Jim DeMint: ‘Big Government Benefits the Rich’

By Terence P. Jeffrey | April 17, 2014 | 3:21pm EDT

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(CNSNews.com) - When the Census Bureau released its most recent ranking of the U.S. communities with the highest median household incomes, seven of the nation's ten wealthiest counties were in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

In an interview about his new book, Falling in Love With America Again, Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint told CNSNews.com he had a theory that might explain this. “[B]ig government benefits the rich and big business,” he said.

In the book, DeMint describes the cozy, symbiotic relationship that often exists between people working for the federal government and people representing big business.

“In Washington,” DeMint wrote, “it’s a rule of thumb that government staffers charged with overseeing an industry want to go to work for that industry one day, for a huge raise. ‘Cashing in,’ it’s called, or ‘moving to K Street’ (the downtown Washington artery that’s synonymous with the lobbying business).”

Here, from his interview with CNSnews.com, is DeMint’s explanation of how people come to Washington to do public service and end up getting rich:

Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint: Seven of ten of the top ten richest counties in America are right here in Washington.

CNSNews.com Editor in Chief Terry Jeffrey: Do you have a theory of why that is?

DeMint: Yeah, we write about it here. The president’s talking about the one percent and the gap between the poor and the rich. The reason that is happening is big government benefits the rich and big business, and it makes it harder to spread the wealth the way it was spread in America with thousands and thousands of small businesses and entrepreneurs. That’s where the jobs are created. The community banks are the ones that help little businesses like mine. The big banks would never have lent me any money because I wasn’t a good credit risk and someone just trusted me. So, if we can get Americans to just see one thing, Terry, to not buy this lie: That the federal government’s going to help our schools. It’s going to help our healthcare system. It’s going to help the middle class. It just is not true.

Jeffrey: It’s going to help some people in and around Washington, D.C.

DeMint: Yes, it will.

Jeffrey: You have a very revealing passage in the book, I’m going to read this verbatim, too. You say, quote: “Career bureaucrats and even high-ranking political appointees in the federal government tend to make somewhere between $75,000 and $200,000 per year. That’s a very nice income, especially when you add in the government’s ironclad job security and outrageously generous benefits. Nevertheless, the lobbyists for the institutions those officials regulate typically make two or three times that. High-ranking executives of those institutions make even more. In Washington, it’s a rule of thumb that government staffers charged with overseeing an industry want to go work for that industry one day for a huge raise. ‘Cashing in,’ it is called, or ‘moving to K Street,’ the downtown Washington artery that’s synonymous with the lobbying business," unquote.

DeMint: Same thing true with a lot of congressional staff that’s supposed to have oversight over these industries. So, how could a regulator who wants to work for a company actually be hard on the compliance part of it? It doesn’t happen.

Jeffrey: Now, as I said, you served three terms in the House of Representatives, you were elected twice to the United States Senate. On one level, you’re an insider, but you’re a notoriously outside-minded insider. And now of course you’re outside of Congress. Is it correct for the American people who don’t have any experience of inside the Beltway, inside Capitol Hill, that really there are these congressional staffers, maybe even members of Congress, who are sitting there as they’re conducting their daily business of enacting the legislation that’s going to control the way people engage in commerce and other things of the United States, are in their minds thinking: Someday, I’m going to be working for that industry or lobbying for that industry.

DeMint: I don’t know how conscious it is, but I think people are very aware of it. Certainly, staff are very aware of it. And I’m not, I don’t want to suggest that people on the Hill are crooks. All of us kind of justify what we do. I was able to keep an outside focus because I limited myself, I announced it up front. I knew I couldn’t stay and because I was always trying to cut spending, no one would have ever wanted me to lobby for him because I was always going after them. So, I didn’t think I’d ever have a job in Washington. But I’m optimistic that here at Heritage we have a chance to actually engage Americans to change what I see happening in Washington.

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