|A few minutes with a presidential hopeful: An Interview with John Cox
By Bernard Chapin
It is occasionally of interest for those of us who analyze politics from without to actually speak to someone wishing to change it from within. One such person is conservative presidential hopeful John Cox. He's a businessman and native Chicagoan who first got involved in politics in 1988 after he volunteered for Jack Kemp's presidential campaign. On top of being an accountant, lawyer, investment advisor, and real estate broker, he has also been president of the Cook County Republicans. In 2002, he ran for the United States Senate and garnered 23 percent of the primary vote. Being pro-life, anti-big government, and supportive of penalties for illegal immigration, Mr. Cox offers conservatives a non-RINO choice for 2008. Already, he has filed the requisite FEC forms for his run, and has conducted a tour of Iowa. Additional information regarding Mr. Cox can be found at his website.
BC: Sir, let's start out with an obvious one. Why would you like to be President?
JC: Well, the major reason is that I am not happy with the failures we've experienced in Washington over the last decade. Government spending has been climbing and it's now reached critical levels. It seems to me that politicians spend too much of the people's money and they often do this as a means to get votes. Let me give you an example, there were only 1,400 earmarks back when the Republicans took over Congress in 1994, now, a decade later, almost 16,000 of these pet projects get inserted into spending bills. We should not be using taxpayer money to by votes. Many politicians see politics as their livelihood and will do whatever it takes to get reelected. This can range from getting on the cover of local newspapers by proposing the erection of a new federal building to constructing rainforests in Iowa, or even commissioning a study for waterless urinals. Career politicians will do whatever it takes to bring money to their states. Should I be elected, I will not enable these activities. I'll come in with a desire to solve problems such as social security. We need to modify the system so it works. We have a tax system in which people spend over 300 billion dollars to be compliant. Think of all the money that is wasted in this pursuit not to mention all the lost productivity and investment dollars. One of my main goals is to establish a tax system that works. Furthermore, government must discourage businesses from relocating to foreign shores.
BC: What is it that you have to offer in comparison to other presidential hopefuls?
JC: A change in the political climate of Washington, and the will to prevent politicians from advancing their own political power at the expense of the people. the television news is referring to a Congressional aide who plead guilty to charges of fraud. The essence of reform is that we should do something about taxes and spending. The first thing is to get rid of the income tax. I am in favor of a National Sales Tax.
BC: Is that basically something like the Fair Tax?
JC: Yes, exactly. Should we enact a sales tax for all Americans then we wouldn't need the IRS with all the expense and non-production its name embodies. A consumption tax is the way to go. An income tax is disastrous as it deters investment. As a nation, we want investment and when you tax profits you get less of it. That's something which must be corrected.
BC: What would say to those who would argue, as they often do, that a sales tax is regressive and unfair to the poor?
JC: Yeah, I'm asked that a lot. Look, I'm a reasonably wealthy guy, despite the fact that I grew up in public housing, and I spend a lot more money than the average person. People like me still end up paying the lion's share of taxes under the sales tax system. With the sales tax, a lot of refunds, rebates, and pre-bates are built into it which means that the poor will not get hurt which is absolutely essential. With a pre-bate, the poor could actually get money sent to them before they spend it. Another thing that is often overlooked is the way in which the underground economy flourishes under the status quo. Unlike an income tax, the National Sales Tax hits every transaction and decreases the size of the black market. Hopefully, as revenue increases, all of us will get taxed less. We need a person who will go to Washington and be a bulldog over corruption, waste, duplication, and excessive budgets. We need someone who will veto spending bills, and that someone is me. We can't afford to make America unproductive. We are in a global economy and must compete with powerhouses like China.
BC: Speaking of overspending, what's your opinion of George W. Bush?
JC: I think he's tried hard, but instead of battling Congress he's tried to make friends. That's not going to really work because not everybody in Congress is going to be your friend. They're interested in their own political hides and a desire to be re-elected. Many politicians are afraid of the political left demagogues who scream murder over decreases in spending. Political courage along with the ability to communicate is essential. The president has tried a unique approach with Congress, and, remember, some of our criticisms are in hindsight. As for me, I'll follow Reagan's example. I'll spend taxpayer money as if it's my own. I don't waste my own money so why should I waste the taxpayer's? I refuse to do so.
BC: What do you say to people like me who have been so alienated by Republican overspending and "moderation" that they no longer identify with the GOP but view themselves as Libertarian?
JC: Okay, what I would say to Libertarians is to look at the recent Israeli election. They have like 11 political parties, and no one ever wins a majority so governments must form coalitions. The trouble with Republicans splitting their votes up is that the Democrats will not unilaterally disarm.
BC: They did with Nader in 2000.
JC: Okay, but that was a small percentage. Look at how much more money a person like Ross Perot has over Nader. His candidacy handed Bill Clinton the election back in 1992. Today's Democrats will not be dividing their vote. They will coalesce and back one candidate. My point is that you don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. As far as George W. Bush is concerned, this administration has one leader but there are other Republican leaders coming up that conservatives should not give up on. We embrace limited taxation and limited government, so let's keep the conservative coalition together.
BC: What about Iraq? Would you change anything should you become president?
JC: First of all, I agree with the president about the invasion of Iraq. It is much better to engage the enemy on his turf and not our own. There have been some errors though, and some of these have been economic. Look at the Iraqi level of unemployment, it's in the 20 to 30 percent range. Now if 20 to 30 percent of Chicago were unemployed would the jobless be throwing bombs in the street? No, but there'd be a whole lot more angry people running around. In Iraq we have to give emergency treatment to the economy. I would start with oil production, which is running about 20 to 30 percent of full capacity which means that they're leaving 60 to 70 percent on the table. Let's fill the positions and put more people to work. We could use the profits to build schools, hospitals, and industrial infrastructure. The Iraqis would feel better about the government and be more motivated to combat revolutionaries bent on destroying their new lives. We need a Marshall Plan for that nation, something which really pays attention to the economy, and gets the citizens to feel good about their daily lives and the future.
BC: What would you say to those who assume that being a Congressman, a senator, or a
JC: Sure, I hear this often. I have no elected office experience, but I have had better experience. I've created jobs for workers and funded numerous charities. I built a 100 million dollar business on my own. That's better than what can be said of the junior Senator from New York who married a governor of Arkansas as her main road to advancement. She's never lived among the little people who produce and pay taxes. Besides, when it comes down to it, we've had people in office who were never elected like Dwight D. Eisenhower. He wasn't unqualified for office just because he wasn't a career politician. He defeated fascism and that was experience enough. Sure it's different because I don't have a military background, but, with all of these scandals in Washington D.C., having an outsider in charge is necessary. Oh, I'm not a complete outsider though. I have worked for Republican politicians like Jack Kemp, and also headed the Cook County Republicans. I've been in the vineyards you might say.
BC: Sometimes politicians run for president to garner national attention and find jobs with the new administration, does that apply to you?
JC: No. I'm here to win, period. This is not for me, as it is for others, the next rung up the political ladder. I am not going to sit back and watch the same thing happen to the people that happened in 2000. We worked our tails off and, while the current administration has given us some excellent Supreme Court Justices and tax cuts, there have been too many trade offs like McCain-Feingold, Sarbanes-Oxley, and the drug bill. The public is once bitten twice shy. We need to get back to the practices of Ronald Reagan. He put us on the right track and was not a career politician. He held deeply held beliefs and principles and then pursued politics. Reagan changed the beliefs of Americans. He brought us around to thinking that a strong military was the road to peace, that tax cuts fostered economic growth and that government doesn't have to be the answer to the people's every ill. The private sector is what we need to solve many issues.
BC: What would you say to those who think you're too far to the right and that Republicans need a moderate to ensure victory?
JC: People said that the same thing about Reagan. The Republican establishment hated him back in 1980. They wanted Bush to be the candidate. They said Reagan would get us into a war, etc. Reagan stuck to principles and got amazing things accomplished. If you want to lead you must be a leader, and not sacrifice your ideals to get elected. Moderates often bend towards the middle. Don't tell the people what they want to hear, but what they need to hear. In 1980, we needed less government and lower tax rates, and, via the excellence of Ronald Reagan's leadership, we got them. Politics is more common sense than rocket science. If you let citizens keep more of what they earn then they'll take bigger risks to make more money. Reagan convinced the American people of this fact, and George W. Bush has tried to do this, albeit rather timidly. I'll take the debate further and eliminate both the IRS and the income tax. They'll be no "woe is me" regarding jobs leaving our shores. What we need to do is not complain but make the country more business friendly so we'll become a jobs magnet. Why send investors to Ireland? Let them come here. One more thing here, will you make sure that what I'm about to say is quoted verbatim?
JC: I will not, under any circumstances, sign a National Sales Tax Bill which does not include a repeal of the income tax. We cannot have both and we cannot have new taxes.
BC: Thank God!
JC: Yeah, but unknowns can come from anywhere. Look at Lincoln, he wasn't an insider or even a good old boy, but he was one of the greatest presidents ever.
BC: What would you say to those radicals who pretend that America is a racist, sexist state?
JC: Well, I'd tell them they're full of hooey. This is the most welcoming, honest, forthright country in the world. Sure, we had some dark years like with slavery, but remember, my party was the one that fought and voted for all of the civil rights bills. The Republicans have always fought racism, look at Lincoln.
BC: Thank you very much for your time, Mr. Cox.
Bernard Chapin is a writer living in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.