Meet the candidate: Exclusive interview with Rick Becker
With the North Dakota GOP Convention underway, Rick Becker sat down for an exclusive interview with The Dickinson Press to share more about his positions and what direction he would like to take the country.
DICKINSON — Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, has been a prominent and sometimes controversial voice in North Dakota politics since he took his seat at the Legislative Assembly in 2013. More recently, he has shaken up the political landscape by running against incumbent U.S. Sen. John Hoeven in the Republican primary.
With the North Dakota GOP Convention underway, Becker sat down for an exclusive interview with The Dickinson Press to share more about his positions and what direction he would like to take the country.
Becker emphasized that he would like to see all paper ballots in the voting process, less promotion of mail-in ballots and a more narrow window for early voting.
“If we're on paper, regardless of whether it's done in person or not, then we’ve eliminated the technological possibilities of fraud. It's very straightforward. Fill in the circle, someone counts it and that’s it,” Becker said. “The way to eliminate any concerns about fraud is paper ballots. Eliminate things like ballot harvesting, drop boxes and mass mail-ins. You just go in, you vote, maybe you get a week at the most. And if you're outside of that it's because of a special circumstance where you requested an absentee ballot.”
'Profligate spending and the national debt'
Reforming the three major federal entitlement programs, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security has often been called the third rail of American politics, because any attempts at reform are met with fierce backlash. In 2005, President George W. Bush offered a modest proposal to reform Social Security and make it fiscally stable for the long-term. It was shot down in flames by Congress. Becker seeks to pick that torch back up.
“If we're going to have a program in which there's Social Security in old age, at the very least it should be something that's like a 401(k) where it's invested in this type of scenario and it's not spent, it’s actually there,” he said. “Congress shouldn’t be able to take it, leave an IOU and go spend it on something else. So that becomes a Ponzi scheme."
Yet, Becker believes that absent significant reform, the deficits being driven by these programs will crush future generations under a mountain of profligately attained national debt.
“The thing is you don’t want to rely on future generations to have to pay up the difference,” he said.
Becker went on to describe a “real fiscal cliff," not the one hyped by some media outlets during budget conflicts between former President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner 10 years ago, but a genuine point of no return in which future generations would be so mired in government debt they will have no hope of enjoying the magnificent living standards of modern America. When asked how soon he thinks that will come, Becker said we’re getting closer to the edge.
“Well, it’s going to get a lot shorter within the next year because when they (the Federal Reserve) raise interest rates by 2%, which they're planning on doing, with four 0.5% raises coming up within the year. This means that, from my understanding, we are now spending $600 billion more on interest than we used to be. So we're going to keep shoving more taxpayer dollars to pay for interest on our debt,” he said. “That's just the interest, it’s not paying down the debt, which means we're just falling incredibly deeper into that hole.”
At a certain point, it turns into an impossible situation, he said, such that any mitigation will be economically harmful.
“It's really something, isn't it? Because it’s the big spending we have to correct. And the Federal Reserve in attempting to correct it is increasing interest rates, which is going to hasten our demise,” he said.
It’s not time to give up hope on the nation’s future just yet, he said, adding that if a president and enough members of Congress can be convinced of the severity of the problem there may be time to reverse course. He emphasized that his solution of a small but across the board spending cut will require sacrifices.
“We start attacking the debt, and there's that penny plan. Now, I think it's a three-penny plan where you decrease by 2 or 3%, the amount you spent the year before. And it doesn't take that long and then the debt's gone. So there's a way to do it. It's just a matter of whether people want to save America,” he said. “You have people who say, ‘No, I want to save America but I don't want my life to be any different than it is now.’ Okay, so then you don't want to save America.”
He’s also an advocate of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
“To me, that’s a no-brainer. The only time you’re justified to have a budget that’s not balanced is when you have a surplus,” he said.
He also pointed out that some members of Congress seem fixated on performative stunts and making bellicose statements for fundraising and media attention.
“So you've got like AOC, Ilhan Omar and their approach, their tactics. Then you've got (Lauren) Boebert and (Marjorie) Taylor-Green. Each one is focused on red meat for their constituency… Not to take away from any of them,” he said. “That's a little bit different from my approach. My approach is about principles and specific policies, and just not being so pusillanimous.”
Becker pointed to libertarian leaning Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, as a potential colleague who most closely shares his worldview and approach to politics.
'Stop interfering with other countries'
Becker believes Russia deserves to be sanctioned, but also said the United States may have broken promises that it would not attempt to expand NATO eastward.
“It certainly seems that Russian is an aggressor and sanctions need to be had. On the other hand, some of the sanctions that we’re imposing on Russia are making it more likely that they're going to default on their obligations, in which case they are more likely to abandon the U.S. dollar as the petrodollar,” he said. “My point is we have to stop interfering in these other countries, propping up dummy democratic type regimes and getting ourselves in trouble. We did it all through the 80s in Central America. Then we did it in the 90s and 2000s in Afghanistan and the Middle East, then in the 2010s somewhat in Ukraine. I mean, we were involved in all of that.”
Additionally, the federal government lied about coronavirus and major news outlets regurgitated it, he said, adding that he’s skeptical of what to believe on this matter as well.
“What I learned over the last two years with COVID is I can't trust anything that comes out of the news,” he said. “Suddenly, I'm supposed to take at face value everything they say. I don't know; I don't trust them. So it's very hard for me to compassionately come down on a ‘this is what we need to do.’ Because I'm not sure I'm being fed the right story.”
On a broader scale, he doesn’t want America involved in conflicts that have no bearing on our own national security. This would be a return to the prudent foreign policy that George Washington envisioned for the country, he said.
“I'm just so tired of the U.S. using taxpayer money to interfere with other nations and then causing the loss of life by sending young men and women overseas to fight these battles where the politicians don't even have the spine to declare war. Well if it's not enough to declare war then it's not enough to have our young men and women get killed. Let's agree on that,” Becker said.
On energy policy, Becker said his opponent provides an example of the typical cycle that follows from too much government intervention.
“John Hoeven was crazy about ethanol subsidies as governor. And then as a U.S. Senator he was crazy about wind subsidies. Well all of this propping up ethanol, wind and solar really hurt coal and fossil fossil fuels in general, but especially coal,” Becker said. “So now, Hoeven is in favor of subsidizing coal… People who don't know better use government to solve problems that government created, instead of just not doing it in the first place.”
He clarified that he’s not against alternative energy sources, but he doesn’t want to see them artificially propped up by government.
“If and when there comes a time in which green energy, whatever it might be, is a commercially viable alternative it will become one. Until then we shouldn't be throwing taxpayer money at it. And that's the way it is with any of these things,” he said. “Generally I’d stop subsidizing all this green garbage, reopen the pipelines and have energy independence. We will eventually get off fossil fuels but that will come about with natural market forces.”
'Finish that wall'
On immigration, Becker said he shares the late economist Milton Friedman’s view that lax immigration policies are incompatible with America’s welfare state.
“It's very interesting because on one hand, I have a belief that if you didn't have a welfare, redistributive society, if it was truly a capitalist society, you could have in effect open borders. Because the only people that are going to come are the ones who used to,” he said. “They'd be coming for the opportunity, because if they work their butts off they may be able to provide a good future for themselves and an even better future for their children.”
In that situation, he said would still enforce policies to prevent terrorists and drugs from coming across the border.
“Anybody who believes in capitalism, America, Western culture, Western civilization, come on man, we're happy to have you,” Becker said. “To be able to do that, we need to have a controlled border. To have a controlled border I'm not sure that there's really a better way to do it then to finish that wall.”