Edit Note: This is the first in a series of interviews with candidates for Oklahoma’s First Congressional District now held by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R) who is appointed by President Donald J. Trump to head the National Air and Space Administration (NASA) pending confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
Kevin Hern holds an engineering degree and MBA. He has worked in aerospace for Rockwell International and as a computer coder automating tasks for businesses and real estate. Hern once owned a hog farm. In 1999, Hern purchased two McDonald’s in Muskogee. Now as the owner of KTAK Corporation, Kevin Hern leads an organization that owns 10 McDonald’s restaurants and employs over 400 people in the area.
Question: Will Democrats one day begin work to confirm appointments and move legislation to help the nation?
Hern: The biggest struggle for the Trump Administration has not been the Democrats but the majority leadership of both chambers in supporting his idea of where he wants to take America.
Question: Do your policy views generally agree with those of President Trump?
Hern: What you are seeing with Trump vs. the House and Senate is that Trump is not worried about getting reelected. He knows he has three years left and if he runs again then likely another four years so Trump has a maximum of seven years left in office.
In contrast, the House members run every two years which means they are constantly in the “state of running” and worried that they don’t upset voters. Their calculus, in my estimation, is a lot about protecting their own job.
Former-Senator Dr. Tom Coburn and I talked a lot about job security being a fundamental issue for many of those elected. I get it. If that is the only job and the only income they have then it makes sense to protect it.
President Trump wants to move the country forward. His agenda is about moving forward both socially and economically. If you look at what he has done by executive order including the Johnson Amendment (1), Trump has done a fantastic job of that, but we need these executive orders to become law through Congress to avoid the whiplash from one administration to the next.
Question: How do you see your competition for this office?
Hern: I respect and admire each of them as individuals and believe their desire to help the country is sincere. Almost all who run for office, in their own way, are intent on helping the nation. We all speak about the same things; love of country, respect for the Constitution and protections for life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We support the right to own property and know government only exists by the consent of the people and that we can only properly change the Constitution through the amendment process.
We all agree that the atrocity of a $20 trillion debt growing every day with deficits of $500 billion to a trillion a year is a very real crisis. The gimmicks government uses that go along with that should not be allowed. We all talk about job creation and getting people back to work. We all talk about reducing mandatory spending consuming the federal budget – 73 percent in 2018.
So we are all talking about the same things, but what voters in the First District must judge is who has had the experience to deal with these kinds of issues. That is where I believe the difference between candidates reside. There are many people in Washington talking about solutions, but they have never done it. I have.
For twenty years, I signed both sides of a paycheck. I have had to live with Obamacare as a small business owner. I have seen the impact Obamacare has on the people who don’t want it – younger people forced to pay thousands each year they can’t afford just as they are struggling to establish their life.
I have had to deal with ridiculous tax policies that change even within a year or two while a small business owner is trying to make capital expenditure decisions when you can’t even know what the tax burdens will be from those decisions.
I have also had to deal with the difference between small and large businesses. Large corporations typically pay around 20 percent in taxes by utilizing loopholes and manipulating the system. As I know from the past twenty years, small businesses pay 39.6 percent because it is passed through at the highest rate.
I’m the guy that has lived with these and other challenges every single day for decades. The other guys are going to have to get on-the-job training. That is a big part of the problem in Washington as Dr. Coburn often says, “when we send someone to Washington and they get the best job they have ever had with the most money they’ve ever made and a pension they would not get in any other field – we are setting ourselves up for failure.” We keep doing that all across the country and then wonder why things don’t ever change.
Question: Will you term-limit your service?
Hern: I am talking with people across the district about that, but people seem more focused on making sure those elected aren’t trying to make it a career. I’m going to be fifty-six years old in December so it is certainly not a career for me. I have five other businesses in Northeastern Oklahoma and I intend to return to them.
Question: What are some of the big things you hope to accomplish in office?
Hern: I’m a big fan of ending pension plans for all elected officials. I believe everyone making law in Washington and the states should live under the same laws with the same benefits and responsibilities as everyone else. It makes no sense to me for elected officials to have pensions from government service. We should take that money and apply it to the national debt. Even more, if you impose Obamacare then you should live under Obamacare.
In the private sector to buy a business, you look at the financial statement to find the problems. Businesses are required by federal law to; take in revenue, expense revenue across multiple lines and have net income on which to pay taxes. Government is not bound by the same laws and they should be in most cases.
The first thing I would like to do is create audits not just of the Federal Reserve, but all federal agencies, including the Pentagon and Federal Treasury. Full transparency is required of private business. Why not enforce the same for public government?
Voters seem to be the tip of the tail trying to wag the dog and we must immediately demand the financial processes of government provide full transparency so we may see where all of our hard-earned tax money goes.
There are twenty-two committees of the House of Representatives. Maybe we should make the chairmen of each responsible for reviewing all regulations currently on the books as well as any proposed additions to that body of regulation. Chairman should be responsible for finding waste, fraud and abuse within the areas their committees oversee.
We need someone that actually has experience managing large budgets that has been in the business of business making tough decisions regardless of special interests or lobby effort. The First District needs someone who will stand and remain unafraid in the face of any issue or threat of challenge.
Question: Are you really ready to be viciously attacked?
Hern: If you are willing to leave in the first place then threats to force you out don’t work. If you don’t need the job or the pension or the media attention, then you can focus on doing a good job for constituents..
I’ve talked with and learned some lessons from Dr. Coburn and others on how to keep a business while serving in office. I have moved the businesses over to my wife Tammy so that should the voters of the First District select me to represent them, then we will not have those same problems others have faced.
Anytime you go against the system, you are going to make the system angry. Those who want to hoodwink citizens tell us it is too hard to fix this or that. They say change just can’t be done. They hide behind the notion that they can’t find the big silver bullet to cut billions here or there.
If you act in incremental steps you can cut government. We can cut half of the $90 billion spent on training programs or half of the twenty-one different personal financial literacy programs doled out by the federal government and the list goes on and on.
We have to start cutting government. We never hear about the cuts, but we need to make those very transparent and higher profile. We need to put the federal government on a financial statement that we can all see, consider and discuss across this country. Then we will know where the money is going.
Question: Who are your heroes from history or the current day in government?
Hern: All of the founders I greatly admire. They brought 13 colonies that were like individual countries together for the common good and that was not an easy or simple thing.
In the modern age because I have come to know him over the last nineteen years my hero is Dr. Tom Coburn. I have learned a lot from him on being yourself, telling the truth and doing what you say you are going to do for God and Country. He told people what he was going to do then he did it without being beholden to Washington D.C. and he bent the curve on federal earmarks and debt. Dr. Coburn made a difference and I hope to do the same.
1.) The Johnson Amendment is a provision in the U.S. tax code, since 1954, that prohibits all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. It has been used to threaten Conservative Pastors.
2.) For more information on Kevin Hern, click here.