"There were several reasons I voted against the fiscal cliff deal," says Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who was first elected to Congress in May 2012 in a special election and was returned to office again in last November's contest. "Not only did it raise taxes to the tax brackets—it raised also the Social Security tax—but it also expanded spending on, for instance, unemployment insurance and it perpetuated some of the inequities in the tax code like green tax credits. I call it a really big turd sandwich without the bread."
Despite only being in office for a year, Massie is one of the most outspoken members of Congress when it comes to reducing the size, scope, and spending of the federal government. A favorite of Tea Party types, Massie defies simple categorization on a typical left-right political spectrum.
"My house is solar powered," he explains. "I tell Republicans, you can hate the subsidies—I hate the subsidies too—but you can't hate solar panels. These are rocks that make electricity, so they are incapable of receiving your hate." Representing Kentucky's 4th district, which runs from the northern tip of the state from Ashland west past Covington, Massie holds a B.A. and an M.A. in engineering rom MIT, founded SensAble Technologies, a computer-modeling company based in Massachusetts, and served as county executive for Lewis County, Kentucky. A member of House committees on Oversight and Government Reform, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Science, Space, and Technology, he personally built his old, off-the-grid Kentucky home (even planing the trees that become its timber) and has decked it out with solar panels and off-the-grid energy sources.
He is a fierce supporter of new technologies and the opportunities they create for people to live innovative, creative lives. And Massie is a staunch defender of privacy from unwarranted state surveillance. Though the interview was conducted in late May, before the scope of NSA and other forms of government snooping on citizens became public knowledge, Massie was adamant about building a firewall against the surveillance state, telling Reason, "Just because we have a new type technology—like the internet or drones for instance—it doesn't mean that all our Constitutional rights need to go away."
Massie is professionally and ideologically tight with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and he is part of a growing cadre of self-consciously libertarian Republicans in Washington. Still, he wants more company: "We need reinforcements up here. The good news when I came to Congress is that it's not just Justin Amash and me, there are half a dozen, perhaps a dozen depending on where you draw the line, of libertarian leaning constitutional conservatives in Congress. We need more."
Massie sat down with ReasonTV's Nick Gillespie to discuss government surveillance (2:36), marijuana and industrial hemp legalization (15:05), why the fiscal cliff deal was like a turd sandwich (11:30), taking Paul Krugman's economics class at MIT, (24:19), being an insurgent within the Republican Party (30:47), the IRS scandal (5:47), and why the Tea Party should stick to economics (37:51).
Approx. 45 min.
Camera by Amanda Winkler and Meredith Bragg. Edited by Bragg.
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