At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), we sit down with Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.) to discuss moving manufacturing from China to Latin America, the threat of cancel culture, and why he believes the Second Amendment ensures the First Amendment.
Jan Jekielek: We’re here at CPAC 2021 with Congressman Mark Green of Tennessee. America Uncancelled is the theme here. We’ve been talking about China. You’ve had some very interesting bills related to China, especially holding China accountable for COVID. But you’ve also been thinking about supply chains. We were just talking offline. You have a very interesting idea about how to fix this issue with respect to China, of course.
Rep. Mark Green: I just recently got named to be the Ranking Member of the Western Hemisphere. So as I contemplate what’s going on in Latin America because of China’s commodity boom—they came in and got the oil and the metals—I realized that created currency issues over the last 15 years for South America, Central America.
Because their currency suddenly became very valuable to the Chinese, it became very inexpensive for them to buy Chinese manufactured goods. So instead of developing their own manufacturing base, they bought stuff from China. And that’s hurt their employment in the manufacturing sector in Latin America, Central America.
Couple that with what’s gone on with COVID, and there’s the recognition that we have to decouple or at least decrease our dependency on Chinese manufacturing. So we have an opportunity. We can use and direct some of the development dollars to Latin America to increase manufacturing there. For companies, especially American companies, for which their business model doesn’t support them coming back to America for the cost of labor, let’s send them to Latin America.
We’ll create a manufacturing base there. We’ll create jobs there, which will work with our immigration issue and help our immigration. Whenever you create jobs in Latin America, you decrease the flow across our southern border. So this is a win, win, win—decoupling from China, helping our friends to the south, and helping our southern border immigration issue.
Mr. Jekielek: In this relationship, China has its tentacles under the Communist Party everywhere. We’ve discussed this. How is that relationship with the various Latin American countries now?
Rep. Green: The relationship is strained. The Belt and Road initiative came in and used debt diplomacy. Look what has happened in Ecuador. Now they [China] are taking 80 percent, I believe the number is 80 percent, of their oil to pay back for a dam that was created that’s actually cracking. So I think Latin America is becoming aware of what’s happening.
There’s this real positivity toward America right now. When you think of Latin America, a lot of people think of countries that weren’t necessarily friendly to democracy. That has flipped in the last 10, 15 years. So we’re in a really good place. We have such great ties. Close to 50 million Americans have some connection or some Latino heritage. This is just culturally right, economically right, and as for national security, it’s the right thing to do, because we can decouple from China.
Mr. Jekielek: What about reshoring some of these manufacturing jobs here in America?
Rep. Green: I have that bill that basically would fund 100 percent of a move for a company with a tax credit. So any company that moves from China to the United States, we will take 100 percent. They can write that off on their taxes, the cost of the move. There are also a lot of other things we have to do in that national security manufacturing piece, but that’s one of my bills.
Mr. Jekielek: So how does this work in a Democrat-controlled Congress and administration?
Rep. Green: Interestingly enough, there are several Democrats who are concerned about the issues with China. And there are many who are very positive about Latin America and making sure that our development dollars decrease in equity there. The commodity boom created some wealthy people in Latin America. It also created some inequity. So I think we can get enough friends to influence this debate and maybe get it heard on the floor.
Mr. Jekielek: I certainly hope so. Bipartisanship seems to be rare in Congress these days, but I know there are folks out there trying.
Rep. Green: I know Bill Foster and I just joined together, Democrat and Republican, to ask the CDC to switch to one shot instead of the two shots because the data now is suggesting that just one shot is enough, at least for now. And that way we can save a lot more lives. So here you have a Democrat and Republican coming together on a COVID issue. It can happen. Bipartisanship can happen.
Mr. Jekielek: The theme of the conference is America Uncancelled. What does that mean for you, for your constituents?
Rep. Green: I think my constituents are very concerned that big media, big tech can cancel the president of the United States, the former president of the United States. What does that mean to them? And of course, many of them are being canceled or put in Facebook jail for a little while. They recognize that is one of the most un-American things that can happen.
Back in the ’60s when they were burning the United States flag, we didn’t like it, but we didn’t say “you can’t do that.” It’s their right to free speech. Okay, fine. But don’t turn around then and say that we don’t get to say what we want to say. And that’s essentially what Facebook and Twitter have done, especially Twitter, perhaps one of the worst of them.
Mr. Jekielek: So what are your plans on addressing this?
Rep. Green: We’re going to our states—this is one of the things that I’m doing as a congressman—going and saying, “Okay, State of Tennessee, these are the things you need to do. You need to make sure that if the feds try to do something with gun control, that we stand up to those agents that go and enforce that law.” Tennessee can create bills and laws that keep the enforcement of those Second Amendment restrictions from being enforced. And things like that.
You and I were talking earlier about Idaho and what they’re doing to penalize the cancel culture, penalize those companies when they do that. So Tennessee, the states, can do that and push back, and they need to. It reinforces the notion that most conservatives have that the power really ought to be in the states anyway. Washington needs to divest what it’s taken since FDR from the States.
Mr. Jekielek: It doesn’t seem to be going that way, though.
Rep. Green: No, but we own 30 states, both Houses, and they own 18. Right now if you look at it—like election integrity, as an example. There are 170 plus bills that have been written in those 30 states to fix election integrity. So those states have got to get bold and push back from the federal government. Their governors need to sue the federal government and take this stuff to court. It’s unconstitutional, what’s happening.
Mr. Jekielek: Briefly going back to the Second Amendment, there’s this mantra—and I’ve heard this mentioned a few times, at least once on stage—there’s no First Amendment without the Second Amendment. Myself, being a Canadian, this isn’t necessarily obvious to everybody. It might be obvious to you. Explain this to me.
Rep. Green: The Second Amendment basically states, in essence, that to maintain a free state—what a lot of people don’t do is they don’t read the whole thing. But it says that for the purpose of maintaining a free state, a person has a right to keep and bear arms. We had just thrown off a tyrannical government, so very clearly what the Founders meant was that the Second Amendment would enforce everything else in the Constitution, the liberties of the people.
Of course, the number one, our First Amendment, the freedom of religion and speech and assembly, all of that gets enforced by the Second Amendment, but so does the Tenth Amendment. All of the freedoms that the people have are preserved by the right to ensure the state stays free.
Mr. Jekielek: Excellent. Any final thoughts?
Rep. Green: I just really appreciate the incredible journalism that’s coming out of The Epoch Times. You guys are doing a fantastic job. I can tell you that on our side, we’re reading the journalistic research that you are doing and really appreciate the hard work that goes into making it happen and the boldness to say the truth. So thank you.
Mr. Jekielek: I appreciate that, Congressman. It’s great to have you on.
Rep. Green: Good to be on. Thanks.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.