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An Interview With Rep. Tom Price (R-GA)

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Dr. Tom Price (R-GA) is the current chairman of the Republican Study Committee, and has represented the 6th Congressional District of Georgia since 2005. We at www.thelobbyist.net are honored he gave us a few minutes of his time to speak about a number of the important issues facing this country.

Siggins: I saw you speak the other day at The Heritage Foundation and I was really impressed with the stuff you and Senator DeMint had to say about the budget and about dependency.  It was really good to see.

Price: Wasn’t that something? I found that to be a sobering but also an uplifting exchange just because there are wonderful paths to get out of this craziness if we just seize them.

Siggins: I write for thelobbyist.net, and the founder of the site is a Georgian and is a big, big fan of yours. And we started a new site called ConservativeCongress.com and it’s a sister site and our goal is to bring conservatives to Congress and we put our stamp of approval on those who want to balance the budget, deregulate the federal government and increase our energy independence and reform.

So I guess my first question would be: I know there were issues when the Republicans held all three branches regarding drilling.  I know that ANWAR was held up by filibustering…all sorts of issues.  With health care attention has been diverted away from energy.  But assuming you take back the House which you said the other day “will,” not if.

Price: Right!

Siggins: How do you think Republicans will move forward on drilling, on wind farms, on nuclear power, and getting us away from sending our money to terrorists and the like?

Price: Well it’s kind of the Raison d’etre for your new organization.  The secret is to have a conservative congress and that’s what we need.  And it requires us to have a conservative Congress and leadership that will move us in the right direction.  The remarkable thing to me is the solutions to the challenges that we face are really not that complex.  It’s relatively simple.

In August of ’08 when we took to the House floor when the Speaker shut the House down and we stayed for that month because gas had at that point spiked to $4/gallon.  We laid out an all of the above energy plan that I believe will still solve the challenges that we face in the area of energy.  It’s a plan that would allow us to utilize our own resources in very robust and vibrant ways and environmentally sound and sensitive ways.  Whether it is offshore exploration or onshore exploration or clean coal or oil shale.  All of those things in addition to the use of nuclear power so that we get off our dependence on foreign oil which is huge and growing.

Secondly, conservation has to be a key component.  And incentives for conservation of individuals.  And championing conservation.  The root word for conservation is conservative!  We ought to at least champion that!

And then thirdly it is to not game the system, not have the federal government be the ones who pick the winners and losers- but to incentivize a robust investigation in research and development for the new energy.  That’s what we ought to be doing, not picking winners and losers. The last winner the federal government picked, and I use the term ‘winner’ loosely, was corn based ethanol and that’s not working out too well.

Siggins: That’s not working at all.  Didn’t that cause starvation in Africa a couple years back?

Price: When you distort markets, markets betray you.  So the secret is not to distort markets.

Siggins: Newt Gingrich spoke at the Heritage Bloggers Briefing two weeks ago.  And he talked about this being one of his top three priorities.  Do you think energy will be one of the top three priorities for Republicans?

Price: Well it has to be, because the bi-product of our current energy policy is to make us more dependent of foreign oil, and also to increase our debt and our deficit.  We are just shooting ourselves in the head three times, not just once, so we have got to reign this in.  This is common sense stuff, there are simple truths to our public policy and one of our simple truths is if spend more money outside of your nation than inside of your nation then you have a balance-deficit that is moving in the wrong direction.

Siggins: Speaking of the deficit- I was brought in to Heritage to work on The Debt Paying Generation, which is those between five and thirty, including myself, who would just be crushed by upcoming taxes, lack of benefits et cetera et cetera. Senator Demint mentioned some of what he considers to be relatively painless solutions the other day, to help with the deficit and balancing the budget.  What do you think are some of the major solutions, or I would say the top three solutions, but also, would you include cutting the Pentagon Budget, or at least streamlining it, as part of one of those solutions.

Price: Well I was so pleased to see so many individuals under the age of forty as I mentioned in our briefing the other day, because you’re right, this is exactly where this is going to hit and it’s going to decrease the ability of you and your peers to have the kind of opportunity that my generation has had.  That is why it is morally incumbent upon us to solve this before we pass the baton completely.

There are relatively simple things to do to turn this whole thing around.  The first to do is to end the uncertainty here in Washington.  When businesses, the job creation engine of this nation, especially small businesses don’t know whether the government is going to come in and punish them or reward them or reward their competition or change the rules of the game completely, then they just hunker down and that’s what’s happening right now.  So you can’t get an economy moving, and you’ve got to get an economy moving to end this remarkable death spiral the President and his cronies have us on.

Siggins: Sure.

Price: It’s imperative to decrease the tax burden on individuals and businesses. As you know, we have the second-highest business corporate tax in the entire industrialized world; that makes us competitive with nobody, from the nature of setting up businesses and the job creation- creators. We ought to…I would put a moratorium on business tax at least for two years, and ideally, I would do away with it all together. The lack of incentives that we put on individuals to invest, to utilize their money in ways that puts it at their own decision at various levels of risk so that they can enjoy various levels of reward, but the taxation we put on that, either through capital gains or dividends- the president wants to increase all of these things, [it] is just foolishness if you want to actually get the economy going. So there are simple things you can do just by changing the rules of the game and making it more certain to revitalize and make our economy robust again.

Siggins: Sure, sure- and I agree with everything you’re saying. I guess my last question would be…getting the economy growing is great, and I don’t usually like to cite Paul Krugman, but he even said that even if the economy grows at a 5% rate a year, or 3.5% rate a year, it’s going to take many, many years to get back to 5% unemployment, or 4.5% unemployment like we had five or six years ago.

Price: Sure.

Siggins: So…jobs are going to- jobs, jobs, jobs is going to be the fall election, obviously, and you just described some great ideas to increase jobs, but we can have all the jobs we want to, but the entitlements, upcoming inflation, are just going to crush everybody. So how do you think Medicare, Social Security and- I’ll be the only conservative ever to say this- military spending can be reformed, if you think military spending needs to be reformed. How would you go about that, and I know I only have a couple more minutes with you. I just wanted to get your thoughts on that.

Price: You absolutely need fundamental reform. I’ve got kind of a ten-point plan that I alluded to the other day, and one of them is fundamental reform of our entitlement system. And by that I mean not just decreasing the monies in but increasing the freedom and the liberty of those within the systems themselves, which is, I believe, a very positive tradeoff. And so in Medicare and Medicaid you got to, we’ve got to have a system that allows the people in those programs the opportunity and the privilege to voluntarily move to a system that’s more responsive to them, and you can do that in very predictable ways. Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future” outlines the way in which one can do that relatively easily. And does it take time? Sure it takes time, because you don’t want to- I’m opposed to forcing individuals off of those programs because people…we are forty years into this dependency society, at least, if not more. But there are ways you can do it that make a whole lot of sense from a financial standpoint and increases [an] individual’s liberty and freedom.

From a defense spending standpoint, we spend less now in defense than we did when we were probably not as challenged as we are right now. I think we can spend more wisely, and I think we can do so in ways that get bigger bangs for the buck, if you will, no pun intended, but I think it’s imperative that we do that.

The statistic that I used the other day that I think is important to remember is that we have spent $16 trillion in this nation in the war on poverty. $16 trillion since the mid-sixties. We’ve increased poverty and we’ve destroyed sectors of our society’s culture, and that’s a reckless and irresponsible, and I believe to be, immoral- in that same…in our entire nation’s history, in our entire nation’s history, we’ve spent a little over $6 trillion, in 2008 dollars, on all of the wars we’ve ever fought. So it’s important to keep things in perspective. We no longer survive as a nation if we don’t have appropriate defenses and national security. So the number one priority of Congress has to be that- we just need to spend smarter.

Siggins: Okay. Well, sir, thank you very much for your time- I really appreciate it.

Price: My pleasure. I look forward to seeing you again.

Siggins: All right. Take care.

Note: The interview can be heard in its entirety here. I would like to thank our founder Nick Brown, as well as one of our contributing editors, RJ Caster, for their help with transcribing the interview.

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