By Dr. Harold Pease
What most do not realize is that December 31 is but the first fiscal cliff—the little one. Given the inability of both parties to deal with this little one, although they have known about it for almost two years, how can we have any faith in their ability to prevent the ultimate collapse of the economy if immediate and drastic changes are not made soon? Why not solve both now before options are more drastic later?
Neither party really represents limited constitutional government and both are addicted to debt. It is like an addict prescribing his own detox program. Consequently Freedom Works, a Tea Party affiliate, selected 12 of their own members and through the Internet invited 150,000 members to make suggestions on what should be done. The Tea Party Debt Commission was formed to provide the federal government a solution. Its final report summarized the problem, “Our government is doing too many things it can’t do well, or shouldn’t do at all, with money it doesn’t have. We are borrowing 43 cents of every dollar we spend….”
The Tea Party Plan cuts, caps, and balances federal spending. The budget is balanced in four years, without tax hikes, and remains balanced. Federal spending is reduced by $9.7 trillion over the next ten years. The plan shrinks the federal government from 24 % of GDP to about 16 %. Finally it stops the growth of the debt and begins paying it down. Within a generation there would be no national debt. Bold indeed!
How do they do this? First, stop duplication of services. They note that the “Government Accountability Office counted no fewer than 47 job training programs, 56 financial literacy programs, 80 economic development programs, 18 food assistance programs, 20 programs for the homeless, 82 teacher-quality programs spread across 10 agencies, and more than 2,100 data centers. All told, we have nearly 2,200 federal programs.” Government is bloated, inefficient, and wasteful.
Second, repeal services that we can no longer afford and/or that are not authorized within the Constitution. These goals include repealing ObamaCare, eliminating four unconstitutional, costly, inefficient Cabinet agencies—Energy, Education, Commerce, and HUD—and reducing or privatizing many others, including EPA, TSA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. Their report calls for ending farm subsidies, government student loans, and foreign aid to countries that don’t support us—luxuries we can no longer afford.
Third entitlement programs must be incentivized to give donors more for their money. Boldly they opened the unfunded liabilities door—the door neither party dares to open as potentially it could destroy career politicians and political parties. They concluded that they could make Social Security “sustainable and actually improve benefits by harnessing the power of compound interest.” They noted, “Three decades ago, Chile embarked on a bold transformation of its retirement security system. Today, that system [SMART Accounts] is the envy of the world, giving seniors far better benefits than the old, government-run system ever did.”
Shortly thereafter three counties in Texas adopted the SMART Accounts program in favor of personal accounts and thus those retiring today do so “with much more money and have significantly more generous death and disability supplemental benefits than do Social Security participants.” Moreover, they “face no long term unfunded pension liabilities.” The Commission recommends that, “all state and local governments should have the option of opting into the ‘Galveston model.’ ”
The Tea Party Debt Commission saw the Medicare program as outdated, inefficient, and corrupt and recommended six major changes that if followed would save, they predicted, $676,000,000 the first year and $2,030,843,000,000 in 10 years. These changes are first “let individuals opt out of Medicare under Senator Jim DeMint’s ‘Retirement Freedom Act.”’ Second, let all new Medicare beneficiaries enroll in the Federal Employees’ Health Benefit Program (FEHBP) introduced by Senator Rand Paul as the “Congressional Health Care for Seniors Act.” Third, reduce Medicare subsidies to actual cost of hospitals’ graduate medical education. Fourth, maintain Medicare’s physician payment rates at the 2011 level. Fifth, convert the open-ended Medicaid program into a capped block grant to the states. And six call on all states to reform their medical malpractice and product liability systems—tort reform.
Opting into the same Medicare program the members of Congress use, the second Tea Party change recommended, is much better for participants because it “relies on competing private insurers to provide benefits, and as a result has very little of the fraud and waste problems that plague today’s outdated and poorly designed Medicare system.” One wonders why Congress can make for themselves such a good system and leave us one with “between 10 and 20 percent of Medicare’s $450 billion annual budget being attributable to waste, fraud, and abuse….” Moreover, it suspends pension contributions and COLAs for Members of Congress, whenever the budget is in deficit.
The new plan offers a rational transition to ownership of our own retirement and more control and choice over our health care. Why did the government fail to accomplish the same thing—even behind closed doors? Their first concern is to protect their jobs and party. Outsiders, without a personal stake in the outcome, can see much more and do much more without the inevitable political wrangling. Learn more and review the details of the Tea Party Debt Commission’s recommendations by visiting FreedomWorks.org/the-tea-party-budget. Will Congress explore these changes with intent to make them? Not unless you demand that they do so.
Dr. Harold Pease is an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 25 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.