Rep. Duncan D. Hunter told a packed room Monday morning that small businesses “literally should be paying no taxes.”
His 25-minute talk came at a small-business seminar at the La Mesa Community Center sponsored by the state Board of Equalization, the agency that collects state sales and use taxes.
Speaking before 250 small-business owners and those interested in starting a business, the 52nd District Republican said: “If you’re making a product in the United States, you should be tax-free. Period.”
After the expo, he told La Mesa Patch that “there is legislation out there, and I’m on it” to make his vision happen.
Joe Kasper, Hunter’s spokesman in Washington, promised Monday night to provide details on the bill Tuesday but said “the concept of zeroing taxes for manufacturers is nothing new. The idea is to restore manufacturing and establish a foundation that encourages production. The tax code now discourages domestic production—as evidenced by the record number of businesses going overseas or buying foreign-made products.”
Hunter echoed that theme Monday when he said that America will never escape its current economic troubles, not even in “the next 20, 30 or 50 years,” unless Americans buy U.S.-made products.
He used the example of a $6 Chinese-made Walmart hammer and a $10 U.S.-made hammer.
“The American hammer is $4 more, but guess what?” he said. “Your neighbor is employed by that hammer company. … Until that connection is made, we’re screwed. We’re out of luck.”
After noting that big corporations like Qualcomm have “thousands of lawyers and accountants,” who know every angle for avoiding taxes and ways “to keep the U.S. government off their back,” Hunter said: “My feeling is this: Become a corporation.”
But he advised the audience: “Don’t become a California corporation. Become a Nevada corporation or something [else because you’ll] be able to get out of a lot of things that the state and federal government do to us.”
Hunter also called for deregulation. But he drew a distinction between loose rules for Wall Street—“which allowed guys to make $40 million bonuses, and take your money [via] scams and walk away scot-free”—and rules for Main Street.
He said that until recently—when President Barack Obama had the EPA “roll back” the rule—companies could be fined $5,000 a day for spilling milk on a factory floor, “since spilled milk is considered an oil spill.”
“There’s no way you can keep up with all the rules and regulations that the city, the state, and the federal government put upon you by doing one of these seminars a year,” he said. “It’s impossible.”
He said his “growth agenda” for the economy involved evening the playing field and “deregulating from the bottom up.”
He also said government-built infrastructure projects, like those urged by Obama, won’t work either.
Having described how it once took 1,000 people to build a 5-mile stretch of road and now it took 50 because of heavy machinery and automation, Hunter said: “Even if you build a million miles of freeway tomorrow, you’re not going to hire the same number of people you used to hire.”
He said America can “fix every bridge, [but] it ain’t going to do it. And there’s not enough money to do it anyway. You gotta grow.”
In an apparent nod to anti-corporate sentiment, Hunter said the most recent fiscal quarter saw “the highest corporate profits since 1950 for American corporations.”
He noted the “big disparity” between high profits and high unemployment—“between the big guys and everybody else who is out there trying to work”—but said corporations tell him this is a result of companies being able to lay off workers while retaining productivity of the remainder.
So Hunter said reducing regulation—and ending taxes—would help small business compete with big corporations.
The five-hour seminar was set up by Michelle Steel, the elected vice chair of the Board of Equalization’s third district, which covers 8 million Southern Californians.
She wasn’t present, but her chief deputy, Louis Barnett, spoke on her behalf, calling her an “elected taxpayer advocate.”
“If the state of California requires you to follow the law and pay the taxes you’re obligated to collect and pay, then Michelle feels that it’s incumbent upon the state Board of Equalization to let you know what the law is and how you can comply with it,” Barnett told the group.
Arie Dana, a spokesman for the board, said 372 people had registered for the seminar as of Friday.
Among those present was David Secor, who parked his 1962 Volvo with “Man vs. Machine” sign on Memorial Drive below the community center. Secor is a Democrat planning to enter the new 50th Congressional District race against Hunter in 2012.
Secor said he introduced himself to Hunter before the event, urging the congressman to take part in a series of Town Hall meetings next year. Secor said Hunter told him: “I look forward to it.”
After Hunter, about nine speakers followed until closing at 2 p.m. Agencies staffing tables and making remarks included the Franchise Tax Board, IRS, state Employment Development Department, Small Business Administration and the county.
Hunter offered his office’s services as well, saying he can help navigate federal agencies and get people SBA loans. He twice gave his El Cajon office number: 619-448-5201.
“I hope that my office is flooded with questions and phone calls over the next week on anything you want to ask,” he said.