Augusta, GA (WJBF) – It is a new year, and The Means Report is diving in by talking about things that impact us here at home and in Washington, D.C. – nationwide for that matter. Congressman Rick Allen, the Georgia District 12 representative is talking about what is on tap for 2018 as far as upcoming legislation. Tax reform making big news of late, and as we check our withholding in our January paychecks to see what the benefit is for us, we will get him to talk about the overall impact of tax reform. And the Farm Bill Reauthorization efforts underway right now in our nation’s capitol, to see that through, something that’s near and dear to the congressman’s heart because of his role not only in farming, but on the Agriculture Committee.
Brad Means: Congressman Allen, I appreciate you taking time out of your schedule to be here, happy new year.
Rep. Rick Allen: Thank you, happy new year to you.
Brad Means: Let’s begin though, I think it’s appropriate needless to say, to talk about Congressman Doug Barnard’s 16 years in D.C., really setting the standard for service in these parts. Your thoughts on his death?
Rep. Rick Allen: Well, we’re in mourning. I mean what a great American, what a great community leader here, a great mentor for me. Doug was there at a really unique time in Washington. Under the Reagan administration there was probably more bipartisan legislation passed than in the history of the United States Congress, and Doug was a big part of that. Doug was the key on the Financial Services Committee with his banking background, and we’re gonna miss him terribly. He’s just one of those kind of folks that, we’re losing our greatest generation and he’s a legend. So, big shoes to fill.
Brad Means: Big shoes indeed, he loved his country and he certainly loved this community, and we send out all of our best to his family. Let me ask you about President Donald Trump also as we record this on Friday, he’s making news once again for allegedly using profanity when referring to a couple of predominantly African nations. Your thoughts on the possible use of that kind of language when talking about those countries?
Rep. Rick Allen: Well obviously I don’t approve of that kind of language number one, but then again, the president has been misquoted and whatnot, I mean I think the last thing I heard is that he said he was gonna have to record everything that, I guess, he says. But it’s unfortunate. That kind of thing is difficult because there are certain media outlets that are just waiting for him to just, at the wrong time, misspeak. You remember the Romney comment, that he was on tape and he said you know I don’t need 47%, I need, what he was referring to is he needed 53% to win the presidency, and obviously the media picked that up that he didn’t really care about 47% of the country. But I can tell you this, this president cares. He cares about this country, he wants America to be first. We’ve got some serious issues in this country. I agree a hundred percent with his agenda. These sideline things are unfortunate, but it’s part of the job, and like I said, in this business you just have to be very, very careful about everything can be misinterpreted, Brad, for crying out loud. It’s very difficult. That’s the shame right now in this country, it’s so divided and so divisive that it’s just, I don’t know, it’s very difficult.
Brad Means: Do you think that an issue like tax reform, as we move on to that agenda item, can be something that unites us? This is something that appears to benefit a lot of people yet you still have people saying, “No it doesn’t. “It’s just for rich folks, it’s just for corporations.” But that was the big news maker since the last time we met, tax reform.
Rep. Rick Allen: Yeah, we had the leader of the other party describe all these great announcements by these companies as pathetic.
Brad Means: Yeah.
Rep. Rick Allen: I could not believe what I was hearing.
Brad Means: Why is that? Why can’t there be agreement or unity on anything? Why is there that division you mentioned?
Rep. Rick Allen: Well, I think I know the reason. I think that they are afraid this is actually gonna work. When people see their paychecks at the end of this month, it’s real. But what was fascinating about this Brad, we didn’t see this coming.
Brad Means: It did seem to come out of the blue there at the end.
Rep. Rick Allen: Well, when we passed that obviously, well, President Reagan’s tax reform, it took two years longer than he wanted it to. It had an 18% approval rating. I think any time you try to change things in Washington, there is just tremendous opposition to change. Our old tax code, nobody understood. I couldn’t get a CPA to tell me that he understood it. So we had to have reform. But what has been amazing has been the response. I mean, we had a local outlet, I met with the Hotel Association yesterday and one of our hoteliers here in Augusta has said that he’s now gonna be able to offer his employees health insurance at no cost to them.
Brad Means: Because of the reform?
Rep. Rick Allen: Because of the reform.
Brad Means: And we’ve seen changes already at Walmart, they’re making huge changes.
Rep. Rick Allen: Yeah, nine to 11 dollars. Now the minority leader said that’s pathetic. That’s an 18% raise. I mean, versus where we were for the last 10 years, I mean that’s good news, I mean that’s a big deal.
Brad Means: But when you talk about this, and it is something that impacts everybody in the country, how might this play out in the midterm elections? Might this be the boost that the Republicans need to keep on going?
Rep. Rick Allen: Well you know, all that’s up for discussion. In the high-tax states yes, there’s gonna be, those races are gonna be difficult. But overall, obviously I don’t think anybody argues that tax reform had to be done, it was one of the things that was really holding us back. My hat’s off to Kevin Brady, Speaker Ryan, and all those, and they’ve been working on this, Brad, it’s been 33 years since we’ve done tax reform. I mean things change. Look at where we are now versus 33 years ago. We needed a tax code that would fit this time and this place, we have it, it is an amazing piece of work. I’ll give you an example, I was in the small business world for 35 years, and my tax rate was, when I ran for Congress, was 39%. Well it’s gonna be 25%. The people that are now owning and running that company are pretty excited about that. I mean that’s 14% that they can add, to invest, to grow that company and to add employees.
Brad Means: Let’s look at how we are working to help our farmers make it through some tough times. The Farm Bill Reauthorization Act is set to expire this year what are its chances of getting reenacted and how will it help those men and women on the farms?
Rep. Rick Allen: Well you know the Farm Bill is always controversial simply because there are a lot of states now that don’t have a lot of agriculture, it’s not their prominent industry. In Georgia it’s the number one industry by far, in the 12th District it’s the number one industry by far, and I sit on the Agriculture Committee. So I’ve been very involved in this. We have had hundreds of hearings, listening to farmers, listening to distribution, listening to everyone about their needs. The Farm Bill was originally instituted as a national security issue, to kind of smooth out farming and commodities are like this and again the president is right about trade, trade is a problem and right now commodity prices are too low and our farmers, it’s been very difficult for them.
Brad Means: Is it oversimplifying it to look at this bill as just a way to make sure that farmers get paid even when times are tough, and that they continue to be able to farm?
Rep. Rick Allen: It’s kind of an insurance policy. The average person that walks in a grocery store and looks around and says, “Hey, why do we need farmers?” Well guess what? We already have a textile industry, for example, that we let get overseas, so now our cotton industry is totally dependent on the Asian textile industry. So they can dictate what they pay for our cotton, yet we buy the shirt. So we’re not using our buying capabilities with regard to our raw products. Obviously from a food essentials standpoint no nation, if you don’t have food, you can’t drink oil, for example.
Brad Means: No, you cannot.
Rep. Rick Allen: You have to have food and water. You take the Supplemental Nutrition Program, that was all started because of our military in World War II.
Brad Means: What to opponents say when you say look, this threatens our very food supply? Is it behind-the-scenes, Congressman, I’ve asked you this before what really happens when the cameras are turned off. Behind the scenes, is it just a matter of people who oppose this bill saying okay, I’ll get on board with you Congressman Allen and I’ll help out your good Georgia farmers if you do this, this, and this for my state that doesn’t depend on agriculture, is it a bunch of that?
Rep. Rick Allen: Well, I mean obviously you’ve got to get 218 votes in the House and you’ve got to get 60 votes in the Senate. And there is give and take, I mean, in the business world–
Brad Means: Sure, that’s how it works.
Rep. Rick Allen: I didn’t get everything I wanted, okay? On every deal there’s give and take, and eventually you take the best deal you can get and you try to do what’s right for the American people. It’s like votes, every piece of legislation has things in it that I’d really like not to have to vote for that, but at the same time. For example, we gotta pay our soldiers, okay?
Brad Means: Yeah, we are gonna talk about, we do want to talk about military spending.
Rep. Rick Allen: But the Farm Bill, like I said, farming is an amazing industry today, and to tell you how things change for example, and the problems with the Farm Bill, just before World War II 98% of the population of this country worked in agribusiness. Today it’s less than 2%. But it’s still essential.
Brad Means: Yeah, no, I think about them. When I go in the grocery store I think about you on the Agriculture Committee, I think about our farmers.
Rep. Rick Allen: Oh, absolutely.
Brad Means: If they failed what wouldn’t be there for us.
Rep. Rick Allen: And again, we have the most stable supply and the most economical supply in the world. And if you want your grocery prices to go up, forget about our farmers and don’t support them. Because part of this whole process is to one, keep prices very competitive at the grocery store so everyone has access to good, safe, quality food.
Brad Means: Well we’re gonna continue to keep our eyes on that and farmers, I’m glad that we spent a lot of time on that because typically we’ll hit the agriculture part of our list of topics at the end of the broadcast. I wanted it in our first segment, the congressman works hard on your behalf in that area. When we come back we’re gonna talk immigration, we’re gonna talk cyber, a lot’s been going on on that front in Augusta for sure in recent weeks, as our interview with Congressman Rick Allen on The Means Report continues.
Brad Means: Welcome back to The Means Report, thank you for staying with us as we continue our conversation with 12th District Congressman Rick Allen. Congressman Allen, let’s talk about immigration, especially the dreamers. There are some who want to deport these young, undocumented immigrants, others do not, it is a gigantic controversy, how’s this one end?
Rep. Rick Allen: Well you go that part right.
Brad Means: Yeah, it won’t go away.
Rep. Rick Allen: Well it’s good in some respects because, well, President Trump did the right thing. President Obama overstepped his authority in that executive order. This decision needs to be made in the United States Congress. For whatever reason, the Congress, because of the challenges and the controversy with immigration reform, the Congress, it kind of gets put down, put off. But this thing’s brought it to a head and the president has given us until the end of, I think March, to get this settled.
Brad Means: Will it have a wall in it, this bill?
Rep. Rick Allen: Well again, the criteria based on what I’ve seen, is that number one, at least on our side, is that these folks will not be, there won’t be any amnesty involved here, okay? Number one, in other words, they will be permitted in some way. But on the other side of that, again, we’ve got to stop this problem, okay? So the wall is critical, and the wall will be built.
Brad Means: Let me ask you this. At first it was, the wall will be built and Mexico will pay for it. I talked to a political scientist one day, one time on The Means Report, and he said look, here’s the deal with that. All President Trump has to do is prove to the nation that he’s tried to push it through Congress and get the wall built and Mexico to pay for it. But if that doesn’t happen, if he gets too much resistance on Capitol Hill, then maybe we pay for it or maybe it’s funded some other way. How do you think the wall is gonna be built?
Rep. Rick Allen: Well if you come from the business world you might look at it another way, okay? The biggest problem we’ve got with that border right now, obviously immigration, illegal immigration, how expensive is that to this country? It’s enormous.
Brad Means: Enormous when it comes to the jobs that are impacted.
Rep. Rick Allen: It’s awful. Look at the amount of drugs that is coming over that, how expensive is that to deal with in this country?
Brad Means: So is that a way to justify somebody else paying for it, do you think?
Rep. Rick Allen: It’s investment return, Brad. I mean, if we stop the drugs, that’s gonna cost Mexico a lot. Don’t you think the Mexican government is benefiting from that drug trade?
Brad Means: Well I know that they have steadfastly said even if they are, there’s no way they’re gonna go anywhere near this, but my question is–
Rep. Rick Allen: They’re not doing a whole lot to stop it, let me just say that. Let me tell you, their economy is very dependent on them being able to do what they’re doing. That wall will stop that, that is gonna cost Mexico a lot of money and it’s gonna save this country a lot of money. Whatever we have to invest in that wall is going to eventually pay for itself, multiple times.
Brad Means: In our first segment you talked about the need to focus on funding our military, making sure that our service men and women are fairly compensated. What about the efforts on Capitol Hill to ensure that and to make sure going forward in 2018 and beyond that the military is strong?
Rep. Rick Allen: Well, right now we’re involved in this budget battle, and that budget battle is all about funding, upscaling the funding for our military. We have to do that, part of that is a two-and-a-half percent raise for our troops.
Brad Means: But don’t the Democrats say for every dollar that you increase military spending you must increase domestic spending, are they holding firm on that?
Rep. Rick Allen: They are, and they’re holding the military hostage. We did the sequester caps back in 2010 because of runaway spending. In the first three years of the Obama administration we had a deficit of over one trillion dollars per year. Can you imagine what the deficit would be today if we hadn’t instituted that cap? It devastated our military. What is the number one priority in this nation, Brad? National security, okay? Now, from a domestic standpoint, this tax reform is, based on history, it’s gonna produce lots of revenues, okay? So let’s sort of cap these programs over here, in fact we could probably do away with a lot of them, let’s get our military funded so we can protect this nation and the people in it because it is a dangerous world.
Brad Means: We have made a lot of news lately on the cyber front. Governor Deal seems to really be loving Augusta these days. He comes and he gives tons of money.
Rep. Rick Allen: Wouldn’t you?
Brad Means: I mean it’s just incredible. I’ve asked you this before, and I’ll ask you again, are we on the map from a cyber standpoint? Do your brothers and sisters in Congress know about Augusta, Georgia?
Rep. Rick Allen: Oh my goodness. My colleagues are very envious of the 12th District of Georgia. Number one it’s, to me, the greatest area in the world. I mean obviously in the spring we’ve got The Masters coming, everybody’s excited about Tiger playing, I mean it’s amazing. Even my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, “Oh, is Tiger gonna play?” Let me tell you, it gets–
Brad Means: People know.
Rep. Rick Allen: But the big thing is the cyber, and who would have ever believed, I mean, just some years ago through BRAC this community came together and said, “We’re gonna save Fort Gordon.” And I applaud that great group of leaders and that group they put together to make sure Fort Gordon was here. Then we’ve got National Security Administration placed here because of that, and because it was a signal school, and now we have cyber. We could be the Silicon Valley, and probably will be the Silicon Valley, of the east coast. We have people moving here from the Silicon Valley that really enjoy our quality of life and we’re just good people. It’s amazing, the governor’s response to this. Mary Davis and our city commission, Chairman Cross in Columbia County, DOT, we’re gonna get that back entrance, I mean we’re making things happen, we’re investing. That is the way these things take place. And our children and their children and their children are gonna be the beneficiaries, and I’m excited about that.
Brad Means: Yeah it is incredible, and no matter which side of the political spectrum you fall, drive around town, drive around Fort Gordon after they get that new gate built, and you will see that this area is changing quickly.
Rep. Rick Allen: Yeah, I’m very excited about it. I’m very thankful that I’m at this point in time in our history, it’s been a lot of fun.
Brad Means: Let me ask you in our short time remaining about constituent services. I was talking to a member of your team before we taped this broadcast, and it’s important to you to make sure that the people of the district get the help they need. Do you get a lot of phone calls?
Rep. Rick Allen: Yes.
Brad Means: Does your office help people with a lot of requests? What’s something that someone might not know about that they could call you with and you could help push it through? Is it get me a passport, is that a lot of it?
Rep. Rick Allen: Yeah, they’re going overseas and they get their passport out of the vault and they say, “Oh no, it’s expired.”
Brad Means: Yeah, we’ve done it.
Rep. Rick Allen: But no, well frankly, before I got into this into public service, I really had no idea so many people had problems with the federal government. I mean it’s enormous.
Brad Means: It’s too much red tape.
Rep. Rick Allen: Well, it’s just give me an answer, you know? I mean we can’t solve a lot of these problems, but we can sure speed it up, speed up the process, because people just want a yes or no answer sometimes.
Brad Means: That’s right.
Rep. Rick Allen: But a large part of it’s obviously disability, veteran’s benefits, passports, immigration. I will tell you with the new Trump administration we’re probably getting more immigration calls now because obviously folks are paying more attention to it which is a good thing.
Brad Means: Well we appreciate you keeping us up to speed on what’s going on in the district and in D.C., and for fielding those constituent phone calls. I know you’re slammed these days, Congressman, thank you.
Rep. Rick Allen: Well, it’s important. The thing I love about this job is serving, and I’ll tell you, I have to say that, and everybody else says this, too, our staff, we’ve got the best staff not only in Washington, D.C. but throughout this district. It’s kind of like back when I was working, it’s kind of like, I mean I’d get my feelings hurt sometimes but I’d wonder what I’m doing. They just take the ball and run with it, but it’s great to empower people to do the right thing. But I still vote and I try to vote the right way. We’re gonna turn this country around, I’m excited about it, Brad.
Brad Means: Well we appreciate it so much, sir. We’ll check back in with you soon. Congressman Rick Allen, District number 12, in the great state of Georgia.