At the Western Conservative Summit, we sit down with FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon to discuss President Trump’s policies that have contributed to the booming economy and increased productivity, including tax cuts and deregulation.
Jan Jekielek: Adam Brandon, wonderful to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Adam Brandon: Thanks for having me.
Mr. Jekielek: FreedomWorks, you guys have been very busy in the political scene over the years.
Mr. Brandon: We do grassroots. We focus on the economic side of grassroots and making sure that there is a constituency out there that actually supports cutting spending in this country and supports deregulation in this country. We’re all about economic opportunity.
Mr. Jekielek: Right. So tell me a little bit about this booming economy and how that came about?
Mr. Brandon: If you go back to the Obama years when you would pick up a newspaper, or there would be a book, there was a lot of conversation. Have we reached peak growth? Has this economy fully matured? And I think there’s a lot of people who look over at Europe and Europe’s decline and they’re like, “oh, it’s inevitable that happens here to the United States,” that we’ve reached peak capitalism in this country. What a bunch of crap. Whenever you have entrepreneurs, and whenever you have investment, you’re going to have economic growth.
So it’s not too hard. You dial back or just freeze the regulatory climate, you stop the beatings, and you lower the tax burden, you lower the burdens to investments, so people start investing in companies, not tax avoidance. When you invest in tax avoidance, that money does not get put to its proper highest use. When you invest in a business to make money, we all benefit.
So it’s not a shock to me that you have the ensuing economic growth, including a jump in productivity. And for years everyone was saying productivity is dead and [we] can’t increase it. Productivity numbers go up from investment, investment in equipment, investment in people. That’s what you’re seeing. So it’s not a mistake, we could keep doing this for a while.
Mr. Jekielek: Tell me a little bit more specifics. Of course, the administration has done tax cuts, very significant tax cuts, and also very significant deregulation.
Mr. Brandon: When I look at the Trump administration itself, the first thing they have done is slowed the regulatory train down. Not even the dereg side of thing, just the fact that they told the American business, “here are the rules for the road. You know you have at least four years of breathing space, hopefully eight years of breathing space.”
Mr. Jekielek: I see. They don’t have to anticipate new things coming in.
Mr. Brandon: Nothing coming in now. Nothing new is going to hit them, so you can start to plan, whereas under Obama it was just new reg after new reg.
Mr. Jekielek: I see.
Mr. Brandon: It was hard to plan for. You did that. Number two, you mentioned the tax cuts. That helps. Number three, I think this is actually as big of an issue as the first one I mentioned, the dereg one. Now we’re actually decreasing the burden on companies to invest and grow in the United States.
One thing about the tax cut [is] before that tax cut, you kept hearing about great American companies doing these things called inversions and reincorporating and moving to Ireland or moving to the Cayman Islands. When’s the last time you heard about an inversion? You haven’t.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, inversions in the other direction.
Mr. Brandon: Yeah, because our tax rates now, you don’t have to seek that. Instead of using your tax accountants to try and figure out how do I miss the taxman, now you use your accountants to be, how do I make my company more productive? Now, the scary thing is, we have an election coming up. You could switch it all back, you could turn it all back, you could start the reg machine back up, the tax penalties, and then you would see the pain coming in the growth numbers.
Mr. Jekielek: That’s a very interesting perspective. So, really it’s the deregulation, you think, that’s the primary driver of this, and the understanding that you’re not going to be hit with stuff you just can’t predict that’s going to restrict you further.
Mr. Brandon: Look, you can go and talk to a congressman about a law, and they have to listen. Obviously, a congressman’s job is to be responsive to their constituents. A bureaucrat? Who are they accountable to? No one. If you’re a business, it’s very much a Kafkaesque experience going into these regulators, who have their agenda in handing this back down to you: here’s now how you’re going to run your business. And they may not have your business’s best interests in mind.
Mr. Jekielek: I see. How does immigration fit into the picture? Or, let’s say, illegal immigration?
Mr. Brandon: Right now, you see everyone, when you talk about immigration, the images, the wall, and the border. The president had a rose garden ceremony when he talked about a fundamental reform of our immigration system, which would actually move us in line with most countries like Canada and Australia, which is you have a very clear, simple system where you have goals. The country is like, “yes, we’re open to immigration, but there are people that we need and skill sets that we’re deficient in,” doctors, engineers, computer programmers, that you’re just not producing enough of domestically, that you start setting, “well, we need more of these people so we can fully unleash the economy that we have.”
President Trump laid out a plan to have the single largest number. He basically shifted from a huge number of illegal immigrants to the largest number of legal immigrants. Instead of people just showing up and heading into the shadows, under the Trump plan, people would come in legally, they would be presented, they would have to go through a background check and these are people who would immediately contribute to our economy.
We were talking earlier about growth. You would actually turn our immigration system into a boom for our economy. And then you would have a separate system for people who are coming in low-skill labor.
You hear these horror stories of women who are coming in across the border. Incredible. Most of them are getting sexually assaulted, raped. And then they come across and then they’re basically treated like slaves and sold around. You would end all of that because you would start showing, okay, we need some agriculture employees, we need summer workers, we need construction workers that the domestic economy is not able to meet the need.
You would have a system for those folks to come in. You know who they are and when their job’s done they would leave. It’s incredible how comprehensively Trump is looking at not just the immediate problem of shutting the border down and shutting that, but also looking at how we solve the problem in the long run.
Mr. Jekielek: So it’s fixing both sides of the problem.
Mr. Brandon: Correct.
Mr. Jekielek: There’s a need, and there’s a big challenge.
Mr. Jekielek: If you only focus on the border side, the problem is that if the incentive is still to come in here and work illegally, people are going to be going around and all, so you have to do it all together. And that’s what he is doing.
Mr. Jekielek: Very interesting. Any final words before we finish up?
Mr. Jekielek: I’m pretty optimistic as we head into 2020. The more I look at our opponents, the more that I’m hearing them talk about how disappointed they are in America, disappointed they are in American values, when I hear about their plans of fundamentally altering the economy and our society, if me as a conservative, if we can’t get our story out now, we deserve to lose. I am so fired up about our value sets and know that this is what makes this country successful, that I expect that we’re going to be able to dominate in 2020.
Mr. Jekielek: Strong place to end, Adam Brandon. Thank you so much.
Mr. Jekielek: Thank you for having me.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.