Growing up above a funeral home in downtown Panama City, Steve Southerland has literally spent his life surrounded by business. So when he became fed up with private enterprise being over-regulated and government running amok with taxpayer dollars, he decided enough was enough. He threw his hat in the ring and hit the high road to Washington, garnering a seat as the U.S. Representative for district 2. After a little over six months in office, Southerland has gotten a taste of big government, up close and personal. As for the biggest waste, he doesn’t hesitate to respond: “Discretionary spending. It has increased in Washington, DC by 83 percent in the last two and a half years if you factor in the stimulus dollars,” he says. Well aware no family or business could operate the way the federal government has been managing the nation’s budget, Southerland is baffled by the mindset. “They’re having a heyday with bloated departments, hiring and spending money like it’s going out of style.” Southerland shoots straight from the hip with his no-bones-about-it message that hasn’t wavered since he stepped onto the political scene. “When you talk about waste, [the government] is out of touch with reality,” he remarks, observing, “There is an entitlement mentality in DC.” During his first few months as a U.S. representative, Southerland has watched as department heads repeatedly come before congress with budget increase requests. “I’m amazed at how they just continue,” he says, noting that regulations keep piling on and federal department expenses continue to mount. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, community banks are failing and small businesses can’t get access to capital. For the complete story on our interview with Congressman Southerland, check out this week’s print edition.