Jason Chaffetz is Utah’s Republican freshman congressman for the 3rd District. He was in town recently to address the Legislature on the passage of the Obama administration’s $787 billion stimulus package.
Many, including Paul Krugman, the 2008 Nobel Prize-winning columnist for The New York Times, have said that a stimulus bill that beefs up infrastructure could jumpstart the economy. Tell us why you have opposed the stimulus? The stimulus bill that passed is not an injection of capital into infrastructure and transportation. Only 3.4 percent of the trillion dollars is allocated to that type of funding.
Where is the rest of the money going? A lot of it goes to education and health care, and a lot of it goes to special projects, like $650 million for coupons to convert to digital TV—that’s not gonna grow jobs. There’s $191 million restitution to certain Filipino-Americans for atrocities during World War II—maybe it’s its own worthwhile project, but it’s not going to grow jobs—and this was presented as a jobs bill.
It’s early still, but has the new administration been “change you can believe in”? I’ve had a chance to meet [Obama], and personally, I like him. He’s very endearing and engaging. And it’s obviously much too early to draw sweeping conclusions. But having been in Congress five weeks, it’s just been a bowlful of disappointment. Because the process has not changed; in fact, it’s gotten worse. The administration vowed to the American people that they were going to change the way they did business in Washington, D.C., but we passed the single largest spending bill in the history of the United States, and nobody read that bill. You physically could not get through the 1,400 pages in 12 hours, when it was released at midnight.
He’s hired lobbyists where he promised he wouldn’t, that we would have exposure of 48 hours for every bill before it’s voted on—that hasn’t happened. He’s just not living up to the promises he’s made—that’s just the naked fact of it. I hope people get past their emotional tie to him and really look at the reality, because they should use the same standard they used on George Bush. If Bush and Rove had pulled these antics, Democrats would be screaming and rightfully so.
What would you have suggested in place of the stimulus? Well, when the house Republicans did meet with Barack Obama, he acknowledged that Republicans wanted to lower the corporate income tax. The Republicans, myself included, believe that more than anything, people need a job. You want to help solve the mortgage crisis? You want to help solve the credit challenge? Then, people need a job. So we need a game-changer in this world, and the president said he would be willing to work to lower the corporate income tax if we would work with him at getting rid of the loopholes. But if we would have gotten rid of the corporate income tax and got it down to zero, it would have been a fraction of the cost of the stimulus and everyone would have benefited including the City Weekly. So if you want to get rid of all the loopholes, get rid of the corporate income tax.
The Utah Legislature passed out a resolution urging the federal government to grant Utah a waiver allowing the state to sponsor temporary, guest-worker programs for undocumented immigrants already working in the state. Would you support such a measure? I’m very intrigued by that. We have got to create win-win scenarios, and I've always had at the top of my list that we have got to fix legal immigration, it’s always been my No. 1 point. Now, I reject amnesty, and we’ve got to work to enforce the laws that are on the books—but we have to prioritize fixing legal immigration.
So, would that include a guest-worker program? Oh, absolutely. We’ve had guest-worker programs in the past and they ought to be a part of our future.
So where on your points about immigration do the “tent cities” come in? I’ve never used that phrase. What I have said is the 600,000 people who are “fugitive aliens” need to be dealt with. These are the people who are not only here illegally but they’ve committed a crime. They went before a judge, were ordered to depart the country, and they didn't. It’s erroneous to suggest that I ever wanted to round everybody up. I’ve never said that.
You have parted ways in the past with your former boss, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., on certain issues. I was wondering what your take is on Huntsman’s recent show of support for gay and transgender legal protections and civil unions? The governor is his own guy and always will be, and so will I. I know that I happen to support our Constitution’s definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. I would not be supportive of creating another category name of something trying to be marriage. At the same time, I believe there should be room for reciprocal type beneficiary relationships that do not include, or are not based on, sexual preference. The personal example I use is my great aunt Louise. She has now passed away, but when she was older and her husband passed away, she lived with another woman. It had absolutely nothing to do with any sexual orientation; it was just the fact that they were two individuals who were mutually dependent. But I don’t see why we have to create special laws or carve-outs for [sexual preference] types of relationships. We can achieve the same goal either through contractual law or other means, and it is imperative for me to maintain the sanctity of traditional marriage.
Finally, you were at one time a placekicker for BYU—and yet you lost a leg-wrestling match with Stephen Colbert? What happened? He kicked my butt. I try to tell people that Stephen Colbert is freakishly strong, but people aren’t buying it. You know when I try to talk about the fact that I got 14 screws in my foot from a fall I took off a ladder, people aren't buying that, either. I don’t know, maybe too many cheeseburgers has something to do with it. He flat out beat me.