Christopher Shays, a former congressman, is seeking the Republican nomination to run for U.S. Senate. He faces Linda McMahon, making her second attempt at a Senate seat, in the GOP primary. Shays recently sat down with Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere. The following are excerpts from that conversation.
Question: So how is the race going?
Shays: So - no spin - it's going well.
It's been a catch-up for me because I got into the race officially in October. It was just my wife and myself, you know, (then) get a great staff, which I have. We ended up leasing a home office now that was the home of William Samuel Johnson, the first U.S. senator from Connecticut to Washington and one of the (state's) two signers to the Constitution of the United States, so I thought, "This is great karma."
Politico said after (a) Quinnipiac poll came out ... that Connecticut was one of the 10 most competitive races in the country -if I was the Republican candidate.
Question: Are you happy with Mitt Romney at the top of the ticket?
Shays: Tell you what, I would like Gov. Romney to run on hope and change. I mean - I'm being serious - I mean people want hope and they want change. They certainly didn't want the change they saw from this president. We elected someone with no experience and we're paying the price, truly.
Question: What would be your position on health care?
Shays: I'm sure he (Obama) feels pretty excited that he's gotten health care through and no president has. But it's not a good piece of legislation ...
We have 91 percent coverage in Connecticut ... I was a champion on community-based healthcare clinics. They're fabulous. We have the Husky plan for children. We have another plan in the state of Connecticut, admittedly not inexpensive, but you can buy health care if you can't get it from somewhere else. So 91 percent are covered, some more expensive than others. I really believe that if you want there to be innovation, and not one-size-fits-all, and you want to really see what works best, you do it on the state level.
Question: So you'd vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act?
Shays: Yes, do it at the state level.
Question: You support passing a Balanced Budget Amendment. Is that even realistic?
Shays: I voted for it (when in Congress). I promoted it. It failed in the Senate by one vote and I intuitively say you shouldn't need a balanced budget to have a balanced budget, but I think if we did have a balanced budget, we wouldn't be quite in the mess we're in.
(We need to) get our country's financial house in order, reduce the size of the government, make it more efficient. (And) to save entitlements, we have to change them.
Question: You are calling for dramatic change in the tax code.
Shays: True. This is how I want to do it. I want to bring the rates down to 25, 15 and 10 ... and simplify the tax code. You'd take the mortgage deduction and bring it down to say, a half-a-million (cap), and don't allow it for a second home. You would eliminate most of the rest … I mean there are thousands of write-offs. You would keep child deduction, which isn't, I don't believe, that expensive, and you would be able to deduct for state taxes to some extent. And maybe charity gets in there and maybe it doesn't, but I've never felt that the charity deduction really encouraged people to give to charity.
I'd bring the corporate income tax rate from 35 down to 15. I might do it in two steps over six years, maybe bring it from 35 to 25 and then 15 ... you would see foreign money just come like a magnet to the United States.
Question: You contend that Congress could bring the budget back into balance in a few years. Wouldn't that require draconian cuts?
Shays: Government spending has got to go down, the size of government has got to go down. It means that government employees will have to work harder. It means that we will look at the benefits. We have, in government, they get raises because they've been there so many years they get more money and then they get cost of living. That doesn't happen in the private sector so they'll have to look at a defined benefit, something on a defined contribution. Things have to change.
Question: Paul Krugman argues massive government spending cuts are self-defeating. They tried it in Britain and they went into a double-dip recession. With its deep cuts, Spain is a basket case economically. Ireland's economy has only gotten worse since it drastically cut government spending.
Shays: Krugman is wrong. There hasn't been enough time. It's too soon to judge those policies.
Question: If elected, what policy would you push the administration to pursue in Afghanistan?
Shays: We need to get out quickly.