Celebrate the past, plan for the future (E-1)
11/05/18 Filed in: SAFE Strategies
SAFE is a small, all-volunteer “think tank,” which generates blog entries, newsletters, and letters to the editor & political leaders. Yet our members have sallied forth from the ivory tower with some regularity over the years to attend conferences, hearings, & public events; give talks and arrange speakers; and lobby for policy changes that we favor. What a great way to stay abreast of the latest thinking and gauge whether our ideas are gaining any traction.
A makeover of the SAFE Events page provided an encouraging reminder of the scope and diversity of projects that this organization and associates have tackled over the years. Not all of our efforts have succeeded, of course, but overall it’s a record to be proud of.
There are 70+ items on the expanded list, which runs in reverse chronological order back to 2000. And that doesn’t count events for which we couldn’t locate contemporaneous documentation, not to mention numerous SAFE meetings (once bi-monthly, now quarterly).
Your faithful scribe participated in or attended most of the listed events, typically with other SAFE members including Bill Morris, Barry Dorsch, Edgar Fasig, Jerry Martin, Steve McClain and John Nichols. Here are some of the highlights. Enjoy!
1. Newark Community Day – Starting on 9/17/00, SAFE participated in this annual event (a Sunday afternoon in mid to late September) on the University of Delaware campus for a number of years. The drill was to erect the SAFE banner in our assigned area, import folding tables & chairs, display posters on easels and attempt to engage with passersby about our agenda.
Flyers were handed out, conversations took place, and a few minds were possibly changed. A variation on the theme was to ask people to take a survey, as was done starting with a “test your knowledge” quiz on 9/19/04. SAFE member George Jurgensen got the highest score and received a cash prize of $100.
The high point for the surveys was on 9/18/05 when, with the aid of some UD students, we succeeded in getting 263 people to answer questions about the foreseeable bankruptcy of the Social Security system. Ninety-two per cent of the respondents said the problem should be dealt with “now," although action has yet to be taken.
SAFE stopped participating in NCD after 2008, although Climate Common Sense (an allied organization) gave it a go on 9/19/10 (scroll down to date). Bill Morris's report paints a vivid picture of that afternoon’s activities.
2. Rick Jensen Show (WDEL, 1150 AM) – This radio talk show features interviews with knowledgeable individuals and takes call-in questions from listeners. The show started in 2001 and is still going strong; it is considered a favorable venue for conservatives
SAFE’s Winter 2003 newsletter reported that two SAFE directors (Barry Dorsch & Bill Morris) had appeared on the RJS re the recently enacted Medicare drug benefits. Barry was the new SAFE president at the time, having just taken the helm from Bill. Note the striking sketch of Barry by the late Dick Reese, which appeared in the same issue of the newsletter.
SAFE (Dorsch & Whipple) appeared on the 6/17/04 RJS re the need for Social Security reforms. We suggested three steps: (1) raise the retirement age to recognize dramatic increases in human life expectancy; (2) index Social Security benefits less generously for inflation; and (3) offer active workers the option of using payroll taxes they pay to fund private retirement accounts. One caller dismissed our concerns citing trillions of dollars in the trust fund, but we pointed out that Congress had already spent this money.
A different approach (including tax increases) was presented at an AARP breakfast on 10/4/04 (attended by Morris & Whipple), but our thinking was reinforced at a Cato conference in February 2005 (SAFE was represented by Martin & Whipple) about their proposed “6.2 percent solution.”
The Bush administration subsequently offered a plan that would have gone part way towards implementing the Cato proposal. SAFE worked hard to support it, including Spring 2005 contacts with members of Congress and a 6/17/05 talk to members of the Retired Men’s Luncheon Club. The Bush plan encountered fierce resistance, however, and it was soon dropped.
SAFE hasn’t been back on the RJS re fiscal issues, but SAFE director John Nichols has been interviewed several times re energy policy issues. Also, DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara was interviewed on 9/3/13 (scroll down to date) re the Bloom Energy deal, with Nichols and others calling in questions. Well done!
3. Retired Men’s Luncheon Club (RMLC) – Organized when the DuPont Company and other local employers were offering incentives for early retirement, the RMLC had hundreds of members at one time. More recent retirees seem less interested in joining this and other social organizations, so the membership has dwindled over the years.
A number of SAFE members participated in the RMLC, and they helped to arrange many of the after-lunch speakers. One of our most successful efforts was a 5/18/01 talk by Maurice McTigue, who had formerly served in the New Zealand government and led a highly successful campaign to cut government spending (aka the “New Zealand miracle”). Some 200 people heard the talk and gave the speaker a standing ovation.
Here is a sampling of other RMLC talks arranged by SAFE members:
•Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste re the need for earmark and lobbying reforms (3/17/06)
•SAFE member Spear Lancaster & the school principal re a topnotch charter school in Maryland (3/19/10)
•SAFE member Jim Venema re the collateral damage caused by a New Castle County school busing order (8/17/12).
4. Fiscal issues – Disappointment with the mediocre fiscal record of the Bush administration sparked growing demands for action to balance the budget and get the government off the path to an eventual fiscal meltdown. We avidly followed these efforts and participated to the extent feasible.
SAFE (McClain & Whipple) attended a National Taxpayers Union conference in June 2007. The need for more limited government was taken as a given at this event, and the focus was “nuts and bolts” guidance on key tasks, from attracting members and fundraising to communicating ideas and overcoming the opposition. One concrete result was the launching of the weekly blog on SAFE’s website.
SAFE’s Newark Community Day theme on 9/16/07 was fiscal policy, and we succeeded in getting 121 people to choose between two approaches (shrink the government or raise taxes). 79% supported the first option, although there was some grumbling about the possibility of intermediate solutions.
In this time frame, U.S. Comptroller General David Walker, Robert Bixby of the Concord Coalition, et al. were barnstorming the country with a Fiscal Wakeup Tour. SAFE (Morris, Martin, McClain, Whipple, Wiest) attended one of the forums on 10/29/07, coming away with somewhat mixed impressions in that none of the participants seemed to be advocating actionable solutions.
David Walker subsequently left the government to take a position with the Peterson Foundation and a film about the fiscal problem named I.O.U.S.A. was released in August 2008. SAFE’s reactions to this milestone event were duly reported, and we received a cordial acknowledgment from Mr. Walker.
Neither of the presidential candidates offered a credible set of proposals for addressing the fiscal problem, and it was effectively upstaged by an economic crisis. The SAFE blog (10/27/18) reported that voters were being offered an unappealing choice between “central planning and an eclectic mix.”
Elections have consequences, as the winner famously observed, and a huge fiscal stimulus package was approved soon after President Obama was sworn in. Other progressive proposals followed, including a plan to significantly expand government controls over the healthcare system and reduce the supposedly unacceptable number of Americans who didn’t have healthcare insurance coverage.
SAFE developed a plan for healthcare reform, which was based on the premise that the fundamental problem was high cost vs. lack of coverage, but didn’t have much luck in getting our plan considered as an alternative to the proposals that were in vogue and would ultimately be enacted as GovCare (aka Obamacare). Check out this report of SAFE's (Martin, Whipple) participation in a “listening session” with Sen. Tom Carper on 9/2/09.
5. Tea Parties – In 2009, there was a wave of sentiment that the political pendulum had swung too far left and conservatives needed to push back. Numerous “ tea party” groups (evoking both the Boston Tea Party of colonial times and a modern “taxed enough already” slogan) sprang into existence. SAFE wasn’t leading the charge, but we did participate in some of the activity.
Thus, a SAFE team (Dorsch, McClain, Whipple, Wiest) joined the 9/12/09 March on Washington. We traveled to the staging area by buses/metro, marched with many others down Pennsylvania Avenue (“Team SAFE edges into the flow, four drops in a 3-hour stream of humanity”), massed around the west end of the Capitol Building, cheered a series of speeches that weren’t easy to hear, found a food cart for lunch, relaxed on the other side of the reflecting pool, and eventually made our way back to Delaware. Quite a day!
A year later (on 8/29/10), SAFE (McClain, Whipple) attended the “Restoring honor” rally organized by Glenn Beck. It would be the last of the big tea party rallies; most of the demonstrations since then have been organized by the left.
That doesn’t mean the tea party spirt is dead, but conservatives have been finding new and perhaps more practical means of expressing it. Dr. Ben Carson summed things up beautifully in an 8/11/13 speech (scroll down to date).
The political pendulum has swung far to the left, but it will swing back in due course. You are the majority, despite the efforts of the “progressives” to convince you otherwise. Don’t give in to political correctness, which is basically an attempt to shut you up, or be cowed into silence about your religious faith. And remember, “If I’m wrong and the nation goes over the cliff, we will go over it together.”
6. Conservative Caucus of Delaware (CC) – Most conservative groups have a defining theme, but the Conservative Caucus covers the full spectrum from fiscal conservatism to the 2nd Amendment and the right to life. In recent years, SAFE has increasingly become a supporter of CC’s activities.
Thus, we have enjoyed CC’s annual banquets, which feature good food, good company and a variety of interesting speakers. Notable speakers have included the late Justice Antonin Scalia on 10/6/13 (scroll down to date) and Brexit architect Nigel Farage on 10/15/17.
Also, the CC has provided a forum for several SAFE speakers including John Nichols re an egregious example of crony capitalism (scroll down to Bloom Energy) on 5/6/14, Daniel Kerrick, Esq. re evolving ground rules for debt collection on 5/16/16, and your faithful scribe re the US Supreme Court on 7/18/18.
Likewise, CC director Patrick Barron (an economist of the Austrian persuasion) gave an RMLC talk re the fallacy of “negative interest rates” on 11/18/16.
7. The beat goes on – There is no shortage of opportunities for improvement in the government policy areas that SAFE follows. The fiscal problem is worse now than it seemed when the Fiscal Wakeup Tour was taking place, the healthcare system is a mess, and some truly foolish ideas are being advocated in the name of combatting global warming.
Fiscal situation – Several efforts have been made to address deficits and debt in recent years, notably a Fiscal Commission that was appointed by President Obama in 2010, labored for months to come up with recommendations (which were proposed by Co-Charis Erskine Bowles & Alan Simpson rather than being developed by the FC as a whole), but received little support from the president or anyone else. Here’s a mid-stream update on the project that we presented to the RMLC on 5/21/10.
The Bowles/Simpson recommendations (for which Sen. Tom Carper provided some input) weren’t designed to balance the budget, but they would have represented a significant improvement over the status quo. Carper later asked the president about his lack of support. The president's response was along the lines that he had not wanted to “negotiate with himself,” presumably meaning that he had been looking for bigger tax increases than were proposed. Meeting with Sen. Tom Carper re fiscal problem, 9/24/18.
Unless and until there is some presidential leadership in the fiscal area, which has not been evident since the Clinton era, significant progress in cutting deficits (let alone balancing the budget) appears improbable. Can history provide some guidance on how to bring such leadership about? Provably not, because "moving through history is like walking down a hallway backwards; you can only see where you have been.” Cato University 2012” workshop, notes.
Time will tell what the current president will do about the situation, but we were pleased by his recent response to a letter about the fiscal problem that we sent him in February. Fix fiscal problem (President Trump), 2/26/18 (scroll down for response).
Healthcare – See the RMLC talk by Dr. Christopher Casscells of the Caesar Rodney Institute re how the US healthcare system is changing as a result of GovCare (3/21/14, scroll down to healthcare predictions).
Energy policy – SAFE and allies have gone after the manmade global warming theory (MMGWT) with a vengeance in recent years, as well as some of the special interest giveaways it has fostered. Here is a sampling of our efforts.
•April 2008 - CC talk on global warming by Dr. David Legates
•Summer 2008 - SAFE director Bill Morris debunks global warming threat, multiple talks
•3/18/16 - RMLC talk (slideshow presentation) by SAFE member John Greer on MMGWT
•12/8/16 – Energy policy conference in DC (Heritage & Texas Public Policy Foundations)
•10/6/17 & 11/15/17 - Meetings of Offshore Wind working group
•10/9/18 (Scroll down to Section B) - Public Service Commission hearing re proposed review of QFCP tariff (Bloom Energy fuel cells) for Delmarva Power ratepayers