After more than a decade away from politics, Jim Rubens is back.
The former two-term New Hampshire state senator and gubernatorial candidate is challenging the “establishment candidate,” former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), in his bid to unseat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).
Brown’s move from Massachusetts to New Hampshire has been a staple in the coverage of the New Hampshire Senate race, while Rubens is not as often mentioned as the “viable” GOP challenger.
But Brown’s move to New Hampshire does not bother Rubens (“It’s a free country,” he says) because he has been in New Hampshire for 40 years and in New Hampshire politics for 20 of those.
Rubens has owned 10 businesses. He invests in startup companies ranging from software to medical to energy companies. He was recently selected by the Leader-Herald, New Hampshire’s go-to daily, as New Hampshire’s most outstanding citizen for his work in the state. Those of us outside of New Hampshire might not have heard of Rubens, but he is no stranger to the voters.
Rubens doesn’t see Brown’s foray into New Hampshire as selling very well with the people. He says Brown isn’t making the grassroots connections and New Hampshirites are some of the most well-informed voters in the nation — and contends that Brown wasn’t expecting that.
“We like looking at the back teeth, we like looking at the inner pages of the book – to meet candidates multiple times,” Rubens said. “We like to ask hard questions and get straight answers.”
Rubens says three factors help him in the race: the country being “bankrupt,” the economy and jobs, and the rise of “big government.”
Rubens asserts that five things need to be done in order to get the economy back on track. He explains that in our “borderless global economy” jobs migrate to where the money is and, due to the mass printing of currency and federal debt spending, large companies will become even more skeptical of bringing their operations to the U.S.
“If you are a multinational company you are going to be worried about whether the currency will be steady over the next 20, 30, 40 years,” he explains. “How do you defend the U.S. currency? We have got to get spending under control long term.”
Rubens says the way to get much of that spending under control is to overhaul both the corporate and personal tax policies in the country, saying it needs to be “flatter,” “fairer” and “simpler.”
The corporate code, he says, worked when the U.S. could tax the foreign earnings of corporations, which is no longer the case. Rubens’ plan to entice corporations to move their money back to the U.S. is to lower the tax rate to a 20 percent or lower net effective rate.
Like most Republicans, Rubens points to regulation as another impediment to a robust U.S. economy. He argues that the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is inhibitory — especially in New Hampshire, where the economy relies on small business. In New Hampshire, he explains, many of the banks are small — some with as few as five branches — and the bank brass he has spoken to have called Dodd-Frank “directly injurious.”
“They cannot deal with the 30,000 pages of Dodd-Frank regulations that will be promulgated by the time they are done in the next four or five years,” he said.
Another issue that must be addressed in order to get the U.S. economy back on track is the price of energy. Rubens says that during the years the economy was “booming,” which he defined as having a strong middle class and a strong export market, the price of oil was $3 a barrel (or $20 by today’s standards). It now regularly tops $100 a barrel.
“We need to remove all energy subsidies of all kinds,” Rubens says, stressing his words. “We have great inventors here; we can mobilize capital in extraordinary sums. We have the talent, we have the pool of capital, we can invent our way into cheap energy again.”
He says the cost of renewable energy is coming down but the infrastructure is not here yet. He says he supports geo-thermal and solar energy, but the country will need a cheap energy source to bridge the gap into the future. That bridge, he says, could be natural gas mined by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. He maintains that the environment must be protected during this process — but the technology for clean fracking is already here.
“Cheap energy is good for the economy,” Rubens says. “No one can tell me otherwise.”
The last thing Rubens would target in his efforts to rebuild the economy is healthcare. The Affordable Care Act has been targeted by Brown since he launched his campaign and, on this, Rubens agrees with Brown.
“We have the highest healthcare costs per capita in the world, twice what our industrial nation competitors have,” he explains. “Obamacare is driving up that cost per person in America to the tune of $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years. It’s going in the wrong direction with costs. Healthcare is about 5 percent of our GDP.”
He says there needs to be more competition in healthcare, tort reform and that the federal government should be allowed to negotiate the costs of pharmaceuticals so that we are not paying the highest price. He says one of the ways to fix the system is through a long-term health insurance, like a term life insurance, that offers incentives in order to attract young people.
He says that health insurance companies could attract young, healthy people by offering them a long-term plan in which the price was locked in, thus giving them a reason to purchase insurance when they are young.
Competition seems to drive not only Rubens’ policy ideas but Rubens himself.
“I wouldn’t have started and run 10 companies,” he said, when asked if he had a competitive personality. “You have got to have competition in your blood to do that, I’ll tell ya.”
When Rubens launched his 1994 campaign for state Senate he had never held political office. In that race he defeated then-Senate President Ralph Hough. He self-financed that campaign – and will self-finance this campaign to compete with the war chests of Brown and Shaheen.
Rubens was, last week, endorsed by the Republican Liberty Caucus and it’s not hard to see why: “The government needs to reform the things that inhibit prosperity in our country,” he said.
He is campaigning on “bold” ideas to challenge the status quo, much like he did during his two state Senate campaigns, he says. During his tenure in the state Senate, Rubens takes credit for authoring “competitive” laws including New Hampshire’s charter school law — which he calls a “tremendous success” — and a bill that opened up the state to electricity competition.
He also wrote a bill to end teacher tenure, which passed both the House and Senate in the state — but was vetoed by then-Governor Shaheen.
“I’m a fighter and I am going to work my tail off to bring people [in Washington] together to get 60 votes and save our country from going bankrupt and turn our economy and get the government out of our lives,” Rubens says.
One of his bold ideas he will campaign on is “super Wi-Fi.” Rubens explains that over-the-air spectrum channels two to 13 are licensed free to the public. Those channels, he explains, are what automatic garage door opener signals travel through. He says Wi-Fi can be run through those channels for free and entrepreneurs will use the opportunity to create devices that would allow for super Wi-Fi.
“More freedom can solve problems,” he says matter-of-factly. “I’m using that small proposal to show how more freedom can make our lives better.”
Rubens is passionate. He is competitive and he feels that he already has the votes of the conservative Republicans. Next, he says, is swaying the rank-and-file members of the party.
“This is serious stuff,” he says. “There are only 100 U.S. senators. … We’ve got serious problems in our country. … You simply cannot afford to have a United States senator that does not have the ability to think about things, to handle complexity, to be determined, to have clarity in the ability to communicate … to innovate in policy. We cannot afford given the state of our country to have another cipher in the Senate and we have got one in Jean Shaheen.”
“It’s very serious stuff.”