Congressman Rick Allen from Georgia’s 12th District joins The Means Report to talk about getting the state and the country – as well as politicians back to business. He also talks about the congressional response to the virus and the aid bills that have been placed on the table.
Brad Means: Congressman Alan, thank you so much for being with us. I hope you and your family are doing well.
Rep. Rick Allen: Yes, we’re doing fine, thank you. Everyone’s healthy and we’re being careful and we’re washing our hands. We’re trying not to touch our face and we’re doing our best to social distance, but it’s hard with grandchildren.
Brad Means: It is so difficult, I can’t imagine. I’ve got two children to navigate. I know you have many more grands and so I applaud you. I applaud you and your family for your efforts. Let me start off by touching on the reopening of Georgia, it is well underway. How do you think it’s going and do you think it was the appropriate time to ease some of those guidelines?
Rep. Rick Allen: Well, it was a bold move by our governor, he was the first and obviously you know, he got criticism, not only from, he got criticism on both sides of the aisle, and so it’s a bold step. But it was the right step because Georgia is leading in this thing. We had a great, we had three or four thousand people on a telephone town hall yesterday evening with Dr. Brooks Keel, and he basically told the district, here’s what we’ve got available for testing, and we should post up, they have an app you can put on your phone and they also have a direct dial in line where you, twenty four seven can meet with a doctor, and then proceed to schedule a test and get the results if you’re in the twelfth district and you want to get that done.
Brad Means: When you look at, I’m sorry, Congressman, I was just gonna ask when you look at the daily numbers, and we are always reporting those numbers to our viewers back here in Augusta and you see the death count, if you will, going up or the number of positive cases going up, does that ever make you rethink things and want to go back and reinstate some of the restrictions?
Rep. Rick Allen: Well, the reason numbers are going up is because we’re testing more people today than we were yesterday. And we can continue to increase that across the nation. And, you know, a lot of this testing we’re doing, for example, the antibody test, and in a lot of these tests we’re doing are people who do not have symptoms, but have been say in contact with somebody with COVID virus, and they think they may develop the disease, and it turns out, they’re asymptomatic. And so now we’re trying to find out how many people out there actually may be carriers of this disease and don’t even know it. And so, and in fact, we need to get a handle on that total number because then we can determine what the fatality rate of this thing is, you know, originally it was going to be in about 3% versus say the flu, which is 1.2% of those who get the flu each year do not make it through that. And so we believe and of course, it’s dropping rapidly, we were told 3% initially, even even back in March, and what we’re seeing now with the testing abilities, we are seeing a steady drop in the percentage of fatalities is that as we compared to the total number who actually have the virus.
Brad Means: Yes, sir, we certainly hope that that trend downward continues. I think a lot of people won’t let their guard down fully until we have a vaccine. What are you hearing about a timetable if there is one yet for a vaccine?
Rep. Rick Allen: Yeah, let me just add this real quick. What’s important is, if you are compromised if you have and it’s, you know, it’s pretty well known that if you have some type of lung disease, asthma, if you’re over 60 years old, and you have some compromised condition, heart, lung, or diabetes, or obesity, you’re at a greater risk. And so, you know, those folks need to isolate. They need to shelter in place and ya know, certainly if you go to the grocery store or you go to the pharmacy or you know, do the essential things that you have to do, you need to wear a mask. And again, social distance and say, like I said, wash your hands and and don’t touch your face.
Brad Means: It’s good advice. It’s good advice for sure. What about that shot, though? When can we all line up and get that vaccine?
Rep. Rick Allen: Well, we are feverishly working on that, we have the best and brightest, really around the world, in fact it’s kind of a race right now to see who is the first that’s going to get it. We’re getting good, you know, we in fact, we got some in that were casting right now. And so, you know, the president, obviously, he’s very optimistic that we’ll have it by the fall, and certainly when we get that vaccine, there’s gonna be a lot of euphoria. And certainly that would be a big help as far as the economy is concerned, so that’s why everybody’s feet around the world is feverishly working on the development of this vaccine and a lot of it is collaborative, ya know, folks collaborating, trying to do ya know, what’s best for the worldwide population. So, but yeah, I mean, but then you hear some of the experts say that, you know, realistically, we’re looking at two years.
Brad Means: Wow, yeah you’re right. You hear, you know, sometime before the end of the year maybe and then you hear that two year timetable, it’s uncertain. Another thing that’s uncertain congressman Allen is the next stimulus package Speaker Pelosi, proposing another gigantic bill. The President has no confidence in its chances of passage. Do you think we’re about to get another multi trillion dollar bill headed our way, package headed our way?
Rep. Rick Allen: Yeah, I think, you know, obviously we’ve been notified to go back for votes tomorrow and I’m heading back today and speaker wouldn’t put it on the floor if she didn’t have the votes to pass it. Because you know, they have the majority. I can tell you, it is not something I’m going to vote for. Number one, is that all the legislation that we’ve done prior to this, obviously it came through the Senate and there was reason for that is because the Senate was working closely with the White House on developing all these programs and we get to phase one, phase two, phase three. The phase three was a big two point two trillion dollar program with the popular programs like the paycheck protection program and those kinds of things, and there was rumor there would be a phase four. We actually had to go back to Washington and vote on an extension of the phase three additional funding for the Disaster Loan Relief Program with SBA and the Paycheck Protection Program. We knew that the speaker in fact did try to delay all of those pieces of legislation trying to insert a what we call their wish list and that includes funding sanctuary cities, economic impact payments for illegal immigrants, millions in wasteful spending and unrelated to the Coronavirus. One is like ten million to the National Endowment for the Arts.
Brad Means: Yeah, but you know Congressman when you you mentioned all of these expenditures and we look at the possibility of this next package, by the way, I should tell the viewers, we’re recording The Means Report on a Thursday, so by the time it airs on Monday, many of these questions will be answered, but Congressman, my question is, don’t you feel like we’re spending our way into oblivion to a point from which we might not be able to return?
Rep. Rick Allen: Yeah, we had a bipartisan education and Labor Committee meeting and everybody was basically giving their viewpoint on the COVID-19 and its effect on the education system and you would not believe I mean, if there were members, and you know, they’re from some districts that are big cities and that sort of thing and the money that they were demanding and finally it came time for me to comment and I said, “you know, the worst thing we can do for our children, our grandchildren and their children and their children is to spend us into oblivion.” And then you had Jerry Nadler yesterday, who, or no this week, who on CNN was asked about the you know, here we’re looking at five trillion dollars in spending, and he says, “Well I don’t care if it’s five, three, and I don’t care what it is.” He said, “I’m not worried about borrowing the money.” He said, “we got to do what’s right for the American people.” I don’t understand where these people are coming from because, you know, I asked the Fed Chairman about this in a lunch meeting one day, this was way before COVID-19 because obviously we’re all concerned about the debt and the spending problems we’ve got up there, and he said he wasn’t worried about the current debt. I’m sure he’s losing some sleep over this.
Brad Means: Yeah, may have changed.
Rep. Rick Allen: Yeah but you know, he said we got people standing in line to buy our debt right now and around the world because we’re the safest place to put your money. But I think there’s a top line to that, in other words, one of the reasons we’re the safest place to put your money is, frankly, even with our debt, you know, we had a, just six weeks ago, we had a twenty two trillion dollar economy closing in on 23 trillion rapidly. And so obviously, with a growing economy, debt is a little more, slowly easier to deal with. But now, it’s a serious, serious issue, and frankly, if you would’ve told me I was going to Congress and I was going to vote to spend the money we’ve already spent and without pay fours or without anybody saying okay, we have to have a plan to pay this back. I’d have said no way I’d vote for that. But when you looked at the situation, the circumstances, the fact that our health care system might collapse if we didn’t address this thing and shut it, of course, the government literally the federal government and state governments and local governments, shut the economy down.
Brad Means: Yeah and it continues to unfold before our very eyes, Congressman, I do want to take a quick break. When we come back, I want to talk to you about our farmers and how we’re trying to look out for them and also want to talk about the outlook for jobs as unemployment numbers as we knew they would continue to go up. Congressman Rick Allen is our special guest on The Means Report. Stay with us. We’ll be right back.
Brad Means: Welcome back to The Means Report. We are talking to Congressman Rick Allen from Georgia’s twelfth district about the Coronavirus and lawmakers response to it. Congressman Allen my next question has to do with jobs. I was talking to a friend of mine over the weekend who works on Wall Street and I said, “What’s your biggest fear coming out of this pandemic?” He said that people will get so used to staying at home and having stimulus checks mailed to them, that they’ll never come back to their jobs. Do you think that we’ll get our employment rate back to close to where it used to be?
Rep. Rick Allen: Yeah, there are a couple of issues with that, obviously the stimulus checks, you know, people are receiving those and, frankly, if they are afraid, and there’s a lot of fear around this virus, and if they’re afraid and might be exposed to it going to work, then if they have the funds to pay the bills, they’re staying home and that’s kind of what it was designed to do if you fear you’re compromised, you know, you need to stay home. We don’t we don’t want you to get the virus. But if you’re if you’re healthy and young, frankly, and not compromised, you need to go to work. But the problem is everybody got stimulus checks. You couldn’t just say okay, this groups getting them and not this group. So everybody got them. It’s a problem. And we got, you know, we got 30 million people and counting on unemployment right now, and frankly, if we didn’t have the Paycheck Protection Program, it might be 30 to 40 more million and that whole program was designed to keep people employed. And of course, the most controversial piece, you had the tax rebate piece, which everybody got a check for that. It makes under roughly $100,000 a year, but the controversial piece has been this six hundred dollar add on to the unemployment insurance and of course that was led by the speaker. She came back, she delayed the legislation insisting on this, and of course, we finally negotiated a end day on that, which is July 31. And we know they’re gonna be problems getting people back to work until that runs out. When that runs out, people will be coming back to work because obviously they’ve got to pay the bills but again, you know, we had to get the votes to pass this thing. And, unfortunately, I know the Kennedy Center got funded and National Endowment for the Arts got funded and I didn’t like that. I didn’t like voting for that because, you know, we had people losing their jobs losing their ability to pay their bills.
Brad Means: Do you think?
Rep. Rick Allen: It’s losing their dignity and they’re wanting to add all this stuff on and of course, this bill that I’m voting against tomorrow has got it all in there. So yeah, we got to get people back to work in the country. No question about it, and I think, by the end of July, hopefully we’ll be making great progress on that.
Brad Means: Look into your crystal ball, if you will, and picture the next pandemic, goodness forbid, or the next crisis that might require a lockdown of some sort. Do you think Americans are going to stand for this again? Do you think you’re ever going to be able to shut down our country again?
Rep. Rick Allen: Well, that’s a good question, because this shut down as we continue to study and investigate every move that was made, and frankly, the media played a big part of this. I mean, we got painted a picture early on, which is the reason that I voted for these previous, this previous funding, two to three million people dying, many dying in the street waiting on a hospital bed because our healthcare system had collapsed under the pressure, very similar to Italy. Italy, they were telling people not, they didn’t have beds for them, they didn’t have ventilators and so they just said stay home and we’ll send a priest to say your last rites, you know, and let me tell you Americans won’t put up with that. We demand and have the best health care system in the world. In fact, we’re very fortunate here to have a new health university, which is leading the state in testing right now. It’s amazing what Brooks Keel and his team are doing down there right here in the 12th district of Georgia. So, as far as the future goes, obviously, this thing came from Wuhan China. There’s gonna be a major investigation, you know, it was calamity of ERIS, the World Health Organization, you know, and we don’t know if it was intentional, or whether they were in collusion with the Chinese Communist Party, but basically they said that, you know, at one time this thing it would not, you would not be able to commute it from one person to the other. I mean, it’s just ridiculous stuff and that’s why we have a World Health Organization, is to prevent pandemics of this type.
Brad Means: Yep, well let me ask you.
Rep. Rick Allen: That’s why the president didn’t send the money to them. So you know, it’s something that we as a country, as the United States, we got to address. We can’t depend on this globalization thing, if we’re not getting treated the way we need to get treated.
Brad Means: Before I run out of time, let me ask you about our farmers, it just breaks my heart to see them dumping out food and milk. What can we do to get their food bought up and to make sure that our farmers make it, I know that’s a key concern for you in Georgia.
Rep. Rick Allen: Yeah, we got two supply chains one is to grocery stores, the other’s to restaurants, hotels and that sort of thing. I have pleaded with restaurants to continue the takeout, please use that service because that’s about 50% of our supply chain, on foot and it’s why you’re seeing the grocery stores really and they’re doing a brilliant job of trying to keep those ships and limit people from you know overbuying, to some extent the best they can, I guess, but yeah, we got two food chains, it’s about fifty fifty. And if you can do takeout, I know your wife will like it. I know that we do it because we want to patronize these folks because I begged them to stay open and continue that service. It keeps their people employed and like I said it’s 50% of our food supply chain, and so that’s the best way to deal with it, and we got a lot of options here in our district as far as dining out, and it’s been a lot of fun and when I go to pick it up, I obviously want to find out how they’re doing and how their business is doing and that sort of thing, so it’s good opportunity for me.
Brad Means: I want to give you just a moment before we go to talk about the Ahmad Arbury case. It is making news obviously all over the country. There’s a push for Georgia to have a hate crimes law. Do you support that?
Rep. Rick Allen: Yes, I talked to Chris Carr this morning, our Attorney General, to just get an update on things because we are getting a lot of questions. This is a terrible tragedy. I talked to the sheriff in Burke County yesterday, he knows the family. I’m going to write his mom and express my condolences. It’s a terrible tragedy and the Attorney General of the state of Georgia assured me that there was going to be a thorough investigation. GBI is involved, also our US Attorney Bobby Christine has been called in because federally, we do have a hate crime law, and so Bobby will be investigating it as well. We got a complete explanation of why we’ve had the delays, is basically because certain district attorneys have had to recuse themselves because of a conflict. And we’re going to investigate that as well because it’s just it got delayed too long until the video was made public, so you will see a thorough investigation and you will see justice done in this case as far as any type of legislation in the state, obviously.
Brad Means: I have just about just about 10 more seconds, Congressman.
Rep. Rick Allen: The Attorney General said they’re working on it. But certainly it had to apply to action and not, you know, our right to free speech.
Brad Means: Well, we certainly will keep an eye on the general assembly for any progress in that area. As far as you Congressman Rick Allen, I can’t thank you enough, I know you’re busy. And I really appreciate your time today. Please stay well.
Rep. Rick Allen: Thank you, Brad. Y’all stay safe as well, and we will get through this.
Brad Means: Absolutely. Congressman Rick Allen of Georgia’s twelfth congressional district.