Earlier today, AP and others asked a reasonable question: Where in the world is Fred Thompson? Well, Fred appeared on the Glenn Beck radio show for a 15-minute stint this morning. Here’s part 1.
And here’s part 2.
GLENN: When you get up in the morning, you look at the newspaper, you look at America, what are the top two things that you say we must fix now? What are they?
SENATOR THOMPSON: You’ve hit them. They are the nation’s security and the nation’s future prosperity. Those are the two things, and the things that go into security is primarily understanding the nature of the world that we live in. What you talk about just then is exemplified by what’s going on in Iran. I mean, these folks are sitting around waiting for the twelfth Imam. I mean, that’s their goal. The mullahs want that to happen. They talk in terms of millions of people perhaps getting killed at the time. It’s perfectly okay with them. They look at things from the standpoint of religious fanatics, they consider us to be the great evil. Israel, of course, is the little evil and they’ve been killing us for a long, long time through Hezbollah and Hamas and others. They simply look at the world differently. They’re undoubtedly intent upon nuclear weapons. I don’t care what this latest NIE says. That’s foolishness that represents our own inability to get a handle on it more than anything else. They’ve got a missile that will already travel 1200 miles. I mean, people are always saying that folks are Chicken Little, you know, for emphasizing these things, but we have such a short memory since September 11th. I mean, that was a low-tech attack compared to what’s out there, and every intelligence community that we have access to tells us that they are trying to get their hands on the worst kinds of weapons possible, and we’re going to have to do more. And we’re talking about spending less in terms of our military and in terms of our intelligence capabilities. We’ve had to rebuild almost from scratch. I was on the intelligence committee. I’ve watched it.
On the prosperity side, that has to do with fiscal policies and taxing and spending, and we spent all of our time talking about the pork barrel spending which is bad, you know. People ought to be defeated and in some cases prosecuted for some of it. It’s bad enough, it’s ridiculous, it’s given congress an even blacker eye than they so richly deserve. But the real money is on the entitlement side, and nobody wants to talk about that.
Every economist in the country that takes a look at it, left and right, says that our path is unsustainable. We are bankrupting our social programs that we say that we love so much and we’re leaving our kids and our grandkids with an insurmountable debt. We have a $9 trillion debt now. A lot of that’s held by the Chinese and others. And we’re a graying society, we’re an older society because of medical advances, but we’re turning that blessing into a curse for the next generation. Everybody wants to kick that can down the road and not talk about it. We could make some moderate changes now that I propose that will save Social Security, for example, let people contribute a little more during their working years for their own retirement with the help of the government and it would wind up being beneficial to the government, being beneficial to the individual and save about $4 trillion in our entitlement programs. That’s where the real money is. It’s a little more difficult to talk about, a little more complicated.
GLENN: But you’re —
SENATOR THOMPSON: That’s what I think about. That’s why I decided to run, those two primary things. And the third one would be the fact that we’re becoming less united on fundamental things that we traditionally have been united together with regard — and that’s going to require credibility from the President, somebody who will look the American people in the eye with credibility and tell them the truth and say, here’s where we need to go, here’s where we need to do, let’s get together and get it done.
On the flat (not the “fair”) tax:
GLENN: You talk about Social Security, but you know and I know that it’s Medicare or Medicaid that’s really going to — it’s going to kill us. I mean, it will eviscerate us here by 2012. And everybody, damn near everybody, is talking about raising taxes and that pain has to be felt. You’re talking about a flat tax. Thank God somebody is finally talking about a flat tax. All the communist countries have already gone there. I don’t know why we can’t. How do you propose to take the IRS and abolish it and put a flat tax in?
SENATOR THOMPSON: Well, it’s not a matter to me of abolishing the IRS as richly as it deserves to be. You’ve got to have some mechanism and it’s just the mechanism is a symbol in which we can focus on, but it’s not really the heart of the problem. The heart of the problem is that we’ve got the most inefficient complicated tax system in the world and it’s costing us billions in compliance costs and billions that go uncollected to make everybody else’s taxes higher.
GLENN: So what is the flat tax? What is the proposal?
SENATOR THOMPSON: What I’ve suggested is this. First of all, keep the ’01 and ’03 tax cuts in place. I mean, that’s growth. That’s not just lost revenue to the government. That brings about economic growth which underlines everything else. We ought to get rid of the death tax, we ought to lower the corporate tax, which is the second highest tax in the industrialized world we have. We’re very uncompetitive there. It’s costing us jobs.
Then on the individual side you say this. A person has the option. You can fill all your taxes out the same old way you want to, using the same old rules, or you can go to a much flatter approach. If you have individual income of $50,000, family income of $100,000, you file on a 10% rate. If you are above that, you file on a 25% rate. You have one standard deduction and that’s it. Your choice. I feel like people will gravitate to that, people will start using it, it will lay the groundwork for even more fundamental reform and greater simplification, which we greatly need for economic growth in this country.
Solid, serious stuff. We need to hear from you more often, Senator.