“I have experience with a lot of issues…I think right now people are looking for leadership that has solutions.”
Jack Kingston is running for Georgia’s open U.S. Senate seat, vacated by retiring Senator Saxby Chambliss. He has represented Georgia’s 1st District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1993, serving on multiple committees. He is also a UGA alumnus — a member of the Demosthenian Literary Society and resident of Hill, Myers and Payne Halls during his time here.
THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE‘s Tucker Boyce talked with Mr. Kingston about his experience in D.C., the Senate race and issues facing Congress. Kingston defends his time in Congress, arguing that his political experience gives him an edge over self-billed “outsiders” Karen Handel and David Perdue. This is the first part of a two-part interview.
THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE: You have a lot of experience in the House of Representatives — what about that gives you an advantage over other candidates in the race? Some of your opponents are marketing themselves as D.C. outsiders.
Jack Kingston: Well, Obama was an outsider too and we see what that does — you elect someone and you don’t know what they really stand for. I have experience with a lot of issues — for example, probably the most familiarity with the University of Georgia and a lot of the other universities where I have spent time visiting and talking to students and being engaged in student life. I’ve dealt with military issues, and we’ve always had a senator from Georgia who is very knowledgeable about the military. I’ve represented five out of our eight military installations. I have represented agriculture, which is a heated issue in Georgia. It’s poultry in Gainesville, it’s onions in Vidalia, it’s Chik-fil-A and Coca-Cola in Atlanta. I’ve [worked] with these issues and these companies. That’s something that’s extremely important to college kids in terms of job opportunities and growth for our state. I have the conservative record which shows that I’ve been fighting these things for a long time, like less government spending, etc. My voting records are 96 percent from American Conservative Union. The National Journal has said I have the most conservative voting record in this race, and I have a 100 percent with the National Federation of Independent Business.
A lot of these candidates who are talking a good game about being an outsider have yet to offer a plan. They haven’t said what they would have voted on differently or what they would have done differently. I understand that it sounds good, but the reality is you gotta have somebody who has been elected.
I come from Chatham County, which went for Obama at 55 percent. But I got 53 percent of the vote, so even with my conservative credentials, I can attract voters who are not normally voting Republican. That’s really important as we look at the changing demographics of the state.
TAC: What are some of the issue-specific differences between you, Ms. Handel and Mr. Perdue who have been at the top of most of the polls lately? How does the outsider vs. insider perspective translate into issues, besides the military which you talked about above?
Kingston: I have a six-point plan that will unite the conservative family called the American Renewal Initiative. It talks about strong national defense, balancing the budget and jobs. Neither [Ms. Handel or Mr. Perdue] has offered anything. We hear a lot of criticism from them, but we don’t see very many solutions. I think right now people are looking for leadership that has solutions.
TAC: With economic issues specifically, you’ve advocated for the FairTax. That’s clearly contentious with some Democrats. What do you think is the best way to reconcile those differences and still keep spending in mind?
Kingston: You want to have a tax code that is simple — right now we spend six billion man-hours a year on it. You need one that is fair. [Under the proposed plan,] it doesn’t matter if you’re a one percent or 99 percent person, you pay the same amount of money, and you understand what your tax burden is. You need a tax code that promotes growth so that small businesses can be nurtured. In the context of tax simplification, it’s going to grow the economy. The big banner here is tax simplification. While I support the FairTax, somebody else might support the Flat Tax or other plans that are out there. We still should be on the same page, not fighting each other, if we all agree that we need to simplify the tax code and step forward in that direction.
TAC: Obama has pushed to increase the minimum wage for federal workers. Is there a scenario where the minimum wage would increase before 2016?
Kingston: If you increase the minimum wage, you decrease jobs. One study says 500,000 jobs would be lost. Minimum wage is an opportunity wage, a training wage, and the overwhelming majority of people who are on minimum wage are part-time workers and not the bread-winners. What you want to do is to get people in the system so they can climb the economic ladder. Sometimes the minimum wage is the best way to start out, but it’s absolutely only a starting wage.
The thing that we have to acknowledge is why are we even talking about it? We’re talking about it because of the failed economic policies of [our current] president. He’s spending his time talking about minimum wage. I’m spending my time talking about jobs and how you can get more people into the labor force so that they can make 50, 60, 70 thousand dollars a year, because that’s the direction you want them to go in.
TAC: Let’s say you’re a rural Georgian working in agriculture and struggling to get into the job market now. What is the best way to get those people into the market beyond temporary minimum wage jobs?
Kingston: There are a lot of jobs that are available in agriculture in rural Georgia right now that pay a lot more than minimum wage. I don’t know that they’re any different than some of the other parts of the economy where employers want to hire good workers. But again, if you want to turn the economy around, you need to do a couple things. In my American Renewal Initiative, [there are] four points on the economy. One: Pushing back on the regulatory over-reach — Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, those things are killing jobs. Two: Energy Independence — explore and develop North American energy, starting with building the Keystone Pipeline. A lot of folks forget that gas prices were 1.90 dollars per gallon when Obama was sworn in January 2009. If we can take gas prices down, it would be a huge economic boon which would particularly help people in rural areas. Three: Workfare over welfare so that we can get out work ethic back and have a job-ready workforce — that’s not just job requirements on welfare, but job training and education. Four: We’ve talked about it — tax simplification. If we had a tax code that was simple, clear, and competitive, businesses would grow. 56 percent of college grads in the Obama economy are working on jobs that they don’t need a college degree for. One of my big goals is to make sure that when you graduate in four years that you have plenty of options.
TAC: What do you think is the best way to sustain those options?
Kingston: If we push back on the regulatory over-reach — this administration wakes up in the morning and thinks of new ways to attack the private sector. We have to change the Senate and put pro-business senators in there. I have a business background and a voting record that shows I’m very strong on private job creation. We need to put Harry Reid in the minority status and then take the White House in 2016 — that would make a huge difference for college students today. We also want to make sure that entrepreneurs have opportunities to borrow money. One of the big things David Perdue has said is that he supports the Dodd-Frank bill, but that’s what killing community banks’ abilities to loan money. If you want to have new businesses and job creation, you have to make it easier for our banks to responsibly loan money.
Part II to follow.
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