How do you assess the Trump administration so far?
Rohrs: The tax cuts were a first step towards economic recovery. We are seeing high growth rate and low unemployment. The unemployment rate for black Americans is particularly encouraging. But we need to do even better. It is my hope that we continue to make progress and increase the wealth of all Americans. Until the savings rate is over 15% and person debt is reduced I will not be satisfied. We have pulled out of potential agreements like TPP that would have put downward pressure on American wages. We are renegotiating the terms of trade with China which was long overdue. We are making progress in ending the theft of American intellectual property which accelerated greatly under the last two presidents. As a country we were taken advantage of for so long that many people have just become accustomed to it. It’s my hope that the phrase “america first” transitions from being a campaign slogan to the mindset we approach our decisions with. I want you to remember to ask one question when analyzing policy proposals. “How does this policy help myself, my family, my community, and my country”. You may find yourself realizing that most of the time what people talk about in DC has nothing to do with your well being.
Do you support or oppose the federal tax cuts passed in 2017? What effect do you believe they will have on the economy?
Rohrs: The tax cuts were far too limited. We will see some positive growth from the new tax rates, but it will not be enough. American families need much larger tax cuts if they want any chance to retire. At the current savings rate, 80% of the families in our country will not retire, they will work until they die. Tax rates should be reduced dramatically until financial stability is restored to the American family. The question Americans should be asking is “What are we getting for our tax money”. Subsidizing special interest groups and fighting foreign wars with no benefit to our country is not what I would call value for money.
Is the level of national debt a concern? What, if anything, should be done to reduce it or constrain its increase?
Rohrs: We shouldn’t dance around this issue, the cause of our national debt is our intervention in foreign affairs. The Vietnam War, the Iraq Wars, and our role as policeman of the world is responsible for almost 100% of the national debt. Over 7 trillion wasted in the middle east since 2003. If this reckless policy of foreign intervention benefited Americans it is certainly not showing in our financial statements. Most Americans have less than $10,000 in savings. Unfortunately there is one issue Republicans and Democrats always agree on and that’s spending money overseas. We will fight each other to the death over the smaller financial issues but when it comes time to spend another billion overseas, no one blinks an eye. Stop overseas spending, you stop the debt. If there was a magic wand that could make our national debt disappear, we would suddenly be able to increase our investments in basic research (including cancer research) over 10 fold just by reallocating the money we currently spend on interest payments. That alone should highlight why we need to reject deficit spending. What’s more important to you, that we prop up dictators half way around the world or that we properly fund the medical research so that when you are older you have the best medical care available. We won’t make progress until Americans start prioritizing what matters. Bailing out financial institutions and engaging in wars overseas will not help your family, but medical research and local investments will.
Is the level of economic inequality in the United States a problem, and if so, what should the federal government do to address it?
Rohrs: In the 6th district (western maryland) our savings rate is under 5%, as it is for most of the country. This means that despite a median household income of $68,000 the median family is on pace to save less than $100,000 for retirement. Adjusted for inflation it is projected that a median family will have less than 6 months reserves for retirement. According to the Wall Street Journal, as much as 80% of American households are not going to be able to have sufficient funds for retirement. If you want to judge the economy as it impacts working Americans, don’t look to the GDP or the savings rates or an arbitrary index, look at the median savings rate. When the savings rate is high we do well as a country, when the savings rate is low the median household struggles and has a lower quality of life. Most tax cuts would help, however there are three core expenses which keep Americans savings rate at a subpar level: 1) Housing costs 2) Education Costs 3) Health Care Costs. All three expenses grew faster than the rate of inflation after government intervention. Policies enacted at the federal level should always be done with consideration on the secondary effects of those policies. For example: subsidizing the mortgage market does not benefit the home buyer if housing prices inflate and consume any potential consumer surplus, nor does subsidizing student loans if education costs are allowed to rise. Always look at the savings rate.
Should federal gun laws be changed, and if so, how?
Rohrs: A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. Congress should abide by their sworn duty to defend that constitution.
What should Congress do with respect to the Affordable Care Act? Should it be strengthened, and if so, how? Should it be scrapped? If so, what if anything should replace it?
Rohrs: The Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as Obamacare, was a massive hand out to insurance companies and special interest groups in the health care industry. While the system of medical compensation and insurance is in need of overhaul we are missing the three biggest issues facing our countries health care. (1) We need to fix our food supply. Our massive subsidies for sugary and fructose based food has lead to a declining life expectancy. Americans did not one day wake up and decide to be fat, our food supply was hijacked. This is happening in other western countries, France for instance has the same obesity rates as America in the late 90’s and is rising at a similar rate. (2) Our medical research, particularly basic research, is underfunded and lagging. We put over 9 times as much money into paying interest on the national debt as we do funding basic research. By 2020 China will have passed the US in Basic Research funding in nominal dollars. Adjusted for labor costs, China has exceeded the US in basic research funding since the mid 2000’s. (3) We lack primary care doctors due to excessive education costs. Until the exploitive secondary market for student for student loans is addressed it is unreasonable to expect any improvements in health care access.
What role should the federal government play in helping cities like Baltimore?
Rohrs: From a congressional level the best thing we can do for Baltimore is to keep our country out of any more unnecessary wars and allow that capital to say in the local economy to generate wealth. As we continue to enact pro-American trade policies, port cities like Baltimore will find that their economy will receive a much needed boast. A continued investment in biotech research will also allow organizations like Johns Hopkins to grow and provide financial benefit to the community. However as a landlord, the biggest thing keeping high income earners out of Baltimore City is the school system. If a voucher program is enacted then the city would bring back a strong tax base. If the school system is not addressed young professionals will keep moving to the county when their children are ready for school. In congress, I would be a strong advocate for school choice which would allow the city to retain residents in their peak income earning years.
What can Congress do to address the opioid epidemic?
Rohrs: This is too complex an issue for 250 words, but I’ll do my best. Similar to the Obesity epidemic, Americans did not wake up one day and decide to be drug addicts. This was caused by bad policy both domestically and internationally. We need to treat addiction as a medical issue and offer as much treatment as we possibly can to those already addicted. The reality is that those addicted are going to have a long journey to recovery and as a nation, we need to support our fellow citizens as they break free from this terrible affliction. With regards to the supply and distribution: speaking with addiction specialists I found that most addicts start with prescription drugs and move on to drugs like heroin when the pills become difficult to obtain. Prescription drugs were initially pushed by government subsidies on the poorest areas in the country. Congress has a moral obligation to end these subsidies even if it means standing up to powerful lobbying groups. With regards to heroin: we can control the production of heroin within our borders, however most heroin is imported. The main countries involved are Colombia, Mexico, and Afghanistan. Congress needs to be willing to enact crippling sanctions on any country which cannot control the cartels. We also need to be willing to control our border. Heroin addiction has existed as disease for most of the past century, the epidemic only occurred when we compromitted our duty to a secure border.
What changes if any should Congress make to our immigration and deportation laws and policies?
Rohrs: Almost all of the necessary laws we need with regards to immigration are already on the books. The issue is the enforcement of those laws. We cannot do is allow for individuals to break the law with impunity. Nor can we allow for large corporations to use a shadow workforce of illegal migrants to undermine the wages of American workers. Nationwide use of an e-verify system to ensure all employees across the country are properly documented is a necessity. A southern border wall is necessary to reduce the flow of narcotics and human trafficking. My wife is an immigrant so I understand that our current system is inefficient and needs improvement. But we either have a country or we do not. Enforcement of our immigration laws is necessary for the safety of our country and the protection of the American worker.
Should the United States continue with the free trade policies it pursued for the last several decades, or should it enact restrictions in an attempt to help domestic industries?
Rohrs: While I support free trade, free trade did not exist in the past four decades. You as an American cannot go to most other countries and get close to the same deal that foreign countries get in America. You will be regulated and tariffed out of business. If you go to countries like China, your intellectual property will be stolen and shortly after doing business with them you will find they are producing competing products with your technology. This is a suckers game. If we want to have free trade, that is what I prefer and I will support that. If we want to protect our industries and restrict trade, while it is not ideal in my estimation, that is a reasonable position. But what is not reasonable is to allow foreign companies to enjoy the rights and benefits of our domestic market while not reciprocating in like kind. I would ask the readers what benefit they have personally received from our previous trade policy. Sure you may have got a cheap plastic chair from the local big box store and that’s great, but have your wages been increasing or decreasing over the past few decades? Has your savings rate increased or decrease? We can judge a tree by the fruit it bears and in the case of US trade policy, I would venture that most Americans have not received an aggregate benefit.
Do you support the Iran nuclear deal?
Rohrs: The Iran deal was not done in the best interest of the American people. I do not believe as it was negotiated that it would lead to long term stability or disengage us from spending in the middle east. It should be renegotiated in such a way that we avoid expanding our involvement in the middle east. If we were to engage in another war, though we would be successful on the battlefield, the financial repercussions would negatively impact working Americans.
How should the United States address the rise of North Korea’s nuclear program?
Rohrs: For 25 years we had incompetent leaders dance around the North Korea nuclear program. They looked the other way when missile and fusion technology was smuggled into the country. The previous adminstrations let red lines be crossed with impunity as our country was laughed at. Finally, we have a president who is engaging in serious talks to wind down their nuclear program. I believe we have seen incompetence in our state department for so long that we have forgotten what diplomacy looks like. I would ask a simple question: Do you as a reader believe the same group of people that brought us the Iraq War truly understood foreign policy? The key to North Korea is how we deal with China. Without China, North Korea cannot exist. Without the US , the Chinese economy cannot exist in its current state. The Chinese certainly need our market, they need us to protect international trade lines. I would venture that a continued relationship with the united states is more important to the Chinese government than having North Korea as a proxy saber rattler. So I am confident with our current administration we can negotiate an end to the North Korean nuclear program without having to engage in any armed conflict.