by Ghost of John Brown
We continue our series of conversations with the Republican candidates for the 14th Congressional District (still waiting on the call from Bill Foster for us to interview him - stopped holding my breath a long time ago). This week, we feature an interview with State Senator Randy Hultgren. Senator Hultgren and I sat down on November 23rd for about an hour.
Because of the length of the interview, the interview will be presented in three posts. Today's post will focus on energy, the environment and commerce. Thursday, the post will include questions about social issues and the campaign in general. On Friday, the post will focus on foreign policy and security issues.
Without further ado, here is Part 1 of my interview with Senator Hultgren.
Ghost of John Brown (GJB): Well Randy, I really appreciate you taking out some time out of your schedule and sitting down with me and letting some of the Illinois Review readers get a chance to hear some of your opinions and maybe get to know you.
Randy Hultgren (RH): Great, I appreciate the opportunity.
GJB: Well, let’s just dive right in and go right to the first question.
There has been a lot of discussion over the past decade about global warming and whether anthropogenic (man-made) forces cause it. This year, Congress attempted to pass a “Cap and Trade” bill. What is your opinion about man-made global warming and what, if anything should the Congress do about it?
RH: The greatest impact on our climate clearly is the sun, and we have very little impact on the sun and how much energy and temperature the sun is sending to the earth. We have seen clearly over thousands of years that at different times more energy has come through and different times less energy has come through, and that variation has impacted climate change. Over the thousands of years that’s been recorded we’ve had both colder times and warmer times. It happens to be that we’ve recently come out of a warmer time and now actually we’re headed in to a little bit of a colder time, the impact of the sun is much different than impact that we could have had.
So, I don’t believe we have a significant impact on climate change. Now that said, I do think we have great responsibility as humans for stewardship of our world, and so there are things that we can do to make sure that our environment is well preserved for and I think that is really where we need to get to. So much of this effort dealing with climate change is literally billions and trillions of dollars that’s being spent to affect maybe tenths of a degree or hundredths of a degree of temperature. So we might be able, by spending trillions of dollars to lower our temperature by one one-hundreths of a degree, but that’s so minor and one blip of the sun could completely change it back by so much more. So, just a variation of a sun-spot or whatever that could have that kind of impact. So, again, I’m concerned with the amount of money and the impact on our productivity that we’re having focused on climate change when really I think we have very little direct impact on that.
Again, what I would like to see happen is good stewardship of the resources of our earth and looking for ways to care for what we have, and making sure that in everything whether it’s our economy or our environment that we’re leaving the world in better condition than we found it. I think that’s our responsibility to be good stewards, to be good citizens to care for the earth that we have, but I’m opposed to bills like Cap-n-Trade that put forced government intrusion into our lives and our productivity with very sketchy science.
What I would like to see happen is Congress giving incentives, giving encouragement as good citizens whether that’s individuals or corporations to make good decisions.
The other thing that is really important to recognize is we don’t act unilaterally on issues that affect our environment. Other countries are doing things that have as big or greater of an impact and they don’t abide by the same rules that we set. So, for us to think that we can unilaterally affect all climate or all environment is crazy. We need to have more incentives in our conversation with China and India and other countries that are much worse as far as their air pollution than we are. We are intelligent people that are creative and innovative and we need to encourage that innovation to find new ways to be able to provide the energy that we need with as little impact on the world and our environment as we can possibly have.
That’s where I’m at: things like Cap-n-Trade really bug me because it’s government intrusion with very sketchy science that has real impact on working families and it drives me crazy. I am 100% opposed to Cap-n-Trade. I think there are much better ways that we can address the issues that we’re facing.
GJB: Part of the Stimulus Bill that was passed earlier this year dealt with funding alternative energy resources. During last year’s Presidential race, Governor Palin talked about opening up drilling in ANWR and on the continental shelf. The “Cap and Trade” bill would have imposed restrictions on making businesses and transportation more energy efficient. What should the United States do to make itself more energy independent?
RH: Several things that we need to do right away. First of all, the wrong thing to do is to tax energy more highly and really the idea of cap and trade I think was to force the Federal model of energy decisions on people. What we should do is open up options… and we do have some great options out there. We’ve got good alternative energy sources that need to be continued. We’ve got wind energy, we’ve got nuclear energy that we are way behind other nations as far as using nuclear energy. I’ve recently visited the nuclear facility down in LaSalle. I was just so impressed with security there and also the efficiency of that model. Certainly we need safety, it has to be our #1 concern, but there are other countries that are very concerned with safety as well, that are much more reliant on nuclear energy and I think we need to come along with that as well.
We also need to encourage innovation in our energy use, and we have bright people out there continuing to look for alternative energy sources which can make us less reliant on carbon fuels and especially on foreign energy. Very specifically in the meantime, we are highly dependent on fossil fuel: oil and coal, and especially for transportation and for electricity and that’s not going to change any time soon. We haven’t sited a new nuclear facility for 35 years, I think it is, so it’s been a long time.
Other things that we can do to lessen our reliance on foreign energy, and I think that a real key here, and lower the cost of our energy, is we do need to site other refineries. We’re not just importing crude; we’re also importing refined gasoline. I think a lot of people don’t realize that. The big reason for that is we don’t have enough refineries here and we see when we do have a significant storm coming in how all of the sudden prices of gasoline jump way up because we are underserved by refineries, and I know again, that’s a difficult thing to site, but it’s something that we need to do. Also, as we do that there is new technology out there that we could use with these new refineries.
I do think we need to open up more drilling. I would support drilling off our coasts in certain areas and also the Bakken areas in North Dakota and Montana. We need to open up more drilling here in the United States. I would also support drilling up in ANWR, although I don’t feel that is the total solution. All of these pieces together, we see how Middle East especially, knows that they have us, because we are so reliant on them right now. So each one of these little pieces; site new refineries and start that process, and start drilling in more areas in North America. If we can start drilling there in ANWR, again it’s a tiny little dot in this huge natural resource that is just not used at all, and if you look at the size of Alaska, it’s just a pinpoint when you look at the map of Alaska, so it is a small, controlled area. But all of these things together would undercut the stranglehold that Middle East has on us because of our reliance on fossil fuel. And then as we open up those options at a lower cost for us in the mean time until we are able to become more reliant on other energy resources like nuclear.
GJB: It’s interesting that you mention the Bakken fields. I’ve been spending a lot of time lately in Pennsylvania. They’ve found huge reserves of natural gas in southern New York and northern Pennsylvania that now will provide a lot of stimulus for that region, that maybe people didn’t realize was there.
RH: As we start doing this work, I think we are going to find resources that we didn’t even know were there, and then along with that looking for even better, more effective, cheaper alternatives moving forward. I love American ingenuity, and when we start giving incentives and opportunity for people to use that ingenuity, we’re going to reap great benefits from it.
GJB: One of the most critical issues this year has been the economy. The President and Congress have proposed and passed several measures to stimulate the economy. How effective do you think government spending and government intervention are in helping the economy? What role should the government take in affecting the economy?
RH: Government never creates jobs; real jobs. They create government jobs, and it’s a false hope if we are thinking that putting more government money into things that it is going to stimulate the economy. It doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked. We look at TARP. We look at cash for clunkers. They failed. All that we’ve gotten out of this huge infusion of government money in the Stimulus package is really, raises for bureaucrats, where bureaucrats have received pay increases and falsifying, really, the idea that this money has really stimulated the economy or created jobs. It just about killed me when I read that recently in the last couple of weeks the Administration was claiming of how many jobs have been created out of this Stimulus money and we all know that’s fabrication.
GJB: And it’s been an almost daily retraction of the various jobs that were created.
RH: Right. But this is what we get when Washington tries to step in and create something like jobs, they can’t do it.
What does create jobs is the market, free enterprise, opportunity; the idea that if you have an opportunity to take an idea and run with it and invest in it, your blood sweat and tears, that you’re going to benefit from that and others will benefit from it as well. That’s what stimulates the economy. There’s very clearly things that we can do. The worst thing we can do right now is raise taxes on working families and I will fight any tax increase. I’ll fight to make sure people keep as much of the hard earned money in their own pockets as they possibly can. So, that’s the first thing we need to do.
There’s many other things that we can do to stimulate the economy. I’d like to see a jobs creation tax credit for small, medium and large size businesses, recognizing that with every job we create there is a benefit that we as a society receive from that. So that’s something I’d like to see. I’d like to see a 10-year extension of the research and development tax credit, to encourage innovation. I’d like to see an extension of the new markets credit, where we’re seeing an investment into difficult areas that people are going to want to invest in areas that have been struggling. Definitely I’d like to see a reauthorization of the 2003 tax cuts. We absolutely have to have that once again. If we don’t, we are going to see huge job loss, huge job cuts, a huge burden on families, and a huge tax increase. So, we absolutely need to reauthorize those 2003 tax credits.
Also I’d like to see an extension of the, I think it is $125,000 expensing limit for small businesses where they can invest in their own company and receive some tax benefit for that. It makes sense. It is where they understand best where they’re going to be able to see benefit and as they make that investment we should encourage that investment back into their own business and their own job creation. Absolutely we need to kill the Pelosi-Reid health care initiatives that are going to tax 40% of all small businesses and we all will feel the impact of that, so we’ve got to defeat that.
For families I’d like to see an increase in the child tax credits, and I’d also like to see a reduction in tax rates for married couples.
Last, for major companies I’d like to see a tax credit for domestic production. So if they are producing things here then they should receive a tax credit for that, if they are making a choice to build things here. And then also a tax credit for foreign taxation, so if they are taxed somewhere else we shouldn’t doubly tax them, we should give a credit for that. What it does then is make our goods more affordable in other nations and encourages purchase of American goods in other nations. It also encourages domestic production. So, that’s just a few things that we could do right now. I know there’s a lot that has to happen there, but I know if we were to do those things, that’s how we would get this economy going once again. The way that we turn the economy around is to create jobs and make sure people know that the target is no longer on the back of a small business owner. That if they make that investment that we are going to follow through and allow them to reap the benefits of that investment and we are, along side of that, going to reap the benefit of new jobs.
GJB: Part of the problem now is with all of these things coming through the Congress; Cap-n-trade, the health care bill and all the other things, small business have absolutely no idea what to expect.
RH: Yeah, that’s right. The uncertainty of it really undercuts planning and investment when they feel like “Why would I risk putting my hard earned money back into my business if in two months it’s going to be taxed right away from me, or a year from now or two years from now.” So there has to be that confidence once again that we are on the sides of our businesses and job creators out there rather than those being the ones that we are targeting whenever there’s a need, let’s go after the big, bad business folks.
GJB: Part of the discussion of efforts to reform health care in the United States is tort reform. What is your view of tort reform both in the area of health care and in general liability?
RH: Here again, I think this is what sets me apart from my opponents on this that I’ve actually worked on this issue. I have sponsored and spoken vehemently on behalf of doctors, businesses, individuals, people who see the high costs of litigation and a court system that is out of control. Illinois is a judicial hell-hole. It’s been recognized as that, that Cook County, Madison County and St. Clair Counties are one of the favorites for trial lawyers, especially in class action suits because they know juries are out of control here. That if someone gets injured while they are in the hospital it’s equivalent to winning the lottery in many parts of this state and that’s got to change.
So, I’ve shown it, that my commitment is for real reform of our court systems, especially in the area of health care reform and medical malpractice reform. I’ve spoken up about that. I’ve sponsored legislation. I’ve passed legislation that makes a real difference in those areas and I’m going to continue that work out in Washington, DC. Fighting against out of control jury verdicts, trying to just rein that in. Still, people have their day in court, but it isn’t that idea that they’ve won the lottery, because they’ve allegedly gotten hurt while under the care of a doctor or something else. So, all of this we need to get back to making sure that people are protected and at the same time encouraging great service whether it’s a business providing that service or whether it’s a doctor providing service to their patients that’s what I really want to see happen and will be fighting for out in Washington, DC.