U.S. House candidate Kevin Cramer told Minot Rotary members Monday that a flatter tax system, less regulation and a charismatic leader in the White House could help the nation revive its American Dream.
Cramer, a Republican who seeks the House seat held by Congressman Rick Berg, R-N.D., also promoted free enterprise as the American value that is best able to keep the country on course.
"I trust the natural order of things," said Cramer. "We have to get a handle on the over-reaching over-regulation of this administration that, with zeal, has taken us from first place in manufacturing in this country. Every year we have lost one or two notches. Now we are the fifth leading manufacturer in this world. That can't continue. We have to put people back to work. We can grow this economy again by trusting free enterprise, by trusting the marketplace, by trusting the consumers to make choices."
Although a regulator as a member of the North Dakota Public Service Commission, Cramer indicated North Dakota is a national success story because landowners and corporations are allowed to find consensus without government interference. North Dakota's energy production is doing well because private individuals own the land, not the federal government, he said.
Under federal land, production is going down, while Democrats have identified climate change as a legislative priority, he said. Utilities, which have never in the past had to deal with more than one Environmental Protection Agency ruling at a time, now must deal with up to 12 rulings at a time, he said.
"We have a tremendous opportunity and yet we have an entire party and administration trying to choke it off. I don't understand it, but I am going to go fight it," he said.
Pam Gulleson, the Democrat candidate for the House seat, responded that she supports state-based regulations over federal rules because one-size doesn't fit all. That's why she wants federal agencies to work with state, tribal and local agencies on hydraulic fracturing rules before drafting any new regulations for oil and gas development, she said.
"It's also why last fall I testified against the EPA's hazing regulations. I knew it was wrong for North Dakota and I stood up for our state," she said. "Through careful stewardship and long-term comprehensive planning, we can simultaneously create jobs and wealth and bring security to this nation, while protecting North Dakota for generations to come."
Along with reining in regulations, Cramer listed getting the nation's debt under control as a priority.
"You can't have a strong, growing, vibrant economy with a $16 trillion debt. It's that debt itself that changes the economy. I want to go to Congress not to be Santa Claus. I want to go to Congress to deal with these tough issues, to say no to tough spending so we can afford the priorities when they happen things like floods, that require the aggregate resources of our country," he said. "I am not afraid to take the tough stands. I will even take an unpopular stand back home if it means the right thing for our country and for future generations."
He supports a flatter tax system that would keep standard deducations but eliminate many other deductions, which he believes would simplify taxes and jumpstart the economy.
Gulleson said a flat tax would contract the economy.
"A flat tax would be a huge tax hike on the middle class and for working people, essentially cutting the tax rate for the wealthiest in half and doubling taxes for everybody else," she said.
One Minot Rotarian called attention to how political party differences have resulted in polarization in Washington, D.C.
"The biggest challenge, I think, is it's a reflection not of politics but of our country," Cramer said in responding to a question. "Our country is quite polarized. That requires some leadership beyond how you legislate. It requires a Ronald Reagan type of leadership."
President Obama once had the public appeal of a Reagan, he said.
"He had the good will of everybody, and somehow it just didn't work out. And that isn't just his fault. It's a lot of people's fault," Cramer said.
But he added that a line needs to be drawn with compromise as well. When public officials see something wrong, such as a single-payer health system or movement away from the capitalist system of government, they have to take a stand, he said.
"You have to know when to dig in your heels and say, 'No, this is not our country. This is not our future. This is not our culture," he said. "This is not what made us the most successful nation in the world, the richest nation in the world, the super-power of the world."