U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden continues to put a soft-focus filter on his campaign statements. But in an interview with MinnPost, he reveals some specifics on policies he’d pursue if he defeats Sen. Al Franken in November.
It’s not that the others seeking Republican endorsement have done much more than articulate their support of traditional conservative positions. It’s that, unlike McFadden, the most serious challengers — State Rep. Jim Abeler, State Sen. Julianne Ortman and St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg — have voting records.
McFadden, a mergers-and-acquisition consultant with a Georgetown law degree, declined to participate in early debates and often gave generalized responses when pressed for policy details. Both the DFL, and his GOP competitor Dahlberg, have accused him of dodging the issues.
Below, McFadden defined a few of his positions, including tax reform, energy sector growth, and foreign affairs:
MinnPost: What did you think of Congressman Dave Camp’s tax plan — it eliminates write-offs and lowers the overall rates — and how does this compare to your concept of tax reform?
Mike McFadden: I think there’s a huge opportunity to sit down and really make some dramatic improvements here.
It shouldn’t be a partisan issue; it should be bipartisan. Sitting across the table with like-minded Democrats and say, “Let’s agree it’s going to be revenue-neutral,” because we’ve got $17 trillion of debt that we have to address.
But we can all agree that we have something that’s much more simple and much more transparent. Every economist will tell you that we’ll see economic growth from that, because it’s just more efficient.
Let’s sit down and talk about what that looks like. The 15,000 deductions; exemptions … I think you start with a white, blank sheet of paper and say, “This is the amount of money we need to run the government, here’s what we’re going to do. Here are the rates. What deductions or exemptions do we absolutely need and why?”
MP: So you’re looking at a revenue-neutral tax plan, but vastly simplified?
MM: And transparent. I want people to know what people are paying. People pay a lot in taxes, and they should have the confidence as to what that is.
We need tax reform. It’s so complicated, no one understands it.
We have a 35 percent tax rate for corporations. That’s too high. I believe that’s too high. But having said that, corporations are all over. There are reports that there are some large corporations in America that paid zero income tax last year. That’s wrong. It’s not illegal, but it’s wrong.
MP: Do you support the Fed’s monetary policy of keeping interest rates low?
MM: I’m concerned we are in uncharted territory.
The Fed has been manipulating interest rates for five years now. As they’ve been the predominant buyer of securities on the open market — they have affected that market greatly. As they stop buying the bonds, there’s a real concern that interest rates will spike.
… They announced some tapering last summer, and interest rates spike on five- and ten-year bonds. They pulled back immediately. The last couple situations where they decreased the amount of buying, it’s been smoother in the marketplace.
What’s absolutely critical is that we get … the underlying economy — manufacturing sector, service sector — doing better, creating more jobs so that the Fed can pull back.
They’ve got to pull back, and if we don’t have the growth, my concern is that we’ll see out-of-control inflation.
MP: Do you support a federal increase in the minimum wage?
MM: I support anything that increases wage and increases jobs. My concern is two-fold:
One is federal versus state. It concerns me that the government dictates a wage across the whole country. As we all know, the factors that we face in Minnesota are dramatically different than New York or California or Alabama.
The other … is when I read reports from economists that this will destroy jobs.
MP: So you don’t support a federal increase?
MM: Yeah that would destroy jobs. I think there’s a better way to do it. I’m a big fan of the Earned Income Tax Credit.
The other thing is that we gotta get this economy growing. That’s how you increase jobs; that’s how you increase wages.
I’m very concerned we’ve absolutely had stagnant growth. Last quarter, we grew 0.1 percent. While the unemployment rate has gone down, it’s somewhat misleading because the labor participation rate has gone done significantly.
… We’re going sideways and I know that. I’m a businessman. There’s a way forward. There’s a path to growth and prosperity, if we allow it to happen.
I think one of the reason we have so few new business starts is that regulation has made it so expensive to start a new business.
MP: In a bill, what regulations would you propose to eliminate?
MM: I don’t think it’s as simple as proposing language in a bill.
Someone was asking me what committees I would like to be sitting on in the U.S. Senate. I said one of the things I’d like to do is create a new committee, which would be the committee of de-regulation.
We have all these committees that create laws, then create regulation. There’s no one whose job is to look through and say what is still relevant.
MP: But specifically, where do you see these regulatory roadblocks?
MM: I am for smart regulation, efficient regulation.
Let me give you a real-life example in Minnesota that’s problematic. We’re sitting on the largest copper deposit in the world. It has the opportunity to have Bakken-like economic impact on our state and on the region.
Nobody in Minnesota, including myself, wants to do anything that harms our 10,000 lakes. We are all environmentalists in this state. What is problematic is this copper deposit — this has been under review for seven years, $150 million, and we don’t have an answer yet.
There currently are seven different regulatory agencies that have control over this project: the DNR, PCA, sovereign nations, Bureau of Land Management, Corps of Engineers, Department of the Interior and the Forest Service.
If we were in Germany, which has the toughest environmental laws in the EU, we’d have an answer in six months. Just tell us.
Nobody wants to do something that’s harmful, and my sense is that they’re going to allow this to happen because they can do it in an environmentally safe way — but nothing should take seven years and $150 million. We have such an inefficient, chaotic regulatory review process. That’s wrong. That stops economic impact.
MP: With these entrenched structures, how would you propose to make them more efficient?
MM: You need to build a coalition of like-minded people. Ideally, it’s bipartisan. I think this is ideally suited for people that have private-sector experience. I’ve solved problems my whole life, that’s what I’m trained to do. …
Let’s take the energy industry. We are sitting on the doorsteps of an energy renaissance, which is truly game-changing if we allow it to happen in a responsible way.
We haven’t been energy independent; we haven’t been an energy superpower since the early 1960s. People forget that in World War II, we provided six-sevenths of the oil that was used to prosecute the war on behalf of the allies.
We have the opportunity — because of technology, because of innovation, because of horizontal drilling — to really be an energy superpower.
It’s a game-changer, because not only is energy the number one source of high paying jobs over the next decade, but also more importantly, with low cost energy, we have a manufacturing renaissance.
MP: What do you think Congress should do with energy policy?
MM: One is approve the Keystone pipeline, which has thoroughly passed multiple environmental reviews.
Two is natural gas. There are 24 [liquefied and natural gas plants] around the country that have applied for permits. I would fast-track the permitting process.
Let’s talk about Europe. France does use [nuclear]. Germany curtailed their nuclear program, and went to natural gas and I believe 60 to 70 percent of their energy comes from Russia. That’s a problem; that’s a huge problem.
Energy independence is not just to allow us to be an economic superpower — which we need to be — but it’s got huge implications on geo-political issues. If we had these L-and-G plants up and running, we actually could export to Europe. We could supply their energy — democracy to democracy.
Germany allowed themselves to get in a situation where they were dependent on Russia.
MP: Natural gas is a resource that produces methane that may contribute to climate change. If Congress decides to act on climate change — what is the most prudent course, in your opinion?
MM: One of the frustrations that I’ve had is the way that the question is posed. There’s a false choice out there. You’re either for the environment, or you’re for the economic growth or business growth.
… You can do both. You grow; you develop in a responsible way. With natural gas, the studies I’ve seen, there’s more methane produced from livestock than there ever is from natural gas production. And natural gas is one of the cleanest forms of energy.
I’m a big proponent of all forms of energy. Let the market determine what’s the most efficient way to provide energy sources.
Look at the improvements we made in the coal industry in terms of what we’ve been able to do there. Whether its coal, nuclear, natural gas, propane — let’s promote it in a responsible way.
If we’re able to provide natural gas to Europe, they’re not held hostage by Russia. Russia’s economy is completely energy dependent.
MP: What is your opinion of U.S. policy regarding Russia and the Ukraine?
MM: I’m very disappointed in the current administration in terms of their foreign policy. I think they’ve put the U.S. in a place where we are in a less safe, more dangerous position today that when they got elected into office.
Let’s look at Benghazi. A U.S. ambassador was murdered. We had a rapid deployment force of Marines on an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean. We did nothing and the world watched.
Then we drew a red line in the sand in Syria. They crossed it. We did nothing and the world watched. So no one should be surprised by what Putin did in the Ukraine.
MP: Do you advocate a more muscular U.S. policy in this situation?
MM: I advocate a more clear policy. I would have started in Benghazi. I would have sent a very strong message that we’re going to protect our embassies.
We find ourselves in a situation in the Ukraine. I would have immediately kicked Russia out of the G-8. We become the G-7. I would consider things like taking the  World Cup from them immediately. I’m a big proponent of economic sanctions. We need Europe’s support to make them effective.