On March 31, the editors of HUMAN EVENTS interviewed Rep. Mac Collins, a proponent of the national retail sales tax, who represents Georgia’s 8th U.S. House District. Collins, who is in his sixth term, boasts a lifetime American Conservative Union rating of 95%. He is a successful businessman, who at the age of 18 started the Collins Trucking Company of Flovilla, Ga. Collins first ran for Congress in 1992, knocking off a ten-year Democrat incumbent. He then became a member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, where he has promoted replacing the income tax with a national sales tax (dubbed the “fair tax”). This year he is running for the Republican Senate nomination to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Zell Miller. If he wins, Collins hopes to serve on the Senate Finance Committee, where he could increase his influence over tax issues. First, however, he must face two Republicans–businessman Herman Cain and Rep. Johnny Isakson–in a July 20 primary. Cain and Collins are the conservatives in the race; Isakson is a moderate. If no candidate wins 51% in the primary, the top two will go to an August 10 runoff. Since Georgia Democrats have so far failed to field a formidable candidate (the filing deadline is April 30), the winner of the Republican primary appears likely to be elected to the Senate in November. Here are edited excerpts of Collins’ conversation with HUMAN EVENTS.
HUMAN EVENTS: As a senator, what issues would we expect to see you take a lead on? REP. MAC COLLINS (R.-GA.): Issues that affect working people–jobs. . . . I prefer seeing the national sales tax. [Rep.] John Linder [R.-Ga.] has a good bill on that, and there’s also a companion bill in the Senate. Our workforce in America is not competitive with workforces in other parts of the world. We have differences in tax law here. We have tort liability and class action suits that come into play. Medical malpractice has a tendency to increase the cost of health care. Would you see yourself as a sponsor of the fair tax? One of the things that Herman Cain emphasized when he was here is that he wants to be a champion of eliminating the income tax in the U.S. Senate. COLLINS: If Mr. Cain wanted to be a champion–if you lived in the district of a gentleman who was on the Ways and Means committee, would you not go see him first and encourage him to support the fair tax? It didn’t happen. I got on the bill early last year, and I kept telling John [Linder] and telling my constituents that I like the sales tax . . . Finally I just got fed up with it and said look, if we are going to compete in the world market we need to change these tax codes. I’ve talked to many workers. I talked to Boeing aircraft two years ago and I explained to them–you are building an aircraft here–a part of it. Boeing builds aircraft, so does Airbus, and we’re both trying to sell to the same people, but there are two differences. Airbus and the European Union won’t like that they have a trade agreement with the country they are trying to sell to. We don’t have one, so they have an edge on us there. Also, they subsidize their businesses a lot more than we do and they have a different tax code than we do. That’s the reason we don’t have Chrysler Daimler, we have Daimler Chrysler, because the lead counsel for Chrysler said we ought not even look at the United States as a headquarters, so they’re headquartered in Germany. We had–we still have the alternative minimum tax. We are the only nation that has that. And prior to last year we had the highest capital gains rate in the world. We double-tax stock dividends. Our depreciation puts businesses upside down–you have to go to the bottom line and take money from there, and add it to the depreciation and the interest schedule up here to meet your amortization. There is something wrong with this picture. You serve on the Ways and Means Committee–as of last year, you were a co-sponsor of Congressman Linder’s fair tax bill. Herman Cain, as your constituent, never at any time contacted you about advancing the National Sales Tax or any form of tax reform? COLLINS: No, he did not. Have you been able to do anything on the Ways and Means Committee to try to advance the fair tax? COLLINS: I have been pushing [Chairman Bill] Thomas [R.-Calif.] to hold some hearings. He told me that we are going to do hearings but then I read a statement from him that we are trying to get 100 cosponsors and then we will be doing hearings on the fair tax. Does Thomas favor the fair tax? COLLINS: I can’t say that Thomas favors it, but I’ll say that he’s not opposed to hearings. We’ve been off to Republican conferences and John [Linder] has made the pitch about the fair tax with Thomas’ guidance as far as time allotted. So has Denny [House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R.-Ill.)]. I called Denny last fall and I said I need your help–let’s get Thomas to reduce the corporate tax rate. He wants to do this international stuff, but we need to be helping the American companies that are hiring people here–they are not competitive in the world market. [Hastert] said, I’d rather have a consumption tax. Well, I agree, that was music to my ears, but we don’t have that one on our platter yet. Tom DeLay, the majority leader, is a co-sponsor of the fair tax. COLLINS: I asked Tom about it and he said he wants to hold hearings and possibly do a vote. . . . Thomas is trying to build support for the fair tax before the hearings by requiring 100 co-sponsors. The speaker said he was for the consumption tax, but not necessarily the fair tax. . . . There is going to be some tweaking, that’s the reason we need to hold hearings. [Rep.] Chris Cox [R.-Calif.] was here in 2000 and discussed the same issue. He pointed out that you have to repeal the 16th amendment as a prerequisite and then decide whether you want a flat tax or sales tax. Do you agree with that? COLLINS: [Rep.] Sam Johnson’s [R.-Texas] bill would have repealed the 16th amendment. We have voted in the House before to sunset the whole tax code and start over. I voted for that as a way to move the thing. If you get elected, you intend to be a sponsor of the fair tax in the United States Senate? COLLINS: Yes. Will you seek a seat on the Finance Committee in the U.S. Senate? COLLINS: I would love to have it. If I can get it, it’s where I would like to go. Even more than the Appropriations Committee? COLLINS: Yes. . . . The United States Senate deals with the same issues as the United States House–only in the Senate the rules are just a lot more flexible and you can leverage yourself a lot more than you can in the House. Because the House is structured, it’s committee-based, and if you don’t get [provisions] in prior to coming to the committee, it is very difficult to get anything into a tax bill. Is [Rep.] Johnny Isakson [R.-Ga.] in favor of the fair tax and Sam Johnson’s amendment to get rid of the 16th Amendment? COLLINS: I don’t have any idea–he’s on the fair tax bill. He finally got on it. You’d have to ask him if he’s in favor of it. I’ve heard he just got on it just because I’d been on it for several months.