By Timothy Read Bennett, Past Chairman
NSSAR Congressional and Governmental Relations Committee
This interview, with Compatriot U.S. Representative Todd Akin (R-Mo.), is the 10th in a series of interviews with Congressional SAR members. It occurred with Past Chairman of the NSSAR Congressional and Governmental Relations Committee Timothy R. Bennett, committee members Scott Shoemaker, and recorder Andrew M. Johnson in Akin’s office on Capitol Hill. Akin earned a Bachelor of Science degree in management engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and served in the U.S. Army as an engineer officer at Fort Belvoir, VA. He entered in the Missouri General Assembly from 1988 until elected to Congress in 2000. He serves on three committees: Armed Services, Science and Technology and Small Business. He is the ranking member on the Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Expeditionary Forces.
Mr. Akin, why did you get interested in politics?
It is a long story but I think it began in third grade while I was a student in the Concord, Massachusetts area. My father moved to New England to attend Harvard Business School. We lived a few hours a from the Wright Tavern on the main street in Concord. As a young child, I got a sense of the patriotic past of our country. Later, I went to a school that required us to memorize poetry and I memorized Longfellow’s “Concord Hymn,” which depicts so well that opening chapter of the War of Independence. A sense of patriotism was something I picked up as a child. Later, I went to engineering school but I always retained a sense of our history and the need for wise decision-making. I remember a Missouri Round Table speaker, an escaped KGB agent, who outlined how our enemies seek to undermine the USA with bad ideas. We see many of those bad ideas around us in politics today and that speaker also noted that we fight bad ideas with good ideas, the ideas on which this country was founded. That led me to an intellectual search for what were those ideas that were the foundation of our national society After that, I ran for the state legislature and after 12 years there, I was elected to the U.S. Congress.
How has your experience as an Army officer and engineer with IBM been helpful as a congressman?
My father told me that engineering teaches problem-solving and discipline. I believe that is true and everyone caries their undergraduate degree subject with them all their life. Engineering tends to be a problem-solving discipline. In IBM, my job was marketing industrial large scale computers. This gave me a lot of practice in standing up before audiences and explaining ideas. When you get into the political arenas, you also have to stand up and explain what you think. The training I had from IBM sales experience was a big blessing. I was an Army officer on paper for a very long time but in practice, a very short time. I trained as an engineer at Fort Belvoir, but Vietnam was closing down and they allowed me to serve in the Reserve component.
As the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Expeditionary Forces, do you think that the current administration is proceeding in the best way to help this county to continue readiness on land and sea as we fight two wars?
No, I don’t, from what I have seen in the last nine months. I am seeing what appears to be a series of extreme cuts in the defense budget. Major program we count on for our security are being cut. For example, we have always had a missile triad: missiles that can be launched from submarines, those that can be launched from land and thirdly. the bomber ,, force. We need to get on with buying new bombs to replace the aging fleet and that program has been cut by this administration.
Will the Securing America’s Future Energy Act (SAFE) be effective legislation?
We call it the cap and tax bill and it has, so far, only passed the House. It is a complete and unmitigated legislative disaster from a legislative point of view with 300 pages of changes and not even a copy of the bell in the chamber during debate. The bottom line appears to be that we wanted a great big tax increase Worse than the tax Increase would be the massive amount of federal bureaucracy. For example, the bill calls for regulating the carbon footprint of individual homes. Under this legislation. you could not add a wing to your home unless it could be proven to reduce your carbon footprint. The bill is too much like a local building ordinance in its degree of regulation. This is a tremendous amount of intrusive federal regulation. If one believes the global warming claims, and I do not, a better answer to reducing carbon emissions would be to double the energy produced by nuclear facilities, which would offset all the carbon emissions of U.S. automobile use. An increase in nuclear power from 20 percent of power generation to 40 percent would meet this goal.
You are new member of the Sons of the American Revolution. What can we do to promote, educate and “grow” our organization so that we may be more successful?
You have opportunities to grow the SAR membership unlike anything we have seen in the past. The Tea Parties can be seen as a citizen uprising worried about the future and the freedom of our country. The people whom the SAR honors set an example for us and tell us that we need to critically examine government institution into the economy and the liberties of the people. All SAR members can say that their forefathers stood up for their country and perhaps now is the time for all Americans to do the same.
The SAR supports many youth programs, which seek to help make young Americans more public service oriented. As a public servant, do you have any suggestions for these young people regarding opportunities and training for their adult lives?
I don’t recall that anyone in my family ever ran for political office. I had no particular aspiration to do so I was growing up. Your tastes, interests and passions change as you get older. Train yourself to do well in whatever field you choose. As you do that, you will learn from the experience and that learning will become part of your tool hit. For example, my background in engineering is very helpful in problem-solving. And you need to accept your share of responsibility in the community. Those who are conscious of what their forefathers did have a heightened sense of this responsibility to community. I have six children and I taught them that there awesome things in life that are more valuable than life itself. Our founders believed that. The SAR and the DAR understand these principles, and they must continue to defend them.
Are members of your family in the SAR, DAR or CAR?
My family is connected to the Revolution through many Americans of that period. My wife, however, is of Norwegian descent and, therefore, not eligible for the DAR but my sons and daughter have taken a lively interest in that period of history and one son actually won an SAR contest with the unlikely topic of what the American Revolution wasn’t, a revolution like that of France or later, the Russian revolution. The French and Russian revolutions were determined to destroy the society and rebuild it along different lines. The American War of Independence sought to sustain and protect the institution of civil government but assure that it was a government of the people at least as voting population was understood at that time. In a real sense, the British king and Parliament ended the relationship with their brothers in America by refusing to recognize the right of Americans to the same rights as their British counterparts.
Do you feel that small businesses have been inadequately helped, perhaps because they are not “too big to fail?”
Small business, as usually defined, represents about 79 percent of all jobs in America. It is immensely important and high levels of unemployment represent unemployment in small business. We have done everything in our power in the last nine months to mess up small business. What we need to do is let small business keep more of their own money, which they will reinvest in their businesses. When that happens, it creates jobs and makes the economy grow. Targeted tax cuts have a very beneficial get on employment and ]FK, Reagan and Bush understood this. Taxing small business even more for socialized medicine will hurt the economy even more. A lot needs to be done for mall business; it is the engine of freedom in this country.