OXFORD, Ga. – U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson told government, business and education leaders in Newton County Tuesday afternoon that fairness in the tax code is the fundamental policy issue facing Congress today.
“As I have made my way to Congress, I have discovered what is the most crucial issue that we battle about in Washington, D.C. and it’s not immigration, it’s not the border wall,” he said. “Those are diversions. They are very important subjects. Border security and immigration, in general, are very important.
“Infrastructure is very important also. National security, education, healthcare - those are all very important issues. But it seems to me that the basic thing that divides us in Congress is the issue of taxation. It is the issue of whether or not there’s going to be fairness in our tax system.”
The six-term congressman from DeKalb County was in Oxford to speak at a Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce luncheon hosted by Oxford College of Emory University in the Phi Gamma Hall of the college.
“I just read an article the other day in CNN," he said. "It was an article about Amazon which netted profits of $10 billion back in 2018, but yet paid not one red cent in United States taxes. Not a penny on $10 billion in profits - not revenue, but profits. And that is not fair, it is not right.”
Johnson talked about a map he has in his office that shows the seven seas patrolled and protected by the United States Navy. He said the United States operates in a global economy protected by its military and that Amazon benefits from that protection.
“When I think of how much money the United States spends to project its authority in the interest of commerce - not conquering, but in the interest of commerce, as I think about those seven seas, it galls me to think that a company that is benefitting from world commerce is not paying one red cent for that military.”
In a wide-ranging speech that lasted nearly an hour, Johnson touched on a variety of topics including education, telling the leaders that cooperation on education between state, local and federal governments would benefit everybody.
“I would love for there to be lots of cooperation between state governments, local governments and the federal government in our education apparatus,” he said. “So that the people of our country, particularly the youth, can get the proper education and the proper training that they need in order to compete in this global economy.”
Johnson said America’s economic niche is not as much in the production of goods today but in the line of technology.
“It’s in the line of development of software, medical diagnostics, medical care, energy production, green energy,” he said. “Moving us away from fossil fuels into new renewable sources of energy that can create a multitude of new jobs that require retraining for some of our more mature workers - people who have been in the workforce who are losing jobs that are moving overseas.
“They need retraining and there needs to be an investment in these new areas that can produce an economic boom for those who are working in them.”
The Democrat from Georgia’s 4th Congressional District pledged to help Newton County any way he can.
“As far as Newton County is concerned, anyway I can assist this county in bringing home the bacon, that’s what I’m here for. That’s not a partisan issue,” he said. “When it comes down to revenues and grants and money I can bring back to the district, I stand ready to do that.”
As far as Newton County is concerned, anyway I can assist this county in bringing home the bacon, that’s what I’m here for. That’s not a partisan issue.Rep. Hank Johnson
“I’m also looking forward to working closely with the political and business leadership of Newton County, of Covington, of Oxford and the other municipalities and together, we can make our community and make this district a better place.”
Johnson said he hasn’t made a decision on who his party’s 2020 presidential nominee should be.
“My first qualification is that I’m not interested in a candidate that does not look at Georgia as a place where they need to come and ask people for their support,” he said. "I want to see my state be an important state. I think the example has been set that you can’t take any state for granted. You need to campaign in all of the states.
“People are moving to the south in droves, they’re leaving northern states and they’re moving south. And if you’re still campaigning up where people have left when the people are here, it doesn’t make any sense to me. So I want people to pay attention to Georgia as an important state in the union, electorally. That’s my first qualification.”
“I’d like to hear about how we’re going to rebuild America and make it even greater than it is now. I want to hear about how, instead of condemning the press for our first amendment freedom of expression, I want to hear how you are going to uphold our freedom in this country. And how this country is going to rebuild its infrastructure and how it’s going to create jobs, good paying jobs, good, middle-class jobs.
"And how we are going to deal with our unfair and broken tax system - those are the things I want to hear from the many candidates out there running for the Democratic nomination for president. And I’ll even listen to the Republican candidates, also."
Asked about President Donald Trump’s recent national emergency declaration for a wall on the country’s southern border, Johnson told The Covington News after the luncheon that border security requires different assets, including a wall in some places.
“As far as this emergency, I don’t think it’s really an emergency,” he said. “I think the president was frustrated with Congress in not being able to extract the deal that he wanted to be able to fund his border wall. And Congress just does not see that as being an effective use of taxpayer money.
“No doubt, we need border security and there are different ways of securing it. In some places, you do need walls, fences and other such barriers. But more than anything, you need the technology and you need the manpower to be able to enforce our laws.”
Johnson also said he thinks that Trump’s emergency declaration will eventually be struck down by the courts.
“It is a usurpation of executive authority,” he said. “It does disrupt the delicate balance of power that should exist between the legislative branch and the executive branch. So it will fall to the court for its decision.
"I believe when all is said is done, the court will decide that the president’s emergency has no basis in fact and that any action he takes based on that declaration is null and void.”