Jim Jenkins, an independent candidate for U.S. Senate, wants the American people to embrace the "sensible center" of politics so the country can move forward on the important issues.
Jenkins, a self proclaimed small businessman residing in Custer County, decided to run for the senate, because he believes that both the republic and democratic party are simply not serving their constituents in an effective manner.
"I've just decided that neither party is really governing, the system is broken. I've been involved in the Nebraska Restaurant Association. I've been involved in the Ethanol Board. I've been involved in a lot of political-type business activities. I know our congressional delegation pretty well. I'm on a first name basis with most of them.When you look at the fact that the can has been kicked down the road on almost every major issue whether it's tax reform, immigration, the deficit...you name it. We're very divided right now," Jenkins said.
Jenkins also argues that the way that the current system is set up not only inherently protects incumbents, but also serves to quell new ideas and perspectives.
"I also really see that there's a lack of competition and new ideas, fresh perspectives in the political system. We have 80 some percent of our congressional district, according to the Cook Political Report, that are not competitive. Incumbents have rigged the system so that, because of election laws, because of the way they raise money, makes it very difficult to run even as a democrat or republican against incumbents," Jenkins said.
Jenkins believes that we need different representatives in congress that do not play it safe during election years and will truly try to move conversations forward.
"I'm a guy that believes that we need risk takers. We need people sticking their neck out. I don't care whether you're running for the local school board or the state legislature or the U.S. Congress. We need people to have a choice, and political competition is a good thing."
However, the long road on the path to congress has not been an easy one for Jenkins. In order to officially be put on the ballot as an independent, Jenkins will have to collect more than 4,000 signatures. Jenkins has also seen some adversity in seeking for his candidacy to be deemed legitimate, being denied a spot on a U.S. Senate candidates forum hosted in Omaha by the National Federation of Independent Business back in April.
"The parties don't want competition. Senator Al Davis put a bill before the legislature that would have allowed independents to at least pick up a democratic ballot or a republican ballot in the primary, and that never even got out of committee. So, five republicans blocked that. They didn't even allow it to go on the floor to debate. You wonder what people are afraid of, and I know what they're afraid of. They want to keep this sort of a two party duopoly. They want to control the elections," Jenkins said. "It's all just a classic case of elites trying to keep new ideas and fresh perspectives from having any power. And yet, ten states have more independents than they have either democrats or republicans."
Jenkins points out that not only are democrats and republicans minimizing the role of independents, but they have taken such strong stances and are so unwilling to accept bipartisanship of any kind that it is coming at a great cost to the American people.
Jenkins states that a classic example of this is the current issues of the national budget and reforming the tax code, citing the efforts of leaders on both sides of the spectrum to simply block conversations on bipartisan efforts on the issues.
"Harry Reid in the Senate won't even allow the budget to be debated. Now, there's not too many things more important than a budget for a city, for a state. He won't even let it be debated, because it might impact negatively democrats running for the U.S. Senate. Over in the house, John Boehner of course will not allow his House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp to bring forth a tax reform package that Camp has worked on with Senator Max Baucus. They've worked on it for two years," Jenkins said.
Jenkins believes that the parties should put aside their differences and start earnestly trying to work together to fix the current tax code and ease the burden on their constituents.
"The fact is you had a bipartisan tax reform project and we all know the tax code is tremendously burdensome, convoluted and difficult to deal with as a citizen or as a business person. There should be bipartisan support to modernize and streamline and simplify the tax code, but, because it's an election year, they're going to put the party ahead of the people. And so I decided to run a campaign that would call the parties to account," Jenkins said.
Jenkins believes that in order to reform the current tax code congress needs to eliminate credits, deductions, and exclusions that contribute to the $1.1 trillion in tax expenditures.
"You've got to get rid of them. I'm not naive enough to believe you can get rid of home mortgage deductions or charitable deductions. But go back to what Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill did 25 years ago, that was the last time we had tax reform and what those guys did was they got rid of a lot of the loopholes. They simplified it. And by getting rid of the loopholes, if you cut the loopholes from $1.1 trillion down to say $600 billion or something, you end up being able to lower everybody's rates or maybe you take some of that and apply it to the deficit and some of it to lower rates and you get a much simpler system," Jenkins said.
Jenkins also believes that the breaks given to businessmen and women should be re-evaluated, stating that congress needs to stop giving them "every goody know under the sun".
"Right now, we go out and I can write off up to $500,000 in one year accelerated depreciation. Now, that was fine after we had the great recession to sort of get the economy moving. But now that we have it nobody wants to give it up. So, at some point, the business interests are going to have to give up some of their loopholes and allow us to lower the rates on behalf of everyone," Jenkins said.
Not only is Jenkins critical of the current treatment of tax reform, but he is also critical of the republicans', including his opponent Ben Sasse's, approach to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare.
"My point and my position is that sooner or later, when we're done with all this rhetoric and posturing, the two parties are going to have to sit down and negotiate something, because it isn't going to go away. You're not going to repeal it, because you're not going to get 67 votes. So when Ben Sasse runs a campaign about repealing, he's being disingenuous at the very least, because nobody believes it's going to be repealed. Even the industry officials that don't like it think that it would be a bad idea to repeal it, because you would now have to start over, and you would have all this uncertainty," Jenkins said.
Instead of trying to repeal the ACA, Jenkins states that members on both sides of the aisles should try to work together to fix the problems with it and make it better for the American people.
"The problem is we can't even get into a conversation [about it]. If you can't get into a discussion and then debate, you're not going to solve anything. So the first thing we have to do is say, 'You know what? That bill has been passed for better or worse. It's the law. Now, what are we going to do from here?' Repealing it is not going to be an option," Jenkins said.
If elected, Jenkins states that his primary issue would be tackling the current deficit faced by the nation.
"I think the deficit threatens to undermine our economy, our security. We're going to quickly within the next five or six years tip over into a situation where we have a lot more people, baby boomers like myself, drawing on [Medicare and Medicaid]. Right now, the fastest growing part of our whole debt is interest. I just met with the Concord Coalition, which is a bipartisan policy budget group, and they have charts that show clearly that our interest expense even at this low interest rate environment is absolutely every year eating up a bigger percentage," Jenkins said.
However, Jenkins states that none of the issues will be resolved unless the rules of congress and election laws are changed.
"The Founding Fathers didn't have filibusters. They didn't have holds. They didn't engage in all sorts of legislative shenanigans. They had big debates, those debates between Jefferson and Hamilton, Washington and Madison, I mean back and forth about how big the government should be, the central government, whether we should have a bank, slavery... all of the issues were debated, and they were very contentious. But, unlike our Congress, those guys actually did an up or down vote much like you'd do on a town council here," Jenkins said. "We've gotten so far away from that and until the American people understand that they need to demand that Congress change the election laws, change the fundraising rules and change the rules of Congress, you can elect republicans and democrats and whomever and they will just go forward and get nothing done, because we've incentivized partisanship. We've made it so that it's better to be partisan than to govern the country."
It is for that reason that Jenkins main focus is to fight to change the current processes of the Senate and the partisan tendencies that are plaguing the U.S. Congress.
"What we're trying to do here is force a paradigm shift on the political system, and you can only do that if you start having options for voters such as me. Too often you have independent candidates that are one issue candidates all across the country. They're running on a very narrow platform. They're typically not all that credible in terms of their business experience and their resumes. I'm trying to run a straight up campaign as an unabashed centrist, as a guy that believes, at the end of the day, everything happens in the middle of the political spectrum," Jenkins said.
He believes that, once things stop happening in the middle of political spectrum, or as he calls it the "sensible center", the country will be in trouble.
"We Americans think, 'Yeah, we're America. We'll be fine.' I'm not going to push the alarm button, but sooner or later, we won't be fine. If we won't address health care and the debt we're not going to be fine, and that's all there is to it. History shows that countries that do not work together from a governmental perspective are not going to succeed," Jenkins said.
Though Jenkins concedes that both of his opponents, republican candidate Ben Sasse and democrat Dave Domina, are successful in their areas of focus, they do not have enough experience with the broader range of issues that need to be addressed in the senate. Jenkins believes that it is his diverse background in business, agriculture and his time serving as chairman of the Ethanol Board and Custer County Planning Commission give him a better, more in-depth understanding of the issues that the people of Nebraska face.
"Each of them brings their own talents to the race which is a great thing, and at the end of the day, I understand people are going to have to look at me. You're not going to be surprised to hear me say that my resume, when you look at it in its totality, is every bit as good or better as the other two guys in the race and for different reasons, we all bring different skills to the table, I just happen to have more in-depth experience across Nebraska than they do," Jenkins said.
Those interested in finding out more information about Jim Jenkins can do so by visiting his website at http://www.jenkinsforussenate.com.