Issues

Fixing a Broken System

I decided to run for the United States Senate to represent Kansas as an Independent because I know that Washington is broken. We’re sending the worst of both parties to Washington and we know it.   

For too long, we’ve elected politicians who continue this broken system that caters to special interests and the extremists in their own parties rather than solving problems of the people who elect them. Unfortunately, all that’s led to is a Congress that can’t get anything done. And right now we’ve got real problems that, if unsolved, threaten to irreparably harm America’s middle class that is the foundation of our country and our economy.

Kansans believe in hard work, accountability, and common-ground collaboration to get things done. When I hear a good idea, I don’t care if it comes from a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent. I’m going to Washington to put egos and party labels aside and work with everyone to get things done for Kansas and our great nation. 

Throughout my business career, I’ve been a pragmatic, effective problem solver who knows how to bring people together to find common-sense solutions.

I have never lost faith in the American Dream and that our state’s and our country’s best days are ahead – if we can just get government working toward solutions instead of partisan advantage. 

Kansas has a record of electing candidates who think this way, like Bob Dole. When he recently toured the state, I was honored to have the opportunity to listen to him. He spoke eloquently, and at length about how our system isn’t working today. Even though he was a proud Republican, he never shied away from working across the aisle to get things done. That is the mindset we must bring back to Washington.

As we continue the campaign together, I will lay out my common sense plans to fix our most pressing problems. Please sign up for email updates to be notified as I lay out my vision for this country. 

As the world economy has become more interconnected, American workers have increasingly had to compete on a global scale. While manufacturing workers have had to deal with this reality for some time, advances in information technology have made foreign competition for jobs a reality for knowledge workers as well.

In competing for jobs globally, the United States needs to create an environment that is conducive to job growth, with a particular emphasis on innovation. By focusing on four core elements, I believe my policy platform accomplishes that.

Restoring Confidence

In 2011, Standard & Poor 's lowered the credit rating for the United States. It commented that the political games played by both parties in Washington, made our ability to manage our finances "less stable, less effective, and less predictable." Our failure to get our act together as a country and start working toward solving our problems has reduced confidence in the American economy, affected business investment, and contributed to stagnant wages.

One place to start restoring confidence would be to demonstrate that we can get our fiscal house in order. By addressing our deficit, we would be creating more confidence in our economic future, thereby encouraging investment in the United States. Companies that are sitting on record stockpiles of cash are reluctant to invest those in America. Through a sensible, staged, fair plan to get our fiscal house in order, we can demonstrate to both consumers and companies that they can approach the future with confidence.

Eliminating Barriers to Job Creation

America is competing with countries that don' t impose the same structural costs upon their employers. By addressing the costs of our healthcare system and changing the incentive system in healthcare, we can start to bend the healthcare cost curve. Doing so would allow companies to hire more workers and pay higher wages.

Simplifying the corporate tax code by eliminating the myriad of loopholes, deductions, and credits will simplify tax compliance and lower the overall tax related burden for U.S. companies. At the same time, it will allow us to lower the overall corporate tax rate without reducing the revenues to the U.S. Treasury.

Finally, we need to be diligent about evaluating the regulatory burdens that we 're placing on businesses. While most of them were well intentioned when they passed, as my father describes it - any one regulation can be managed, but the collective effect is like falling into a beehive.

Building and Retaining Talent

Our current educational system generally takes a one-size-fits-all approach to public K-12 education. By encouraging innovation in our public schools, particularly around earlier access to vocational education options, our public schools can be segmented in such a way to deliver a more customized, high quality educational experience. Building on that earlier vocational training through a public/private partnership to develop apprenticeship programs will accelerate the productivity of these highly skilled workers.

In addition, America educates some of the brightest minds in the world in its university system. Under our current immigration laws, many of those students are forced to return to their home countries, thereby denying America access to the job creation abilities of the people we have trained. Modifying our system for H1B visas to allow high achievers to stay in America will only increase innovation and job creation potential. America needs to be the place that people from around the world come to create new businesses.

Positioning America to Invest in the Future

Our current fiscal picture leaves very little room for America to invest in the future. By getting our long-term fiscal house in order, we can position America to invest again in the catalysts for economic growth: core research, education, and infrastructure.

It is government’s job to create an environment that is conducive to job growth. And we’re not doing that.

We’ve created such uncertainty with our inability to come together and solve problems that it’s made it difficult for businesses to choose to invest in the United States. We’re our own worst enemy when it comes to creating jobs in this country because the dysfunction in Washington doesn’t inspire confidence.

I’m the only candidate in this race who has a real record of private sector job creation. And as a businessman, I’ve had to deal with many of the problems that most of the folks in Washington only talk about. I’ve had to deal with rising healthcare costs, balancing budgets, and the impact of new regulations. Running a business is about solving problems every day.

Illegal immigration is yet another example of how Washington is failing us by refusing to act on a constructive solution. When Pat Roberts first went to work in Washington there were under 1 million undocumented workers in the country. Today, we have 11 million. Clearly, for many of our current elected leaders, the only thing they want to do about illegal immigration is grandstand and use it to generate voter support without any real intention of doing anything constructive to solve the problem.

For us to deal with our current immigration system, we have to adopt a policy that’s tough, practical and fair. By tough, I mean we need to secure our borders. It’s something that we’ve been working on, but we’re not there yet. We’ve dramatically increased the number of security agents that we have on the border over the last 10 years – from roughly 10,500 agents in 2004 when the Department of Homeland Security was formed to more than 21,000 today. We need to continue the commitment to the number of agents there. We also need to re-evaluate the use of technology at the border and determine whether or not recent advances in technology can help us tighten our borders.

Our policy must be practical. It’s just not practical to say that we’re going to find and send back to other countries 11 million undocumented people. We’ve got whole industries in Kansas that would go away if we attempted to introduce such an unworkable policy. Towns like Dodge City and Garden City and much of the agricultural community in Kansas would be absolutely devastated.

Finally, our policy must also be fair to taxpayers. The 11 million undocumented individuals in America should be required to register with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by a certain date, pay a fine or perform community service as an acknowledgment that they’ve broken the law, hold down a job, pay taxes, and obey our laws, and ultimately, at that point, if they want to get in line and apply for citizenship, they should be able to do so. Once we’ve done that, we should fully implement the e-verify system and hold employers accountable for hiring undocumented workers who have not registered with ICE.

The current migration from Central America of unaccompanied minors to the United States is a tragedy that we need to stop at its source. We should engage in aggressive public relations campaigns in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to make it clear that children sent across the US border will be detained and ultimately sent home. Not making that message clear only encourages young people from those countries to make the treacherous trip through Mexico, thereby jeopardizing their lives.

We’ve got a paradox in this country. It’s become more difficult for the average American and the average Kansan to get ahead, and paradoxically easier to do nothing with your life. We must make the American Dream real again for every Kansan.

While public education is primarily a state-based issue, there can be a national voice in encouraging innovation and high achievement for every child. We need to find ways to improve the quality of education available during a child' s formative years so that they're prepared later in life to take advantage of every opportunity to achieve the American Dream. At the same time, we must get spending under control so that we will be able to make these investments.

To remain competitive in the global marketplace, we need to keep college education affordable for the middle class. We need to reform the federal student loan system to ensure colleges and universities are more accountable for student outcomes.

Today we have a tax code that is 70,000 pages long, riddled with loopholes, special interest exemptions, and deductions. The average citizen shouldn’t have to hire someone to do their taxes, and yet every April that is exactly what happens.  

We need to take a comprehensive look at our tax code and drastically simplify it. We must stop picking winners and losers through the tax code. We need to keep the current progressive tax system, but make it simple enough so that Americans can do their own taxes and every American pays some amount in taxes. That way we can lower overall rates, reduce the regulatory and compliance burden on American citizens and companies, but still have the revenue we need to defend our nation and our national interests, take care of our most vulnerable, and invest in the next generation of Americans by finding a path toward sustainable, responsible economic growth and new jobs.

The corporate tax code needs to be similarly streamlined. By eliminating loopholes, credits, and deductions and lowering the overall corporate tax rate, we can level the playing field for corporations in America, make American companies more competitive globally, and still bring in comparable amounts of revenue to the U.S. Treasury.

We should also move to a territorial tax system, which would eliminate the incentive for companies to relocate overseas or otherwise become foreign companies. It would also allow a number of U.S. companies to bring profits they earn overseas back to the United States and invest it here to create new jobs and opportunities for Americans.

Twenty-eight of the 34 countries in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) and some of America’s biggest trading partners (including all other G8 countries) have adopted some form of a territorial tax system. Our current system, which hasn’t been overhauled in thirty years despite a vastly different global economy, is out of date. This is another example of where the dysfunction in Washington has hurt the American economy, workers, and businesses.

In Washington today, one side says we must protect our environment no matter what impact it will have on our economy. The other side says doing anything at all will cost us jobs and is therefore unacceptable. Both sides have dug in and don’t believe there’s any basis for cooperation. 

The truth is this is a false choice, and I know it because as a businessman I did both. The first company I ever started, Environmental Lighting Concepts, designed and installed energy efficient lighting systems for commercial and industrial buildings. 

Our company created jobs, helped the environment, protected natural resources, and made money for our customers. We used the opportunity to cut energy and ultimately help the environment as a good business decision. 

We had a national crisis in health care before the Affordable Care Act passed, and that crisis still exists today. But instead of playing political games with this issue as Republicans and Democrats in Congress have done, I believe we need to focus on what Washington can actually do to ensure that healthcare is affordable for all Americans.

It’s clear that with the Affordable Care Act the Congress simply expanded a broken system, one that rewards providers for more tests and procedures rather than for better outcomes for individuals. We have to change that way of thinking, alter the incentives to providers to reward quality not quantity of care, and ensure that our government as the largest purchaser of healthcare in the country is prudent with the dollars it spends.

As a country, we need to live within our means. I believe it’s immoral to pass along large debts to the next generation. The only way we get spending under control is by making hard choices that Congress today seems unwilling to make. With each party fighting for their own pet projects and political power, there is no accountability to the American people.

We’ve seen our credit rating as a country downgraded because of the debt ceiling debate. Politicians refuse to face the tough choices we need to make and play by a different set of rules. We need to require the federal government to report expenses and revenue by the same strict accounting standards now required of all major companies.

I have three governing principles as it relates to foreign policy.

First, U.S. foreign policy must be clearly communicated and consistently applied. Our President should be cautious about drawing red lines, but willing to act once he or she has done so. Mixed signals and half measures put pressure on our alliances and make the entire world unsure how we will respond to the next crisis. They also embolden countries with interests that are adverse to the United States and encourage them to behave in counter-productive ways.

Second, we must have proactive foreign policy when it comes to clearly protecting our vital national interests. From Al-Qaeda and ISIS to a nuclear-armed Iran, there are areas where the United States must protect U.S. national security and U.S. interests.

Third, I believe our obligations to our troops don’t end when the last bullet is fired. We must fully understand the costs, financial, human and diplomatic, before we put our troops in harms way. A Washington that’s focused merely on the next election cycle oftentimes ignores the long-term impact of their decisions. It’s clear that Washington has not honored its sacred commitment to our soldiers and is jeopardizing veterans’ lives long after they leave the battlefield.

More than 630,000 veterans are waiting for care today because we never fully anticipated the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We obviously must do more for these veterans today and do a far better job in anticipating the needs of returning troops before future engagements.

Sadly, rather than think about foreign policy in a more thoughtful and purposeful way, over the last 15 years, many in Washington have used U.S. foreign policy as just another extension of the partisan battle. Scoring political points shouldn’t be more important than advancing our national interests. A divided America only encourages and gives comfort to our enemies. Our politicians shouldn’t be secretly cheering at our international failures just to make partisan points.

Finally, for the United States to retain its leadership in world affairs, we need to get our house in order domestically. As former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,  Admiral Michael Mullen has suggested the greatest threat to U.S. national security is our federal debt. We need to make hard choices to eliminate our country's dependence on foreign creditors. We also need to continue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by continuing to encourage the development of domestic and renewable sources of energy for transportation purposes. Doing so will not only strengthen our domestic economy, but will also reduce our economic exposure to volatile regions of the world.

Israel

Israel is one of America’s key allies and in the Senate I will work to strengthen our bond with Israel and increase economic and diplomatic cooperation.

War in Gaza

If rockets were flying over the United States our nation would rightly demand action to stop them. At the same time, all nations at war should do everything possible to minimize civilian casualties, which Israel has done.

Over the long term the only solution is a two state diplomatic solution where both sides' needs are met. The people of Israel have the right to live in peace and security with the knowledge that a future Palestinian state will not be used as a launching pad for terror. The Palestinian territories need to be able to develop their economies, invest in their people through education, and give all Palestinians real hope for a better future. But the process of reconciliation cannot begin without both sides sitting down together to negotiate the parameters of a final settlement.

Iraq/Syria/Isis

We have fought in and supported Iraq for more than a decade spending more than $1 trillion in part to ensure that radical Islamist terrorists are not granted a safe haven. Yet ISIS has the possibility of creating just such a safe haven. We should continue to support the Iraqi people with logistical support, training, and strategic air support, but we must be extremely cautious of putting boots back on the ground in Iraq.

In order for Iraq to regain its stability as a sovereign nation, it is incumbent upon newly selected Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and other Iraqi politicians to use its newly formed coalition government to support a professional military. The people most likely to succeed in fighting ISIS are the Iraqi people.

Iran

Iran cannot be allowed to have a nuclear weapon under any circumstances and all options must be on the table to deal with this possibility. Given Iran’s stated intentions and the way that they’ve behaved in the past, we need to do everything in our power to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon.

While strong international sanctions and diplomatic efforts have begun to modify Iran’s actions we cannot soften our position or allow Iran to use negotiations simply to buy time. Any agreement with Iran must ensure that the country will never be able to construct a nuclear weapon.

Russia

It’s clear that Vladimir Putin has no respect for international norms or any interest in being a responsible member of the world community. While war with another nuclear power simply isn’t an option on the table, we must continue to respond to his belligerent actions and make clear that there is a price for his country’s behavior. Fully accomplishing this will require alignment on both economic and diplomatic fronts with our European and Asian allies, to pressure Russia into changing their behavior.

Hobby Lobby

Religious freedom is a sacred Constitutional right given to every American, but corporations are not people. The Supreme Court is simply wrong to treat corporations like they are. In the Citizens United case this view resulted in a dramatic increase in outside, untraceable money flowing into politics. In the Hobby Lobby case, the Court ruled that certain types of corporations can have religious values and as a result of that be able to deny types of healthcare to their employees because of the corporation’s views. This is a dangerous precedent to set and opens the door to many more court challenges from private employers.

Citizens United

I believe the Supreme Court made a mistake in giving corporations the same rights as people. Citizens United ultimately increased the influence of special interests on our political process and put a “for sale” sign on Congress.

While labor unions and Political Action Committees (PACs) were already putting too much money into our political system, Citizens United made this far worse. The ruling basically allows any corporation, labor union, or individual to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections, even if a corporation is established for the sole purpose of raising and spending money on elections. The decision also enables organizations called 501(c)4s to spend unlimited amounts of money in politics without reporting who is funding them. This excessive spending and lack of transparency isn’t good for the American political process.

Even more alarming is that the decision opens up the door for significant foreign influence in US elections. Because donations can be made through any US corporation, even one with significant foreign ownership, foreign countries could exert significant influence in US elections.

Disclosure Laws

Citizens United is now the law of the land, but that doesn’t mean we should accept unlimited donations made in secret. All political spending should be subject to the same rigorous disclosure requirements made of candidates for federal office, thereby allowing voters to make informed decisions about candidates.

The system is clearly broken,  and veterans aren’t being properly cared for by the country they served. No Kansas veteran should ever be forced to wait months for care or drive extended distances to receive medical care. We should restructure the VA rules to allow veterans in rural areas or those who have had to wait months for care to receive treatment at critical access facilities,  which would benefit financially while providing critical care to those in need. Doing so would strengthen rural health care in Kansas,  while at the same time aiding veterans.

Long-term,  we must fundamentally change the way the Department of Veterans Affairs does business and bring accountability to the VA bureaucracy. We must ensure that all veterans receive care now and ensure that our commitment to veterans last long after the last bullet is fired.

I own two handguns. I believe in Second Amendment rights of Americans to keep and bear arms.

Both times that I bought a handgun,  I was required to go through a mandatory background check to ensure that I was a U.S. citizen who hadn’t been convicted of domestic violence,  subject to a restraining order for harassing,  stalking,  or threatening behavior,  incarcerated for longer than a year,  dishonorably discharged from the military,  or determined to be mentally defective. Over 700,000 people who met the description above have been prevented from buying firearms at licensed dealers since the background check requirements went into effect.

The idea that those 700,000 people could simply head to a gun show and buy a firearm without the same background scrutiny doesn’t make sense to me. While there are likely other illegal ways for criminals to get firearms,  we shouldn’t make it easy for a violent offender or a mentally ill individual to get a gun. The process for me took a few minutes and ultimately resulted in me being able to buy my handguns without delay.

We’ve spent a lot of time over the last two decades debating whether or not women should have the right to make decisions about their own reproductive health. As a man,  I’ll never have to face some of the decisions that women have to make. I know the women of Kansas are smart,  and I trust them to make their own decisions about their reproductive health.

I believe it’s time for our government to move past this issue and start focusing on other important issues,  such as healthcare and higher education affordability,  tax code simplification,  and fixing our broken immigration system.

The federal government has an obligation to be a good steward of the dollars it spends. It needs to recognize that every dollar it receives comes from a taxpayer who worked hard to earn it. That means government personnel must work effectively and at a high level of performance.

As a businessperson,  I realize the corrosive effect that poor performing employees can have on a company and its culture. I also realize that companies that don’t effectively manage the performance of their employees often enter into a downward spiral and fail.

We need to bring accountability to all aspects of our government. In some areas of the U.S. government,  an employee is much more likely to pass away than they are to be let go for performance issues. While I’m sure the vast majority of government employees want to do a great job for the American people,  the statistics demonstrate that they are not being held accountable.

We need to bring a new level of performance and accountability to federal bureaucracies. While federal employees who are falling short should be given the opportunity to improve their job performance,  employees who consistently under perform should be let go.

Having had the chance to travel the state and meet with farmers and agricultural policy makers,I have a great appreciation for the agricultural tradition and the critical importance of agriculture in the state of Kansas.

We need to make sure federal policy continues to encourage a robust agricultural sector in the state of Kansas. Continued support for the federal crop insurance program is critical to ensuring a vibrant agricultural community. In the United States Senate,I would be an advocate for federal crop insurance to guarantee that our farmers have a way to protect against the risks of an increasingly unpredictable environment.

Water issues are also of vital importance to Kansas’ farmers. With the continued depletion of the Ogallala aquifer and the ongoing impact of historically low moisture,water is becoming a bigger and bigger issue to western and central Kansas. We need to ensure that our federal policies are balanced and aren’t encouraging the over-consumption of water to the detriment of Kansas’ farmers.

Having attended the 3i convention and talked to farmers and leaders throughout the state,it’s clear to me that farmers are natural innovators. No problem seems too large for the creativity of a farmer to solve. Bringing private sector capital to these ideas could lead to an economic boom in our agricultural communities. As a United States Senator,I would also make it my personal mission to help the agricultural community capitalize on the innovation they demonstrate daily.

If I 'm elected,  there’s a reasonable chance that neither party would have a majority in the US Senate. If that is the case,  I will work with the other independent Senators to caucus with the party that is most willing to face our country’s difficult problems head on and advance our problem-solving,  non-partisan agenda.

When it comes time to support a candidate for Majority Leader,  I' ll encourage both parties to select a leader who has a demonstrated track record of working across the aisle as one indicator of his or her willingness to solve problems. I 'll also look at responsible leaders from both sides like Democrat Heidi Heitkamp and Republican Lisa Murkowski who are willing to cross party lines to vote for what is right.

Both Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell have been too partisan for far too long to earn my vote for Majority Leader.

With that said,  if one party is clearly in the majority,  I will seek to caucus with the party that was in the majority as that would be in the best interest of the state of Kansas.

But caucusing with a party does not mean voting with them on every issue. My vote to caucus with a party is dependent on their willingness to seek common-ground solutions to our nation' s problems. That means I will vote on each bill individually,based on the content of the proposed legislation.

My first and only allegiance is to the people of Kansas -- not a political party -- so should the caucus I join fall into bad behavior,  I will represent the people of Kansas appropriately and vote on the merits of the legislation instead of how party bosses demand. I will always seek common sense solutions while maintaining my independence from either the Republicans or Democrats.

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