2014 is an election year in Arizona, and Examiner.com is sitting down with some of the candidates for key races so that the voters will be able to make informed decisions. The next in this series is a phone interview with congressional candidate Joe Cobb, the libertarian nominee for United States Congress.
Cobb is running for the Seventh Congressional District from Arizona. He is a professional economist and has been a college professor of economics. He was the John M. Olin Senior Fellow in Economics at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, and has also served as Chief Economist for the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee, Staff Director of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, Economic Advisor with the State Department’s United States Mission to the O.A.S., and Deputy Director in the White House Office of Policy Information. He is a Past President of the National Association of Business Economists, National Capital Chapter, and taught economics for a number of years at Concordia University, Saddleback College, and Orange Coast College.
We spoke with Cobb in a phone interview regarding his run for United States Congress.
Why are you running for office?
I’m running for office primarily to change American immigration laws. We need to get rid of the quota system connected to our immigration laws. Anybody who comes to a legal border crossing, passes a background and health check, should be allowed in. With no quota, no arbitrary cutting them off in the middle of the year and saying no more, we need to address the absurd quota system.
What are your qualifications?
I worked for the U.S Congress from 1983 through 1993. I worked for Congressman Ron Paul in the beginning, he hired me to work on the banking committee. I worked for the White House in 1982, I have plenty of experience and I know what they do. The other candidates in the debate make some grand promises about what they’ll do there. I hate to tell them this, but they’ll be the most junior member there. They won’t get anything done other than answer constituent mail and maybe handle some constituents’ social security problems. I would be the only libertarian there. One candidate likes to say he’ll be the first black from Arizona in 102 years. Well, I’ll be the first libertarian there in 102 years. They’ll say “who’s this guy? He’s not a republican, not a democrat.” I think that would make news. I think I can get about a third of the republicans there to join with me and the democrats to get rid of the immigration quotas. That is a majority.
Third party candidates have a reputation for being spoilers for the two major parties. Do you agree with this assessment?
No, I think that’s a silly analysis. The premise of such an analysis is that people who would vote for us would vote for the other parties. We inquired with our voters, and they say they would not vote if there were not a libertarian to vote for. Second is the premise that they would chose a right wing candidate, but a third, maybe even half, would vote for a democrat. With the social issues we support, like legalizing cannabis, we have more in common with democrats on these things. The only thing we have in common with republicans is the free market, and they support crony capitalism in business, which we oppose. We draw from democrats more than republicans. Who are you going to blame when the libertarians get more than the difference between them? If the people could have a ranked choice voting system, this would not occur. Our current plurality voting system is broken. Our perverse form of plurality voting benefits from gerrymandering. I like it because it reveals how many would have voted for libertarians, you would see who would get the votes before the others. The other thing about ranked choice voting is it would eliminate negative voting. If voters are choosing a second choice that they think is more likely to win, for example, if you hate the democrats but hate the republicans more, this doesn’t tell who you hated more. You just happened to vote for the lesser of two evils.
Why do you think that you have a better chance than past third party candidates?
In the first place, in this district there’s no republican. There would be nobody voting against the republican, no people voting for the democrat just to keep the republican out. Second, it’s a vacant seat, the current representative is retiring. The favorite is just one machine democrat who’s been active in latino grassroots, who served as a political hack, a paid political position on Maricopa’s board of supervisors. The so-called smart money says that she has it. I represent an alternative. Second, I know that getting rid of immigration laws will not be accomplished by the most junior member of the minority party of the house of representatives but it could be accomplished by my idea of splitting the republicans.
Same-sex marriage appears to be heading toward legalization in most states. If elected, how will you ensure that the LGBTQ community will gain equal rights?
I’m absolutely in favor of it, I have been all my life. The Libertarian Party included equality for gay rights in 1971 when it was founded. At the bottom line we don’t believe government should be involved in marital licensing, but to the extent that it’s going to do it, that should be a status available to everybody. I will do everything I can to ensure equal rights, do everything I can to ensure the federal government doesn’t discriminate. The Department of Justice should enforce the Fourteenth Amendment to ensure equal rights. I would support legislation that reinforces the Fourteenth Amendment. The courts have done a lot in the last couple of years. But the employment non-discrimination laws for LBGTQ people have not even been passed. That needs to advance. There shouldn’t be discrimination on what anyone’s personal preference is.
What is your opinion on oil fracking?
I think it’s a marvelous new technology as long as it’s done with regards to public safety. I disagree with the silly scare videos of kitchen faucets catching fire, which can happen without fracking.
Do you support an increase in alternative forms of energy, including green energy such as solar and wind?
Yes, but I would not subsidize. I would not give any tax benefits or payments from the government. To the extent that natural gas and oil get those I would take them away. I don’t think any of them should get tax subsidies or benefits.
Do you support the legalization of marijuana?
Yes. Cannabis is the correct name. That should be up the the judgment of the individual consumer. I support scientific studies. It’s absurd that in the last 50 years the federal government has suppressed the research. There’s a recent story of a University of Arizona researcher who was fired. She got a grant to study the effects and was fired from the University because she offended republican lawmakers. This is totally absurd.
What is your opinion on gun rights?
I’m totally in favor of gun rights and the Second Amendment. The recent Supreme Court rulings are right on. I filed an amicus brief that clarified that it is an individual right. I strongly support it. Personally, I have a concealed carry permit, even though Arizona doesn’t require it. It’s a travesty what happened to that lady in New Jersey. She was pulled over in traffic and asked if she had a gun. She was from Pennsylvania and said that she did and that she had a legal Pennsylvania permit for it. She got 11 years in a New Jersey jail, this from the same judge that let a pro football player go free for worse. I think everyone should have a personal gun and the country would be a safer place if everyone did.
What, if anything, will you do in order to make the Affordable Care Act more palatable to your constituents?
That’s a difficult one, because the Affordable Care Act did a couple of different things. One of the things it did was popular and will never be changed: health insurance can no longer discriminate against pre-existing conditions. But as a result, within five years there will no longer be any private insurance. If any insurance companies survive, it will be only one or two. No small insurance company can stay in business with the risk that they will have to take. They will have to merge. You need healthy people to outnumber the sick. I don’t know how to get rid of that problem without getting rid of private insurance. The employers should have nothing to do with it whatsoever. We need to make a transition. We need to have employee groups that could form their own insurance pools and move from job to job. The next thing we need to worry about is medical costs being too expensive, but there’s no possibility whatsoever of reducing medical costs. If you try to impose price controls or rationing you make the system totally worse with waiting lines, and all the horrors that come with price controls. Essentially a nearly zero price to the half of people who believe they can’t afford insurance without subsidies won’t work. I’m not prepared to endorse any plan like that. The real problem is that most people believe they can’t afford it and won’t buy health insurance. Current federal law mandates any hospital that can render medical service must do so regardless of any other cost element. We need to repeal that law, somebody without health insurance would have to confront that problem as a private problem. It’s a sad thing that some are not as rich as others. But trained medical workers deserve to be paid for their work, they are not slaves. My own personal physician dropped out of the system on July 1st. He now takes direct payment, and charges an annual fee of $750. That includes house calls, no waiting. Instead of serving 30,000 patients he now serves a few hundred, privately in his own time, without the government involved. The way the media has treated this is that it is a right to have medical service for free, and that’s nonsense. It’s a costly and technical service that everybody wants. The providers study hard and train hard, modern medicine is keeping us alive longer, that’s what’s bankrupting Social Security. We need to stop spending our entire GDP to buy health care, that’s just nonsense. Health insurance is not a right, it’s something that you have to pay for.
Do you support school choice in the form of vouchers?
Yes, but that’s my second choice. My first choice is homeschooling, parents teaching their own kids, hiring their own teachers and tutors. I would take every school building and make every teacher working there the owner, give them the deeded title. Some people don’t have money to pay for school tuitions, but teachers are not slaves, they deserve to be paid for their work. Public schools are not free, that’s a myth. They are tax funded. In Arizona we offer tax credits, up to a thousand dollars, donated to tax exempt school organizations. Your tax burden is reduced dollar for dollar when you donate. All education should be privately operated, all teachers should be paid directly by the parents of students they teach. The voucher system is a workaround, it’s inferior. The current tax-funded system is trickle down economics, from the tax collector to the school board and to the unions, finally to the teachers. I would have a bottom up finance system, from the parents directly to the teachers
Do you support an increase in the minimum wage?
No, wages should be determined by employers and employees, the government should have nothing to do with wages. The minimum wage is a clear job destroyer. The CBO recently reported that 500,000 jobs would be destroyed with a $10.10 per hour minimum wage. These people are the poorest and least skilled, and you are kicking them when they’re down. Most people who earn a minimum wage aren’t supporting a family on it, and nobody is supposed to support a family on a minimum wage. Those are starter jobs. Without a starter job, you’re never going to get a chance to get experience. Outlawing starter jobs is a stupid public policy idea, not to mention that it violates employers’ rights. We need to get rid of all traces of Marxism from our minds. It is a bad philosophy and incorrect system of thinking about economics.
How would you handle the current immigration crisis?
America needs more young workers. You can talk to anybody in agriculture, in the South, particularly in Georgia and Alabama. We have these strict anti-immigration laws and all the farmers are screaming and crying that they can’t get anybody to work and pick their fields. Go to Silicon Valley, they need more H1B visas, the quotas are too small. They start a new quota of H1B visas in March every year and they’re all allocated within hours, they’re all gone for the year. This quota needs to be unlimited. We need to have more visas to get workers for farmers, and to get rid of the quota system altogether. The classifications of visas are unnecessary, I think there are hundreds of different classifications. With the current system people immediately turn around and sponsor elderly parents, that’s stupid. Why bring elderly here that can’t work, they’re a charity expense on society, they never contribute taxes. The children love them and want to bring them here and get subsidized medical care, I understand that. But they aren’t taxpayers, we need to prefer young workers, the important priority is to get young workers to contribute to economic growth. Every immigrant comes in with a mouth and two hands and a brain, particularly the young ones. They’re a godsend, bring them in, no matter how young, get them trained and get them working. The argument about costs for their education is that they’ll pay it back manyfold when they become productive adults. I have no argument against them coming from Central America.
Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
Another thing I’d like to mention, if you go to my website you’ll be able to see more on this, is to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment. We need to not use income tax to fund government. In the Constitution Article One Section Two, there’s a method of financing a government with a balanced budget. Every ten years a census determines how many representatives will come from each state. The House of Representatives is organized to impose tax laws. Taxation should be in proportion to state population, each state would pay their population share. The government of Arizona, and each state, would choose its own method of raising tax money to pay the federal budget. It could be income tax, progressive system, or a sales tax. That was the original plan and design by our founding fathers. It was derailed by the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913. I would have the federal government collect from state legislatures. You would have people back home tell you how to write local tax laws. Today we force you to pay federal income taxes and then act like Congress found the money on the street. They have no responsibility and voters cannot have any influence on the tax system at the federal level.