Buddy Roemer is a candidate for the Republican nomination for president. He served in Congress from 1981-88 as one of the last truly conservative Democrats who crossed the aisle to back the Reagan agenda. He later was governor of Louisiana and switched party affiliation to the GOP. A longtime business executive, Mr. Roemer founded and was CEO of Business First Bank, a small community lender with $650 million is assets. You can find out more about his campaign at: http://www.buddyroemer.com.
Decker: What would tax reform look like in a Roemer administration?
Roemer: Our tax code as it is written is just too complicated - the average American shouldn't have to hire an accountant or pay for a computer program to figure out how much they should be paying in taxes and how to find loopholes to get out of them. My plan would be a progressive flat tax of 17 percent with an individual exemption of $50,000 and the elimination of most deductions. Under this plan, individuals making $50,000 or less would pay no federal taxes, those making $100,000 would have an effective tax rate of 8.5 percent, and someone making $500,000 would have an effective tax rate of 15.3 percent.
Corporations would have this same tax structure, but I would eliminate the foreign tax credit to reduce the incentive for companies to move their operations overseas. My administration would also work to eliminate other tax loopholes that are abused by corporations, like research and experimentation credits, accelerated depreciation deductions and the deferral of income from controlled foreign corporations. It's despicable to think that companies get away with not paying their fair share of taxes and that the average American citizen has to shoulder the burden. Simplify the tax code, eliminate the loopholes and make everyone pay their fair share.
Decker: What would you do in your first 100 days as president to get America back on the right track?
Roemer: The very first thing I would tackle is campaign finance reform. It's not a sexy topic, and most Americans don't have it on the top of their priority lists, but simply stated, without it, it's no wonder that America's problems aren't being solved. Take health care reform, for example. It didn't include the three things that would lower health care costs most: tort reform, requirements for insurance companies to compete across state lines and exposure of pharmaceutical companies to competition. Why? Follow the money. Insurance companies gave more than $21 million to campaigns in the 2010 election cycle. Pharmaceuticals gave $31 million. You can bet that money comes with strings attached. PACs [political action committees] and super-PACs have no place in our electoral system, and they surely don't represent the democratic process I believe in.
Once you take away the influence of money, it gets a whole lot easier to solve everything else. We can take a new look at health care reform; come up with a better plan for trade that emphasizes fair trade, not free trade, and brings jobs back to America; reform and simplify the tax code; and get America back on the right track. The possibilities are limitless when the president and Congress are free to lead and free to represent the people that elected them, not special interests.
Decker: As commander in chief, what would you do about Iran's program to develop nuclear weapons?
Roemer: We have to use our economic might first. I would restrict the importation of any product made from or transported with a single drop of Iranian oil to send the message that we are serious about the issue of nuclear-weapons development and encourage our allies to do the same until all weapons development ceases and reactors are dismantled. If economic power does not work, I would not hesitate to use targeted strikes to take out Iran's nuclear-weapons facilities. A nuclear Iran is not in our interest, not in Israel's interest, and frankly is not in the world's interest.
Decker: There's some speculation about the Reagan coalition of defense hawks, social conservatives and economic libertarians starting to fray. Is it important to keep this marriage together for Republicans to win national elections? How can the standard-bearer be a source of unity for the party?
Roemer: I am a proud Republican but I am a prouder American. We must think beyond party and put our country first. President Reagan was a friend of mine. As the leader of the Boll Weevils in Congress, I often provided votes that Reagan needed to get his legislation through Congress. Our country is in trouble and both parties are to blame. This is the reason that there is a significant increase of registered independents in our country. I think this voting bloc will determine current and future elections.
Decker: The media has announced that the GOP primary is now a two-man race between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. This seems premature, especially given the musical chairs in the top positions of the field. Clearly, Republicans have not all decided on a favorite yet. You have an interesting record in Congress and as governor and have unique appeal as a Democrat-turned Republican, but your campaign has yet to take off. What separates you from your competition, and how can you get base voters to take another look at your platform late in the game?
Roemer: If you listen to my competition, they're all still clinging to the myth of free trade and the Keynesian model of economics - the latter doesn't work if a country isn't producing anything. Free trade has only meant that America is giving jobs away for free to anyone who asks for them. Fair trade means a level playing field for everyone in the market - that China can't cheat by manipulating its currency and using inhumane labor practices, and that corporations exporting their products to America pay the same taxes for access to American infrastructure that companies here do. That's how you create jobs in America. We must bring back Made in America.
My competitors are also not talking about where their money comes from. I only accept donations up to $100, take no PAC money and have no Super-PACs. I have never taken a dime of money from PACs - not when I was elected governor of Louisiana, not when I was elected to Congress. President Obama will raise a billion dollars for his re-election campaign. Is that really something to be proud of? I think it's despicable. I don't know how to get people to suddenly start looking at my platform, but it would really help if the moderators of the debates would start asking tough questions. I would love for someone to ask the front-runners where they get their money. It definitely isn't coming from average American voters. I need to be in a debate.
Brett M. Decker is editorial page editor of The Washington Times. He is coauthor of the new book "Bowing to Beijing" (Regnery, 2011).
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