Louisiana Republican Rep. John Fleming told The Daily Caller that, ever since President Barack Obama’s re-election last Tuesday, he has been advising Americans to play it safe financially because he believes the economy — and the state of the country — may soon get much worse.
Fleming said he’s telling concerned constituents and business owners to “not extend yourselves in debt, make sure that you pay off things, don’t get into debt with credit cards, stay as liquid as possible. Don’t take risk, and don’t get into debt. You need to stay less vulnerable economically over the next two to four years, in hopes that the economy will sort itself out, and that Washington will get its act together.”
Fleming said he thinks the presidential election was hardly a mandate for Obama’s liberal policies, or a populist rejection of Republicans’ conservative ideals.
“I think always, when you have a candidate promising free stuff, and another promising less stuff or nothing, the one who promises more is always going to have the advantage,” he said. “The problem is that we’ve been doing that for about five decades, and it’s getting us into serious trouble.”
Ultimately, Fleming said he believes the rising national debt is analogous to “reaching into the next generation” and “taxing kids who aren’t even born yet,” and must be addressed. “That’s really what we’re dealing with,” he said, adding that if it isn’t fixed, it’ll “backfire on the American people.” (RELATED: Federal debt per household skyrockets in last three years)
After Obama’s re-election, Fleming said now it looks like “the American people chose to continue down that road, despite the fact that we have other countries ahead of us, like Greece, that are suffering massively.”
“It looks like we’re going to have to go through the same or similar pain [as Greece] to get real reforms,” Fleming said.
If America doesn’t band together to halt America’s fiscal woes, Fleming said, “what’s going to happen is there’s going to be a day of reckoning that gets into a serious situation where we have to make tough choices.”
“Both Republicans and Democrats are going to have to do that [turn the country around],” Fleming said. “What I fear is we’re going to be too late, and we’re going to run into a Greece-like situation,where we have riots and unemployment levels are up around 11 percent. That’s what we’ve been trying to avoid.”
Ultimately, Fleming said he thinks President Obama should be the one who compromises with House Republicans – not the other way around.
“I think that we should not compromise,” he said. “We need to hold to what’s important, because the real danger for this country is our debt and deficit and the impact it’s having on the economy. Just because the president was re-elected – and certainly many of the things that he believes in and wants to do, the private sector and economy doesn’t agree with that. We just had a number of companies announce layoffs as a result of Obama being re-elected. The stock market didn’t take the news very well. I’m getting calls already from private business owners telling me that they are pulling their fins in, they’re reducing their debt, and they’re just going to go on cash flow – they’re not going to grow or invest or hire.”
Fleming is upset with House Speaker John Boehner for promising via an interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer that the House GOP will seek a “comprehensive approach” to immigration reform in the wake of Tuesday’s election. (RELATED: Lawmaker rebukes Speaker of the House John Boehner for making promises to the media)
Fleming said he’s upset Boehner made such a promise without talking to House Republicans about it first. Obama raked in the Hispanic vote en masse over Mitt Romney and Republicans on Tuesday.
“There has been no discussion about comprehensive immigration reform – which is really, as we all know, a code for some degree or another, amnesty,” Fleming told TheDC. “There’s been no discussion in the last two years that I can recall – no discussion on that issue.”
“On amnesty and immigration, the kneejerk response here – and you even see it from some of the conservatives like Charles Krauthammer – is to say ‘look, we need to start pandering to those people,’” Fleming said. “The problem with doing that is we’ll never be able to compete with Democrats when it comes to offering things up. Many things that have happened since [Richard] Nixon [was president] have been to help certain groups, and then they came back and voted in Democrats. We’ll never win that race pandering to specific groups.”
“On the other hand, if you really look at the data, and I’ve been looking at it this morning, what you really see is Hispanics and Latinos, just like all other groups in this country, both immigrant and otherwise, if they’re lower-skilled or no-skilled, they build local economies based on certain government programs, such as Section 8 Housing, the SNAP program or food stamps, and so forth,” Fleming continued.
“Then, they often try to go and parlay that with additional work – it may be black market work, it may be non-taxed. That’s the way they work their opportunities. The problem with that is we see less tax revenue and less stable employment and we see more people on the safety net system. That’s part of our problem. We’ve got a bigger and bigger cost coming down the pike. This year, we had over a trillion dollars just in means-tested welfare programs.”
“If we approach immigration from the idea that ‘we’re going to talk amnesty first, and control the borders later,’ then we’re just going to continue to have the same problems we’ve had for six decades,” Fleming added. “So we think – and actually the data show that immigrants also believe this – that we should control our borders first before we talk about amnesty. I don’t think trying to do more in the way of giving things to people – we’ll never compete in that way, people will always default to the Democratic Party when it comes to those things.”
Fleming said he thinks the right way for conservatives and Republicans to attract Hispanics is to hit them with the right message they sell to all Americans: economic freedom and principle of limited government. (RELATED: House speaker denies that Republicans are divided, says ‘we don’t have a tea party caucus’)
“I do think we should be messaging to our Latino and Hispanic friends, saying that ‘what we really need to do is build the economy,’ and that way they’ll be taxpayers, rather than using the safety net system,” he said. “And, that applies to all groups – not just Latinos. I think that, both legally and illegally, immigrants come here for opportunity.”
“Somehow, we’ve got to reach out to folks and communicate to them that if we continue this – and it won’t be very long now, with the direction we’re going – then those opportunities are going to evaporate,” Fleming added. “How are we going to provide the safety nets for people, for the disabled? You just can’t keep doing this forever. I think what’s going to change this is not the Republican Party saying, ‘Okay, we’re going to get on the pandering bandwagon, and we’re going to start promising things, too.’”
Fleming said he expects more conservatives in the House like himself to sway Boehner and push the House to the right next year. He doesn’t, however, think Boehner is any danger of losing his job in the 113th Congress.
“I don’t think that Speaker Boehner is in danger of losing his speakership. I think he has strong support, and I plan to support Speaker Boehner,” Fleming said. “The thing you need to understand about Speaker Boehner is he’s kind of a numbers person – he’s sort of a bean counter. He’s less ideological than I am, and maybe even some others in leadership. So, he’s got to where the 218 votes are. That’s what leads me to speak out – to let him know that we didn’t read this election as any kind of mandate to increase taxes or to grant amnesty to illegal aliens. We didn’t read it that way at all.”
“I do think he [Boehner] is under immense pressure,” Fleming added. “Even the conservative Charles Krauthammer came out and said we need to rethink amnesty, and I wouldn’t think that’s a total misinterpretation of the lopsided victory that Obama had with Hispanics.”
While Obama is entering a second term, Fleming added that he thinks the House GOP is in a unique position with more leverage than it’s had for the past two years.
“The reason I think that is that I believe a decision was made by Democrats when we took the House that they were going to ice government – they were going to keep things status quo, get nothing done, so that we would look feckless and unable to get anything done as Republicans.”
If that worked, Fleming said, “we would have been blamed, and the American people would have put Democrats back in charge, and they’d get Nancy Pelosi back in as speaker so the president could have two more years of control of Congress. I think that that didn’t work – obviously it didn’t work, though not for their trying. They gained probably around 10 seats, and they spent more money than we did at the end of the day.”