Jason Weger is a paramedic from Norman, Oklahoma. When Dr. Tom Coburn announced his resignation from the U.S. Senate, Jason was one of a handful of Republicans that announced they would be running for his seat. Jason is different from the rest in that he is not a politician. I had the chance to talk with and discuss some issues with him recently.
To start off with, why are you running for the United States Senate?
I encourage you to walk up to a stranger today, or call one of your friends, and ask them what they think about our federal government. Ask them how they feel about politicians. If they are anything like my friends and family, they will have a lot to say – some good, mostly bad. So how did we end up in this situation? We all have great ideas about how to improve our lives and our country. So think about a big idea that you have had in your life, but decided not to act on it. Why do we do this? Well, it is easy to create brilliant ideas in our minds, but it is hard to act on them. On any given day, we can become passionate or inspired by anything. But the inspiration quickly dwindles once we begin our usual routine of negative self-talk. “Politicians will never change so it really doesn’t matter.” “Politicians buy their seats, so my vote doesn’t matter.” “I would run but I’m not rich enough or smart enough.” I’m guilty of it – a lot of people are.
When the Senate seat in Oklahoma opened up, I immediately hoped that an atypical candidate would step-up and run for office. But as usual, the typical candidate suddenly appeared, money in hand, ready to buy his seat. I mean – it is his turn isn’t it? When the idea of challenging the Oklahoma status quo popped into my head, I decided to drop the negative self-talk and announce my candidacy. It is time for someone who represents all of Oklahoma – not just a select few. I am a conservative Republican. I love my party and I love this country. So sitting back and accepting a Senator who doesn’t want to stand up for all Oklahomans is no longer an option. I am a champion for reigning in government’s power and spending. I want government out of your life when possible. My opponents also shout this idea, but then turn around and tell us what is right or wrong based on their personal beliefs, not the law. I know that I can bring something different to the table. In order to make progress in Washington, we must send someone who is beholden to all of their constituents, and not just their party base.
What are the three most pressing problems in the United States today and how would you address those problems?
First problem: we’re broke and we are not creating enough jobs.
Here are nine strategies I think would help correct this problem: (1) Create a stable, predictable environment in Washington (2) Decrease the size of the federal government (States know best) (3) Improve business/government relationship (4) Eliminate wasteful spending (5) Embark on projects that help America (Keystone Pipeline, Transportation) (6) Engage in bipartisan compromise (this will take action from the voters) (7) Decrease corporate tax rate to a reasonable level (8) Decrease taxes on the American people (9) Decrease overregulation.
Second problem: our health care system.
My solution includes allowing the states to decide how to regulate their health care policy. States should allow insurance companies to compete for consumers within its borders. The states should ensure the insurance companies implement best practice policies that are attractive to most people, such as an option for pre-existing conditions. We had the chance to have laws that focused on the consumer. But our federal government overregulated the entire system. This led to states being restricted when implementing insurance policies and working with insurance companies. An example of this is not being able to buy insurance across state lines. In return, insurance companies did not have to compete for consumers. When competition is decreased in the market, prices increase and the consumer suffers. The federal government getting more involved in our health care system is not the answer. Trying to repeal the entire ACA law is not the answer either. I would propose laws that slowly take the power from the federal government and give the power back to the states. We know it takes incremental changes to make progress.
Third problem: we elect puppets.
To avoid a blanket statement, I will preface this by saying not all politicians are puppets (just most of them). Money talks. Our politicians are skilled script readers – the daily script from the base and donors. The reason this makes my list of biggest problems is it ends up affecting all of us. “I want to decrease wasteful spending, but my donor really wants this useless, expensive project.” When we elect candidates who are incapable for standing up for what is right, our chance for making any progress disappears. The culture they have created is toxic and the American people have lost trust. A dissatisfied populace has a negative affect across the spectrum of all the issues we face.
Do you support or oppose federal drugs laws?
I support the federal drug laws we have in place, but I am open to any reform that makes sense and keeps people safe. Working as a paramedic, I personally see how prevalent drugs are in our society. We have good intentions with our current laws. The laws already in place are not just to protect the drug abuser – they are also an attempt to protect other citizens from harm. But we have encountered a big problem when prosecuting violators. First, it is expensive to house inmates, and it doesn’t make sense to house these individuals for minor drug charges. Second, our jails and prisons are at capacity. Our correctional workers are at risk because we pack our cells with too many people. We need to at least have a debate on the pros and cons of reforming our current drug laws. I want a common sense solution that protects the citizens and that is cost efficient.
Do you believe that implementing and enforcing drug policies are within the constitutional scope of the federal government? If no, would you be willing to sponsor any sort of legislation that would repeal our current drug laws? Do you think it is the right of an individual citizen to cultivate and use certain narcotics for their own personal use?
The implementation and enforcement of drug laws are not in the United States Constitution. We know the 10th Amendment in the U.S. Constitution reserves power to the states and the people. The State of Oklahoma is allowed to have drug laws in place and enforce those laws. I truly believe in a small, limited government, and I would not oppose the legalization of marijuana. To be honest, when it comes to the cultivation and use of certain narcotics, I do not have enough information to answer this question. I do know that there is a balance between protecting individual freedoms and keeping the majority of the public safe. Part of the government’s job is to protect the people. I realize that our drug laws have not been very effective. We need to really look into how we are going to move forward and I am open to any discussion or bill that addresses this issue.
What ideas do you have regarding tax reform, if any?
The American people should not pay more in taxes because the federal government cannot control spending. I talk to people all over Oklahoma who work hard for what they have. They are tired of their tax dollars being wasted. They are tired of paying for others who do not try to at least contribute to society. The answer is not increasing the taxes for the wealthy. We want people to have money in this country. If we decrease spending and create a tax structure where all people contribute a reasonable amount in taxes, we will begin to make progress. Our country is full of people who want to work together to ensure we contribute to things such as a great transportation system and a strong military. But it takes all of the citizens to ensure our system works. Simplifying the tax code is a very popular idea across the country. Of course, I agree that any tax reform must address our complicated, and sometimes unfair, tax system.
What are your thoughts on immigration in the United States?
We have immigration laws in place already. Our federal government has failed to properly enforce these laws. There are over 10 million illegal immigrants in the United States. Our resources are already depleted. If we do not tackle this issue, we will have millions more here illegally. We send the wrong message by not enforcing our immigration laws. We need to continue to support the Department of Homeland Security and its efforts to secure the border. We must allow our law enforcement agencies, both federal and local, to work together to enforce the laws. I realize that some illegal immigrants are good people who came here in search of a better life, but we cannot continue to allow people to break the law. If we do not get this issue under control, millions more will be in this country within the next decade. There are many examples of why this is harmful to our country and our economy. Look at our health care system. Currently, we cannot afford to take care of the people who are already in this country. Imagine the additional strain of resources that would take place by adding ten million more people to the system.
Do you think that the federal government should, for lack of a better term, relax our immigration policies? That is, should there be a way to make re-locating and working in the United States easier while at the same time securing our border from those who wish to do us harm?
I believe we should enforce our immigration laws already in place. We can only estimate the number of people who are in this country illegally, and the last estimate I read was approximately 11.5 million. Now, these people are living amongst us and we have no way to even identify them. We must know who is here and we must fix our current visa program. Currently, we do not have an adequate visa system in place to monitor who is coming and going. We are a country that is drowning in debt. We cannot get our wasteful spending under control. We have ineffective policies that hurt us. We must fix our problems before we consider making it easier for people to relocate to our country.
Do you support the elimination of the federal Department of Education?
I know that states know best when it comes to educating our children. I speak to teachers all over Oklahoma who say they are unable to use the teaching method that works best. Instead, because of federal mandates imposed by the Department of Education, teachers must “teach to the test.” I am not sure if eliminating the entire department is necessary, but I know that we have room to decrease the size of the department. Individual states should collaborate with their school districts and the parents to discover what works best for them.
Do you believe that the NSA is within their rights to collect personal data on American citizens in order to prevent terrorism?
I remember how I felt on 9/11 and I remember thinking that we need to do more to prevent terrorism. I do believe the NSA serves a purpose, but we recently discovered an overreach of authority. I have a huge issue with any government agency violating the privacy rights of the American people. If the NSA is going to use their resources to investigate the American people, then the person being investigated better be a credible threat to our nation’s security. Randomly choosing citizens to investigate violates our right to privacy and we must ensure the NSA is held accountable for such improper practices.
Do you feel that the nation’s military budget needs to be reduced? Do you think that the number of foreign military installations needs to be reduced?
Our country needs a military that is more than capable of protecting us from harm. I will not pretend that I am an expert in the internal practices of our military. I think our military leaders should be in charge of making decisions that protect our soldiers and our citizens. If we know that there is wasteful spending in the military, then I think that we should address it. If our military leaders suggest the closure of a foreign base, then I think it is something to look into. We know that it is important to have bases around the world, but if a base is deemed unnecessary then we must take action. We must remember that our deficit is out of control. We have an enormous debt that has to be addressed. There is also a balance to keep in mind when it comes to our foreign bases. There is a balance between what is necessary for our military and what is deemed a harmful occupation of an area. In the end, our soldiers must everything they need to stay safe and our veterans need to be hailed as heroes.
In your opinion, which foreign bases would you say are still necessary for us to operate?
I do not have access to the military intelligence that is necessary to specifically answer your question. I do not believe in dodging questions and I want to always be as specific as possible, but I cannot provide a list of bases that are necessary. That being said, I am aware that some of our bases cause resentment. I am quite sure that some of our bases might be unnecessary. The most important thing to keep in mind is our national security. Protecting our people and protecting our allies should always be our number one priority. If a foreign base helps us achieve this goal, then we should keep it in operation.
Are you in favor of eliminating the trade embargo that our country has with Cuba?
We need to revisit this issue, as the trade embargo is over 50 years old. I understand both sides of the issue. The embargo requires Cuba to follow certain rules that were placed on them by the U.S. government. Cuba has failed to act on some of the requirements in order to lift the ban. My answer depends on the impact the embargo has on national security. We must ask ourselves if lifting the embargo would be detrimental to our national security and the protection of our people. There is a very long history of political conflict between the U.S. and Cuba. The embargo is complex and our relationship with Cuba is complex. If there is a way to move forward, then I am on board with working on a solution.
How would you go about reforming campaign finance rules? What are your thoughts on the Citizens United case?
If I had it my way, campaign finance rules would only allow individual contributions from small donors. But we know that this is not the case and most likely will never be the case. I encourage you to look at the campaign contributions of my opponents. The amount of money from small contributors is around 2%. The majority of their contributions do not come from average Americans. We know that the United States is composed of average, middle class folks who work hard for what they have. Everyone knows that our current politicians are bought. They are puppets. They accept large donations and then read the script that is given to them. They do not serve our interests. This is the biggest contributing factor of our current dysfunction. They take big contributions, go to office and read their script, and then receive another contribution when the next election comes around. This is the vicious cycle that we must break.
The Citizens United case is interesting because the Supreme Court decided that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows corporations and unions to use their money to persuade voters. While corporations and unions cannot give directly to a campaign, they can run commercials for or against a candidate. I am a champion of the First Amendment and I know we must have the freedom of speech and press. I do think it is unfortunate that these groups spend money to smear candidates and attempt to buy their candidate a seat in the legislature, but it is the reality of the matter.
Here are a couple of links to help you get to know more about him: