Restoring Jobs and Economic Growth

Our current “recovery” is the slowest in modern history, with just 1% growth in the most recent quarter. Median household incomes are still below where they were in 2007 and the labor force participation rate is at levels not seen since the Carter administration, with over 94 million people no longer in the workforce. If government spending was the answer, we’d be growing like gangbusters. But the fact is you can’t tax, spend or borrow your way to prosperity. It’s time to get our economy working for all Americans who want good-paying jobs–and that means making work pay again by cutting taxes and regulations.  It means encouraging capital formation right here at home instead of abroad. It means an end to substituting bailouts for bankruptcy for the well-connected, and instead creating a level playing field for the real engine of economic growth: small and medium-size businesses.

Cutting Federal Spending

The federal budget has doubled since 2002 and now totals an astonishing $4.1 trillion dollars. It remains the single biggest drag on economic growth and job creation, because wasteful government spending crowds out productive private investment. An unsustainable debt of $19 trillion is putting America on the road to Athens. Net interest on the debt will be nearly $800 billion in a decade, according to the CBO. Yet Washington insiders cut another back room deal last year, undoing the 2011 budget caps and adding another $112 billion to domestic discretionary spending. And though the federal government collected a record $3.25 trillion in 2015, we have a 2016 deficit of $600 billion. We need across-the-board budget reductions because no matter how you finance big government spending–whether taxes, borrowing, or printing money–it all comes out of your pocket.

Reforming The Tax Code

Today’s IRS code–filled with loopholes and tax credits for every conceivable special interest–has over four million words. All these exemptions do is place a much higher tax burden on the rest of us, especially the majority of America’s businesses who can’t afford lobbyists in Washington. In fact, the top 50% of income earners (even households earning just $37,000) now pay 97% of all income taxes. We need a flatter and fairer tax code that not only treats everyone the same, but encourages work, savings, and investment. The last thing we should be doing is adding more brackets and exemptions to an already complicated tax system. That’s why I support the Tax Code Termination Act, introduced last year in the House, which would actually sunset the federal tax code in three years, forcing Congress to embrace real tax reform once and for all.

Terrorism & Protecting Our Borders

It was Ronald Reagan who once said, ‘A nation that cannot control its borders is not a nation at all.’ The best way to keep our homeland safe–along with slowing the influx of criminals and drugs––is to enforce the laws on the books, secure the border and control who gets in this country and who does not. German officials now admit that ISIS terrorists have infiltrated the Syrian refugee community and that’s why I believe we should not be putting more of them in America’s neighborhoods. As the recent attack in St. Cloud reminds us, we already have a terrorist recruitment problem in Minnesota. Furthermore, the fiscal cost of unlawful immigration is simply unsustainable. The Center for Immigration Studies estimates that when you include public education, health care, corrections, and government benefits, the total comes to $113 billion per year–most of it borne by the states. We may be able to find common ground to the nonimmigrant work visa issue, skilled & otherwise, but not until we secure the border.


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My brother, Reggie Lewis, in Vietnam atop Monkey Mountain Marine Base east of Da Nang.

Helping our Veterans

We’ve seen what misguided policy can do to our military men and women abroad during the Obama and Clinton administration. First in Egypt and Libya, and now Syria, where policies have put more of our men and women at risk without a clear exit strategy, or a path to victory – especially in regard to the rules of engagement in these foreign interventions. I will not support sending more of our sons and daughters into harms way abroad without a clear path to victory and an exit strategy. That’s my first commitment to veterans.

Second, we must take care of our veterans when they get home. I had two brothers in Vietnam, and I vividly recall the blue star homes – and sadly even the gold star ones. It is simply inexcusable for any veteran to die while waiting for treatment at the Veteran’s Administration. That’s why I support the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016,already passed in the House, that holds the bureaucrats accountable for poor performance or misconduct. Most employees at the VA provide excellent service and treatment, but we should not be rewarding and giving bonuses to administrators who fail to do their job.

Veterans should also have private sector medical options so that no soldier ever falls through the cracks. We also need reform at the Pentagon to ensure its solvency, so it can always adequately support our troops on the battlefield. Procurement, civilian employment and pension programs should all be improved for the average GI. For example, 83% of troops, many who have served multiple tours of duty, leave the armed services with no severance. That’s not right – and I will work to change it.

Competition in Health Care

Obamacare promised to reduce health insurance premiums by as much as $2,500 per family. Today, however, premiums are $4,865 higher, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation report. Because Obamacare mandated the most expensive coverage for everyone, young people, as well as smaller insurers, have been priced out of the market. Right here in Minnesota we’ve seen the system collapse under MNSure, and this year’s premium price increases may reach 66 percent! The net result is a health care system bursting at the seams as employers drop costly coverage and dump part-timers onto bureaucratic ‘exchanges’ while providers refuse new patients due to government price controls. Obamacare even reduced the amount of out-of-pocket health expenses families could deduct. Let’s empower healthcare consumers by undoing the costly ACA ‘mandates,’ allowing individuals to buy policies across state lines, and enacting true portability by changing the tax code.

Protecting Social Security

A promise made is a promise kept. We absolutely must protect Social Security for today’s seniors and those nearing retirement, while ensuring the program is solvent for future generations. The Congressional Budget Office puts the 75-year imbalance in Social Security at $200 billion so if no bipartisan solution is reached, benefits for seniors will be reduced by 21% in 2034. Something we cannot afford to do, however, is raise taxes on social security recipients or payroll taxes on today’s working families and citizens. Even doubling the maximum earnings subject to the FICA tax wouldn’t substantially reduce the imbalance and would threaten economic growth and jobs vital to the program’s solvency in the process. Likewise, means-testing benefits would also undermine support for a federal program designed to be available for all workers at retirement. We must put politics aside and enact bipartisan measures to ensure that benefits are protected for today’s seniors and our future retirees.

Educating Our Children

It’s a sad commentary that a candidate for federal office would have to interject in what should be a local concern. But three decades and $70 billion (annually) later, the federal Department of Education continues to micromanage our schools. Even the recently enacted ESSA law, meant to reform Common Core, allows states to take over local districts if they fail to perform. We need real changes–such as merit pay, collective-bargaining reform, seniority rules changes, and school choice–in order to best serve our children.

Helping College Students

The skyrocketing cost of higher education–up 200% since just 1996–is leaving our young people with staggering debt. The only thing that’s going up faster is textbooks. Naturally, instead of addressing the rising costs, the Obama administration wants taxpayers to forgive the loans after a short period–but only if the borrower gets a job with government or a nonprofit. That’s a bad deal for the taxpayers (many of whom didn’t go to college) who guarantee the $1 trillion in student debt.  Democrats also want a new $750 billion-dollar free college bill passed–but before we do that, we should be asking university administrators why tuition costs are rising faster than gasoline, groceries, housing, or even health care. We need more competition in higher education and a greater emphasis on less expensive vocational and tech training essential to many of our young students looking for gainful employment.

Respecting The 2nd Amendment

You’d have thought our failed experiment banning liquor after World War I–otherwise known as Prohibition–would have made believers out of politicians when it comes to banning adults from doing things bureaucrats disapprove of. Nope, the busybodies are busier than ever and now they’ve got their sights set on firearms. The Supreme Court has acknowledged an inherent and individual right to self-defense in the Constitution–and the government must respect that right. I will always stand up for our Constitutional rights of life and liberty–and the means to defend them.

Protecting Life and Religious Liberty

Because I am pro-life, I believe that citizens should be able to pass state laws of their choice without federal interference from activist courts. Life begins at conception and I will be an effective pro-life voice in Congress. I also believe the proper relationship between church and state ought to be simple: government must never interfere with the free exercise of religion, and no one religion should become the policy of our government. That’s why the Supreme Court was right in the Hobby Lobby case when they declared a ‘sincerely held’ religious belief by private actors should not suffer a ‘substantial burden’ by state interference. When an Oregon baker or a New Mexico photographer is fined for declining to participate in an event that conflicts with their religion, our First Amendment rights to conscience are at risk.

Returning Power to The States

The genius of federalism is a system of government that accounts for the diversity of human beings by allowing the states to compete for the governed. Instead, Washington has nationalized the economy (especially healthcare and energy) and usurped the states’ ability to settle disputes between citizens of the same state. Activist federal courts have been striking down duly enacted state laws governing abortion, marriage, education–even local transportation and housing. This is backwards and has taken from state legislatures the power of self-government under the 10th Amendment. Breaking up the monopoly in Washington is the surest way to let the citizens of the 2nd District live under the laws they helped create.

Fixing Transportation

Twin Cities’ traffic is getting worse. According to a new MNDOT report congestion is set to jump again in 2015 by 2% with highways now clogged nearly a quarter  of the time in rush hour. Believe it or not, some area roadways are congested 5 hours per day. But before we rush to raise gas taxes, shouldn’t we first stop diverting up to $6 billion or 17% from the federal highway trust fund away from roads and bridges? Prioritizing federal highway spending on where 95% of commuter trips occur–instead of on the $1.9 billion light trail scheme, hiking trails, and urban planning–would be a good first start towards solvency. Yet federal spending on such projects has increased 38% since 2008, according to the Wall Street Journal. We need to solve our infrastructure problems and new revenue streams should be found, but we have to be serious about our priorities.

Monetary Reform

Our monetary policy continues to punish the saver and reward the debtor. Everyday workers are forced to ‘chase yields’ with risky investments while politicians continue to finance our massive deficits with a near zero interest rate policy. But monetary policy cannot cover for bad fiscal policy forever and it has already resulted in a dollar worth less than half its 1970s counterpart. One reason the Fed is monetizing the debt is due to their misguided mission to promote ‘maximum employment’ through easy money–thus creating economic cycles of boom and bust. They say inflation is tame, but try telling that to the first time homebuyer, the college student, or health insurance customers. The Fed’s mission should be ensuring a stable dollar and not creating asset bubbles that eventually burst.

Stopping Federal Agency Abuse

The Executive branch has a duty to ‘execute’ or implement the law passed by Congress. While some deference to agency interpretation is warranted, agencies’ power to make law is limited by the specific Congressional authority delegated to the agency. In too many cases now, unelected bureaucrats are rewriting law–at the Dept. of Labor, the EEOC, or the new CFPB under Dodd-Frank. The EPA recently cited the Clean Air Act to implement a utility regulation that would have cost consumers $10 billion. In this instance, the Supreme Court ruled the EPA acted unlawfully. The administration’s $500 billion Clean Power Plan is yet another attempt to legislate and impose ‘cap and trade’ legislation that would have a direct impact on Minnesota’s largest refinery in the 2nd district and endanger thousands of Minnesota jobs. The Federal Register now has more than 82,000 pages – in fact, there is a new agency regulation coming out every two and half hours, costing our economy $1.9 trillion annually. That’s why I support the REINS Act, which would require Congress to vote up or down on any regulation that costs over $100 million.

Helping Minnesota’s Agribusiness and Farm Families

Government regulations are strangling agriculture. First, The EPA and Army Corps’  ‘water of the USA’ rule or WOTUS is recklessly diminishing property rights by including very small streams, rivers and ‘wetlands’ that may flow seasonally for federal jurisdiction. In some cases, ordinary plowing has been seen as a violation of the Clean Water Act. This must stop. Second, as the third-largest exporting state in the nation, we need trade deals that remove barriers to Minnesota agribusiness exports – giving our farmers access to the international marketplace and unlocking every existing avenue that will result in economic growth right here at home. Finally, I am committed to true tax reform that includes helping hardworking farmers – who have spent their lives building their business and paying taxes every step of the way – pass on the family company without burdensome regulations and taxes.

Solving Social Unrest

unnamedWhile everyone supports equal justice for all, the violence in our cities and the attacks on law enforcement must stop. My wife was a St. Paul police officer for 7 years and my father-in-law is a retired police officer. Consequently, I am keenly aware of the day-to-day pressures facing law enforcement—not the least of which includes split-second life and death decisions. I do not think it’s appropriate for those who have little understanding of such situations to second-guess the actions of police officers until all the evidence is in from a complete investigation. Nor do I believe local leaders should be injecting race into elections for political expediency.

Criminal justice reform is also needed and I support bipartisan legislation recently introduced by Reps. James Sensenbrenner and Bobby Scott. The Safe, Accountable, Fair and Effective Justice Act seeks to streamline our federal justice system focusing on high risk offenders and making certain federal overcriminalization (there are now 4,500 federal crimes on the books) doesn’t ensnare entire communities by putting first time nonviolent offenders in jail. Congress should assist local agencies in making certain that ‘equal application of the law’ as well as the unequivocal support of law enforcement combine to afford every community the safety and security it deserves.

Free Trade & TPP

Because I am a supporter of free trade–and especially making sure Minnesota agricultural exports have access to overseas markets–I do not support the TPP in its current form. It appears much less a free trade agreement and much more a complicated multilateral carve out for special interests–not unlike our loophole ridden tax code. Real free trade lowers tariffs for all and and contains special favors for none. That is why the Obama Administration secretly negotiated the deal for years. For example, one foreign car company gets favored treatment in the TPP over other automakers and is permitted to import parts from countries that don’t comply with the deal. There is also no real remedy in the agreement that addresses currency manipulation for trade advantage. I look forward to helping craft a better trade deal that protects American interests while expanding vital export markets for Minnesota producers.