Republican Rep. Bruce Westerman said tax returns should be simple enough to be filed on a postcard, while his Libertarian challenger, Kerry Hicks of Mena, said the country must address its $19 trillion national debt.
Westerman, speaking in a debate televised Monday on AETN, said corporations are moving overseas because the United States has one of the world’s highest corporate income tax rates. He said he has worked on a fairer, simpler tax plan with a 20% flat rate with fewer rules allowing wealthy individuals such as GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump to avoid paying taxes. Depreciation would be an expense that would occur only in the year that it happens. Returns could be completed on a postcard.
Hicks said the focus should be on reducing government’s size so fewer taxes would be necessary. He said the country should have a smaller, smarter defense, and the government has too many regulations and requires too many licenses and permits. He said he opposes tax increases or tax decreases until the debt is reduced.
“Every week, we sell the soul of America to another country,” he said.
Westerman called on Congress to reassert its legislative power and said unelected bureaucrats should not be making laws through regulations. He said most government spending occurs in mandatory programs: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, etc., and those programs must be changed in order to keep from imploding. He said a cap should be placed on what states can spend on Medicaid, while states should be given more freedom to manage their programs.
Hicks said he would oppose gutting social programs because many recipients need them.
“Those are worthwhile things to pay for in reasoned measure,” he said.
The two both criticized the comments made by Trump in a recently released video where he boasted about groping women, but Westerman, like Trump a Republican, was more direct, saying, “Had somebody said that about my wife and daughter, it would have probably been fighting words regardless of what the context of it was.”
Hicks said such talk was offensive but not disqualifying.
“We’ve got to get beyond the distractions of who said what to who or who wrote what in an email,” he said.
Asked about the role of the federal government when it comes to sanctuary cities, Westerman said there should be no sanctuary cities and the border must be protected. Hicks agreed that the borders must be secured first but said a pathway to citizenship must be provided for current undocumented immigrants.
The two oppose more gun control but differ on how to protect citizens and law enforcers. Hicks said police officers should be well paid, trained and acclimated to their neighborhoods. He said unjustifiable police shootings should be treated as murder and officers should face the same maximum penalties as civilians when they commit them. He said officers should be unarmed in most instances, adding that prison guards in most cases are unarmed.
“We need to demilitarize the police,” he said.
Westerman replied by saying, “If we lived in Mayberry, then maybe the sheriff wouldn’t have to carry a gun and the deputy could just have a bullet in his pocket, but we don’t live in Mayberry today.”
The debates continue with the 1st Congressional District debate Tuesday, which will be live-streamed on AETN’s website, www.aetn.org, at 10 a.m. and then will be broadcast that night at 7 p.m. Incumbent Republican Rep. Rick Crawford faces Libertarian Mark West.
On Wednesday, the three candidates for U.S. Senate, Republican Sen. John Boozman, Democrat Conner Eldridge, and Libertarian Frank Gilbert debate at 2 p.m., with the event live-streamed and the television broadcast occurring at 7 p.m.
The last debate, for the state’s 2nd Congressional District seat, will be live-streamed at 5:30 p.m and will be broadcast at 8 p.m. Incumbent Republican Rep. French Hill faces Democrat Dianne Curry and Libertarian Chris Hayes.