In advance of next month’s General Election, The Register-Herald invited all candidates on the ballot for U.S. Senator, U.S. House of Representatives, Governor, State Supreme Court, Attorney General and Agriculture Commissioner to appear before our editorial board. We are featuring those interviews through the end of this week. Today’s candidate is Republican John Raese running for U.S. Senate.
America’s debt has now exceeded $16 trillion, yet Congress has been unwilling to tackle this. Just how serious is the debt? Are we on the edge of bankruptcy? What is it going to take to end the bipartisan bickering and get the country on the road to recovery?
RAESE: Me being in business, and I’m in the steel business, I’m in the limestone business, natural resource business, I’m concerned because when I see the Gross Domestic Product, and that’s what we produce in this country, is hovering around the $16 trillion mark and our national debt is also hovering around the $16 trillion mark, that’s a tipping point. When those two meet, where one exceeds, especially the GDP doesn’t stand up to the debt, as you know the debt is going much higher, that’s called the tipping point. That’s what Greece is, what Spain is, and now we’re in it. What is that mark? That mark is inflation. That’s going to be runaway inflation.
You and I are old enough to live through the ’70s. We certainly know what inflation did to this country. That’s a grave concern because when you’re in business like I am, does depreciation, in other words, when we buy equipment, does that keep up with inflation? Well, today in this country, depreciation doesn’t keep up with inflation. There’s another problem that’s going to rear its ugly head. In other words, when it’s time to replace your printing press, can you all afford or justify replacing your printing press because you’re depreciation pattern didn’t keep up with the replenishment or the new cost of a printing press. Certainly, in Morgantown, we’re in that business, too. That’s a big discussion point right now because it’s time for a new printing press. It didn’t keep up. That’s true all across the United States, in every piece of equipment, everything that we look at. So, that’s a major consideration. It’s a big ugly thing about this debt.
The debt is the biggest problem we have in this country as far as I’m concerned. And that debt has been caused by one thing. It’s spending. How do we get this thing under control? Spending is the problem. And you hear a lot of people say we need to tax, or somebody needs to pay. I think Mr. Manchin says everybody ought to pay their fair share. The top 10 percent of the earners in this country right now are paying 70 percent of the load. I do think we do pay our fair share. That’s not the problem. The problem is spending.
Now the GDP has not increased as fast as spending, and since 2001, spending has doubled the GDP. To me, to answer your question, the first thing we have to do to walk across the aisle in the Senate is to find like-minded senators in the Democrat and Republican party that have a fiscal responsibility. Not just talk about fiscal responsibility, but actually have one. I think that is the most important thing you can do in the U.S. Senate is to put a coalition together of people that want to do something about it. Now, it’s been tried several times, and I think a couple of years ago, a bloc of senators all got together, there were 16 of them, and they proved that you could actually put a coalition of like-minded senators together. John McCain was part of that. I’d like to have that opportunity. I think there are so many people in the Senate right now who are looking for leadership.
When you are in the Senate and you can’t even propose a budget and over 1,000 days can’t even put a budget together, that shows me there’s no leadership and that is directly at Harry Reid. With all the good intentions of a lot of people in the U.S. Senate, as you know, the majority leader of the Senate sets the tray. And without him cooperating, it’s going to be awfully hard. It’s one of the reasons if we elect 51 U.S. senators from the Republican Party, Harry Reid will not be the majority leader and then we can get something done. I think that is the first step, to get rid of him. I think if Mitch McConnell is the majority leader, I think there’s a great opportunity that both sides will get together and we get some of the things done in the U.S. Senate. We need 51 senators.
Infrastructure remains a critical need, because without it, commerce cannot thrive. Where is the money going to come from to repair and replace our roads and bridges?
RAESE: Infrastructure is, I’m in that business. I don’t want to sound self-serving. I’ve been in road construction, asphalt and concrete, for years in the state of West Virginia. When you look at infrastructure in this country, the first thing that I look at is what has caused a lot of decay in our bridges, what’s caused a lot of decay in the cement work and the No. 1 ingredient is called salt — salt. And the first thing I’d like to do to look at the problem we have in infrastructure is why they are decaying and why are they falling apart. And if we keep throwing salt on our highways and our bridges, often our automobile, then your asphalt and concrete, highways are going to deteriorate. And the first thing I would do is stop that. And I think it’s very important that we understand why we have such a loss in a lot of our infrastructure. To say the least, it also goes into our steams and it also pollutes most of our streams. Who does it? Government does it. And they’re probably the biggest polluter of any known entity that I would know. And a lot of states don’t do it, but most of the states do it.
Now to fund our infrastructure, that’s a part of government. The way I look at it is that we have so many things in our government, so many opportunities in our government to cut waste that we could fund our infrastructure if we would get like, let’s say for instance, foreign aid.
Do we need to have foreign aid to Egypt? Do we need to have foreign aid to Libya? Do we need to have foreign aid to Pakistan? Well, I don’t think we do. Right there is $4 billion. Could that fund a lot of infrastructure? I think it could. We’re talking about countries that have blown up our embassy and had a terrorist attack on our embassy. They killed our ambassador. I would move to terminate a lot of foreign aid in that direction and restructure a lot of our necessary spending in this country towards projects that make sense.
Let me think. Since 2001, Pakistan has had $20 billion worth of foreign aid. $20 billion. It’s incredible. Now Rand Paul put it to a vote and this is talking about reaching across the aisle to do a lot of things that I want to do. He put it to a vote in the U.S. Senate and he said, Should we cut off foreign aid to all three of those particular countries? The vote came back 82-10 not to cut off the foreign aid. Joe Manchin voted not to cut off the foreign aid. If I’m there, I’m going to vote to cut off. I’m going to vote to cut off a lot of foreign aid and start redirecting it back into this country. That’s how we fund the projects we really need to do.
Is there any country in which you would allow foreign aid to continue?
RAESE: I think that would be on a case-by-case basis. I think that it is very important to fund Israel. It’s a true form of democracy as we know it in the Middle East. I think countries that are friendly that work together that have a vested interest as we do in the world’s scenario. I think it’s admirable. But to fund countries that are adversely aimed at us, I think is inexcusable. And we do it all the time. And my example with Pakistan.
What I would like to see done is something that we should have done a long time ago and that’s called the Strategic Defense Initiative, and that’s better known as Star Wars, or it’s better known, as Joe Manchin used to like to tease me on television a lot, it’s putting a laser system across our country, and Ronald Reagan put the Strategic Defensive Initiative together. It works. Bill Clinton, when he was president, demolished it. It is a $20 billion project to protect our country. Why do I bring that up with foreign aid? That’s the type of situation where, if you really want to look at keeping the sovereignty and protection of our country, I think that would be the No. 1 thing we should be for — the national defense of our country, and when you look at the money that we throw away on foreign aid, which could be spent domestically in this country, there are a lot of projects that we could spend our time on and that would be one of them.
The so-called “war on coal” by the EPA has purportedly cost West Virginia thousands of mining jobs. What could you do to convince the EPA to take a more moderate approach, especially by encouraging the agency to consider the impact on jobs with regulatory procedures?
RAESE: Once again, I’m in the coal business. I sit here and I look at the EPA and I can’t understand what their goal is. It’s’ hard for me to understand it. I think when you look at what we’re going to do and look at the EPA, No. 1, I would like to see Mitt Romney elected president. As you and I know, the EPA is an extension of the executive branch of government. In other words, Obama runs it. It’s a cabinet position. If Mitt Romney is in there, that means Lisa Jackson is going out, No. 1. And No. 2, we can have a whole new outlook on the EPA because here is a business individual who understands what energy means to production and understands what energy means to this country.
Obama is a neighborhood organizer somewhere out in Chicago and he’s not ready for prime time. He never has been. We have a couple of senators in West Virginia, but that’s their party. That’s the Democratic Party. That’s not the Republican Party. That’s the Democratic Party and, as Joe Manchin likes to put it, I guess Joe hasn’t talked to Obama, what he likes to say, anytime Joe Manchin wants to, he can walk right into the White House and he can put a stop to the war on coal, any time he wants to. But he hasn’t done it. Now when Obama reaches across and says, “Joe, I want you to vote for Obamacare, because they’re trying to repeal it right now,’ Joe didn’t have any problem with that. Why doesn’t Joe walk in and say, “I have a problem with the war on coal?” because he hasn’t done it. He hasn’t done it, because they’re trying to repeal it right now. Joe didn’t have any problem with that. Why doesn’t Joe walk in and say, I have a problem with the war on coal?’, because he hasn’t done it. He hasn’t done it. He hasn’t had any leadership. And if it wasn’t for Joe, as you know, he was a super delegate when the West Virginia Democratic Party nominated Hillary Clinton by over 41 percent, Joe went to the national convention as a super delegate and said, “We’re going to overrule what West Virginia Democrats want, I’m a super delegate along with Jay Rockefeller, we’re going to nominate Barack Obama,” after he uttered these words, “Go ahead and build a power plant, any time, any place, and we will bankrupt you with regulations.” He has.
We have greenhouse gas that’s going to eliminate all new power plants. That’s something that’s coming in the EPA and we have also maximum achievable control technology which current power plants can’t keep up with the expense of the new technology required that are gunned at our power plants today. During the Obama administration, we started out in West Virginia with 275 operating coal plants, and today we have 174. That’s how many we’ve lost here in West Virginia. How do we get it back on track? Well, a couple of things. What I want to do, I think we need mandatory cuts in a lot of things that we do in this country.
No. 1, I’d like to cut the Department of Education. No. 1, I think it’s a cabinet position we don’t know, but I do want to cut and eliminate the Department of Energy. I think the states have a redundancy. I think the Department of Natural Resources can handle what’s in every state. I don’t understand the reasoning behind the Department of Energy. I think it’s time for us to take a hard look at millions and billions and billions of dollars that are spent on those two — education and energy. Because they really are redundancies in every state. You and I, we all grew up without either one of them. I think we did a lot better than we’re doing right now. Government’s biggest problem still is spending.
Isn’t much of the downsizing in the coal country attributed to the upsurge in the use of natural gas at power plants?
RAESE: That’s an interesting question. When you look at the cornerstones of capitalism and free enterprise, the cornerstones are energy and private property. Both of them are under attack right now. When you look at energy and when you look at coal, the reason that coal now has become more expensive is because of permit work, because of the regulatory nightmares we all face in the coal industry. What we’ve done is increase coal to supersede the price of gas. So, natural gas now is cheaper, but it wasn’t before we had the Obama regulations.
So, all regulations being the same, which they’re not, you would see a marked increase in natural gas if we had the same kind of regulatory nightmares and over-regulation as we have seen in coal. It’s very easy to say, well, natural gas is cheaper. Why is it cheaper? When you point the finger at government, you have it. Government isn’t the solution to the problem. Government is the problem. It’s not a fair shake.
You mentioned Obamacare. Why do you and other Republicans vehemently oppose this?
RAESE: Well, I hope more than Republicans. I hope our citizenry understands. I just watched a movie last night called ‘Last Ounce of Courage.” All it’s about is losing our freedoms.
Ronald Reagan one time said, “There is no partial freedom, there’s only freedom.” And when your health care comes to a situation of you and it’s your doctor, do you want some government institution, 15 unelected officials, telling you how much money you can spend, or telling you what doctor you can see?
Your relationship between your doctor and your body, that’s your decision. I want to keep that decision yours. I think the best example is the prime minister of Newfoundland, and Newfoundland, as you know, has socialized medicine, just like Obamacare. And when it came to his heart situation, he said, “Take me to Miami.” Which he did. And he got his situation alleviated. When he got back to Newfoundland, the press was all over him. “We have this great health care system in Canada and Newfoundland, why didn’t you stay here?” He said, “It’s between me and my doctor, that’s the way I’ll handle it.” And that’s the only thing he said. And that’s why people, when they are sick, they come to this country.
We have the best health care system in the world. And this (Obamacare) is just pure, unadulterated socialism. We’re turning 20 percent of our economy over to government. Where has government ever solved any possible situation as far as medicine? As far as business? Government is the problem. It is not the solution. It has never worked. Never worked. And I think you would see not only spending increase by almost $3 or $4 trillion, but I think you would see rationing. I think you would see a lot of doctors leave. It would be catastrophic. Abraham Lincoln said one time, “The best way to get rid of a bad law is to enforce it.” Wait until they try to enforce something like this. It’s going to be an amazing situation.
Now, simply summarize your campaign, your theme, your ideas and tell us why you think West Virginia voters should send you to the Senate.
RAESE: I can tell you, you’ve been here as long as I’ve been here. To me, I want to preserve the America that I grew up in. I want to preserve America the way I understood it. I want to preserve capitalism, free market systems, a chance for people like Josh (a campaign aide) to go out and find a good job. But it’s really about our lifestyle, our way of thinking, and our presence in this country. I have been very blessed in my life. And I’ve had a wonderful life. I’m 62 years old right now. And I can’t think of a better place to grow up and have done what I’ve done right here in West Virginia. And I’ve been very fortunate to be in on a lot of different industries.
But I can tell you everything that I have right now is under attack by the federal government in some fashion. And it’s gotten progressively worse. The EPA didn’t start under Barack Obama. It started under Richard Nixon, a Republican. And that’s a Republican and Democratic issue.
What my campaign is about is very simple. I want to downsize government. I want to regulate less. And I believe very firmly that we should be printing a lot less. Those four things. I think they’re very important to the future of this country. I think we can get this country back on track. I think we can lower our debt levels. I think we can be competitive. But have to free up government from interfering with the private sector.
Today, if we turn our health care over to the federal government, almost 65 to 70 percent of our economy will be controlled by the federal government. Out of all the organized counties in the world, that’s the highest. I believe very firmly that the only way out of this quagmire is capitalism and free enterprise. And capitalism requires the limitation of government powers to maximize the freedoms of an individual. I want to maximize the freedoms of our individuals. I want to maximize everything we can possibly do in this country to make it great again.
And when I say great again, it’s when General Motors is owned by the government. We don’t have the Big Three anymore. It’s when our banks are so heavily regulated by Dodd-Frank. It’s when our coal operations are completely controlled by the EPA. It’s when we have tariffs against steel that are like section 201 of the National Trade Act. And I can go on and on and on about the interference of government into the private sector. It’s time to free up the private sector. And our campaign is about exactly that. It’s called personal responsibility and personal freedoms. And I’m certainly running against not only a Joe Manchin or a Jay Rockefeller with the Democratic Party. But I feel like I’m running against a belief that government is the solution. I don’t feel that way. I’m running as personal responsibility and freedom is the only way out of this thing. And I think there is an excellent observation and an excellent example of what Ronald Reagan did in 1980, when he faced a very similar situation. He started to cut taxes. He started to cut regulations. He started to build our armed forces. He started to bring us back. I think the same thing needs to be done here.