By Vicki Smith
America is in “an industrial coma” because of the adversarial relationship between corporations and a bloated federal government, and Republican U.S. Senate candidate John Raese says it’s time to do things differently.
Hard choices to eliminate and scale back some federal agencies and consider privatizing others must be made, Raese told The Associated Press, because Americans can’t afford the government they have. If there is a need for either an agency or the services it provides, the private sector should fill it.
“We’re off the tracks and we have to get back on the tracks — and quickly,” he said Thursday. “We’re broke in this country. We’re going to have to do government differently than we have in the past 30 years.”
Government isn’t doing a great job anyway, Raese argues, from the dysfunctional relationship between environmental regulators and industry to unnecessary meddling in health care and public education.
Everything should be on the table for review, including privatizing the Transportation Security Administration. Though the agency is needed to protect the flying public, Raese believes the jobs never belonged in the public sector.
“All the people who protect our airports should be from the private sector,” he said, adding that “the private sector can do any job better than the government can.”
He also advocates abolishing the $52 billion a year Department of Education because it duplicates and usurps a state responsibility, the $30 billion a year Department of Energy because it’s too expensive, and the $12 billion Internal Revenue Service.
Abolishing the IRS doesn’t mean ending taxation, he added, but there should be dramatic reductions in both corporate and income taxes.
“I’m not fond of going to Washington to sit there eliminating and looking at federal agencies that shouldn’t be there,” he said, “but it’s what we have to do if we want to exist.”
Raese is locked in a tight race with West Virginia’s popular Democratic governor, Joe Manchin, for the unexpired term of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who held the seat for more than a half-century. The Mountain Party’s Jesse Johnson and the Constitution Party’s Jeff Becker are also competing.
Raese, who has run twice for Senate and once for governor, said his views and values haven’t changed over the past two decades, but West Virginia has — and it’s more conservative than ever.
“It used to be, I could get my fellow conservatives in a phone booth and have a meeting. Certainly that has changed,” he said, crediting much of that influence to Fox News.
“There’s a different kind of voter out there today. They are an educated electorate,” he said. “There is an anger out there in America today, and it resonates here in West Virginia probably larger than most states because we have a very conservative state.”
The 60-year-old Morgantown millionaire is president and chief executive of Greer Industries, which owns a radio network, the Dominion Post newspaper, steel, asphalt and limestone operations, a golf course and Seneca Caverns.
Though he “can’t think of very many times when a government agency has helped me,” he acknowledges he has government contracts to supply such materials as asphalt for road construction.
Raese calls the federal government “the restrictor plate” on capitalism in general and the manufacturing, mining and drilling industries in particular. The prospect of cap and trade legislation to regulate greenhouse gases, he said, is enough to discourage companies like his from expanding.
Raese rejects the notion that global warming is caused by humans and argues the threat of carbon dioxide from U.S. industry is overrated.
“You can take one volcano that erupts anywhere in the world, and there are more dangerous toxins set off in that one volcano than man can produce in a whole year throughout the globe,” he said. “So does that make any sense as far as a law in this country? I say no.”
The Environmental Protection Agency must take a more cooperative and flexible view of industry, Raese said.
“I don’t know that it’s out of control, but it has to work in conjunction with business,” he said. “It can’t be in an adversary position like it is right now.
“We are in what I would call an industrial coma in this country right now,” he said, and regulators are part of the problem.
There’s no need for the EPA or the Army Corps of Engineers to be heavy-handed, Raese argues, because it’s in industry’s interest to manage their properties responsibly and be good neighbors. He has industrial property in Pendleton County, for example, and he stocks trout streams there
“Am I going to be a good corporate neighbor? Yes, I am,” he said. “The worst thing that I could possibly do is go in there and destroy that property and leave an eyesore, because who owns it? I own it.”