On the Issues

As a candidate for Congress, it is my responsibility to the district to outline key positions on issues facing our country. I will be sharing issue briefs in the weeks ahead to provide a better understanding of how I would represent you.

Issue Brief #1 – Balanced Budget Amendment

During my conversations with delegates and alternates, I’ve heard from many of you regarding your concerns about the size and growth of government, as well as its impact on annual budget deficits, the national debt, interest payments on that debt and the resulting impact on our future generations.
As a fiscally conservative candidate for Congress, I have these concerns as well, which have been informed over almost 30 years of exposure to federal government budget cycles. And one look at the numbers explains why this needs to be addressed.
For just the year 2020, the Congressional Budget Office is estimating a budget deficit of $1 trillion. In other words, we’re spending $1 trillion more than we’re bringing in!
Our national debt now exceeds $23 trillion, and continues to grow. That’s over $70,000 for every person in America!
And annual interest payments alone on this debt total $479 billion, which is over 10 percent of the entire federal budget for 2020.
Let’s be honest. Regardless of election results or who controls congress, deficit spending is out of control. Prior attempts at controlling the deficit, such as the bipartisan Gramm Rudman Hollings Act of 1985, were abandoned when it became too difficult to cut spending.
It’s well past time for a Balanced Budget Amendment. If elected to congress, I’ll introduce legislation to submit such an amendment to the states for ratification. This legislation can take many forms, but the most basic form would add a budget rule to our constitution that would require federal spending to not exceed federal receipts. We do it in our homes, and our government should be expected to uphold the same standard.
An amendment wouldn’t be needed if Congress were to simply prioritize spending and make the tough calls on what to keep or cut in the federal budget. Most agree it shouldn’t take an amendment to the constitution to get our elected officials to do what they are paid to do.
I agree as well!
However, that’s not the reality. Furthermore, the U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 8) deals extensively with Congress’ power to impose and collect taxes, pay debts, provide for the common defense, coin and borrow money and regulate commerce. Requiring Congress to align expenditures with revenues by way of a balanced budget amendment is certainly germane to the powers already granted in our Constitution.  
As your next member of Congress, I’m ready to lead the charge to help pass a Balanced Budget Amendment. Let’s become the party of fiscal responsibility once again.

Issue Brief #2 – One Myth of the Green New Deal

In Issue Brief #1, I discussed my support of a Balanced Budget Amendment. Beyond rampant and out-of-control spending, a primary factor contributing to budget deficits and the need for a Balanced Budget Amendment is the huge amount of wasteful spending in the federal budget.  

Unfortunately, some of that waste is taking place right here in the Second District of Minnesota, via subsidies to industrial wind developments. A robust economy requires an electrical supply that is reliable and affordable, but wind energy doesn’t pass the test.

Originally enacted in 1992 and extended 11 times since, the federal “Production Tax Credit” for wind energy provides a per kilowatt hour subsidy. Every time the pork is about to run out, the lobbyists work their magic in Washington, and the subsidy is extended.

Between 2018 and 2022, under current law, the total cost to taxpayers for federal wind subsidies is expected to be nearly $26 billion. The capital expenditure for wind in Minnesota? As much as $15 billion and counting.

The wind energy lobby is owned by Wall Street, large utilities and foreign developers, and exerts tremendous lobbying pressure on politicians in Minnesota and Washington, D.C. As an example, the state of Minnesota largely exempts wind energy from regulation and most other Minnesota laws. Federal regulations favor unreliable wind energy while penalizing reliable traditional sources.

Contrary to what proponents of the Green New Deal advise, wind creates a very small amount of electricity at a huge cost. Turbines can never stand-alone – they need reliable sources of baseload electricity to provide power whenever the wind fails. In Minnesota turbines have to be heated in winter, so they actually drain electricity, even when not working.

Remember last winter’s “polar vortex?” During that extended cold snap, wind turbines shut down when the temperature hit -20 degrees and one utility’s wind farms went from a power producer to a 2-megawatt load on the energy system because they required heat to avoid being damaged.

The impact of industrial wind development on the people in our community is significant. Wind turbines create low frequency noise which causes sleep deprivation, vertigo, tinnitus, and migraine headaches and forces people from their homes. However, the value of their home is significantly reduced due to proximity to wind farms. As a result, residents can’t stay in their homes, and they are unable to sell, or must sell at a loss.

Other dangers include fire and “component liberation” in which wind turbines and blades simply give way, collapse or are sent flying through the air. And with a height of as much as 600 feet, this is a severe danger to nearby homes, farms, roadways and communities.

Additionally, many of the rare earth minerals needed to build wind turbines are imported from China, where they are mined in a way that does extreme damage to the environment.  

An added concern is the cost of decommissioning and disposing of wind turbines after their life ends. According to Xcel Energy, it could cost as much as $532,000 per turbine to decommission a single wind turbine at the utility’s Nobles Wind Facility in southwest Minnesota. Multiply that by the site’s 134 turbines and the total cost comes in at over $71 million, costs that will assuredly be passed on to consumers.

As the next member of Congress from the Second District, I’m ready to work for a reliable and affordable electrical policy that doesn’t impact the health of our people, and includes natural gas, coal, nuclear, biomass, hydropower, wind and solar without expensive subsidies, or regulatory favoritism.

Issue Brief #3 – How About a Secretary of Fraud, Waste, and Abuse Reduction?

Our federal government is loaded with employees in dozens of departments ranging from Defense to Commerce to Education to Agriculture, Energy, Homeland Security and many more.

According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), there will be an estimated 2.2 million Federal employees for the year 2020.

Within each of these departments, we’ve got secretaries, undersecretaries, deputy secretaries, assistant secretaries, deputy undersecretaries, directors, deputy directors, assistant directors; and the list goes on and on.

Their mission is to oversee the function and the employees that spend taxpayer dollars on federal government programs mandated by Congress.

And spend they do. They spend so well that our 2020 budget deficit will exceed $1 trillion, a major reason I support a Balanced Budget Amendment.

In the meantime, I propose we eliminate one or more of our undersecretaries or deputy directors, and create a FWA (Fraud, Waste, and Abuse) Secretary responsible for each department, structured as follows:

  • The FWA Secretary team would be housed in the Executive Office of the President (EOP)
  • The FWA Secretary position would NOT reside in the department they will oversee, to ensure no empathy would be developed for the department
  • Funding for the position would be provided only as long as the FWA Secretaries provide a positive return on investment
  • To ensure an outsider’s perspective, FWA Secretaries must not have worked for any level of government prior to being hired
  • FWA Secretaries must have shown measurable achievement in budget-cutting prior to being hired
  • FWA Secretary compensation would be nominal, but would include an incentive bonus of one percent of annual fraud, waste, and abuse eliminated. For example, if a FWA Secretary eliminated $1 million, they would receive an incentive bonus of $10,000.

This may not be a perfect solution, and it won’t eliminate all the fraud, waste, and abuse in the federal government. But until we shift our mindset and reward reducing spending, we will continue to pile up huge budget deficits.

Issue Brief #4 – Term Limits

One of the questions that I am frequently asked is if I support term limits for members of congress.

The answer is a strong YES.

Why term limits?

I believe we need to get back to basics, and the intent of our founding fathers who designed the US Congress.  Today’s elected officials have become “career politicians,” and now have more in common with peer politicians and lobbyists, than the people they are elected to represent. 

Our politicians are now so consumed with re-election, and raising the massive amount of dollars necessary for re-election, that their time is overwhelmingly spent on political self-preservation instead of being engaged in critical research and robust debates on the key challenges facing our country.  This focus on re-election also drives their propensity to vote more out of this same self-preservation, rather than representing the interests of the people.

My term limits proposal of 12 years/six terms for Representatives, 12 years/two terms for Senators mirrors that of a plan that was proposed, but defeated in the U.S. House, in the 1994 Republican Contract for America.

I believe 12 years allows a member of congress to learn the ropes, work to get their key priorities passed without becoming entrenched in office, and return to private life to live under the laws they have passed.  This would also allow our communities to better capitalize on the experience and lessons learned when legislators return to their communities. 

Some support an alternative term limit proposal of six years for US Representatives and 12 years for US Senators. There are merits to this proposal as well. The important thing is to begin the discussion.

One argument against term limits I’ve heard is that this plan would result in appointed staff and un-elected bureaucrats becoming more powerful.  I would argue that there already exists an “iron triangle alliance” of members of congress, congressional staff and department bureaucrats looking out for each other.  This has become the swamp, and the first steps in cleaning out DC and making our government more efficient and focused on the people must start immediately.

Our current system has resulted in out-of-control spending, bloated budget deficits, vast expansions of government intrusion in our private lives and, worse yet, no inclination to do anything about these problems.  As stated above, DC politicians are more worried about their own careers and re-election rather than actually getting anything done for the good of America.

Some believe the constitution shouldn’t be changed and that voters, via the ballot box, can already impose term limits. Arguably a fair point, but this ignores the massive advantage of incumbency perpetuated by taxpayer-provided staff, travel budgets, unlimited mailing privileges and party committees that spend millions on elections to prop up electorally-vulnerable incumbents.  This money machine has come to dictate the election and service cycles more than the constituents.  The process is as bloated as our government.

More importantly, our constitution has already been amended in much the same manner, limiting the number of terms the president can serve.  If the legislature is a coequal branch of the executive, then working under the same rules and expectations of the president is fully appropriate.

It’s time to make bold changes to save our democratic republic. It’s time to upset the political class and stand up for the middle class. If you support term limits, join our team. Let’s clean house…and the senate!

Issue Brief #5 – Health Care

Remember the health care debate of 2018? Republicans in Congress were put on the defensive on health care because they didn’t have a plan to reform the system.

We talked a good game about “repealing and replacing” Obamacare, but we didn’t have a plan to replace. And without a plan, we were accused of wanting to strip away coverage for pre-existing conditions, to kick children off their parents’ policies, and rob senior citizens of Medicare.

All were false, but the charges stuck, and we lost elections because of it.

As our Republican-endorsed candidate for Congress in the Second District, I won’t let that happen again.

It’s going to take bold leadership – AND A PLAN – to beat Angie Craig and the Democrats on health care. That’s why I’m forwarding my plan with you now.

No vague talking points. No mealy-mouthed political double speak. I want you to know the health care reforms I will fight to enact.

I support these nine changes:

  1. I support total price transparency that puts patients in charge of making health care purchasing decisions. This is absolutely essential to create a competitive health care marketplace for the 80 percent of medical care that is shop-able.
  2. I support capping provider billing charges at no more than 200 percent of what Medicare would pay for the service for incapacitated individuals who are unable to make decisions about their own care, typically care administered in emergency room situations. This would put an end to surprise billing.
  3. I support creating new, competitive health insurance and payment plans that eliminate provider networks, giving patients freedom to buy health care from any willing provider – and that encourages providers to set up independent clinics and care centers.
  4. I support requiring pharmacies to tell a patient the price the pharmacy accepts as full payment for all prescriptions, and the price of any and all alternatives to the prescribed medicines.
  5. I support breaking up the emerging monopolies that allow insurance companies to own medical provider practices, pharmacies, and pharmacy benefit managers.
  6. I support returning health care and insurance regulation to states instead of the federal bureaucracy created by the Affordable Care Act.
  7. I support adding an asset test for Medicaid enrollment so that only individuals who need taxpayer assistance with health care costs will be enrolled.
  8. I support making health insurance premiums tax deductible.
  9. I support the expansion of Health Savings Accounts to permit more consumers to contribute pre-tax dollars to pay for medical expenses and to make HSAs available without regard to health insurance.

Poll after poll proves health care is the top issue among voters, regardless of party affiliation, and by being pro-active Republicans can lead this debate once and for all. We know what the Democrats want, a radical socialized “Medicare for all” plan that will destroy employer-sponsored health care and bankrupt our country.

We need to present a realistic alternative, and I believe these changes will make health care more affordable and accessible by permitting consumers to shop for health care like they shop for other consumer goods.

My plan will be opposed by Democrats and the health care “industrial complex” that fears empowering consumers and using free market principles to lower costs. But it’s a fight I’m ready to wage, and ready to win.