American Rag’s Mark Werts Gets Political

It’s been the topsiest turviest election season in recent memory.

Leading candidates have not held up more starkly different views on what the American government needs to do next. But most news stories seem to be dominated by the candidates' latest below-the-belt verbal duels.

Entering this fray is Mark Werts, known well to Southern California fashion people as the man who founded American Rag Cie in the 1980s. It’s a specialty fashion store which also offers vintage styles, arts and homewares at 150 S. La Brea Ave. in Los Angeles. Among other projects, Werts opened an American Rag store in Newport Beach, Calif., and has been opening American Rag shops overseas, including a prominent location in Shanghai.


Mark Werts. Courtesy of Mark Werts.

Werts isn’t running for office, but he recently published a book, America's Simple Solutions, A Visionary's Blueprint for a Better Tomorrow. It will be officially published by Cool Titles in July. (Werts said that it was up to the reader on whether or not to use the acronym for the book for laughs. He has a serious message for United States in the book.)

Werts spent a good deal of his adult life as an international entrepreneur. He’s lived and run businesses in Netherlands, France, Hong Kong, Turkey, Japan, South Africa, Italy, Thailand, Indonesia and China. “When I traveled, I thought why does this country have this problem, and why does this country not have this problem,” he said.

As someone who voted for Robert Kennedy in 1968, and Ronald Reagan in 1980, Werts said that he has no dogma. He looks for what works. In his book, he outlines programs from other countries that America should take a deeper look. They could result in building American wealth and personal freedom.

FROM CANADA: Werts praised Canada’s public healthcare system. It guarantees universal health care, which costs Canada 11 percent of its GDP. Canada’s neighbor to the south, spends 17 percent – perhaps much more - of its GDP of health care, and still cannot guarantee healthcare to everyone, he said.

FROM HONG KONG: Hong Kong maintains a 16 percent flat tax. Werts said that the government has surpluses occasionally and vigorous growth under tenuous political circumstances with the People’s Republic of China. Compare that to a US tax code. Werts said was four times bigger than the King James Bible. It is impossible to understand, and creates up an $18-trillion deficit. The flat tax should be complemented by a consumption tax, which would be higher on those who consume more.

FROM SWITZERLAND Only 3 percent of Swiss people are on welfare. Those on welfare are tested for skills. Then they are offered a job with government or the private sector. If the job offers are refused a few times, welfare checks are reduced – eventually to zero. In America, there’s an open-ended welfare system, Werts argues, where 21.3 percent of the population receives some kind of government assistance. The system is rife with fraud and it saps the dignity of those living on welfare.

The book goes beyond wonky discussion of law, tax and public policy. Werts talks about his family’s Catholic roots –– two uncles who served as Jesuits, and an aunt who was a Dominican nun. There was an older brother who was a Jesuit until falling in love and leaving the priesthood.

Werts’ current family is multi-racial. There’s a Nigerian son-in-law and African-American grandkids. Werts also started a new family with Amanda Shi-Werts, who grew up in Hong Kong. They have two kids, Iggy and Chloe, who are Eurasian.

Werts often quotes from Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill when making arguments. There’s a section on how he became a Second Amendment supporter came during the L.A. riots of 1992. “When I lived in socialist Netherlands , I thought that Americans were needlessly violent,” he said. “Then my family was threatened.”

It was anarchy in Los Angeles during the ’92 riots. Looters were casing places to rob. Werts wanted to protect his store. With some gun-owning friends, and some professional security guards, they patrolled the roof of the American Rag building. “I walked with a Beretta in belt and a Remington in my hand,” he said. “I didn’t know if I was going to live or die.”

The book ends with a call to action. To strengthen America, Werts stresses civic engagement. Voting is a must. “You have to vote, voting is the mechanism the (U.S.)Founding Fathers gave the system for correction… and we need correction.”