Rep. Mike R. Pompeo was elected in 2010 by the 4th Congressional District of Kansas. A native of Wichita and graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, he patrolled the Iron Curtain as an Army officer before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. After leaving active duty, Mr. Pompeo attended Harvard Law School, where he was as an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Before running for office, he managed two small businesses. He founded Thayer Aerospace, which grew to employ more than 400 workers, and was president of Sentry International, a company that manufactures oilfield equipment. You can find out more about the congressman's work at: pompeo.house.gov.
Decker: You have authored a bill to eliminate all energy tax credits. That can't be popular for a congressman from a corn state. What's so important about your legislation that it is worth ticking off constituents back home?
Pompeo: The federal government has been a proven failure in picking winners and losers in the energy sector. Democrats and Republicans alike have used our tax code to reward their favorite energy sources - that is, ones in their home district - with tax loopholes. This causes every American taxpayer to subsidize those industries and causes consumers to pay higher prices for energy. This results in terrible energy policy and even worse tax policy. More importantly, taxpayers are getting hammered both coming (higher taxes) and going (higher energy costs).
My bill, the Energy Freedom and Economic Prosperity Act (HR 3308), would eliminate all energy tax subsidies from our Internal Revenue Code and turn that savings toward lowering our corporate tax rate to foster job growth here in America. The bill is revenue neutral and supported by every major conservative group, such as: Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, Club for Growth, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Freedom Action, Heritage Action, National Taxpayers Union, 60 Plus Association and Taxpayers for Common Sense. It gets rid of every tax credit related to energy; it favors no company, no person and no energy source. It treats them all equally. That is the American way.
When I'm at home, Kansans tell me they want honest and serious leadership from their elected representatives, not the business-as-usual policies that got us into this economic mess. I am working hard to provide solutions to meet a most pressing goal: preserving our way of life for our kids and grandkids.
Decker: I understand that you would use savings from the elimination of energy subsidies to lower the corporate tax rate. How would that work and why is it necessary?
Pompeo: My goal in getting rid of tax loopholes is not to raise taxes. Our problem in Washington, D.C. is not a revenue problem, it is a spending problem. My goal is to make the tax code fairer and flatter and reward energy sources that lower costs for consumers. So, any increase in taxes that occurs because these tax goodies are eliminated will be offset by lower taxes for every single business in America. My bill would mean fewer tax loopholes for the powerful and the connected, and lower tax rates for everyone willing to take risk and engage in American commerce. This is the perfect combination and the way our tax code needs to be reformed. The Energy Freedom and Economic Prosperity Act does this in one small place - the realm of energy tax credits - and it provides a model for the broader tax reform that will set our nation on a prosperous course for decades to come.
Sen. Jim DeMint [of South Carolina] has sponsored a companion provision which garnered the support of a majority of the Republican Conference, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell [of Kentucky], during a recent vote on the Senate Floor. In the House, my bill enjoys the support of strong conservatives, including Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan [of Wisconsin]. I believe there is a growing consensus that my bill represents a free-market model for how to enact real, comprehensive tax reform.
Decker: Before coming to Washington last year, you spent your career in the private sector, including building a successful aerospace company from the ground up. I have had many job creators tell me that if they had to start all over again that creating their own company would no longer be worth all the hassle, harassment and heartache. What are the most damaging government hindrances to entrepreneurs today?
Pompeo: I'd start a business again in a heartbeat. Indeed, I hope that one day I may get the chance to do so when my mission here in Washington, D.C. is complete.
It is true that President Obama has unleashed a slew of regulations upon small business. I struggled against that regulatory burden firsthand while running a company in Kansas. It is difficult to create jobs when you face an overwhelming tax burden, as well as countless compliance and reporting rules. I've been there. I've grappled with these issues while keeping the lights on and making payroll. That's why we need to roll back government interference and grow our economy so people can find jobs. The energy sector is a perfect example where the Obama administration's actions are harming both businesses and consumers. Having run a small business that provided oil and gas exploration equipment to domestic energy producers, I have seen this firsthand. Why, for example, has this president's Environmental Protection Agency attacked with intent to destroy the coal industry that provides over 50 percent of all American power? Layer upon layer of regulations aimed at - in the president's own words - "bankrupting" that industry. Why, for example, has this president put 10 (ten!) agencies on the beat to regulate hydraulic fracturing - a process that has been effectively regulated by states for decades with a tremendous safety record.
These are the reasons some entrepreneurs are reluctant to start businesses and take risks. We can do better, we can create jobs in America, and I am confident the next administration will.
Decker: Every time I sit down with a business leader, I get an earful about 2002's Sarbanes-Oxley Act that dramatically altered federal accounting regulations and 2010's Dodd-Frank Act to supposedly reform Wall Street. Should these laws be repealed? Why or why not?
Pompeo: I've heard a great deal more about Dodd-Frank than I have Sarbanes-Oxley from Kansans. Both laws have had very significant and negative consequences for our economy. I support the repeal of Dodd-Frank in its entirety. Its goal to protect taxpayers from failures of the nation's largest financial institutions is not accomplished and, instead, has negatively impacted community and regional banks along with their customers. It has also created yet another "do-good" organization, the Consumer Financial Protection Board. The CFPB will not protect consumers. Instead, it will add to the cost for every hardworking taxpayer who seeks to purchase a home with a mortgage or who wants to engage in other banking activity. Once again, the federal government, in its effort to protect citizens, fails in its mission and instead creates a bureaucracy that eclipses any good that might have been sought.
Decker: The Obama administration talks an awful lot about an economic recovery, yet the unemployment rate is still sky high, record numbers of Americans are on food stamps and the national debt continues to mount due to runaway federal spending. What does such an anemic recovery say about the real state of our economy?
Pompeo: This very weak data shows this is not a recovery that will truly provide the jobs and opportunity our nation must have and the next generation deserves. The $831 billion "economic stimulus," passed into law in 2009, dug the hole deeper and did not accomplish what the president said it would - keeping unemployment below 8 percent. This should come as no surprise. Businesses have no interest in hiring new employees in this environment of higher taxes, regulatory uncertainty and the staggering costs of Obamacare. Republicans were swept into power in 2010 because Americans saw our solutions for recovery: less spending, less government and less regulation. All of these things are what will kick-start our recovery. We can't spend our way out of this mess. That's been tried and it failed. The real economy, private-sector job growth, will return when leaders in Washington, D.C. recognize what Kansans already know: The solutions are not to be found in ever-expanding government. The solutions are found through freedom, liberty, innovation and rewarding earned success.
Brett M. Decker is editorial page editor of The Washington Times and coauthor of "Bowing to Beijing" (Regnery, 2011).
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