We had the exciting opportunity to talk to Katrina Pierson. Katrina is running for Congress in the 32nd Congressional District in Texas.
Freedom Forge Press: We love your outlook for freedom, liberty, and limited government. Our mission aligns with your outlook—we found you on Twitter because of these beliefs. Your website indicates that you have a preference for promoting market-based reforms. So to get started, what kind of specific proposals would you bring with you to Congress in terms of improving the healthcare system?
Katrina Pierson: I have years of experience in healthcare. I was an administrator at a hospital; I ran outpatient neurology. I have experience with how these things can work. I know lots of people are talking about Heath Savings Accounts (HSAs), which should be on a market level, not a federal level. We need to have full transparency with all medical costs for patients so they can compare costs, rate doctors, and know where to go. We need to incorporate those types of transparency requirements so patients know where to find good quality care at an affordable price.
Tax reform is a good starting point—there’s been talk of eliminating that tax exemption altogether, and providing either a tax credit, or dumping it into an HSA. We can also break up insurance markets to compete across state lines. If you have a plan for a family of four, you could compare the prices side-by-side and have a difference of five thousand dollars from one state to another. [Selling insurance across state lines] would drag down the cost because the companies would have to compete with each other.
Also with regard to Medicare, we’re not means-testing people. I know a lot of people who don’t need to be on Medicare but are, and this shouldn’t be. There are so many common sense solutions that we just so completely ignore.
FFP: One of our editors has had a Health Savings Account since 2008. Talking about transparency: when he got to the dentist and asked about the cost of getting a cavity filled, the response was, well it depends on what insurance you have. It’s that complicated. So should the private market sort this out through an insurance conglomerate, or what?
KP: I don’t think it should be a federal government mandate. Take Texas, for example. If we want transparency in Texas, that would become a state law. Most people want transparency. With larger HSAs, which would cover many insured, you could change health care in just a few years [by increasing transparency]. Something not a lot of people are talking about are wellness programs. AFLAC is ahead of the curve in this. Some big employers are providing wellness programs. Companies should provide wellness programs for employees as a substitute for preventative medicine, even. But as long as we keep things at the state level, individuals have a lot more control.
FFP: Speaking of a national marketplace, Congress’s duty is to regulate interstate commerce. If Congress were to try to set up a national market for insurance, do you think this infringes on states?
KP: I don’t think the federal government should establish a national market; I just think they should eliminate the inability to buy across state lines.
FFP: What would your priorities be if elected?
KP: You wish you could fix everything, but there are a few things more heavy on my to-do list than others: one of those things is I believe we have to make a priority of fundamentally changing the education system in our country. We should be able to have this debate with the public. This is where we lose on a lot of issues; people go into smoke-filled rooms and work things out with fellow bureaucrats, and we lose out.
We should put the states on notice and say “no” to the Department of Education (DOE). The DOE was established in the 1970s. If you look at all the big innovators and the successful people, they didn’t go through public education. We’re losing that [type of innovation] right now—we’re not getting anywhere with education in this country. It’s a big issue for me because if we’re going to change anything in this country, we’ve got to save our kids.
There are simple policies to put in place like a federal check registry. I think we should require every department and agency to do the same thing. We’re living in the age of technology. We should not have to wait for the GSA scandal to break before we find out how outrageously they’re spending money. This is the people’s money; they should see it. The technology is there; the state of Texas does it.
I’d also like to get back to single-issue bills. We shouldn’t have to be in a situation where we have to pass it before we know what’s in it. The reason we have such outrageous spending is they tack on these little things to these bills they know are going to pass, and we find out later we’re paying for things like breast implants for prostitutes. We need to raise the standard on how we do business and how we govern.
Think also about bringing back the anti-appropriations committee. That committee was cranking out three billion dollars of waste. Why is the committee gone? Because it was cranking out three billion dollars of waste!
FFP: Back to education for a moment: What do you think about Common Core?
KP: I am adamantly opposed to Common Core. It’s more of a curriculum thing—I know some people like the structure of it. I have a background in science, and when we look at education standards in the US versus the other countries, we teach linearly. But when you look at the human brain, it doesn’t think in a straight line. It thinks in colors. The BBC did an interesting program about struggling students, and they taught them how to draw their ideas with curvy colors. These students improved in education, and their self-confidence and behavior improved. We’re teaching with a very archaic system, and we won’t fundamentally change it—we need drastic changes to get our children back on track.
FFP: So the Common Core wouldn’t allow for individual flexibility. Looking at the history of our education system, wealthy industrialists contributed to our educational system, and the mindset was, “we don’t want thinkers; we want assembly line workers.” So it seems we’re still training people to live in the 20th Century.
KP: We have an opportunity here. One pet peeve of public school [in Texas] is in the African American community: these students can hardly speak English, but they are required to speak and write Spanish. Mastering lower education—reading, writing, arithmetic—shouldn’t be too difficult. We are taking away kids’ ability to think on their own. They are being pushed into group think. Math classes now push students to do math in group, four to a table, and have to pass or fail based on what your group comes up with. A straight-A student was upset because she was receiving grades based on what her group did, and she wanted to quit school. These students are mixed together so their grades average out. Luckily in some schools, like in Texas, we still have AP classes, but in some states it’s getting really bad.
FFP: Taking America as a whole, thinking about everything that is happening, what do you think is wrong, and what do we need to do to fix ourselves?
KP: We have a morally bankrupt society. We’re too complacent. We’re going to struggle with that. By electing people who are interested in engaging the public rather than joining the club and making decisions behind closed doors, we will fix some of the complacency part. When the Tea Party started, we had people who had never been involved before, and now we can’t get them to stop being involved. Problem is, there are few people willing to lead on principle.
I’ll go back to one of my legislative priorities. We need to have debate about the UN. I have spent years on the local level pushing back against the international standards being pushed into our community, whether it’s zoning, putting up signs that don’t require people to read and speak English, we’re just seeing the UN dictate the way we plan our cities, the way we interact with international communities, the way we hold our elections. That isn’t what our country is about. The UN has been operating outside its mission system for quite some time. We need to revisit the UN and our involvement in it.
FFP: “Soft tyranny” seems to have the UN written all over it. It’s not the power to overtly destroy, but to make every one play to a lowest common denominator. You don’t have pioneers willing to depart from the norm. It’s hard to see or prove.
KP: I think we can fix the engagement of the American public. We have so many qualified people who would be very good legislators, good on a local, state, and national level—good, solid freedom fighters. But our society is so conditioned in fear, in every aspect. They have us afraid of everything and everyone. The cycle of people stepping out there, like myself, it’s a question of “who is going to take the beating?” Once we break that mold and get more people to fight back… well, human beings follow courage. Nothing has changed with the human psyche, but we’re conditioned to not stir up the pot. Hopefully it’s not too late.
FFP: Looking at a recent Gallup poll, a record number of people said big government is the biggest threat to the country. Big government has always been at the top of the list, well above big business or big labor. So what are we missing? Americans seem to think big government is the problem, but we have a president who won the election and is an advocate for big government.
KP: Republicans have to govern on principle. It’s sort of tragic, what we have on “our” side (if we’re on the side of freedom). We’re not just going to blindly vote for anyone. The perfect example is Mitt Romney. When he ran and knocked out each conservative one at a time, before he won the nomination, he was completely against Obamacare. After he won the Republican primary, he said, “I’ll repeal Obamacare, but I want to replace it.” People didn’t like that.
That spring, Romney got on a microphone and said, “There are some things about Obamacare that we’ll keep.” I talked to hundreds of grassroots leaders in swing states, and millions of those people did not vote. Their reason for not voting? They said that they refused to have Obamacare under a Republican. It wasn’t enough to vote against Obama; they didn’t have a reason to vote for Mitt Romney. That was very telling. I mean, you look at Ted Cruz in Texas. People couldn’t find a reason not to vote for Ted Cruz. He beat all odds. That’s what’s happening. The Republican Party is all talk and no action. They say they’re free market, but they’re not. They’re pro-business. This is not the same as free market. It’s all depending where the money’s coming from. Challenge politicians to define what they mean. They’re saying what they want you to hear, but they’re not saying what they mean. For example, the word “amnesty” is one of those words. It means different things for different people.
FFP: You had been a Tea Party activist in your area, and a grassroots leader. It seems like you’ve reached the point where enough is enough.
KP: I can’t just sit there and walk. I met with my congressman for the better part of the year, tried to explain what conservatives in our district wanted, and he just wasn’t interested. He was only interested in supporting John Boehner. He didn’t want to hear it. He made it seem like we didn’t know what we were talking about. He supports farm bills, amnesty, the NSA, indefinite detention. I couldn’t sit back without challenging him.
FFP: Do you think we need a third party. Could the Tea Party provide a viable option?
KP: I don’t know if the question today is if we need a third party. That’s a question for 2010 or 2011. I think the question today is with Republicans actively trying to stomp out conservative voices and freedom and liberty-minded voices. The question today is if we’re going to be able to stop a third party. I have no idea if the Tea Party is a viable option. There are some people saying the Tea Party was “kind of” right about Obamacare, “kind of” right about privacy. I don’t know if they can recover from all the image damage done to them over the years. I think we’ll know over this next cycle or two if we’ll be able to stop a third party, though I think a third party will be devastating to Republicans. I can’t see organizations backing the Republican Party again after all that’s coming. The Republicans are not governing like Republicans. I hope this election cycle, we can make enough noise to guide the ship back onto the right course.
FFP: John Adams said, “A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.” Do you think there’s hope for freedom in the future or is it too late?
KP: I think we still have hope. I do believe once it’s gone, it’s gone; I just don’t think we’re there yet. I think we’re in the transition, and it’s going to be up to the American people to make the final decision. That’s why it’s so important to bring these discussions to the American public so they know exactly what’s going on and exactly how these things are happening… like the IRS, DOJ, and NSA scandals.
If Republicans were smart, they would jump on this, bypass the media, and go straight to the people and say “this is what’s happening to you.” The federal government should send a letter to every single person whose cell phone was spied on. Then you would start to see the American people say, “Wait!” The problem is, everything done in DC is kept in DC. Americans have to be touched personally before they get engaged. There has been no accountability on the federal level, there is no one going to the American public. People don’t know what do to, so they say, “Oh well, nothing I can do about it.”
FFP: So do you believe the media isn’t doing its job for the American people?
KP: Absolutely. The media needs to point out how the government isn’t doing its job. There are now three million signatures on petitions against Obamacare. People had no idea what was coming with Obamacare, but because Ted Cruz and others went to the American public, people are now questioning Obamacare. That’s why they blamed the shutdown on Cruz, but people can see that he was trying to warn us. That was just a month or two ago, and now no one is mad at him anymore—people are thankful to him for informing them. Imagine if all Republicans did that—how much they could inform the American people.
FFP: Is anyone even about small government anymore? The Republicans don’t offer a difference from Democrats.
KP: I wish Republicans would take the anger against conservatives, and use it against the Democrats every once in a while.
FFP: Grover Cleveland once vetoed a bill from Congress aimed at easing severe drought conditions in Texas by spending $10,000 on distributing grain seeds to farmers.
In his veto message, Cleveland said:
I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering… Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct [individual charity] which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.
We like some Democrats, but it seems the good ones are gone. Thinking about the Texas Seed Bill, does the federal government have a role to play in easing individual suffering?
KP: It is so not a government duty. Think about how long ago that was and where we are today. We’re the most abundant nation in the world. Not only have we given up our responsibilities, but our churches have, too. Our states have, too. The states are now copying the governing in Washington, DC. Texas’s state budget is now fifty percent federally funded. States are going to go crazy, but it [cutting federally-funded budgets and programs] has to be done. It’s not the federal government’s role to babysit people or states. Responsibility has to be put back on the states.
FFP: It’s exciting to find people like you who are standing up and running for office.
KP: It was not an easy decision to run. I tell people, the good news is I’m not your traditional Republican candidate. I’m not an old rich guy, I’m a single mom. That’s also the bad news. I’m going to go into it fully prepared for a full character assault. Nobody else would step up. I’ve reached the point where, as Thomas Jefferson said, “resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.” I’m young enough that I’m able to recover. If I have to move, I’ll survive. I couldn’t consciously not do anything. Ted Cruz always says, you lose one hundred percent of the battles you don’t fight.
Katrina Pierson is a candidate for the United States Congress in the 32nd District in Texas. Keep track of her at her website, on her Twitter feed, and Facebook.