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McFadden on how he would deal with his No. 1 worry: U.S. government debt

The GOP’s U.S. Senate candidate doesn’t just want to reduce the annual deficit, he wants to eliminate it completely and run a surplus to pay off some of the debt.

This is one in an occasional series of articles about the policy positions of U.S. Senate candidates Mike McFadden and Al Franken.

Mike McFadden
MinnPost file photo by Brian Halliday
Mike McFadden

Republican Senate candidate Mike McFadden says that his number one concern, as a father of six children, is the large and growing debt of the U.S. government. The debt is over $17 trillion and has “increased by six or seven trillion since Al Franken took office,” McFadden said.

For obvious reasons, McFadden sometimes chooses to put his analysis of what’s gone wrong with the country over recent years in terms of Franken’s Senate term. In our long interview last week, he did this several times, without specifying actions by Franken or how they contributed to the problems he is highlighting, but it’s probably fair to say that (in addition to the obvious reason) he’s using Franken as a symbol of the basic approach to government of Democrats and liberals in general.

McFadden doesn’t just want to reduce the annual federal deficit, which would slow down the growth of the debt. He wants to eliminate the deficit completely and run a surplus in order to pay off some of the debt. (The gross federal debt, by the way, including the money owed to the Social Security Trust Fund, has gone up for more than 30 straight years.)

Cutting the debt

I asked him his ideas for getting the debt headed down, and he replied: “The way that you address it is twofold. One, addressing long-term costs, and two — which we need to talk a lot more about — is growth.”

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We never got around to discussing what McFadden meant by long-term costs, although I assume it refers to bending the curve on long-term Medicare and Social Security costs. We never got around to discussing his ideas for that, either, although I hope to soon. And some might say that ultimately higher taxes will have to be part of the solution to the long-term debt. But not McFadden, who says: “I will not vote to raise taxes on hard-working Minnesotans.”

So that leaves economic growth, which turned out to be the main thing on McFadden’s mind, at least during our interview. As in:

Since Al Franken took office, we’ve had the lowest, slowest rebound from a recession in the history of the United States… We gotta get this economy growing again. And the way to do that is to have sensible regulation, not over-regulation, and to take advantage of the energy renaissance that we’re sitting at the doorstep of.

If not for excessive regulation and long, excessively slow permitting processes — such as the one that has held up construction of the Keystone Pipeline and the one that has held up the Polymet copper mining project in northern Minnesota — we’d be on our way. McFadden can get quite excited on the topic. Allow me to give him the floor, uninterrupted by any of my impertinent asides, for a couple of paragraphs:

We have the opportunity to be an energy superpower again, to be energy independent for the first time since the 1960s. And the effect of that on our country is dramatic. With low-cost energy not only are we able to put more dollars in the pockets of the people of Minnesota, because their heating costs are lower, their gas bills are lower, we’re also able to address our balance of trade.

We can export liquefied natural gas. So we change our balance of payments structure, but most importantly, with low-cost energy, we become a manufacturing superpower again because we can manufacture competitively on a global basis. That’s really exciting. That’s how you create jobs; that’s how you increase wages; that’s how you help people. We start insourcing jobs as opposed to outsourcing.

That kind of economic activity creates jobs, which creates tax revenue without having to raise anyone’s rates, McFadden says. Get the economy growing at a 4 to 5 percent a year rate, instead of the current 1 percent and, over a four or five year stretch, that’s $9 trillion to $12 trillion of additional revenue coming into the treasury, he says.

And what’s the key to making this happen, the thing that McFadden can do as a U.S. senator?

Keystone Pipeline

“The key is to do the things that Al Franken doesn’t do,” McFadden says. “To be very specific, it’s approving the Keystone Pipeline, number one. Number two, it’s fast-tracking the 24 liquefied natural gas pipelines that are in the permitting stage around this country. It’s stopping the war on…the carbon emission strategy that President Obama and Al Franken announced last week. That’s how we do it.

“… I’m a businessman. I look at what this administration and Al Franken have done. They’ve just put regulations after regulation after regulation on businesses.  Including Obamacare, which is estimated to cost the equivalent of 2 to 3 million jobs,” said McFadden, noting that this was an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, but not noting that the CBO said most of this represented people who would be able to retire or work fewer hours because Obamacare had helped them get health care from other sources.

McFadden does have a big — if common — idea about federal taxes, which I guess must be considered part of his overall economic plan. But really, the plan is just one word. The word is simplification. He favors a major reduction in the complexity of the code. This is a fairly common impulse these days. The hard part is identifying some of the major deductions, exemptions, exclusions and so forth that you want to eliminate. McFadden hasn’t done that. When I asked him to mention some of the provisions he would cut, he said the important thing was to show up at meetings of people who share the overall goal, and put everything on the table.

Despite the lengthy interview that resulted in Wednesday’s and today’s posts, and perhaps because McFadden is a new figure in the Minnesota political picture, we did not cover many of the issues on which a Senate candidate should have a public position. I’m working with McFadden to arrange more time to go over his thinking on more issues.