My first exposure to Eric Hovde was on a cold, sunny day in January, in Wauwatosa. A few thousand of us had gathered in support of Scott Walker and the reforms he was advocating. One of the speakers was this businessman, a banker by trade, who spoke from the heart and captured our attention with a five and a half minute speech on commitment and sacrifice by relating the hardships of the Battle of Trenton to the realities of the day. In asking us to stand with Governor Scott Walker, he was asking us to stand for ourselves.
Now here we stand, with a recall election behind us and that same governor in office, and vetting that same businessman as a candidate for the next US Senator from Wisconsin. What do we know about him?
Eric Hovde will tell you that he is both a fiscal and social conservative as well as a constitutionalist, and a conversation with him makes that clear. Both the depth of knowledge that he shares and the passion in his voice when he shares it will let you know that he believes what he says.
The co-founders of the Racine Tea Party, Lora Halberstadt and Nancy Milholland, both share the same impression of Hovde from their interactions. They see a man who doesn’t need the job. He could remain a private citizen, expressing his civic inclinations and philanthropic tendencies via Hovde Houses, a charitable subsidiary of the Hovde Foundation. Milholland recalls a time when Hovde mentioned he was conflicted about his decision to run, until one day he met with some disabled war veteran amputees. Given the sacrifice of these warriors for their country, he felt compelled to accept the role of citizen legislator. Halberstadt feels he is the true conservative in this race, not just a politician trying to appeal to some demographic.
Looking over his website, one can see that he is focused on broad economic reform with scant evidence of social reforms listed. Hovde reconciles this by highlighting the greater issues we face today are economic. As an example, he says one of the greater tragedies today is the large number of young couples that seek abortion for the sole reason that they don’t feel financially able to raise a family. By restoring our personal economies, people will feel more able to choose life when they aren’t worrying how to otherwise make ends meet.
There are any number of prominent conservatives with their own take on what it will take to return our nation to fiscal sanity. Hovde has put forward his 8 point plan.
Hovde 8 Point Economic Plan
1 Defeat the Debt and Balance the Budget
2 Reform the Tax Code
3 Deregulate our Economy
4 Reform the Federal Reserve
5 Reform Financial Services Industry
6 Repeal and Replace Obamacare
7 Achieve Real Energy Independence
8 End Crony Capitalism
Those familiar with Paul Ryan’s Roadmap for America’s Future may recognize more than a few of these points, but all fiscal conservatives can recognize the same issues are dragging down our nation’s economy. When asked specifically about the Roadmap vs his 8 Point Plan, Hovde points out that his plan identifies the issues. While Ryan’s Roadmap is a great start to addressing these issues, it is only a start. The US had a $1.3 Trillion deficit last year, is on track for another $1.3 Trillion deficit this year, and facing $1.3 Trillion deficit again next year. Hovde says the Ryan plan would reduce the deficit by $5 Trillion dollars over 10 years, but based upon our current annual spending, that would leave over $7 Trillion in the hole. That is why Hovde feels that Ryan’s Roadmap is a great start, but doesn’t go far enough to truly restore fiscal order to our nation. When asked if he would support a Balanced Budget Amendment, he responds, “Absolutely!” Requiring the government to live within its means will prevent the current generation from placing their descendants in crushing debt.
Just one of the ways that Hovde says we can address this growing hole in our nation’s wallet is the full repeal of Obamacare. The Supreme Court ruling on Thursday largely upheld it as law. Government interference in the healthcare industry is a disaster to our nation, both in terms of care and finances. The greatest rate of inflation in any sector of our economy can be found in health care and services, at 60%. Consumers must be made more aware and involved in their own care. Health insurance must be more consumer based, rather than company based. This doesn’t tie employees to particular jobs based upon what insurance is offered, and it provides greater continuity of care. Additionally, being consumer driven it promotes greater competition among the various carriers, lowering costs. Another critical aspect is tort reform. Malpractice insurance is one of the greatest costs in any medical practice. Currently, many doctors are inclined over-prescribe tests or medications to insulate themselves from malpractice suits, which drive up the cost of their insurance even more. Tort reform would help to contain and reduce that cost, making medical services more affordable.
Social Security is a burning issue, with many younger voters feeling that they are paying into a system that won’t exist by the time they are ready to retire. Hovde knows we can save this with some common sense tweaks. The system was originally designed with the retirement age set at 65, when life expectancy was only 62. Since we tend to live longer now, it makes sense for us to work longer as well. Dialing up the retirement age a bit will not only take some pressure off of the system, but encourage a healthier lifestyle. Those who work later in life are statistically healthier than those who retire and stop work altogether. Additionally, means testing is another way to keep the system viable.
Several of the points on Hovde’s plan are tightly interrelated. Cronyism, mistakenly referred to by many as “crony capitalism”, is another way to describe a state of mutual patronage. It has nothing to do with capitalism and is actually bypassing the natural controls of a truly capitalistic marketplace. The cronyism we see in government has a wide reach, as evidenced in favorable tax policy, competition crushing regulations, loan guarantees that reward political agendas and earmarks for colluding votes. This must end for the health of our economy and the soul of our nation.
The tax system must be reformed to remove all the loopholes, deductions, and exemptions. A simple 2-tiered system with a 10% and 25% rates for individuals and a single corporate rate of 25% is a start. A flat tax would be acceptable as well. Some would advocate for the Smart Tax, but that introduces a Value Added Tax (VAT) system that would encourage greater government tinkering, and be further out of the public eye.
Regulatory reform is a must. While larger businesses can break ground in some places overseas after short negotiations with 2 or 3 people, a similar undertaking in the US requires the involvement of 37 or more government agencies and countless bureaucrats to affix their stamp of approval. The current excessive regulatory burden discourages new startups and expansion of current operations.
Offering a loan guarantee is another way for the government to define the winners and losers based upon political patronage or political agenda rather than actual merit of the business plan.
Earmarks are political payoffs enshrined in legislation. Such tactics in the business world would likely lead to convictions.
The Constitution is at the forefront of Hovde’s proposals. He is well versed and has a thorough understanding of our nation’s founding documents as well as the founder’s intent. In our discussion on the various issues, the Constitutionality of current policy as well as proposed initiatives was a recurring theme. For example, when specifically asked about a particular 2nd Amendment issue, federal legislation mandating interstate reciprocity of Concealed Carry Firearms licenses and permits, he paused. He is strongly in favor of our right to keep and bear arms as codified in the 2nd Amendment, but he sees compulsion of reciprocity at the federal level as an infringement on states rights as listed in the 10th Amendment.
There is no shortage of international drama playing out in the Middle East. With the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power in Egypt and Israel assuming a strong defensive position, the situation is getting even more tightly wound. Hovde makes it clear that he recognizes the President has a certain latitude to authorize a limited strike force to protect the US from imminent or ongoing threats such as we saw with Osama bin Laden. However, should significant operations be required, Congressional authorization in the form of a formal declaration of war is required. Yes, the situation in Egypt bears close scrutiny, but Hovde says that a “Ron Paul”-like approach is favorable, meaning the US should not get involved in the affairs of other nations unless we are directly impacted. There are other ways to affect outcomes without undue international entanglements.
One way the US can regain unquestioned global supremacy is to draw upon our own abundant natural resources. The US has enough proven reserves that we could become the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. We are already a leader in crude oil and coal reserves. Our superior technology allows us to recover and utilize these resources cleaner, more efficiently and safely than other nations. This can lead to a major economic growth with increased jobs and even lead to energy exports, driving down fuel costs in the global marketplace. Key to this boom is deregulation, as previously mentioned.
Regardless of the issue, any conversation, forum, website or TV ad where one is exposed to Eric Hovde, the overriding theme is unmistakable. Government is too big, and the monster must be restrained, contained and shrunk back down to a more manageable size, for our sake and the future of our children.