Mike Pompeo sees a lot wrong with Washington, and he wants to help fix it.
That’s why the self-described conservative is a candidate for the Fourth Congressional District seat in Kansas. Rep. Todd Tiahrt is giving up the House seat to run for the U.S. Senate.
Pompeo is one of four candidates seeking the Republican nomination for Tiahrt’s seat. He recently was endorsed by Republican Dick Kelsey of Goddard, who dropped his congressional bid.
In a Traveler interview Friday, Pompeo said he has not sought office before but decided to run for office about a year ago because he didn’t like what was going on in Washington.
He talked about issues ranging from the economy to national security to “entitlement funding” reform.
Pompeo interviewed at the Traveler before a planned tour later that day of GE Engine Services at Strother Field.
One of his main concerns is that the federal deficit is ballooning out of control, he said, and yet the government continues to spend at high levels.
“We’re at debt levels that are absolutely unsustainable,” the Wichita Republican said. “That’s my gripe. That’s the thing I want to take on.”
He said he also is concerned with keeping military personnel safe. Many troops are in harm’s way in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
“I have a lot to say about how we do national security,” said Pompeo, a military veteran. “That’s a primary function of the government.”
Friends of his who have served in Iraq and elsewhere have come back tired, he said. Military personnel are stretched to the limit.
“You’ve got to do manpower better,” he said. “We have full-scale deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Pompeo said although he is very critical of President Obama, he does think the president is going a “fairly good job” in Afghanistan. “He listened to the generals,” he said. “I only wish he’d acted sooner.”
Military missions should be clearly defined, executed fully, and once goals are achieved, troops should return home, he said.
“Let’s stop these enormous sacrifices our people are making,” Pompeo said of U.S. military personnel.
Unemployment is another challenging problem faced in Cowley County as well as other areas of the fourth district and the nation, he said.
Large manufacturers may seek to do business in other countries because of high taxes on investments levied in the U.S., he said. These taxes put us at a competitive disadvantage compared to other nations.
“Taxes on investments don’t allow companies to depreciate equipment quickly,” he said.
The way to attack deficits is to grow the economy, he added.
On the spending side, the government needs to move down a path to reform entitlement funding, including Social Security and Medicare — the government’s two biggest entitlement programs, Pompeo said.
Options that could be examined include increasing the age for full Social Security benefits to retirees, he said.
“I would advocate for a partial privatization of the system so people could choose to go into the government-funded program or to a retirement investment program where they could get a return on their capital,” Pompeo said.
On health care, Pompeo grew animated in claiming that Obama is deceiving people by insinuating that 30 million people don’t get health care. They do, he said, but they don’t have insurance.
Pompeo argued that the reform passed by Democrats will not lower costs, which is the key problem. People have to start being better informed about what their health care costs to makes decisions about what procedure they want or need, he said,
The health insurance market needs more competition — buying across state lines and medical lawsuit reform are starts, he said.
An entrepreneur and businessman, Pompeo grew up in southern California before coming to Kansas more than a decade ago. He is a West Point graduate who later earned a law degree from Harvard University.
Pompeo has lifelong ties to Kansas. His mother is from Wellington, and he fondly remembers vacation trips taken by car from Santa Ana, Calif., to Wichita. He particularly enjoyed going to Joyland as a child.
Pompeo and a West Point classmate started an aerospace machine parts fabrication company in Wichita in 1995-96, he said. They operated the company for about 10 years and at one point employed more than 500 people.
Pompeo sold the company in 2005 and entered another business that manufactured and sold products to the oil field equipment business.