 with the full impacts out there?


The national unemployment rate, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is hovering near 9% with the actual adjusted rate that includes those who have stopped searching at closer to 14%.  Nevada has similar number except at a higher percentage.  What would you do in the House of Representatives to reverse those numbers?

Well, I think first and foremost you have to start with the premise that anything that requires the federal government taking money from the private sector to try to change that takes money out of the private sector which is the prime generator of tax base and jobs.  That's counter intuitive. If you want to change it both here in Nevada and at the federal level, you have to empower the private sector.  An interesting statistic out there...firms of less than 500 people generate the majority of jobs.  So, trying to generate a whole bunch of government related jobs as moving us out of it, I mean numerous people said you can't spend yourself out of a recession.  You have to be cognizant of how sensitive those businesses are still holding on are to tax changes; to regulations changes; anything that costs more money or make is harder to do business now is the antithesis of a recovery.  You need the private sector to recover, not the government to grow.  That's the starting premise.   Here in Nevada, when you talk about our economy, knowing that the federal government owns around 85% of all the land in Nevada; when you talk about private sector economic vitality and activity, you have to include landlord.  I think that a couple of areas that need to be specifically concentrated on are those people who are the major land managers for the federal government, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, the two largest.  You need to take those folks and go, listen, all day, every day, we need to sit down and talk about what you're doing in this district ranger's area and this district managers area for BLM, district rangers for the Forest Service.  You have to say, what are we doing in terms of permitting times, what are we doing in terms of policies...there's a whole bunch of proposed wilderness study areas on the maps that don't meet the BLM criteria for wilderness for a long time now.  We need to move those off.  And you say, 'why do we have to do that.'  It's like listen, those resources, and I believe it is entirely possible and appropriate to use natural resources in a responsible manner.  But there are agro-business resources; there are energy exploration resources; there are mineral resources; there are recreational resources.  All of those things that go into the mix of what we try to sell as part of "our Nevada", whether it's tourism or indigenous private industry, are things that those lands can support more fully than they are now.  We need somebody who that's a priority for.


The Social Security system is nearly broke and will actually go broke in the next few years.  There are several ideas being touted as the way to salvage Social Security.  Which do you support and why?

Well, I tell you the first idea you need to do is start telling the people the truth because there's a ton of 'Social Security is broke' or 'Social Security is funded through 2023' or something like that.  I think you start with this premise.  If you're 55 or older, the world as you know it for Social Security shouldn't change.  Now maybe that 55 number goes up or down based on actuarial stuff, but for most intents and purposes, you're not going to shouldn't change the rules on somebody when they are already in the program or they're subject to it.  But then after that you need to go back and say, listen here's what it's going to be like for folks who are not within that timeframe based on what's appropriate to give you time to plan so that you don't feel like the rug's been pulled out from under you in terms of your expectations. I think that's a mix of things, and this is not an exclusive list; I think there means testing element in there where it's like listen, this is...and I'm not saying you take it away, but it's like, if this is something that's not instrumental for you, let's look at what may be appropriate for that.  I think the retirement age, the eligibility age to draw benefits, is something that needs to be examined.  When it was first put into effect working careers ended at a  certain time; life expectancy was different; all those sorts of things.  I think it's fair to go back now and ask what's the new reality of that and adjust those rules accordingly for those folks who are down the road always.  So you've got means testing; you've got eligibility.  I think you also have to look at as you go farther away from potential eligibility age that what the program is should be more seriously looked at in terms of going, "You know what?  If you're 25 years old right now when you enter the work force and you have 30, 40, or 50 years to plan for your retirement, guess what?  Maybe Social Security isn't a big part of your retirement plan anymore like it has become for other folks.  I think that starts with you've got to tell the truth; you've got to tell people that are on the doorstep or in the program [that] you're not going to change it for them; all those folks that are not on the doorstep; not in the program and entering paying in for benefits now, you need to go back and realistically actuarially assess what the reality of what we can do there with the present demographics and age waves that are coming after this baby-boom group and say here's the new program.  Now you have plenty of time to plan and, by the way, when we get 20 years down the road, the program gets more and more on a sound financial footing so whatever your expectations are, they are realistically base on actuarial facts instead of political pandering to people.


Medicare has been a drain on our resources.  Do you see any way to effectively fund Medicare into the future?

Well, yes.  One thing I want to clear up right off the bat is a lot of the Democrats have indicated that the Republicans are anti-Medicare...then the folks with the ObamaCare thing have taken half a trillion dollars out of Medicare to try to fund God knows whatever it they're funding or rearranging.  That's the classic example of both sides of your mouth, phenomenally disingenuous.  You go back to tell the truth.  Here is the reality in terms of Medicare and you know what I firmly believe that Medicare is broke as we speak.  You have to sit down and go - once again, if you're in the program, you're 55 years or older, here's what we're talking about.  I don't think it's inappropriate a this point in time to maybe go and say, you know we need to implement some level of means testing, maybe within the next couple of years.  I think we need to go back to those folks who aren't 55 and say - you know what - you are not going to be Medicare eligible at 65.  You're going to be maybe 67.  You'd have to see how the numbers work, but it's like - I'm telling you now though so you've got a decade or more to plan for that and move that back down too. But another function of Medicare gets back into the insurance reform and health care delivery reform which connects with tort reform.  There's a whole heck of lot of room for under waste, fraud, and abuse; under tort reform; under the health care delivery things that we can get involved with to say - we're not going to do it this way; it's wasteful or we're going to help you out with some parameters that affect you cost.  So, once again, it's a global thing.  You can't concentrate strictly on the program, you have to concentrate also on the industries that are tied in with that tightly which is insurance in healthcare in general.


In the past the practice of “liaise faire” as it relates to business served as a means to insure a healthy economy and preservation of jobs.  Do advocate “liaise faire”?

I do.  I'd err on the side of liaise faire.  We've got some issues in terms of what's going on off shore with some domestic corporations and where they are putting their money and things like that. Some of that is impact by policies of the federal government generated, some of them not so effective.  We need to take a look a lot of the stuff that we've done in terms of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) or the WTO (World Trade Organization) and things like that and if they're not working, we need to face up to that if it is putting us at a competitive disadvantage.  But I will tell you this, I think that private sector...and there's been a lot of demagoging about corporations in general especially by the present administration talking about things that are synonymous with corporate culture. Corporations are things that employ people.  Corporations are things whose stock is part of people's retirement plans.  Corporations...I do not see in and of themselves as evil things.  When you talk about the health of the private sector being directly related to the health of your tax base, corporations need to be responsible, they need to treat their people right, they have to be responsible environmentally, all those sorts of things, but keep in mind that this is a capitalistic, free enterprise society, at least I hope it still is, and that that is one of the foundations of it.  Yes, you need to make sure that they are operating responsibly, but you want them to operate; you want them to flourish; you want them to hire people and pay taxes; do private donations and all those sorts of things; provide sound benefit packages for their employees whether that be health care or retirement. This wholesale war on corporate America that I feel is part and parcel of least the rhetoric of the present administration and a lot of those in congress on the D side of the fence, I think is phenomenally un-useful.  If they're doing something wrong, then fix it.  But we need them and I think we need to promote that.


Many corporations have fled the United States because of the corporate tax rate, second only to Japan.  What would you do to entice those corporations to return?

Once again, I think the answer is global.  You have to take a look at the education of the work force; you have to take a look at the cost of the work force; you have to take a look at the litigation environment here; the financial environment.  A lot of those decisions are driven by purely financial considerations.  And so you say v-what would you do - I think you have to take a look at the trade agreements; you have to take a look at what we're doing in terms of labor issues...are we competitive still?  We have to take a look at work force training and work force education issue.  Are we doing things that keep us competitive with the work forces in other nations?  Financial issues in terms of investment taxation policies [and] income tax policies.  All those sort of things are part of that bundle.  I think you have to look at those and say - you know what - is it just the tax rate which is...I mean being second highest in the world speaks for itself.   I don't think that's a positive thing for keeping people here or keeping them growing here.  One of the most insidious things is a lot of them when they are growing, decide to grow offshore.  They may not be reducing here, but they're certainly not expanding here.  So we have to take a look I think at those areas and say - how can the policies that are in place now which are retarding those decisions to grow here - how can we change those so that we're now more competitive in terms of the growth and keeping them.


Manufacturing in this country has been on a steady decline for the past 30 years and made us into a “service oriented” economy. What would you do to return the U.S. to a manufacturing-based economy?

I think first and foremost you have to take a look at what sectors of manufacturing you want to be in.  To just make the global statement is one that doesn't serve any  You have to say - what manufacturing areas do we want in this country; what are the key ones in terms of economic and also, I think, tactical, in a national security sense? Whether that's manufacturing energy, whether that's manufacturing durable goods, manufacturing food, I think you have to take a look at those areas and say we want to be a leader in durable goods, we want to be a leader in food production, we want to be a any other areas we decide on.  Then you go after those specifically.  I think to try to be all things to all people, quite frankly, like it or not, there are some foreign countries who we certainly wouldn't want to emulate, but some of those manufacturing areas...some of those non-durable goods...I'm not sure how you compete with that under the conditions and the wages that they are paying.  I think you prioritize in terms of - it's important that we have a durable goods manufacturing base; it's important that we are energy self-sufficient; it's important the that technology or the hardware that we need to support auto manufacturing or energy production manufacturing or R & D on other sorts of high-tech stuff, should be here.


The TARP law injected federal money into the leading banks of this country to avert the financial crisis of 2008 with the proviso that the money be used to lend to business and individuals alike.  The banks took the money and then increased the lending criteria to the point where no one could qualify for a loan.  What action would you take to get the money flowing again?

I'll tell you why I think that happened.  If you talk to some of the banking people...there was a lot of money in the banks but at the same time you had the federal regulators sniffing around and there was a very real fear in the industry that margin requirements and reserve requirements were going to change on a weekly basis.  I've had some of them tell very directly - we have plenty of money, but were scared to death that if we loan it this week under these criteria, when somebody comes back in from the federal regulatory in a week or two from now and say you haven't got high enough equity to debt ratios or things like that, you're out of compliance.  Now you have compliance issues.  It's at a time when the federal government has done some unprecedented things in terms of - even though there's a procedure for this we're taking you over without following the procedure.  That's not only financial institutions but even down to General Motors and Chrysler.  So with bailout funding comes, I think in a lot of these institution's minds, the rules are what we say they are.  If you look back over the last few years there are examples of that.  I'm not trying to make the financial folks out as victims because that's a hard thing to do, but when you look at that regulatory atmosphere it was absolutely terrorizing to even the largest institutions and so when you say what would you do to change that, it's like - listen the regulatory field has to be set and if it's going to change there needs to be a process and a procedure that's due process related that provides plenty of notice.  Once it's set then these folks now know what the rules are that apply to them and they can go forward based on that.  And if they're not forward in a reasonable manner, then fine, you can go in and do your oversight and busted their chops or something like that. But with their being such, "you want it bad, get it bad" [mode], they're going to change the rules in a week stuff, it's producing a lot of hunker down, defensive, hoarding type of mentality for people not wanting to be from a financial industry out there, over their skis if you will when the rules change a week from now and they didn't know they were going to change.


The current tax code is overly complex and is biased in favor of special interests.  Do you support the current method of collecting revenue and if not, what would you propose as an alternative?

Well, you know there has been a lot of...I mean the current method, you've described well enough, there's no point in...the current method is what it is and I don't think anybody describes it as "good".  I think something that is flatter in terms of fewer loopholes, fewer exemptions, things like that.  Although, some of them I think are good.  I can't imagine anybody's talking about getting rid of the mortgage deduction.  But I think something that is flatter in terms of few exemptions, fewer deductions; it's X percentage of what you make and that's kind of the way it goes.  It's something that seriously needs to be looked at because, once again in this area, the tax code has gotten just about like budget which is so phenomenally political that it bears no resemblance of fairness in terms of - you pay based on your impact or you pay based the services you require from the federal government.  But then of course, you also have to...what's connected with that also is - by the way when you figure that out, your budget needs to bear some responsibility in terms of just "we want to a way to pay for everything we can think of."  So, a flatter system, I think would be a great idea, but it also needs to be in the context of reexamine what the federal government spending is in the budget right now because it's too much.


What is your interpretation of the second amendment?  Is it an inherent right or simply a prohibitive statement?

You know, the words of it, I believe, something along the lines of, 'the federal government shall take no action to impinge on the right to keep and bear arms."  Now that's not word for word, but that's pretty close.  I think that's pretty self-explanatory.  I have...I've been a hunter.  I own long guns, short guns.  I enjoy shooting.  I haven't done much hunting lately, but I've enjoyed it.  I think just the premise of it, I guess even though it was several hundred years ago, I think the premise still is a pretty valid premise today.  To try to footnote that or say, 'what it means in today' this day and age', I think is an incorrect premise to start with.  It's a pretty self-sustaining statement and ought to be viewed as that and continued as that.