Representative David Camp of Michigan, the Republican who will become chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee in January, said in an interview on “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing this weekend on Bloomberg Television that Congress shouldn’t increase taxes as part of a U.S. deficit-reduction plan.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: We begin the show with Representative Dave Camp, who is joining us from his district, Midland, Michigan, at the Great Lakes Loons Baseball Stadium. Congressman, thank you so much for being with us. And as -
REPRESENTATIVE DAVE CAMP: Thanks, Al.
HUNT: - as well as the Ways and Means chairman-to-be, you’re a member of the fiscal commission, which heard the co-chairmen propose a sweeping initiative, cut spending, increase revenues, reduce the deficit. The proposal envisions $3 in spending cuts for every dollar in additional revenue. Is that about the right balance?
CAMP: Well, I do think it was an impressive and significant proposal. Now, this is just a preliminary proposal. And, of course, none of us on the commission knew this was coming. But I do have concerns about the level of government and the - the amount of spending that is allowed to occur. We cannot define the state of our government at this elevated level of spending.
So we’ve got some more work to do. But I do think they are to be commended for at least coming together with a proposal to try to reduce our deficit. It’s so important for job creation, but we’ve got some more work to do.
HUNT: Grover Norquist, who’s armed with pledges from 235 House members and 41 senators, really criticized it. He said any net revenue increase at all would violate that pledge and would be unacceptable. Do you agree?
CAMP: Well, I think there’s two points. One, it’s at an elevated level of spending, never - only once in our history have we been at over 21 percent of spending for our economy. And this is higher than that.
And, two, we’ve got to make sure that if there is tax relief, it all goes to tax relief and doesn’t go to deficit reduction. I think that’s very important. So I think - I think Grover has an important point that we need to look at.
Listen, the last couple years, spending has gone up a lot. And so - so we don’t want to dial in at that elevated level of spending and say, “Well, we now have to find revenues to meet this elevated level of spending.” What the message I’ve heard in my district is, we need to reduce the level of spending. And I think if we do that, I think we - we do need to address things like fundamental tax reform, how we have the sustainability of entitlements.
So I think it was a significant proposal and one that we need to - we need to discuss thoroughly.
HUNT: But let me just get this straight. Would you rule out any - any - net revenue increase as part of this package?
CAMP: I don’t like the idea of tax increases. And the reason I don’t is we have not demonstrated that we’re serious about reducing spending. There’s been a really dramatic run-up in spending in the last couple years. We need to demonstrate to the American people that we’re serious about reducing spending.
And if we raise revenue, we’ll never get to the reductions in spending that we need to see to have a more sustainable government, a government that can be supported. We can see the preview out there: Greece, Ireland. The problems are there, and if we continue to let our debt grow, we’ve got significant problems.
HUNT: So revenue’s off the table for now?
CAMP: I think revenue’s off the table, particularly now in a recession and when we haven’t been serious about cutting spending.
HUNT: Okay. That brings us to the so-called Bush tax cut extension. The president says he’s willing to compromise and go along with extending the Bush tax cuts for the upper income for several years if you make the middle-class tax cuts permanent. Is there any possibility you would agree to any kind of a compromise or deal? Or are you adamant that everything has to be extended permanently?
CAMP: Well, I think - I think for now - and I commend the president for engaging in a conversation on this. We need - we need to have his support for anything to be enacted. And, of course, right now, I’m in the minority party, and I hope we can do this in the lame-duck session.
I think, frankly, these votes should have occurred before the election so the American people knew where we stood on this, but I think it’s important to extend all - all - all the current tax laws, not to have a tax increase on anybody, and to make it as certain and permanent as possible, because the minute you put in an expiration time, people start calculating the uncertainty.
HUNT: And so room for any kind of deal there with - with the White House?
CAMP: Well, I think we want to continue to push to try to make this as certain as possible to try to really get employers to begin hiring again.
CAMP: And as I said, the minute you start putting uncertainty in there, I think it makes it very difficult for them to -
HUNT: Let me turn to trade, which is also before your committee. A South Korean trade deal did not materialize, the president’s trip there. He said they hadn’t made enough concessions on autos, in particular. Do you think there will be a South Korean trade deal in the next couple months? And would it get through your committee?
CAMP: I’m hopeful there will be a South Korean trade agreement. I think it’s very important that we have a partner in Asia to work with like the Koreans. President Lee said to President Obama that he would work on the auto issue. We did not see that come to a conclusion. I think it’s very disappointing. But I - I do think we need to continue to talk and try to come up with an agreement.
Now, the reason this is just so important is, we want fair-market access to Korea, just as they have here. You know, we sell about 6,000 units and vehicles in Korea; they sell 400,000-plus here. And so those are the assurances we need. And President Lee has committed himself to that.
I’m - I’m hopeful that in the - in the coming weeks, we can continue to work.
HUNT: Do you think it’s likely you’ll get a deal, then, will get a deal?
CAMP: I do. It depends on the Koreans. And I think what the Koreans are being asked to do is not hard for them to do. We need their assurances that we’ll have market access, and that’s what this is about. And I think that would only - look, everywhere I go, people say to me, “I’m for trade. I just want it to be fair.”
HUNT: The bill to retaliate against Chinese goods if China doesn’t revalue its currency is likely to die in the lame-duck. If China doesn’t act, will you support moving a similar bill early next year?
CAMP: Well, I would expand a bill of that kind. That was the only tool I had available to me, and I do think the currency issue is a problem, but we have many others with China, intellectual property, piracy, others, and - and I - I would favor a multi-issue, as well as a multilateral approach to China. Currency is one of the problems; it’s not the only problem that we have with China. And we have a very complex relationship there, as you well know.
But I - I - I do support what was done on currency. We needed to send a signal to the Chinese. But we have - we really need to go back in a more thoughtful way, not two weeks before our elections, and come up with a multi-issue, multilateral approach.
HUNT: And that would - that would suggest, correct, that - that nothing will move quickly next year, if it takes more time to be - to deliberate that?
CAMP: Yeah, I don’t think we’ll see anything move quickly on that issue -
CAMP: - because we - we need to do that one right.
HUNT: Let me ask you about the so-called quantitative easing undertaken by the Fed recently. Was that a good or bad move?
CAMP: Well, it’s certainly gotten a lot of attention. Look, I - I think the best thing we can do there is - is try to find a way for our economy to begin - the private side of our economy to begin to produce jobs and create jobs. And I think the first and most important thing we can do there is on the tax side.
It - it - it is a decision that I think, obviously, has a lot of controversy with it. I’m - I’m somewhat neutral on it. I - I think it obviously has real concerns for the long-term future, simply to begin printing more money at this stage, I think, is a - is a great concern. I’d rather see the Congress move on other policies. I would have rather have seen that first, frankly.
HUNT: All right. Well, chairman-to-be Dave Camp, thank you so much for joining us from Midland, Michigan, today. We look forward to seeing you back in Washington.
And when we come back, the president faces a setback in Seoul. We’ll talk to our reporters about his Asia trip.
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