FAMILY: Married, no kids yet
QUIRKY FACT: Engaged in Palm Coast; wife is Emmy Award-winning TV host, Casey Black Desantis (NBC 12)
BIO: Born in Jacksonville, Ron DeSantis is of humble beginnings who knows the value of hard work. To put himself trough college, he swept floors, collected trash, moved furniture, parked cars, served as an electrician’s assistant, coached baseball clinics and set up hospitality tents, earning a reputation as the most employable student at Yale University. He received his bachelor of arts, magna cum laude, from Yale, where he was a captain of the varsity baseball team. He received his law degree, cum laude, from Harvard Law School. He was a JAG officer in the U.S. Navy, supporting operations at the terrorist detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and deployed to Iraq during the 2007 troop surge as an adviser.
What would you do to balance the budget?
Well first, I don’t think you can balance the budget by raising taxes, for a couple reasons. One is there’s just not enough taxable income that you can really get. Obama will talk about the top 1% or whatever, but if you confiscated everything they earned you’re still running huge deficits. So what I’ve understood is that Congress is not a rational actor. If you or I were in deep debt, got a new source of revenue, maybe a job or something like that, and we would probably apply that to pay off our debts. Congress doesn’t necessarily do that; if they see new streams of revenue that tells them that they can start spending more money. ...
I think you have got to look at the spending side. ... You’ve got to be serious about reducing spending overall — actually eliminating some agencies. I mean we talk about the government, how inefficient it is. ...
Yet all these programs that get put in, agencies, they just continue to get funding year in and year out. They get more money irrespective of their performance. Look at the Department of Energy for example. When that was passed, you look back at what Jimmy Carter said; this was supposed to be a cure for our energy woes. Here we are 30, 40 years later, and we still have the same energy problems. Now the energy department has been transformed to a venture capital fund for green energy companies. That has been a total failure.
Republicans talk about reducing government. It’s just a platitude people throw out there, but we’ve never really as Republicans ever reduced government. I mean, we’ve slowed the growth in the 90s a little bit, but from 2001, on the government grew under Republican rule. ... You need to actually reduce some agency, and I think you also need to curtail the power and influence of the bureaucracy. ...
I also think we need to structurally reform some of the entitlement programs, particularly for people in my generation. ... Guys in my generation need to understand that it’s not sustainable the way they’re structured now. The math just doesn’t work, so let’s try to move to a system that’s going to have a better chance of being solvent. I think if you did that, that might not do much for your short-term deficit immediately, but it changes the long-term trajectory, and I think that’s important when you’re talking about avoiding a debt crisis.
Would you be willing to pledge not to raise taxes?
I’ve already done it. I’ve signed Grover Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge. ... The problem is, the tax increases go into effect and then the spending reductions, just seem to vanish. ... Americans are overtaxed. If you look at somebody who earns a relatively decent income, in Florida at least we don’t have income tax, but like in California you’re making $80,000 in a two-income family, you’re getting hit federally with the 15.4% FICA. Then you’re getting federal income tax and you’re getting state income tax, then you’re paying property taxes, you’re paying gas taxes, paying sales taxes — everything we do is being taxed. I just think we need to draw the line and say OK, we’ve taxed enough, let’s have government live within its means rather than asking us to pay more and more.
If you were asked to raise the national debt ceiling, how would you vote? What would you do to reduce the national debt?
I would not be supportive of a unilateral debt ceiling raise. I mean, I would have supported ... cut, cap, and balance in exchange for a temporary debt ceiling increase, simply because there’s a lot of spending that’s already been committed. ... I’ll be somebody who wants to hold Congress’ feet to the fire. One thing I’ve proposed, it’s not exactly related to the debt, but I’m very tough on political reform. Because I think we’ve gotten away from a sense of going to Congress to serve. People go and end up ruling over other people. ... I’ve proposed a number of reforms along those lines, including two things related to the budget. One: no budget, no pay. The senate hasn’t passed a budget in over 1,000 days, and no individual could just not do their job, and just abdicate their responsibility and not have any consequences. So I would say, pass the budget on time, and if you don’t we’ll freeze all members’ of Congress pay until you do. This way it hits members in the pocketbook.
I would do the same thing with the congressional pay scale. I would tie the pay increases or decreases to the national debt in the sense that if you increase the national debt by 5%, I think your pay should be decreased by 5%. ... You need a balanced budget amendment. ...
What should be done with the federal tax code? Where do you stand on the subject of a flat tax?
I think the federal tax code is an affront to a free society in the sense that it’s 70,000 pages. ... I am in favor of a complete overhaul; my principle is that consumed income should be taxed one time at a low, single, flat rate. Now whether that’s at the point of after savings and investment income on a flat tax, or on the point of consumption which people talked about a fair tax, I think you need to repeal the 16th Amendment for that because I don’t think you want a sales and an income tax.
What are you willing to do to reform Medicaid and Medicare?
You should block-grant Medicaid to the states and allow governors and state legislatures the flexibility to experiment with ways to deal with the program. A lot of these programs tend to trap people in them and they tend to be on them for a long time. I think initially the design is to be more of a safety net so that if people fall into that, they can have that care. But then the expectation is that that’s not something they’re going to use as a way of life and they’re going to move on with it. We’ve not been successful I don’t think, since the ’60s, in getting people who use the programs to then go and be independent and standing on their own. I think it tends to create a culture of dependency. Now when those programs are administered closer to home, I think you’re in a much better situation to be able to structure them in a way that people are going to be able to get what they need and then hopefully stand on their own two feet.
For Medicare, as I said, I would not do any changes for people who are on Medicare or close to retirement. But for guys like me, we need to look at the structure of the program, look at how the finances are, and see what the obligations will be 40 years in the future. It simply cannot stand the way it is. ...
The biggest threat to Medicare for the people who are on it is Obamacare. ... Obamacare will hemorrhage money. It was said that it was going to reduce the deficit; it was going to cost $800 billion. Now those estimates have been revised, we’re looking at $1.75 trillion over 10 years and that to me is a floor, not a ceiling.