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My guest today on Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy is someone that has been in the news a lot lately: Congressman French Hill of the US House of Representatives. The first time I had the pleasure of interviewing Congressman Hill was in 2016, when he graciously accepted my invitation to appear on my radio show. French, as I have come to call him, was only my 6th interview.
It happened one day when the Congressman was in my store at Flagandbanner.com, buying his annual US and POW replacement flags. I saw him at the checkout counter and nervously asked this very busy man if he would consider joining me on the radio. When he agreed, I thought I had hit the big time.
Mr. Hill is well known for his success at founding and chairing Delta Trust & Bank in 1999. Many of us, myself included, think his political career began when he ran for Arkansas’s 2nd congressional seat in 2015. But in truth, French was a senior policy advisor to President George H.W. Bush, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, and senior advisor to Governor Mike Huckabee and has worked on momentous economic policies between the US and Japan, called the Structural Impediments Initiative, and with Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Today, Congressman Hill is in a tight race with Arkansas Senator Joyce Elliot. Listen to hear more than a sound bite from Congressman French Hill. And if you want to get some back history on how and why he founded Delta Trust and Bank, his opinion of international free trade (which he is in favor of), why he thinks minimum wage should be handled state by state, and his favorable opinion of specialized trade schools, check out his past interview. It is fun!
Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com
[00:00:09] G: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Through storytelling and conversational interviews, this weekly radio show and podcast offers listeners an insider’s view into the commonalities of successful people and the ups and downs of risk-taking.
Now, it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[00:00:28] KM: Thank you, son Gray. My guest today is someone that has been in the news a lot lately. US House of Representative, Congressman French Hill. Mr. Hill is well known for his success at founding and chairing Delta Trust and Bank in 1999. As a young man, French attended Vanderbilt University graduating magna cum laude with a degree in economics. His intellect, business experience and professional leadership have been sought by multiple US presidents.
Though he only began running for an elected office in 2015, he has been serving his country since the late 80s. French was a senior policy advisor to President George H.W. Bush, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Senior Advisor to Governor Mike Huckabee. He has worked on momentous economic policies between the US and Japan and Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. French’s website boasts he is a Little Rock businessman and job creator.
For the past 20 years, he has been working, investing and creating jobs in Central Arkansas across all kinds of industries. Oh, and did I mention, French, who was named for his grandmother is a ninth generation Arkansan, who came by horseback, I guess, or boat, down the Arkansas River to the Arkansas Post in the late 1700s. It is my great pleasure to welcome to the table the smart, civic-minded, businessman and entrepreneur, Congressman French Hill.
[00:01:59] FH: Great to be back with you, Kerry. Awesome.
[00:02:03] KM: Thank you, French. You and I are friends. You're a great customer of Flag and Banner. That's how we became friends. You have been patronizing Flag and Banner from, I don't even know how long you fly the American flag and the POW. Is that right?
[00:02:18] FH: Yup.
[00:02:18] KM: Do I remember that right? Are you military?
[00:02:21] FH: I’m not. I’m the I’m the son and grandson of fabulous veterans, but I did not serve.
[00:02:28] KM: I also want to say, this is the second time you've been on the radio.
[00:02:32] FH: We had a great visit and we determined it was four years ago. Gosh, time flies and it's amazing. When I think of all the changes in our lives in four years, it's amazing. I have to start by congratulating you on customer service and a great job, but also, what you've done for Taborian Hall and the progress you've made. So exciting to historic preservation. I love the company and our bank bought our flags from Flag and Banner. That's been fun. To me, seriously, when I think of you, I think about perseverance, read the earliest days of your story when I mean, right?
[00:03:11] KM: $400. 40 years ago on $400. Recently, you mentioned it a little bit, preservation. I never think that politicians really are ever there for me, because I’m not political. I’m not politically connected. I think, probably most Americans think, politicians are just a little bit out of our reach and they don't think they're ever there. Your office when I was writing a grant for the Taborian Hall, or really for the Dreamland Ballroom, which is on the top of the Taborian Hall building, which is Arkansas Flag and Banner's home, I was writing a grant for the civil rights grant from the National Park Service and I needed a letter of recommendation. I called my congressman and your office wrote, not once but twice for me, two letters. I thought, this is what politicians are supposed to do.
[00:04:06] FH: Yeah. I mean, being a political official, so a politician is somebody who runs for office and if they win, they become a public official. What is the role of a public official? It's stewardship. You temporarily have custodial care of whatever your mission is. For me, it's serving the people of Central Arkansas, for the roughly 800,000 constituents I have in seven counties. If you're on the city council, it's the city council. If you're the mayor, it's the whole city of Little Rock.
This stewardship notion means that we listen to our constituents about how do we improve the community we're in and we get that from business people, hospital people, entrepreneurs, people with a historic building that need it restored. The civil rights story in a lot of cities in the south was destroyed by Lyndon Johnson's great society programs, because one of those issues was urban renewal. So many things in our nation were disrupted by that, including the building of my predecessor, Wilbur Mills freeway through the Center of Little Rock. A lot of the business relocation and housing relocation that went with urban renewal. We lost that vibrancy of what was 9th street's business district, which was the heart of the African-American community when I was a kid in the 60s. It was a buzzing bee location really. You remember that well.
Taborian Hall and the Dreamland Ballroom is one of the last iconic original buildings. We lost mosaic templars to the tragic fire. My hat's off to the state for rebuilding it and it's a stunning museum. To lose the original building was heartbreaking. What you're doing is super important.
[00:05:53] KM: Your office really has helped me. It really does make me go, “Oh, yeah. I’m part of the community. I’m part of the people that reaps the rewards of what our elected officials do.” I think you're well respected in Washington. I think that letter from you went a long ways.
Let's start at the beginning. You say on your website you're the 9th generation Arkansan. Tell us about your family. Did they come over? I guess, they came on a steamboat. How did they come? Canoes. They came by canoes.
[00:06:24] FH: My grandmother, my paternal grandmother's family came to Arkansas as French citizens. They were French colonists in Louisiana territory and they settled at Arkansas Post and her original relative, so my nine generation ago heir was a French army officer. He was here as the commandant of Arkansas Post, when the Louisiana territory was French.
Then the interesting thing about history is that as the Louisiana territory changed hands to Spanish, then back to French and then sold to the United States, the famous Louisiana purchase by President Jefferson. This man whose name was Joseph Del Valliere. That was his name.
[00:07:18] KM: Your great grandfather, or the guy that –
[00:07:20] FH: The 9th generation person.
[00:07:22] KM: Okay.
[00:07:23] FH: Yeah, my grandmother’s –
[00:07:23] KM: Great, great, great, great, great grandparents. I don't even count.
[00:07:25] FH: Yup. Rattle off that many greats. He served for both the French government and the Spanish government, without moving. It was one of those things where people just –
[00:07:36] KM: How do you change your allegiance like that, I wonder?
[00:07:38] FH: Yeah, they were ordered by the governor of Louisiana to do that. He came up the Arkansas River to Arkansas Post, up the Mississippi by boat. Right.
[00:07:50] KM: I had Kate asked you on. She owns Yellow Dog Press and she's a book collector. She came in and read me a letter from Haram Whittington on April of 1827. He had come from Boston. William Woodruff, who started the Arkansas, or the Arkansas Gazette back then had hired him to come from Boston down here and he writes a letter back to his brother. I’ve just got to read it, because it's –
[00:08:13] G: It is hilarious.
[00:08:15] KM: It is hilarious. He says to his brother. He writes, “In the afternoon of Sunday, on the sixth day of December, we arrived in Little Rock. Little Rock is situated on the south bank of the Arkansas. Contains about 60 buildings, six brick, eight frame, the balance log cabins. The best building in the place is the printer. It is built of brick and is as good as any office in Boston. Little Rock Academy is a log hut and the state house is a little low wooden building, about 10 feet by 16. The town has been settled about eight years and has improved slowly. The trees are not cut down in the town yet. Instead of streets, we walk in cow trails from one house to another.”
“The town, I believe the whole territory is inhabited by the dregs of Kentucky, Georgia and Louisiana, but principally, from the former and a more drunken good-for-nothing set of fellows never got together. The secretary of the territory and the judges at the Supreme Court drink whiskey out of the same cup with the lowest born and rolled together in the same gutter. There have been more than a dozen murders committed here, but the murder is always acquitted. The greatest drunkards filled the most responsible offices.”
Listen to this. He goes on to say, “Of the female part of the community, I have not much to say, as there are five grown girls in the township and they are all as ugly as sin and mean as the devil. It's a famous place for parties. I have been to three since I had been here, where they have a violin and dance all night. As they are not enough girls to form a sec, all the old women dance and then lie in bed the next day. The men get drunk and generally have a fight before they go home. Last Sunday, I saw two fringe ladies walking out, each with a young koon in their arms. They are used, instead of lap dogs.”
[00:10:08] FH: Pretty nice.
[00:10:10] KM: Have you never read that really?
[00:10:11] FH: I have not read that one, but I’m familiar with the Arkansas territory. I’m so glad that our citizens can relive that by visiting our historic Arkansas Museum.
[00:10:23] KM: Oh, wow. That's a good turnaround.
[00:10:26] FH: Which has I was proud to serve on that board of directors and lead the capital campaign to build our beautiful museum there back in the late 90s, early 2000s. There you can see William Woodruff's spectacular brick printing is there. It was built, a reconstruction from the plans. We thank the Natural Cultural Resources Council, NCRC in Arkansas for the funding to build that building. It is as fine as anything you'll see in 18th century, early 19th century Boston.
Then the state house, the log structure is still there, obviously. The Henderlighter Tavern, where people rolled to the gutter from on a regular basis. Anyway, we're blessed to have that historic block.
[00:11:13] KM: It says, the Indians sometimes bring deer and buffalo meat to town and try to sell it, but the folks are so intolerant that they seldom purchase any. They think there is nothing like a dead hog, ooh, pig zooey.
[00:11:26] FH: There you go. Go hogs.
[00:11:27] KM: Go hogs. Boy, they got a good – They're doing a great start this year, aren't they?
[00:11:31] FH: Unbelievable. I have been so excited to watch these kids and watch it and admire our coach for getting the best out of it.
[00:11:38] KM: Did you really want to be an oceanographer when you graduated from college?
[00:11:41] FH: No. I wanted to be an oceanographer when I was a sixth grader. Yeah, sixth and seventh grade. I was fascinated. My dad was so awesome and let me learn how to scuba dive when I was in sixth and seventh grade. I was interested in all things national geographic and ocean, built a submarine. I mean, I was fascinated by it. As I grew up, I loved the outdoors and I loved science. As I became a teenager, I found out that I really wanted to be in business.
[00:12:12] KM: Your dad was a banker.
[00:12:13] FH: He was an investment advisor. He helped people with their investments. When I was in high school I worked for him and learned about reading investment reports and investment research and annual reports when I was in high school, working –
[00:12:30] KM: Prospectus?
[00:12:31] FH: Prospectus. Prospecti. Really loved and admired the work he did to help people. I knew then I wanted to go into business. When I was in college during the summers, I worked for the old commercial bank as an analyst helping them out during the summers and Christmas holidays.
[00:12:46] KM: You've been in politics longer than I think most people realize. How did you get interested and what was your first gig?
[00:12:51] FH: Yeah. Another great question. When I was 12, 1968-ish, Governor Rockefeller was running for re-election. Winthrop Rockefeller, first republican governor since reconstruction. My across the street neighbor was Gertie and Dick Butler. Gertrude Rimmel Butler. She was Raleigh Rimmel's sister, married to Richard Butler. Richard Butler was a banker and a lawyer and they were like my additional grandparents. My grandparents lived on the same street. She asked me one day, “Hey, will you help me pass out leaflets for when Rockefeller for governor?”
I got on my bike and dropped door hangers for his re-election campaign back in ’68. That led me to as a middle schooler or a high schooler to study political things. I found out by doing that that I was a republican.
[00:13:45] KM: Because Rockefeller was a republican.
[00:13:47] FH: He was, but it was the philosophy of the party, which was small business, entrepreneurship, opportunity for all, equal justice under the law, party founded by Abraham Lincoln. It was about the small versus the large. It was about self-reliance, not the government solving every problem.
[00:14:05] KM: You believe in state management more than federal management.
[00:14:08] FH: I do. I’m a catholic. If you're a catholic, you're taught somewhere along the catechism line about subsidiarity, which is a catholic principle that problems are solved at the absolute lowest level and find their way up, not top-down. Of course, America is that way. I mean, if we want high quality policing in a town, we don't go to our senator or our congressman, we go to our city council and our mayor and talk, “God, we need better policing here.”
That concept of subsidiarity led me to really have confidence in states’ rights and that we ought to try to solve problems in our society at the lowest common denominator. The best place. Closest to the people would be another way to describe it.
[00:14:54] KM: I could never be a politician, because I don't ever vote a party line. I vote for people. How do politicians, because nobody can get everything right every time, no party can get everything right every time. How do you manage to align yourself with your party when you really don't feel like it sometimes?
[00:15:16] FH: Well, I in the six years I’ve served in the house, I mean, I’ve agreed with President Obama on things and voted with him and I voted against him on things. Likewise, I’ve served with President Obama the first two years I was in the house, his last two years in office. Then I’ve served with President Trump as the president for four years. Agree with some, disagree with others.
The key thing I say is when someone is proposing a policy idea in the house of representatives, I ask myself, is it in alignment with the constitution? Is this something the federal government should take on? Is it appropriate for that? Secondly, is it better than current law? Is this idea better than current law? Does this move the ball forward? Is this the constitution has a general welfare clause? Is it in the best interest of the general welfare of the country and our people? Those are my guiding filters.
In the case of President Obama, I was very opposed to the Iran nuclear treaty. It wasn't a treaty. It was an agreement. It wasn't a treaty. It didn't come to the senate. It was just an agreement he made without approval of the federal government; the legislative branch. I was very vocal about that. Some of his other trade things he proposed, I was very for some of those. Likewise with President Trump, his across-the-board steel and aluminum tariffs across all business categories of the United States, I don't support. I don't support him when he did them. I don't support them now. I write letters in opposition to them. I try to get exceptions, try to change it.
Other things he's tackled, like Middle East peace with the way he did for moving the embassy to Jerusalem, something that President Clinton approved of and proposed to do, but did not do, I thought was a good idea. I thought it would change the dynamic in the Middle East and also, backing out of the Iran deal.
No one gets it all right, I think. As business people, this is at the heart of challenges in congress. Business people who come to congress after a career, long or short, are very practical people. Because business people help people get to yes. You don't build a business by telling every customer, “Nope, those aren't our hours. Nope, you're not qualified. No, I can't sell that to you.” Business people get to yes.
[00:17:36] KM: You don't think there's enough business people?
[00:17:38] FH: In congress? No, I don't. In congress, I think you have a lot of former state legislators.
[00:17:45] KM: Lawyers.
[00:17:46] FH: A lot of lawyers, a lot of people who are very geared to party as an apparatus. They really are party-bound. I’ve tried to find those business people and we've gotten a lot of legislative accomplished by doing that.
[00:18:04] KM: What do you think's Trump's biggest strength and his biggest weakness?
[00:18:08] FH: Biggest strength is focus on a to-do list in foreign policy and domestic policy that he campaigned on, that he feels strongly about, and I think are generally in the mainstream of American political thought. What are those? Lower taxation, rather than higher taxation. Lower regulation, rather than more regulation. A sense that letting people keep more of their own and encourage business development. That's a pretty American philosophy. I’d say, over the years of America, a bipartisan.
On the foreign policy side, it's American leadership and yet, sharing the load between. World War II and the fall of the Berlin Wall in the 90s, when I worked for President Bush, the whole concept of Pax Americana was that America had the bulk of the economy in the world and that we were opening our markets and pulling people up. Then by the end of the 1990s, you had Europe on par with the United States in economic clout as an entity, you had Asia rising, the Asia tigers, particularly Hong Kong, Taiwan particularly, but Singapore had done amazing things since World War II.
My philosophy there is we were all onboard that. What trump has come in and said, “That's right. We're proud of that. We did it. But now we're not the largest economy only in the world. We have these other people with amazing economic success. They need to start sharing the economic burden in a more fair way.”
Just one quick example. NATO. NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It's the American alliance with Europe, to protect Europe from invasion, principally by either the Soviet Union before the Berlin Wall, or an aggressive Russia afterwards. That's the concept. It also has worked to protect Europe from the global war on terrorism. Islamic terrorists who might infiltrate into Europe. 28 or so countries of the United States has been the supreme allied commander there.
Jack Kennedy said in 1963, Europe is free-loading on the United States. They need to start paying more their way. That was 60 years ago. President Trump came into office, he saw that President Bush and President Obama had agreed that everybody would pay 2% of GDP, all NATO member countries will pay 2% of GDP into defense geared towards the Atlantic partnership. Only six did it.
President Trump said, “Well, where's everybody else?” He was criticized for that, like he's against NATO. That's what I’d say to listeners. Quit making things so black and white. President Trump is exactly where President Bush was and President Kennedy were about getting Europe to pay more of their way. Germany, the largest economy in Europe with a budget surplus, a trade surplus, no budget deficit, does not pay 2% of German GDP to protect NATO. Yet, they're one of the principal countries protected by NATO.
[00:21:31] KM: I don't know why people don't talk about that.
[00:21:33] FH: Because our society doesn't stick with it to have enough of a conversation.
[00:21:37] KM: To have a real conversation. I think that's one of the worst things about it.
[00:21:41] FH: Right. I think it has gotten worse. I know you and I are good friends. We can talk about. If America would have this conversation, instead of saying, oh –
[00:21:51] KM: He got out of NATO.
[00:21:52] FH: Right. Or he doesn't believe in NATO, or is against NATO. This is just not factually accurate.
[00:21:59] KM: That's his strength. What's his weakness?
[00:22:01] FH: Weakness is I think he talks too much and I think he tweets too much.
[00:22:05] KM: I know you were going to say that.
[00:22:06] FH: I think he gets off message. I think he has a lack of – If he's focused on that to-do list and I was clear about that and I think in domestic policy and foreign policy, he has a good working to-do list and he's accomplished a lot. In business, we'd stay focused on that. President Trump has a lot of entertainer in him and he just – I think he hurts himself by talking too much and not listening enough, in reference to your opening monologue.
[00:22:39] KM: Yeah. All right, this is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Congressman French Hill, who is running for his fourth term in a heated race against Ms. Joyce Elliott, to be the US Representative in Arkansas second congressional district. We’ll be back after the break.
[00:22:57] G: You're listening to Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Over 40 years ago with only $400, Kerry founded Arkansas Flag and Banner. During the last four decades, the business has grown and changed, along with Kerry's experience and leadership knowledge. In 1995, she embraced the Internet and rebranded her company as simply flagandbanner.com. Today in 2020, Kerry McCoy Enterprises acquired ourcornermarket.com, an online company specializing in American-made plaques, signage and memorials for over 20 years.
If you'd like to sponsor this show, or get involved with any of Kerry McCoy’s enterprises, send an e-mail to me, Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org. Telling American-made stories, selling American-made flags. The flagandbanner.com. Back to you, Kerry.
[00:23:52] KM: You're listening to Up In Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with Congressman French Hill, who is running for his fourth term in a tight race against Miss Joyce Elliott to be the US Representative in Arkansas's second congressional district.
French, nobody, or at least, I didn't realize that you'd been in politics for so long. Why did you decide to start running for office, instead of just working in the background? I mean, you worked on some pretty impressive international economic deals with Europe and Japan. Why did you think, “Well, I’m going to run for congress now?”
[00:24:29] FH: Well, when I was mid-career and had had so much fun in business with old first commercial, which is now region's financial here and then starting Delta Trust and running Delta Trust, I got to thinking at mid-career, I’d like to do something else in public policy. Yet, I was living in Little Rock. I wasn't living in Washington DC. Wasn't a 100% committed to living in Washington DC.
I thought, well, how can I re-engage on public policy? What would be the best way to re-engage in public policy? I thought, I think I’ll run for office. I was originally going to run for the state legislature. But about two weeks into that race, Tim Griffin suddenly, surprising everybody in Arkansas announced that he would not run for re-election to congress in 2014. I talked to my family, talked to my business colleagues and I pivoted. I dropped out of the state house race and ran for congress instead, because I wanted to take that business experience, that government experience working for President Bush and working for the senate staff briefly and roll that into one, thinking that would be a very good representative for Central Arkansas with that mix of experiences.
[00:25:47] KM: What is the Structural Impediments Initiative?
[00:25:52] FH: In the late 80s, the biggest trade rival to the United States in the 1980s was Japan. Japan had come from a ruin at the end of World War II very rapidly, with complete help from the United States to one of the most powerful economic countries in the world. By the 1980s, they were dominating automotive production, they were dominating semiconductor production, they were dominating certain kinds of steel and aluminum production. President Reagan was very concerned about that and he put tariffs on Japan and put voluntary restraints, where they would voluntarily reduce exports to the United States.
It feels a lot like the debate we have now about China, between the US and China. It's very similar, with one critical exception, Japan was an ally. The Structural Impediments Initiative was how can the US on a bilateral basis get Japan to open up their market, so we can sell more US material to Japan? The structural impediments, what is that? That's a buzzword. What does that mean? It means the non-tariff barriers that prevent America selling to Japan. What were they? You couldn't have a store larger than about 3,000 square feet. Walmart could not go to Japan. You could not sell skis in Japan, because they had a rule that said skis made in Europe or the United States would not work on Japanese snow. We were breaking down those trade barriers.
[00:27:29] KM: Japanese snow.
[00:27:30] FH: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, this is crazy. We were breaking down those barriers to trade that were not a tariff. They're not a price barrier. They were a regulatory.
[00:27:41] KM: Were these Japan’s – these are Japan’s regulations that were just these made-up crazy regulations.
[00:27:48] FH: Yes.
[00:27:49] KM: Okay. You got all those taken down?
[00:27:52] FH: We spent two years negotiating with them to take those down to increase opportunities for American business in Japan and we were successful.
[00:27:59] KM: What are we doing now with China?
[00:28:02] FH: China's story with the US is we are a friend to China, going back to the 1830s. We backed China in the opium wars with Great Britain. We gave them military advice.
[00:28:14] KM: What do you mean the opium wars with Great Britain?
[00:28:18] FH: China and the United Kingdom, the Great Britain fought a major conflict over the exporting of opium into China by British merchants who were taking tea and selling the tea in Europe. It was a major issue.
[00:28:33] KM: Illegally?
[00:28:34] FH: No. Well yes, from a Chinese point of view, yes, illegally against the emperor's wishes. Then we helped them with the open door, which was opening them up for trade to other countries in the late 19th century. Then of course, we sided with China against Japan during World War II in the 1930s, when Japan invaded China and murdered millions and millions of Chinese people.
[00:29:01] KM: When did we start going south with them?
[00:29:03] FH: Well, in 1949, the communists took over China and threw all free market people out and all Christians out and all other nations out of China and they closed their society really, until Richard Nixon reopened relations with China with his famous trip in 1972, orchestrated by Henry Kissinger. Why? Because we wanted a counter to Russia and the Soviet Union. We opened up relations with the People's Republic of China.
In 1984, President Reagan really opened the markets in China two way, in a big way trade and China opened up. Under Deng Xiaoping, we thought China over that next years would become a more open society and what I’m reporting to you is after the 80s, after the 90s and after the 2000s, the current premier, supreme leader in China, she has shut that down. He wants to be the number one country militarily, diplomatically, economically in the world and he wants to shut out the US from our traditional role that we've played in society. That's happened really since 2012.
President Trump is saying, “What we did was good. We tried. Now we have to recognize that China has changed. They're not going to become an open society. They're never going to become a democracy. Nobody proposed that they would, but they are building a military, building a navy. They are threatening their neighbors. They've taken property from Vietnam, from Taiwan, from the Philippines, from Japan, taking territory, trying to dominate the South China Sea.”
[00:30:49] KM: How is what we're doing going to change that?
[00:30:52] FH: Because we are uniting the world against China's leadership in this way.
[00:30:56] KM: Are we?
[00:30:57] FH: Yeah, we are.
[00:31:00] KM: I didn't know that the world was uniting against anything we did right now.
[00:31:03] FH: Well, what we've done is we've taken the brunt of this trade argument, but we're in alignment with Europe, with Japan, with Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines and Vietnam, about not allowing China to militarize the South China Sea, not allowing China's technology to dominate telecommunications networks in Japan and Europe. This is the Huawei debate. We have agreement on that with our trading partners and they are public.
Read what Prime Minister Abe has said on each of President Trump's visits to Japan, thanking him for standing up to what China is doing in the region. There's more diplomacy to start. This is just a very early beginning of trying to reset trade relations with China. American leadership, there is helping us reset trade relations in Europe and Japan as well. Secondly, China is becoming a neo-colonial power, impoverishing all of Africa and a lot of Asia with their financial techniques and we're fighting back against that. In my committee assignment I have, I lead that effort in the house to block China's predatory financial relationships in Africa and around the world.
[00:32:21] KM: I want to talk about what you're doing right now. Let me take a break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Congressman French Hill. Still to come, if elected, his plans for congress. We'll be back after the break.
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[00:33:23] KM: You're listening to Up In Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with Congressman French Hill.
[00:33:29] FH: We were talking about China and what my principal mission has been in recent months has been holding China account and getting my colleagues around the world to support that. China lends money to a country, like the Congo. The Congo agrees that they will pledge their oil and gas revenues to China for that loan and then China will come in and do some construction project. Then if China doesn't like the way that turns out, they'll take the oil and gas reserves.
China took the airport in Sri Lanka the same way. They do predatory lending to third-world countries and take their property, take their resources, non-print, non-transparent terms and China doesn't play by any of the rules. I call that neo-colonialism. They're going in there. They're taking over these countries and they're taking over the resources and they're taking over strategic locations, port facilities.
Right now, they're trying to get the main port in Montevideo, Uruguay, which would all the resources of South America come out the river there and they also can use that as a way to reach the Antarctic basin. You've seen this in Asia. You've seen it in Southeast Asia, India. You've seen it in Africa with what they've done in Djibouti.
What we're trying to do is get all of our colleagues, like the United Kingdom, France, other members of the world community to hold China account. Not let them make these non-transparent loans. We have directed. Bipartisan passed the house almost unanimously. Democrats agree with me that they should not be allowed to get IMF money, or World Bank money if that's how they're going to treat of these impoverished third-world countries. There are many nuances on that. That's why I say, this is an all-government process to make China play by the rules.
[00:35:22] KM: If you've got ways of measuring it, do you think you're doing a fine job?
[00:35:26] FH: We're just starting on that. We are as we get additional support around the world, I have many African countries working with me on this to demand transparency from China's loans in their own countries and also, when they approach the IMF and the World Bank.
[00:35:43] KM: When President Trump took office, everybody acted like North Korea was going to be the big concern. I don't hardly hear anything about North Korea anymore.
[00:35:51] FH: Well, President Obama, as President Trump frequently reminds people, told him that the biggest challenge that he was inheriting was North Korea.
[00:36:00] KM: It seems like that was in the news all the time.
[00:36:02] FH: That's why President Trump decided to do something different in North Korea. We had had a policy in North Korea since about 1995, that the Clinton administration put in place. Bill Clinton gave the North Koreans with the congress and other countries about 5 billion dollars. They made a promise they would not develop nuclear weapons. Of course, they took the 5 billion and went on and developed nuclear weapons.
In the Bush Administration, George W. Bush, he was preoccupied by challenges in the Middle East. President Obama didn't really have a new approach to North Korea. When President Trump took office he said, “Let's try something different. Let's try to go to them and engage them to see if we can find out what's really going on with them, what their objectives are, because we have no information about North Korea.” That was condemned by the opposition.
He had these meetings. Since he's had these meetings, they have not tried a major nuclear test and they haven't flown a major intercontinental ballistic missile. They've reduced their escalation. We got a 15-0 vote in the United Nations. President Trump did. Nikki Haley being the ambassador at the time, to sanction North Korea, which was amazing, including China voting with the United States, which I was very impressed by, frankly, on the part of the diplomacy.
[00:37:38] KM: What do you mean sanction?
[00:37:40] FH: We sanctioned North Korea on any interdiction of trying to get defense materials in and out of that country, to put maximum pressure on them, including them exporting oil, or coal to other countries. We essentially are operating that still to this day, four years later.
[00:38:01] KM: Is that why little rocket boys not doing any more?
[00:38:04] FH: That's one key reason. One key reason. Behind the scenes, there continues to be attempted diplomacy at President Trump's objective. Then it's not just his, it's been an American objective since 1952, which is a nuclear-free united Korean peninsula. I actually give President Trump credit for trying something different in North Korea and for the past four years, we haven't had the risk profile that President Obama was concerned about.
[00:38:35] KM: Golden fleece. What is the golden fleece?
[00:38:38] FH: When I was a senate staffer in my 20s, I worked for the US Senate Banking Committee and the senior democrat on that committee's name was Bill Proxmire from Wisconsin. He was a funny curmudgeon. I really loved him. I thought he was hysterical. Very, he was he would be what you would call a tight wad. He did not like excessive government spending. He's not your current version of Washington politicians.
He was always railing on a bad regulation, or bad spending policy and he gave out the golden fleece award to the worst example of misuse of government spending. When I got elected and went to congress in 2015, I reinvigorated the golden fleece award, which I give out monthly. Just last month, gave to the department of commerce. Because as I said, I don't support across-the-board steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by the Trump administration.
If you have that, then businesses in America who use an imported steel item can go to the department of commerce and ask for a waiver from that tariff product. They got the golden fleece this month, because they have done a terrible job granting those waivers, telling people why in a timely manner. If you're going to impose tariffs like that, then you also need to create the system to grant people the ability to seek a waiver. I think it's a case of mismanagement on the part of the commerce.
[00:40:10] KM: The golden fleece award.
[00:40:12] FH: You can't beat it.
[00:40:13] KM: Yeah, smaller federal government, you've said over and over, you've said Americans need to quit trying to fix everything with the top-down, one-size-fits-all approach, instead shift power back to state and local governments. What is the balance of capitalism? Where does capitalism get a skew and it needs more government?
[00:40:34] FH: Well, in our system, we have state and federal regulation of that marketplace. You realize that when you look at the work you do at Flag and Banner. You have certain HR rules you follow and certain sales practices and certain Internet sales practices and you have a refund policy and you have to live with certain rules about extending credit to people. All those things are meant to have balance and capitalism, where it's fair to both sides. It's fair to buyer and seller. It's fair to labor and capital.
Our country for 244 years has had this fabulous – I mean, that's a great theme in our society is that balance between labor and capital. That's what a regulatory balance strikes and we work to find that balance in our society all the time, both at the state level and at the federal.
[00:41:25] KM: Let's talk about social security and disability. A lot of people don't realize that that's a government handout. They're like, “I don't want the Affordable Care Act, because it's socialism, but don't take away my social security and disability.” Do Americans really understand that? Do they realize that?
[00:41:44] FH: I think Americans understand that social security is something they pay into out of every paycheck, and that they have a real expectation that social security will be there for them when they retire and they should. That's a promise –
[00:41:57] KM: It’s one of the highest taxes in your paycheck that you –
[00:42:01] FH: Right. I’ll never forget as a teenager, being paid to work for the first time. I said, “Who is FICA? Why is FICA taking so much out of my check?”
[00:42:11] KM: It’s 7.50% they take out of your check and then everybody –
[00:42:14] FH: And out of the employer's side too.
[00:42:16] KM: The employers match it, so there's 15% going into the government, which you couldn't take that away from Americans now if you try. Don't you think the Affordable Care Act will be exactly – thought about exactly the same time? Once it finally gets to where everybody's paying a little bit into it and then they get free health care, that they're going to feel exactly the same way, don't take away my health care?
[00:42:41] FH: Well, on social security, no. I guess, I don't, because that's not how it's set up. It doesn't quite work like that.
[00:42:48] KM: But it could. If it was mandated on everybody's paycheck, that a few percentages were taken out, could we have health care for everybody?
[00:42:58] FH: Well, I think we could have health care for everybody if we had a competitive system with price transparency, where you had real competition in the market, where you wouldn't have these extraordinary increases in costs. I don't think a government mandated monopoly system will produce more competitive prices. We don't see that in higher education. We don't see it in veterans care. I think you'd see rationed care. I think you'd see care more expensive, less available. I think you'd see fewer health care providers. We already have a huge shortage of doctors and nurses and other health care providers. I think we have to find ways to make the system more transparent, more competitive. I don't think the ACA did that. I think the ACA in the area of expanded Medicaid, for example, provided more access, but it didn't make it more competitive over in the health insurance market. That was a goal, but I think after 11 years of it, that we haven't realized that goal. In fact, we have fewer insurance offerings on the exchange now than we did 10 years ago. In some cases, we have only one offer, so you have a monopoly.
[00:44:10] KM: Isn’t health insurance and healthcare a free trade market right now? Why is it not working now?
[00:44:18] FH: No, I don't think it's a free market. I think it's a government –
[00:44:21] KM: Right now?
[00:44:22] FH: Yeah, I think it's a government oligopoly set on prices by the way price is set between insurance companies, which is exempt from competition. They're exempt from the anti-trust rules, the insurance health, insurance companies are. You have a handful of health insurance companies operating in each state under state regulation that are exempt from things that I think would improve competition and transparency. You have essentially a private contract there.
[00:44:48] KM: Well, how do we get rid of that?
[00:44:50] FH: Republicans have had bills in congress for years to break down the lack of competitiveness by health insurers and open that up and open up the ability for people to buy insurance differently.
[00:45:02] KM: Why can't we do both? Why didn't that ever happen?
[00:45:05] FH: They're, at least in my six years in congress, they've been blocked by Speaker Pelosi.
[00:45:09] KM: I have never heard anybody – Maybe the word's not getting out. I never hear what the plan is to replace the Affordable Care Act.
[00:45:19] FH: We passed in 2017 out of the house, a full plan that covered everybody that maintained fund federal funding for states with Medicaid expansion or not, because some states did not expand Medicaid, as you have to treat all states equally under our constitution. We expanded coverage for families, for different kinds of families, large and small. Single people don't need to pay the same insurance premium that families pay.
We also fully covered in fully funded pre-existing conditions for anyone with a pre-existing condition. When we did that, the actuaries told us that it would be more coverage and at lower prices than were under the affordable –
[00:45:58] KM: Because I’m a business person, I love the Affordable Care Act. I love anything that you can come up with that takes small businesses out of the business of providing health insurance to my employees, because I cannot compete with large companies, because my pool is not big enough.
[00:46:18] FH: Right. That's exactly why you should – I’ll be happy to send you a stack of things to read about republican ideas.
[00:46:22] KM: Oh, gosh. Please don't make me read those.
[00:46:24] FH: To allow small business to be able to have the same competitive buying capability that companies over 1,000 have.
[00:46:31] KM: That’s it. That would be it right now.
[00:46:33] FH: I hated that when I was at Delta Trust, we had a 137 employees. I wanted to have a much more creative health plan. I wanted to charge people who smoked more, for example. Others didn't. You couldn't do it. You had to buy an off-the-shelf item and the price went up every year.
[00:46:49] KM: Every year.
[00:46:50] FH: I know how horrible it is for the small business market. That has not been solved per se, by just having those people suddenly go and get government only health insurance. I think we ought to be able to offer a competitive market, where that small business has the same ability to get affordable health care than a big company.
[00:47:10] KM: I want to remind everybody, you're listening to Up In Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with Congressman French Hill, who is running for his fourth term as the US Representative in Arkansas's second congressional district. I realized that nasty politics have been around forever. I mean, McCarthyism in the 1950s, but is this an exceptionally difficult time?
[00:47:32] FH: Well, for 244 years, we always have a bitter divisive political campaigns. I mean, the most divisive election probably in American history is still the election of 1800. We have a history of aggressive campaigning in this country, but look at what the outcome is for 244 years? If you're a positive person like I am and you are, you see America get better over that continuum since its founding, because we believe in Lincoln’s imperative, that we would strive for a more perfect union.
[00:48:08] KM: Your last question. What's your motivation? What do you want to do the next time you get to Washington?
[00:48:14] FH: Yeah. I love the past six years of working for veterans and demanding more accountability, getting veterans taken care of. We've gotten 23 million dollars back for veterans in the six years I’ve served. So proud of that. Many of them Vietnam veterans that weren't treated fairly by the system, to be quite frank. I love the economic development opportunities –
[00:48:33] KM: You're so good at that.
[00:48:34] FH: We love it. I mean, I have wounded warriors on my staff and they're terrific. They've served in uniform and been wounded in action and now work for the –
[00:48:42] KM: How has Arkansas changed since you became an elected official?
[00:48:46] FH: Well, for the better when I think of my business career and being a chamber chair here, I see us finally treating people right when it comes to education. Where in the 80s, we were going to be a college-bound only society. When you do that, you increase the drop-out rate. You frustrate people. You don't give people opportunity when they turn 18 to pursue happiness, because you demand that success is only measured by a four-year degree. Just the six years I’ve served in the house, I am so fired up about be pro, be proud which would be a great interview for you, the guys who run that program for the State of Arkansas.
[00:49:21] KM: What is it?
[00:49:22] FH: Be pro, be proud. We go to every middle school and we show people how they can get a data science job, a health care job, a welding job, a skilled trades job and how much money they can make when they're 18-years-old and it's wonderful. We're also changing Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County schools for the academies of Pulaski. We've done that in North Little Rock before, we've done it in Conway. We're doing in Saline County. I think we're focused on better outcomes for our kids coming out of school and that makes me happy.
[00:49:52] KM: You're trying to fix the disability.
[00:49:54] FH: I am. Disability system.
[00:49:56] KM: You think is going to break social security.
[00:49:57] FH: I do. I think it could. I mean, I think it's also unfair and what I’d like for people when they apply for a social security disability, these are people who are not eligible for social security. They've been typically injured in some work environment and they want to apply for social security disability, typically as a short-term disability matter. The issues are they don't. I mean, really, over 90% of the people stay on it until they're eligible for social security.
My plan that I have would encourage people to self-select. I do want to get back to work. I want you to help me pay for education, help me to pay for some of the things necessary to do that. If you do, I’ll get off social security disability. It creates a carrot, instead of a system that's just built with sticks.
[00:50:43] KM: I think that if you get stuck in the house on disability, you lose your self-worth, you don't realize what it can do to you to not have a career. If you make it too easy to stay home sometimes, you will just take the easy way out. I do see lots of people in my business who come in and say, “I can only make so much money, cause I’m on disability and I don't want to lose my disability.” They miss opportunities that lie outside their house.
[00:51:08] FH: Right. This would allow them to make that transition and not have that impediment not to make the transition and get them back in the workforce. That's what we want. We want people in this country working. We have a huge shortage of workers across so many –
[00:51:22] KM: We sure do.
[00:51:23] FH: - industries. We do.
[00:51:24] KM: We sure do. We absolutely do. I’ve enjoyed talking to you.
[00:51:27] FH: Thanks. I love it, Kerry. Thanks for the invitation.
[00:51:29] KM: Thank you. Thank you. I’ve got your present. That's a US and Arkansas flag to go on your desk set.
[00:51:33] FH: Thank you very much.
[00:51:34] KM: I don't know if you have one. You probably do.
[00:51:36] FH: I do not. Thank you, Kerry.
[00:51:37] KM: You're welcome. In closing to our listeners, I want to thank you for spending time with us. We've hope you've heard, or learned something that's been inspiring or enlightening and that it, whatever it is, will help you up your business, your independence or your life. I’m Kerry McCoy and I’ll see you next time on Up In Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[00:51:57] G: You've been listening to Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy. For links to resources you heard discussed on today's show, go to flagandbanner.com, select Radio and choose today's guest. All interviews are recorded and posted the following week. Subscribe to podcasts wherever you like to listen.
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