After reading Jonathan Sawyer’s opinion piece entitled “The Tim Reichert Plan is Too Heavy on Regulation”, I felt compelled to write an informed response. Because Mr. Sawyer is a constituent, I hope that I have the chance to speak with him following publication of this response, and to earn his vote.

Politicians usually fail to lead because they want to keep their options open. They do this because they are afraid to be criticized. But leadership means having a plan, and having a plan means criticism. In today’s political environment, leadership is difficult because the first one over the wall always gets bloodied.

I knew when I put forward my plan for the American middle class that some Democrats would dislike it. After all, the Republican Party is poised to take the former position of the Democrats as the home and party of America’s middle class. If and when the Republican Party does this, it will govern for decades.

What I did not expect was that Republican politicians such as Erik Aadland, and their proxies, would attempt criticism of a false version of my economic plan. Being a political outsider, I did not expect that fellow Republicans — who desperately need to put forward an economic plan that fosters and refranchises the middle class — would mount a straw-man argument that mischaracterizes my plan and then attacks that false version of it. There are seven errors in Mr. Sawyer’s piece. I address each of them below.

First, it is obviously incorrect to say that my proposal for “small rules for small business” — which would do away with most of the 200,000 pages of the Code of Regulation that apply to small businesses and would replace them with a dramatically smaller and simpler framework for small businesses — would increase regulations on small businesses.

Second, it is equally obvious (in contrast to Mr. Sawyer’s claims) that my proposal to create tax incentives for businesspeople to sell their businesses to employees, is good for both employers and employees. As Mr. Sawyer makes clear elsewhere in his own piece, any reduction in business taxes is good for businesses. And basic economic logic tells us that more ownership of the means of production by employees is good for employees (and good for employer-employee relationships). Just ask my friend Bill Newland, owner of the largest employee stock ownership plan in Colorado. 

Third, regarding education, Mr. Sawyer says that my plan does not address the problem of student debt. In fact, it addresses the problem at its root. My proposal would require public colleges and universities to “unbundle” — that is, separately price the classroom time that students need to get a degree, and to allow students to purchase only that classroom time rather than forcing them to purchase the entire “college experience” even if they don’t want it. This would dramatically lower the cost of a college degree and thereby the level of student debt taken on by college students.

Fourth, my proposal that the federal government allocate a larger share of its purchases of goods and services to small businesses, rather than to large corporations, is hardly a regulatory heavy hand. However, I am grateful to Mr. Sawyer for reminding me, during a short conversation that I had with him a week ago, that the success of this proposal would require streamlining not only government procurement processes, but it would also entail that large corporations not be allowed to impose their own regulatory burdens on smaller companies that sell them inputs.

Fifth, my proposal that we allow manufacturers to specify the prices at which retailers sell their products — otherwise known as “fair trade laws” — is entirely mischaracterized. These laws allowed (in most cases they did not require) manufacturers to specify retail prices to their retail partners. This in turn benefitted small retailers because they could compete with larger retailers — and often beat them on the basis of better service. The manufacturers competed with other manufacturers who produced the same or similar products when these prices were set. Thus, we had competitively determined prices, and retailers who competed on the basis of service. This meant that we had thriving Main Streets in which retailers knew their customers and their customers knew them. That sounds like a good thing to me. Mr. Sawyer’s contention that this would benefit Walmart overlooks history — Walmart is responsible for the lobbying that did away with these laws. 

Sixth, Mr. Sawyer says that “large corporations are not harmful simply because of their size.”  I’m not so sure. Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, showed us that concentration of power — in all its forms, including corporate power — is dangerous. Mr. Sawyer ignores an older tradition within Republicanism, that of the “trust-busting” Mr. Roosevelt.

And finally, Mr. Sawyer claims that I say nothing about government debt. In fact, Mr. Sawyer was present at a debate recently during which I explained in detail the nature of the problem, and its deep moral and economic implications. 

I am grateful to Mr. Sawyer for his willingness to consider my plan. I hope that he has put forward his criticisms in good faith, as my responses are in good faith. I would welcome another conversation with him, or with any Coloradan, about the specific proposals in my plan.

Tim Reichert, of Golden, is a candidate for the Republican nomination in Colorado Congressional District 7.

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