Contacting legislators  2010

 

SAFE periodically contacts members of Congress, primarily those from Delaware, with timely comments re subjects on our agenda.  We typically send one-page letters, with references to the SAFE Website for further details. See the recap of letters below.

 

Individual SAFE members also contact legislators on their own, e.g., by e-mail (through their respective Websites) or telephone.  For convenient reference, here is some contact information for members of Congress from Delaware.

 

December 13, 2010

 

[e-mailed to Senators Carper and Coons, Congressman Castle]

 

SECURE AMERICA’S FUTURE ECONOMY has advocated smaller, more focused, less costly government since 1996. 

 

This is to comment on the pending “tax cut” deal. Further discussion is posted at http://www.s-a-f-e.org/blog.htm (12/13/10 entry).

 

1.   It would be economic folly to raise income tax rates (either for all taxpayers or for high earners only) with the jobless rate standing at nearly 10%.  Longer term, Congress needs to overhaul the entire tax system and not merely tinker with tax rates.

 

2.   Instead of reviving the federal estate tax (aka “death tax”), tax jurisdiction in this area should be ceded to hard-pressed state governments. If there is to be a federal estate tax, however, the proposal on the table would beat bringing it back to life at a top rate of 55% for estates over $1 million.

 

3.   An extension of unemployment benefits seems reasonable under current circumstances, but we would recommend offsetting spending cuts to pay for it.

 

4.   A temporary payroll tax reduction would not effectively promote economic recovery.  Other add-ons (including ethanol and renewable energy subsidies) are even less defensible.  The deficit cost of the tax cut deal could be reduced roundly $200 billion by eliminating all of these items, and Congress should proceed accordingly.

 

5.   If point 4 cannot be accommodated in the current “lame duck” session, we would recommend that the tax cut deal be tabled and taken up as the first order of business in the new Congress.

 

Thanks, as always, for considering our views, and we look forward to your feedback and/or questions.

 

Sincerely,  

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November 18, 2010

 

[e-mailed to Senators Carper and Coons, Congressman Castle]

  

SAFE is a long-time advocate of smaller, more focused, less costly government.  We have periodically provided Delaware’s members of Congress with suggestions and feedback on policy issues. http://www.s-a-f-e.org/

 

Everyone seems to be talking now about the pending recommendations of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, but we have been following this initiative since the beginning.  Please see our several suggestions to the Commission and supporting material on our Website.  The following link will get you started:

http://www.s-a-f-e.org/contacting_legislators_2.htm#November_15,_2010

 

You may also be interested in our new “Members” microblog, which will track policy statements and actions of Delaware’s members of Congress (and where applicable candidates) pertaining to the SAFE agenda.  The objective is to help Delaware voters make better informed choices.

 http://www.s-a-f-e.org/members_microblog.htm

 

If you agree with our ideas, please feel free to adopt or endorse them.  We would also appreciate your feedback, whether pro or con.

 

Sincerely,

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December 6, 2010 – Composite of SAFE e-mails to the Fiscal Commission: May 18, June 21, July 26, August 23, October 4, October 20, November 15, and December 6.

 

TO: National Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Commission

 

FROM: Secure America’s Future Economy

 

5/18/10 - SAFE is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization that has been urging that the government get its fiscal affairs in order since 1996.  Perhaps some of our ideas could be of use to the Fiscal Responsibility Commission.

 

In general, we advocate smaller, more focused, less costly government.  We believe that free markets make for the best economic decisions, and that the government should only intervene in the economic sphere when and to the extent that there is a clear need for it to do so. 

 

For suggestions on specific policy issues, see the pages of our Website http://www.s-a-f-e.org/  for Budget Discipline, Social Security, Healthcare, Taxes, Energy, and Education.

  

Please let us know if there is anything further we could do that might be helpful.  Our members will be following your activities and recommendations with considerable interest.

 

6/21/10 - SAFE urges the Commission to propose aggressive action to cut government spending now versus crafting a plan for a fiscal fix later.  Our recommendation:

 

•Tracks views of many economists as to how to most effectively promote economic recovery (although some economists continue to call for more “stimulus spending”).

 

•Incorporates past experience with financial crises as analyzed by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff in “This Time Is Different” (and testified to by Professor Reinhart on 5/26/10).  U.S. public debt may well be in the “red zone” already, and there is no justification for risking a financial catastrophe by putting off action.

 

•Recognizes the practical dynamics of fiscal governance.  Serious spending cuts take a sustained effort over a period of years.  The longer that action is deferred, the more difficult it will be to get anything meaningful done.  Ditto for structural changes to entitlement programs and the tax law.

 

For detailed discussion, please see the 6/21/10 entry to our weekly blog. http://www.s-a-f-e.org/blog.htm

 

7/26/10 - We believe the Commission should seek the best answers to the fiscal problem, not simply craft a political deal.  It seems doubtful that the necessary work and discussions can be completed by December 1, e.g., a substantive review of the entire federal budget.

 

You would do better to submit a status report than to offer an arbitrary recommendation such as 75% spending cuts/ 25% tax increases. We realize that sharply divergent viewpoints are represented on the Commission (and in the country as a whole).  The differences should not be papered over because it is uncomfortable to discuss them.

 

Some people may doubt the two sides can talk to each other in a productive fashion, but experience shows that parties who do not see eye-to-eye can still engage to resolve their differences.  It has been done under conditions far more extreme than exist here.  Bargaining with the Devil: When to Negotiate, When to Fight, Robert Mnookin (Harvard Law School), Simon & Schuster (2010). http://www.s-a-f-e.org/bargaining.htm

 

For a detailed discussion of the approach that we recommend, written as a SAFE letter to a hypothetical member of the Commission, please see http://www.s-a-f-e.org/blog.htm (7/19/10 entry).

 

8/23/10 - We would like to offer some thoughts for the three work groups (see http://www.s-a-f-e.org/blog.htm, cited entries for more detail).

 

DISCRETIONAL (8/2) – It might be helpful to spend some quality time with a knowledgeable critic of wasteful government spending, e.g., Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute.  Although Mr. Edwards testified at the 6/30/10 public hearing, he did not have time to go into much detail. http://www.cato.org/testimony/ct-ce-06302010.html

 

TAX REFORM (8/9) – We are all in favor of simplifying the tax code so as to eliminate unproductive effort, reduce uncertainty, and improve compliance.  However, let’s be honest.  A tax increase by any name is still a tax increase, and the effect would be economic drag vs. stimulus.

 

MANDATORY (8/16 & 8/23) – In our opinion, your prime focus should be on healthcare, which is in far worse shape than Social Security.  The recent healthcare legislation made the situation worse, not better.  A choice will be necessary at some point between government-run healthcare (single payer system with rationing) and market-based healthcare.  The American people deserve to be told the truth before being asked to choose.

 

10/4/10 - Your September 29 meeting demonstrated, we think, the futility of trying to avert a fiscal meltdown by improving budgetary procedures and the like.  Far more sweeping actions will be required, and they must be started soon lest the country’s economic system collapse.

 

Accordingly, we would suggest that the Commission’s upcoming report: (1) Quantify the fiscal problem realistically (the CBO’s baseline projection is overly optimistic); (2) Set a goal of balancing the federal budget by 2015 (continuing deficits are not necessary or acceptable); and (3) Pinpoint the prime source of the fiscal problem (runaway growth in federal spending).

By way of follow-up, three commissions would be created by the new Congress with reporting deadlines before the 2012 elections.  Their respective charters would be (4) Reduce spending to the level in 2000 and restructure entitlement programs for sustainability over the long term (Spending Reduction Commission), and (5) Rejuvenate the U.S. economy by overhauling the tax system (Tax Simplification Commission) and pruning government regulations (Regulatory Common Sense Commission).  

Our 10/4/10 analysis (http://www.s-a-f-e.org/blog.htm) provides further particulars, and we would be pleased to discuss this matter if you wish.

 

10/20/10 -  (1) This [Wilmington, Delaware] News Journal column explains our suggestion that the Commission recommend the creation of three new commissions (Spending Reduction, Tax Simplification, and Regulatory Common Sense) to carry on its work before 2012 elections.  http://www.s-a-f-e.org/letters__2.htm#October_15,_2010

(2) If there is a shipwreck, and we are in a lifeboat in heavy seas, the most important question is not who or what caused the shipwreck.  The most important question is how do we survive?  We must all do what is necessary to survive.

This is the situation we are in now, with the federal government projected to spend all of its income for interest on the debt.  Before we get there, we face drastic inflation.  What would we do with incomes of 10-cent dollars?  

 

There is no easy solution.  The only way to avert disaster is to make changes we don't want to consider.  Slowly decreasing the deficit won't cut it.  The goal must be paying down the debt.  Allowing creation of real jobs in the private sector will provide more income to the government without raising tax rates.  Increasing tax rates would prevent job creation.  The government must become friendlier to business without subsidizing anybody.  Let business people suggest how - maybe by eliminating regulations and paperwork that are not critical.

 

The federal government must stop sending money to state governments.  Federal grants for any purpose must be severely curtailed.  Entitlements must be decreased by the federal government or handed down to be decreased by state governments.  The federal government must be downsized.

 

If all this seems drastic, it is drastic in order to leave a good America for the next generations.  We have allowed this situation to develop, so, out of fairness to the next generations, we must make the difficult changes to prevent a financial disaster.

 

11/15/10 - Some observers consider the CoChairs’ Proposal a bold plan, but in our view it does not go far enough.  Our major suggestions follow:

 

1.      Consider the deteriorating fiscal situation of state and local governments.

 

2.      Discard the distinction between “discretionary” and “mandatory” spending.

 

3.      Propose meaningful steps to rein in soaring healthcare outlays.

 

4.      Raise the retirement age for Social Security to 70 by 2030.

 

5.      Refocus domestic “discretionary” spending cuts on a probing review and pruning of existing programs.

 

6.      Give serious consideration to our SimpleTax proposal, which would have notable advantages over the Zero Plan.

 

7.      Propose that the budget be balanced by 2015, not 2037.

 

For detailed discussion, please see the following entries in our blog: 10/25 (spending), 11/1 & 11/8 (SimpleTax proposal), 11/15 (review of Co-Chairs’ Proposal).

http://www.s-a-f-e.org/blog.htm

 

12/6/10 – Although the Commission has been formally adjourned, we would like to express many thanks for the efforts of all concerned -- you have discharged a difficult task with grace and honor.  

 

As for details of our assessment, please see "Fiscal Commission sets stage for further discussion," 12/6/10, http://www.s-a-f-e.org/blog.htm

 

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SAFE Letterhead

 

September 17, 2010 (Constitution Day)

 

[Faxed to Senators Carper and Kaufman, Congressman Castle]

 

Today being the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution in 1787, it is fitting to reflect on the present day significance of that document. It seems to us that our political leaders have lost sight of the principles on which this country was founded, and that a major attitude adjustment is needed in two areas.

 

LIMITED GOVERNMENT – The founders envisioned that Congress would exercise its legislative powers in the areas designated for federal action, while leaving other matters to the discretion of the states and individuals. Over the years, however, the government has taken on one responsibility after another lying outside the sphere of action initially recognized.  Government spending, taxes, and regulations have mushroomed as a result. 

 

We recognize there is no way to turn back the clock to 1789, but smaller, more focused, less costly government remains feasible – and represents the only realistic alternative to the looming fiscal meltdown.  See our prior letters and the SAFE Website for details.

 

CHECKS AND BALANCES – The three branches of the federal government have overlapping responsibilities.  In general, Congress makes the laws, the Judicial Branch interprets them, and the Executive Branch is responsible for enforcing them.  For the system to work properly, each branch must recognize and respect the powers and prerogatives of the others.  There must also be mutual respect and accommodation between the federal government and state governments. 

 

Often, however, the leaders in these various areas have seemed more interested in getting their own way than in making the system work.  Our 9/13/10 blog entry, “Long live the Constitution,” presents a series of examples.  http://www.s-a-f-e.org/blog.htm.

 

Sincerely,

 

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Secure America’s Future Economy (s-a-f-e.org) 

July 26, 2010

 

[Faxed to Senators Carper and Kaufman, Congressman Castle]

 

As long-time advocates of smaller, more focused, less costly government, we have frequently shared our views with you and other members of Congress, although it has not always been apparent that you and your colleagues were paying attention.

 

This year, for example, we critiqued the Administration’s  budget proposal, healthcare bill, and “financial reform” bill.  http://bit.ly/b4quXY  See also our proposal for real healthcare reform (http://bit.ly/cRkruZ), which remains applicable.

 

Unfortunately, Congress opted for big government versus market-based solutions in every case.  Whether or not the financial reform bill will prevent future financial crises (we doubt this), for example, it will unleash a tidal wave of government rulemaking fostering business uncertainty and creating a bonanza for lobbyists, law firms, etc.

 

Meanwhile, the government is borrowing 40+ cents of every dollar it spends and the economic recovery is sputtering.  It is time to recognize that the economic stimulus package was a mistake, slash wasteful government spending, extend the Bush tax cuts, and stop attempting to “take over” the private sector. http://bit.ly/9IauT0

 

Not everyone agrees with us, but the polls indicate many people do.  Also, there is a big gap between the thinking of the general public and the thinking/action of the political elite. 75% says free market better than government management of economy, political class disagrees, Rasmussen Reports, 7/23/10.  http://bit.ly/aP0joZ

 

The decision not to pursue a “cap and trade” energy bill in the Senate this week may represent a sign of progress, but we suspect it was tactical rather than representing a change of heart.  http://www.s-a-f-e.org/blog.htm (7/26/10 entry).

 

We would be pleased to provide any additional information that you might find helpful.

 

Sincerely,

 

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6/22/10

 

[Sent to Carper, Kaufman & Castle via Chamber of Commerce virtual march on DC, ]

 

Dear [The message(s) you sent had each recipient's name here]:

 

We deplore the House's and Senate's passage of deeply flawed financial regulatory bills, either of which would result in a government takeover of another key sector of the economy.  The combined GovFinance bill being worked on in conference is unlikely to be any better, and in fact may prove to be worse.  

 

Neither bill provides for a shutdown of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. As the Wall Street Journal commented, this "is like declaring a war on terror and ignoring al Qaeda."

 

The creation of a Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection has little if anything to do with the financial crisis, so this massive bureaucratic expansion should be eliminated.

 

The proposed new rules for derivatives seem to be based on an assumption that companies that hedge their market risks are too dumb to know what they are doing; these rules would simply drive the handling of this function out of the U.S.  

 

The "too big to fail" premise caused big financial institutions to take unwarranted risks. The proposed legislation would simply institutionalize the type of ad hoc decision making by government bureaucrats that proved so troublesome in 2008.

 

Accordingly, we would respectfully suggest that Congress scrap both of these ill-advised bills and start over after the report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (which was created to review the causes of the crisis) becomes available in December.  In other words, Congress should follow a "ready, aim, fire" approach instead of going off half cocked.

 

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May 10, 2010

 

[Faxed to Senators Carper and Kaufman, Congressman Castle]

 

As you know, SAFE has been a long-time advocate of smaller, more focused, less costly government – and we have frequently shared our views with you.

 

In a February letter, we characterized the president’s budget for fiscal year 2011 et seq. as “appalling” and suggested an approach to put matters on a more constructive path. http://www.s-a-f-e.org/contacting_legislators_2.htm#February_22,_2010   Nearly three months on, has there been a serious effort in Congress to develop a more responsible budget?  If so, please let us know.

 

Balancing the budget boils down to refraining from spending or promising to spend more than the taxes Americans are willing to pay (pretty much what they are paying now).  Families, businesses, and even the states must either balance their budgets or suffer the consequences.  Yet the federal government keeps running up deficits and debt as if there was no tomorrow.  Within a few years, this country could reach the stage in which Greece finds itself today – which would not be much fun.

 

Perhaps it would help if Congress spent more time figuring out how to improve the existing operations of government (there must be some way to eliminate wasteful programs, combine overlapping programs, restructure entitlements, simplify the tax code, enforce the immigration laws, etc.) and less time thinking about new roles the government could assume (such as telling people what light bulbs they should use, cars they should drive, and healthcare insurance coverage they should carry).

 

The latest project, taking over the financial sector, seems to have little purpose beyond growing the government.  See our 5/3/10 and 5/10/10 blog entries for a detailed critique of the Restoring American Financial Stability Act. http://www.s-a-f-e.org/blog.htm

 

We are trying to make our comments constructive and relevant, but it takes two to have a conversation.  Your response would be appreciated.

 

Sincerely,

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March 15, 2010

 

[Faxed to Senators Carper and Kaufman, Congressman Castle]

 

Our members believe that the Administration’s healthcare plan (GovCare) is conceptually unsound, has been dishonestly presented, and would be unaffordable. Congress can and must do better than this ill-advised plan.

 

Conceptually unsound: In essence, GovCare would create a “single payer” system on the installment plan.  Private healthcare insurers would be converted into utilities and ultimately driven out of business.  The country does not need or want such legislation. As for the kind of healthcare reforms that are needed, see In Search of Real Healthcare Reform, SAFE booklet, May 2009.

 

Dishonestly presented: It simply is not true – as has been claimed repeatedly – that GovCare would reduce healthcare costs. The prices of healthcare services, products, and insurance coverage (like all economic goods) is determined by supply and demand.  Increase costs for healthcare providers and provide millions of additional people with “free” (or below cost) coverage, while doing nothing to expand supply, and watch prices go through the roof.  The argument that government bureaucrats could run the healthcare system more effectively than the private sector ignores decades of experience with government-run programs.  See this 3/11/10 editorial in the Washington Times.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/mar/11/the-lie-about-health-care-costs/

 

Unaffordable: The primary factor that is driving the federal government towards bankruptcy is soaring entitlement outlays.  Action must be taken to restructure Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid so these commitments can be maintained over the longer term – and the changes will not be easy or popular.  Instead of concentrating on fixing the existing problems, GovCare would create new ones by (a) greatly expanding Medicaid enrollment, and (b) subsidizing the healthcare coverage to be mandated for lower-income workers.  Tax increases and cost cuts for existing programs should be applied to deficit reduction, not used to fund new spending. SAFE blog, 6/1/09

 

Sincerely,

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February 22, 2010

 

[Faxed letters to Senators Carper & Kaufman, Congressman Castle]

 

SAFE continues to track the federal fiscal situation.  This letter will summarize our views – please see http://www.s-a-f-e.org/blog.htm (indicated entries) for details.

 

1.      The budget submitted by the Administration for fiscal year 2011 et seq. was appalling.  Start with a baseline of $10T deficit over 10 years, cut said deficit to $8T by tax increases with no net cuts in spending, and all that with unrealistic economic assumptions, i.e., real situation would be worse.  “Sorry, but the budget was dead on arrival,” 2/8/10.

 

2.      Congress needs to undertake a series of corrective actions, which we have broken into three categories: (a) at once, (b) before the election, and (c) longer term.  “Don’t just stand there, do something constructive,” 2/15/10.

 

3.      While the Fiscal Commission now in the process of being created offers some hope, we suspect – with lots of experience to back it up – that the real intent is not to get government spending under control, it is to create political cover for a huge tax increase.  This must not be allowed to happen.  “Here goes nothing, some thoughts about the Fiscal Commission,” 2/22/10.

 

We urge that you thoughtfully review the actions urged in item 2 and proceed accordingly.  For starters, the jobs bill, the healthcare bill, and the energy bill all need to be shelved.  In addition to many other deficiencies, they are simply not affordable.

 

Can we count on you?

 

Sincerely,

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January 20, 2010

 

[Faxed letters to Senators Carper & Kaufman, Congressman Castle]

 

With the holidays over and Congress back in session, it may be appropriate to update the views expressed in our 12/14/09 letter.

 

SAFE supports real healthcare reform. http://www.s-a-f-e.org/healthcare_reform.htm

We oppose the currently proposed legislation, however, which would inflate healthcare costs and is loaded with special deals and payoffs. Only by accounting gimmicks, e.g., counting tax increases as cost offsets and ignoring increased Medicaid burdens on state governments, can either the House or Senate bill be portrayed as fiscally responsible. 

 

The  “cap and trade” bill to force a reduction in carbon emissions should be scrapped.  Also, as suggested in our 6/8/09 letter, Congress should “put a stop” to the EPA’s unwise and counterproductive effort to administratively regulate CO2, etc. as “pollutants” based on the relatively minor effect they can be expected to have on global temperatures.

 

Re the economy, our primary concern is that Congress or the Administration will derail the developing recovery by imposing tax increases (such as those embedded in the healthcare bills or the “bank tax”) or new regulatory burdens (e.g., cap and trade).

 

Finally, Congress must act to get the government’s fiscal situation under control.  Some see the need for a huge tax increase, e.g., see David Walker’s new book, “Comeback America.” http://www.s-a-f-e.org/comeback_doc.htm We agree with Walker that taxes need to be radically simplified, but believe the main play should be slashing wasteful government spending.  http://www.s-a-f-e.org/budget_discipline.htm.

 

Sincerely,

 

PS – Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts shows that many people agree with us.

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