I’m sure that just about every American would agree that our government is in a financial crisis. Regardless of whether Congress agrees to raise the debt ceiling or not, we cannot continue on our present course; we spend more than we take in, we borrow from foreign nations, and our government expands all the while. It is a degenerative cycle that will bankrupt future generations.
Back in 2008, I offered the following suggestion to my fellow conservative voters, “When considering the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, I encourage you to put the torch under each candidate asking, ‘if elected, what federal programs, agencies, or departments will you work to eliminate?’” These words were important then, but they are far more pressing today.
As of May 2011, there are five candidates seeking the Virginia Republican nomination for the 2012 U.S. Senate race. But do any of them actually plan to cut the size and scope of the federal government? And, if so, what specific areas do they look to cut? Although I had read snippets from the various campaign websites, I didn’t have a clear and concise answer to this question. Therefore, I decided to contact each candidate seeking an answer. Here is the question I put forth on April 27th:
As more and more citizens across the commonwealth of Virginia take interest in our upcoming 2012 Senate Race, many of us are increasing alarmed about the size of our staggering federal deficit. Too many members of both parties spend our money on frivolous programs and thus the government continues to expand. One obvious solution is to dismantle portions of the government that are questionably unconstitutional or wasteful and return these powers to the state governments or the people. Therefore, as a Republican candidate seeking to represent us in the United States Senate, the burning question on my mind is, if elected, what federal programs, agencies, or departments will you work to eliminate?
Thank you for your time. I look forward to sharing your answers, as well as those of the other candidates, with the readers of my blog, The Virginia Conservative.
Now, I should mention in fairness, I asked George Allen for a little more information. Given that he previously held one of our Senate seats, I also inquired what programs he worked to cut during his time in office from 2000-2006.
Having served on many campaigns over the years, I know how busy and hectic they can be. Nevertheless, I am appreciative that all five of the campaigns found the time to answer my request. I’m pleased to present to you, the readers of The Virginia Conservative, their unedited answers in the same order that they were received. I hope my fellow Republican primary voters find their remarks enlightening.
*A release from the Jamie Radtke campaign. Sent May 5th, 2011. Revised May 17th.
One of Jimmy Carter’s boondoggles, the Department of Energy, was created in response to the OPEC oil crisis of the 1970s with the goal of promoting alternative energy sources and reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Look at where we are today. If there was ever an example of federal agency that’s spent billions and failed in its mission — DOE fits the bill. Since DoE was created, the amount of oil the U.S. imports has risen from roughly 45% to nearly 70%. The DoE also actively supported research and production of energy sources that are not — and likely never will be — viable without ongoing taxpayer subsidies.
The Department of Education is another spectacular failure from Jimmy Carter. For decades, U.S. student performance has declined relative to the rest of the world. In response to the problem, the federal government has thrown tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money and regulations at the problem. Yet the DoED is failing with flying colors and the U.S. continues to lose ground against the world. Until Jimmy Carter, education had always been a local issue, and it should become so again, without DC taking a cut of the education budget and then sending the money back to the states. It is time for parents and local governments to control education and not teacher unions and a federal bureaucracy.
A third quasi-federal activity (among many) that I would move out of the government is Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, for many reasons. Earlier this month, Fannie Mae announced it lost $6.5 billion in the first quarter of 2011, and also asked for $6.2 billion more in taxpayer subsidies. So far, between Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, American taxpayers are on the hook for at least $138 billion.
It’s time to privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and get the government out of the mortgage business. It just makes common sense. They’re a prime example of what can go wrong when Washington politics and lobbying combine with Wall Street finance. Working hand-in-glove with executives at Fannie and Freddie, Congress guaranteed billions of dollars in bad loans which contributed to the sub-prime mortgage meltdown in 2007-2008, leading to the Great Recession.
Before the housing meltdown, a handful of Senate Republicans tried to rein in Fannie and Freddie. Senator Chuck Hagel circulated a letter to Republican senators in a desperate effort to get Majority Leader Bill Frist to bring a reform bill to a vote in the Senate. But they ran into a lobbying buzz saw. According to an Associated Press story, Freddie Mac hired lobbying firm DCI of Washington to help keep Republican senators from supporting the bill. For instance, Freddie Mac paid lobbying firm DCI $10,000 every month just to focus on persuading Senator George Allen not to support Senator Hagel’s legislation. In the end, nine of the 17 GOP senators targeted by DCI chose not to sign the letter – including Senator George Allen. The lack of Republican support for the bill doomed it. A year later the sub-prime mortgage crisis began.
There are proposals now before the House and Senate that would take a quick approach to transitioning Fannie and Freddie to the private sector and reducing the risk to American taxpayers. One such bill is H.R. 1182, introduced by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and co-sponsored by 47 other members, including Rep. Michele Bachmann, Rep. Randy Forbes, and Rep. Paul Ryan. Unfortunately, there is considerable resistance on Capitol Hill to privatizing Fannie and Freddie. Unfortunately, the Washington lobbyists who got us into this mess are saying it would be just terrible to privatize Fannie and Freddie – and Congress seems to be listening to the lobbyists.
Congress is like a family that’s been living beyond its means and borrowing each month – for years – to pay its bills. Now it’s credit is running out and it’s fallen behind on the mortgage and if it doesn’t cut its spending it’s going to lose its home. A family can sit down at the dinner table, face the hard choices and make the tough decisions. It’s not pleasant or easy, but families do it all the time. It works because each family controls its own spending. But we — the taxpayers — don’t control Washington’s spending. The hard truth is, right now, we can’t make Congress stop spending.
What to cut is vitally important. But let’s be careful not to get the cart in front of the horse. Right now, we still have to figure out how to get the Washington politicians to sit down at the dinner table and agree to make some real cuts – instead of continuing to borrow. The best way to do this is to freeze the debt ceiling and stop the spending insanity. We must start to live within our means. Because when you find yourself in a hole, the best thing to do is… stop digging!
Reduce the size, scope, and power of the Federal Government
- Downsize the bureaucracy of the Federal Government one department at a time. First eliminate the Department of Education, followed by the Department of Energy, followed by the Department of HUD and lastly the EPA. Once the Fair Tax is implemented; eliminate the IRS.
- Balance the Budget and pay off all debt. It is the moral obligation of our generation to pay off all our debts.
- Stop all earmarks, bailouts, subsidies, stimulus, and corporate welfare.
- Privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Audit all transactions for the past 20 years.
- Audit and nationalize the Federal Reserve.
Stop the Corruption and Political Pandering in Washington
- Ban all Senators from working as a lobbyist for a period of 10 years from retirement.
- Limits on Power- Term limits for all Federal Judges (8 years), Congressmen (8 years) and Senators (6 years).
- Stop all stock and commodities trading by all Senators and their staff.
- Send Them Home- I support the conversion from a full-time to a part-time Congress and Senate. Reduce all budgets by 33%.
- Transparent Legislation- All bills under 100 pages shall be made public for 7 days before a vote. All bills over 100 pages shall be made public for 21 days. All bills must identify the parties that have drafted the bill, must have an economic cost analysis, a source of funding and the citation of the Constitutional authority.
- All amendments to any bill must relate back to its main provision.
* A release from the David McCormick campaign. May 12, 2011
E. W. Jackson
Note from The Virginia Conservative: Unlike the rest of the candidates, Mr. Jackson’s campaign did not send a formal written statement, but rather a brief email in combination with a phone conversation. Therefore, although the thoughts are his, the specific words are mine.
Mr. Jackson is a strong supporter of the Fair Tax. He believes that our debt is our greatest priority.
As for specific departments within the federal government, he intends to work to abolish: The Department of Education, The Department of Energy, and The Department of Housing & Urban Development. Mr. Jackson is a strict constructionist who will not support laws not authorized by the Constitution.
* From the Jackson campaign on May 18th, 2011 and May 23rd.
Our country’s annual deficit is set to hit a record $1.5 trillion this year – and that’s after two straight years of trillion dollar annual deficits. Washington’s out-of-control spending – the $800 billion jobless stimulus, the unconstitutional government mandated healthcare, and bailouts – has to end. The small businesses and the families of Virginia can’t afford to continue footing the bill for unsustainable government growth.
America needs to get back to our constitutional roots, respecting the limitations our Founders placed on the power of the national government and insisting on the wise and frugal government that Mr. Jefferson described in his first inaugural address. I don’t know anyone outside of Washington who thinks today’s over-reaching, over-spending federal government is being a wise steward of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars or operating at 100% efficiency. A few months ago the GAO came out with a report that confirms what we already knew – the federal government’s budget is bloated with duplication and hundreds of billions of dollars of waste. We can start to rein in the spending by consolidating or eliminating some of these wasteful, duplicative programs saving billions of taxpayer dollars.
I would begin to rein in government by rolling back the excesses of the Obama Administration — from repealing Obamacare and its unconstitutional mandates to getting rid of all the unelected, unaccountable “Czars” who do not have the scrutiny of Senate confirmation yet exercise far-reaching powers that affect not just spending in Washington, but our very freedoms as Americans. Right behind them are all of the new regulators who have been added in agencies such as the EPA and the IRS, helping fuel the regulatory excesses that are burdening our families and our economy. We must stop spending taxpayer money on programs that clearly aren’t working like the $800 billion jobless stimulus.
Several federal Departments and agencies are ripe for streamlining — Energy, Commerce, the Surgeon General’s office as well as the Department of Education — with the majority of their activities and authority turned back over to the people in the States, where such decisions rightfully belong. There is no better example of how this can work than welfare reform. During my service as Governor, Virginia took over the federal government’s bloated, initiative-sapping welfare program, transformed it to reflect Virginia values of work and individual responsibility, saved taxpayers money and put people on the path of leading independent, self-reliant lives.
We should also take a page from Blue Ribbon Strike Force that I appointed as my first act as Governor and pursue government management reforms such as selling unneeded and unused federal property; cutting back the federal government’s growing fleet of vehicles and civilian aircraft and tightly controlling to make certain those that remain in the fleet are used only for legitimate business purposes and when most cost-effective; and eliminating wasteful printing and publications.
It is clear that Washington is in desperate need of checks and balances to stop the Washington Democrat agenda that has vastly expanded the size and scope of government and put our country on the verge of bankruptcy.
Throughout my service to the people of Virginia, I have worked to rein in and reform government to make sure it does its job efficiently and effectively and does not waste our hard-earned tax dollars.
During my service as Governor, we reduced the size of the state government payroll by 10,000 while providing the conditions for businesses to create over 310,000 net new private sector jobs in Virginia through lower taxes on job creators, business recruitment and prompt permitting. I also appointed a Blue Ribbon Strike Force to identify ways to eliminate waste in Virginia’s government and ordered a comprehensive review of state government regulations that resulted in over 70 percent of all regulations being eliminated or modified to be less burdensome. These reforms made government more efficient and less intrusive for families and businesses.
I took that same philosophy to the Senate where I earned a lifetime rating of 93% from the American Conservative Union and a 100% rating from Americans for Tax Reform for keeping America competitive for jobs and investment while cutting wasteful spending so taxpayers could keep more of what they earn. I was one of 15 Senators to vote against the wasteful Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska; I voted for earmark reform to bring accountability and transparency to the process; and led the successful fight for the Internet tax moratorium to ensure federal, state and local governments could not tax internet access and threatening its future as a source of economic growth.
Recognizing that unelected bureaucracies needed to be held in check, I cosponsored the Congressional Responsibility Act which would prevent regulatory overreach by requiring approval by elected representatives. I also advanced ideas to return more decision-making to the states and to the people – for example, I supported creation of an education demonstration program similar to the welfare reform model whereby up to 7 States and 80 localities could receive funds as a block grant to use according to state and local priorities (receiving a waiver from rigid federal program formulas).
I was a sponsor of the Commission on the Accountability and Review of Federal Agencies Act which would have established a commission to review federal agencies and programs and recommend the elimination of duplication, wasteful or outdated programs and agencies.
Believing the government should not stand in the way of freedom of expression and association I voted against the McCain-Feingold restriction of freedom, fought against outdated, restrictive FCC regulation of cross-ownership of newspapers, TV and radio stations; and stood up against big union bosses costly, non-competitive Project Labor Agreement for building the Wilson Bridge.
I also fought to change the way Washington does business. I introduced a comprehensive budget reform plan that included a Balanced Budget Amendment with taxpayer protection as well as Presidential line-item veto authority and a “paycheck penalty” that would withhold Members’ salaries when they don’t pass budgets on time. The presidential line item veto authority would give the President the ability to eliminate programs without having to veto an entire appropriations bill. As Governor, I found using the line-item veto a very useful tool allowing me to cut waste and undesirable policy from spending bills.
These past few years have proven that in the U.S. Senate every single vote counts. I will be a leader who will fight for real reforms to get our country back on the path to prosperity. If given the honor and responsibility of serving the people of Virginia in the United States Senate, I pledge to work hard rein in the federal government; work to create an economic environment to make America competitive for jobs; and fight to unleash American energy resources thereby creating more jobs and more affordable electricity, fuels and food.
* A release from the George Allen campaign. Sent May 23rd, 2011.
The single most important element of reducing the size and scope of the federal government is to think big. Repeated fights over individual line items in the federal budget have produced the same results: threats of government shutdowns accompanied by minimal reductions.
Exhibit A was the recent fight between the two parties that supposedly resulted in $38 billion in cuts. But when the CBO crunched the numbers, the actual amount of cuts was $355 milliion, a proverbial drop in the bucket, or more precisely, the ocean. The same accounting tricks that have become the trademark of Capitol Hill were employed to inflate the cuts dramatically. For example, almost $2 billion was “cut” in 2011 for the now-completed 2010 census…funds that obviously could not be spent anyway.
It is true that the Departments of Energy and Education have been demonstrably counter-productive to their stated goals – educational outcomes have decreased in inverse proportion to federal spending, and we have failed to develop anything approaching a coherent energy policy as we become increasingly dependent on foreign energy sources.
But while these departments and others should be squarely on the chopping block, the reality is that we will get nowhere in reducing the size and scope of government as long as we are willing to deal with only the 12% of the federal budget that has been on the table – non-defense domestic discretionary spending.
It is well beyond time that we deal with 100% of the federal budget.
This entails going beyond just spending cuts to structural reform, foremost of which should be a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget and limit federal spending to 18% of GDP (as proposed by Utah Sen. Mike Lee). Only by limiting budgets by law can we ultimately forge a permanent cure for Washington’s spending addiction.
This also entails, yes, “entitlement” reform, and Medicare is undeniably the biggest storm cloud on the near horizon. And while I applaud Paul Ryan and his courageous foray into the hornet’s nest of Medicare reform, his premium support plan is, in my view, insufficient for the long-term sustainability of a popular program crippled by the reality of up to $70 trillion in unfunded liabilities. Instead, we must evolve long-term to a system in which participants are given the choice to re-direct their Medicare contributions – and those of their employers – to retirement health savings accounts.
These structural reforms will take time, but will result in what should be the ultimate goal of reducing the size and scope of government – to give Americans the opportunity to keep more of their own money, make more of their own decisions and take greater control of their own lives.
* A release from the Donner campaign. Sent May 28th, 2011.
Although this article originally included responses from only the first four candidates listed, within hours of posting I received word from both the Donner campaign and Mr. Donner himself. Not quite sure what caused the communication glitch, but I’m glad to have Mr. Donner join this conversation.
So what do you think of the responses of all five of the candidates for U.S. Senate?
Next year, conservatives, libertarians, moderates, and, yes, even some liberals across Virginia will be heading to the polls to select our Republican nominee for Senator. It is imperative that we educate ourselves; we must become informed voters who choose a candidate who best addresses the specific needs of our state and nation.
As stated at the beginning, I, for one, strongly believe that we must reduce the size and scope of our bloated federal government to chip away at our staggering debt and restore our limited Constitutional framework. That is why I have sought and now offer you the thoughts of four conservative men and one conservative woman who seek this high office.
So whose plan is the best? Whose ideas are most feasible? There will be plenty of time for commentary in the days to come. I hope that the answers provided by the five candidates will aid you in your decision.