Interviews

Former IRS commissioner Mark Everson enters 2016 race

Republican contender speaks out on 'Your World'

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," March 5, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, well, how is this for a campaign pitch? "I'm from the IRS and I'm here to help."

Ronald Reagan be damned, this former IRS commissioner says he is damn serious. He is running for president.

And Mark Everson says, far from hurting him, his IRS background, to say nothing of other agencies, helps him. Who knows our deepest tax secrets better than the guy who used to police our tax police?

He makes a pretty good case.

The commissioner with me now.

But, Commissioner, first on the IRS stuff, you want to put that up there front and center. Right? And do you think that is a risky strategy?

MARK EVERSON, FORMER INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE COMMISSIONER: Neil, look, we have got to fix the tax code.

And if we adopt a consumption tax, we can get 150 million people, 150 million Americans off the income tax rolls, still have an income tax for the high earners, and help our economy grow. It's just way too complex. And I just think, if we try to have reform and pick away at the various tax expenditures, that's going to be savage process. It's not going to work, Neil.

CAVUTO: No, I think you're right.

In terms of where the IRS is, you know where the financial bodies are buried, so to speak. But you also know from your experience at the Office of Management and Budget the numbers. I always think it's very crucial for anyone who wants to be president of the United States to have a vague concept of math, addition, subtraction, stuff like that.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: So, you obviously have that. I mean, many can criticize given the enormous that has been debt run up over the last six years, that not all do.

But how do you impress upon potential voters that you're the guy to get that under control, that you're the guy to simplify a tax code that is just a mess?

EVERSON: Well, I have got a six-point program, Neil, and it's -- anybody can go to MarkforAmerica.com and see it.

And I'm going to -- I'm trying to introduce a serious conversation with the American people, and be truthful with them, because I think our politicians, they are reluctant to tell the truth and introduce uncomfortable subjects, like controlling the spending, like going after the big banks which are operating in a -- really almost a lawless manner.

Janet Yellen said yesterday, they better get their act together. So, they're just not going to take these issues on because there's too much money sloshing around in Wall Street that goes into their campaign chests.

CAVUTO: Now, you have also said something that, "I'm one and done," so to speak, that you would run for a single term, and that's it. Right?

Why?

EVERSON: I have served in two very different administrations, six years in the Reagan administration, six years with President George W. Bush.

By year three, everybody up and down the line is thinking about the reelect. We deserve somebody who is thinking about the national interests full time and is not compromised, if you will, by the self-interest of reelection politics.

Who knows, Neil. Maybe that Web site would have worked if the president had worried a little more about running the government instead of going around and doing fund-raisers.

CAVUTO: Well, you know, you're right about that, though. The election cycle is such that the pressure for reelection happens almost days after you're elected.

Having said that, though, that would with you two years, if you think about it, to do something, because even though you are committed to just the one four-year term, other Republicans would be looking to replace you for the next. And I'm wondering whether you're still in a pickle.

EVERSON: I don't think.

I think, if anything, this president has certainly proven that the presidency is always relevant and the job -- the job of the president is to run one of three co-equal branches of our government. I respect the limited powers of the presidency.

I have always done my job trying to execute the laws as written, not as I might wish them to be. That's a full-time job, as is keeping our nation safe. That's a full-time job from the date of inauguration to the date that the next president comes in.

CAVUTO: No, I'll tell you, Commissioner, I have looked at your background and a lot of your key points. And you make a very cogent, credible case.

EVERSON: Thank you.

CAVUTO: You have heard this question before.

You're up against far more attractive financial candidates. The money is almost all accounted for, I'm told, and that you're not getting it. So how do you get that message out?

EVERSON: I don't agree with you, Neil, that the money is almost all accounted for.

Sure, they're giving up the money on Wall Street with $100,000 fund-raisers for super PACs. But the average voters, they are not yet engaged. We're going to go to Iowa and try to convince one voter at a time, and there are plenty of people. I have got plenty of people...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: You have got to get in on that first debate.

EVERSON: Yes.

CAVUTO: You have got to get in on that second debate.

So I'm just wondering now how you get to there with -- you know how they do with the poll numbers and everything else.

EVERSON: Sure.

CAVUTO: FOX Business, which if you don't get, Commissioner, you should demand, we're going to be hosting one of these debates.

EVERSON: Right.

CAVUTO: How do you get to that table if they said, all right, you have to be at 5 percent or 10 percent polling threshold?

EVERSON: You get to that table by being square with the American voters.

And they're sick and tired of just moneyed interests here. And I think that we're going to take this one issue at a time, and, frankly, I believe people will appreciate that. The donors will not decide the race, Neil. The voters will.

CAVUTO: Commissioner, I want to go longer with you, because I wanted to bring a lot of viewers' attention to you, because a lot of them don't know you. A lot of them don't know this point of view.

We give inordinate amount of attention to all the primary candidates, or at least those we think are in there. But I think people should be exposed to anyone and everyone. You don't like them, you don't have to watch them or certainly listen to you.

EVERSON: Sure.

CAVUTO: So if you will indulge us, I would like to continue this.

EVERSON: Go right ahead.

CAVUTO: I want to get your sense of tax rates where they are now. You talked about a consumption tax or something like that. Would you do that in lieu of income tax rates now?

In other words, would you swap out one for the other? Would you do this in stages? What? Because that kind of a tax is said to be very regressive, and that it would hurt low-income folks the most. You say what?

EVERSON: Right. Right.

There's a very good proposal put out by Michael Graetz. He's an old Bush 41 official that puts in the consumption tax. And then you take those folks off of tax rolls. But you can -- through the payroll withholding you, you can keep square the average folk who would -- as you say, would be paying more.

It's not that complicated. It will help the economy grow. We can retain the progressivity by leaving the income tax in at the high end. And, Neil, frankly, if we do this, we can still bring the rates down for both the high-income individuals and the corporations.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: To what?

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: I don't want to put you on the spot with all of these rates.

EVERSON: Right.

CAVUTO: We have a top rate of almost 40 percent, actually more, as you know, if you throw in all the health care-related fees.

EVERSON: Right.

CAVUTO: But what would you bring it to?

EVERSON: It comes down probably about 10 points, something like that.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: And all the rates would? You would do the same with all key marginal rates?

EVERSON: Well, it's only -- you're only going to have the rates at the high end, Neil, because you're taking the rates off.

CAVUTO: Oh, I see.

EVERSON: One hundred and fifty million people dropping off the rolls. That is a great thing.

The reason you're not going to be able to make headway on the traditional tax reform is the American people are still going to be dealing with that burden of filing a tax return. This would take them off the rolls entirely and give them something that they can understand. That would be the -- that would be the benefit of it.

CAVUTO: Commissioner, you make a lot of great points. I think a lot more people should hear you.

And it is up to you folks at home whether you would like to hear this type of stuff. This is a serious guy addressing serious issues, showboating himself to no one. We thought would you like to hear that.

Commissioner, thank you very much.

EVERSON: Thank you, Neil.

CAVUTO: All right.

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