Fleshing out our ideas; Part II
By: Congressman Jack Kingston · Section: Diaries
From the diaries . . .
Our legislative accomplishments over the past year were numerous thanks to the strong leadership of Speaker Denny Hastert of Illinois. Y'all may not know him as the star of the show, but to those of us who know and trust him most--his colleagues--he has been the strong and trusted hand on the tiller guiding our success.
To return to the football analogy - with Denny calling the plays and John leading the offense - I know the team will be able to put the points on the board. This combination of steady, proven leadership and the new burst of energy that follows any election gives me great hope for the year ahead.
In my post yesterday, I shared my thoughts on where House Republicans have been over the past few weeks and where I think we should go before November. I have been listening to both my colleagues and constituents for the past few months and these are the themes they care about.
Here are some of my ideas:
Read on . . .
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Feb 8th, 2006: 17:46:08
American Renewal Project
1. We need to keep money where it belongs - out of the hands of the government and into the hands of the taxpayer.
This is a win-win for taxpayers and our Party and should be the prism with which we gauge bureaucratic programs and spending.
One idea is to appoint a special BRAC-type Commission - independent of the political process to recommend savings.
Another idea is an across-the-board savings plan in discretionary spending.
Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis did a great job in leading us to a 1 percent across-the-board cut last year. Every agency, including the Department of Defense, needs to prioritize their programs and at the very least live on the same budget they had the previous year. That's what most Americans must do, why not the federal government? The President's budget proposal appears to be a step in the right direction.
All spending programs must be justified each year, as opposed to only explaining the amounts requested in excess of the previous year's funding. We shouldn't assume that what we spent last year is what we need to spend this year. Without this, the only direction to spend is up.
Sunset provisions for all new government programs.
This will help add more oversight to the process by judging each program's effectiveness over the past year.
There are a number of ideas on the table regarding earmarks. As an appropriator for the past 10 years, I can tell you that not all earmarks are "pork," but as Glenn Reynolds and NZ Bear over at Porkbusters certainly point out - we have our work to do. I am hopeful that we will work out a balanced proposal that helps eliminate abuse of the system while ensuring important programs are still being funded.
2. We need to secure our borders to prevent illegal immigration and criminal activity.
America is staring down the muzzle of a double-barreled immigration crisis.
In 1996, there were 32,000 illegal aliens in Georgia. By 2000 that estimate jumped to 228,000, which is a 613 percent increase in just four years! This is putting pressure on local government, schools, emergency rooms, and public assistance programs. America is literally splitting at the seams.
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to defuse this current crisis. We need to find a solution that is balanced, bipartisan, and comprehensive. We need to control our borders first and then address the issue of a temporary worker program - and I mean TEMPORARY.
One of my top concerns is "anchor babies." An anchor baby is the child of an illegal alien who is born in the United States, therefore gaining citizenship and those benefits that go with it. Not a single European nation has this policy, and the United States and Canada are the only Western, industrialized nations still providing birthright citizenship. Is this good policy?
We need to also look at sanctioning those employers who hire illegal immigrants. Too often we presume that fault lies with the illegal migrant worker, but we need to recognize that the employer broke the law by hiring the illegal alien.
Another problem is that our local police officers do not have the ability to arrest illegal aliens. In fact they must release them. In 2005 alone, 115,000 illegal aliens from countries other than Mexico were apprehended by Border Patrol, only to be released due to lack of detention space. This is yet another sign of a broken system.
Last year, I was pleased the House passed a strong border control bill, the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act, authored by House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner. If signed into law, among other things, this bill would establish operational control of all borders and ports through enhanced Border Patrol operations, end the "catch and release" practice along the southwest border, effectively organize the Border Security Agencies within the Department of Homeland Security, and promote both international and domestic policies that will deter further illegal entry into the United States. I am hopeful that the Senate will move to pass this bill soon.
3. Strengthen America's national and economic security by realizing America's independence of Middle East oil by 2015.
As y'all know, the President highlighted "America's addiction to oil" during his State of the Union address which helps bring this issue to the forefront of the debate. The President certainly understands the threat that our reliance on volatile nations like Iran and Venezuela pose to the United States.
At every town hall meeting I hold, my constituents tell me that we need to lower gas prices and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. I have blogged extensively on this site and have tried to answer many of your questions regarding legislation I am working on with a broad coalition.
While the President's end goal is the same as ours, we would set more aggressive goals for oil savings. Our bill essentially does three things:
Sets aggressive achievable goals for oil savings. That goal is to save 2.5 million barrels of oil a day by 2015 and 5 million a day by 2025. That's more than a 10 percent savings in 10 years and 20 percent in 20 years. This is more oil than we currently import from the Persian Gulf nations combined.
Speeds entry of 21st Century vehicles to the public. Essentially, the bill doubles tax credits for purchases of flexible fuel and hybrid electric vehicles, and provides American manufacturers incentives to produce more efficient lightweight materials and advanced technologies needed by modern alternative fuel efficient vehicles.
Embraces new clean fuel choices and brings them to the market faster. We need to focus on alternative fuels like Ethanol that can be produced from corn, sugar or other agriculture products, diesel that can be made from coal, bio or waste sources, and methanol, hydrogen and electricity.
4. We need to simplify the tax code.
It's tax season again which reminds me of three simple words that should describe the process - simple, fair, and honest.
As our tax code has grown more complicated in the last 15 years, compliance costs for both businesses and families have skyrocketed. According to IRS data for tax year 2003, 60 percent of people filing tax returns retained professional assistance to do so.
While current tax-compliance costs are estimated between $250 billion and $450 billion per year, these costs do not produce a new job, build a new plant or create a new invention. To the contrary, these costs are a dead weight on our economy, slowing it down and hindering its ability to expand.
We have some good ideas in the House and Senate on how to do this and the President seems to want to tackle this issue. We need to seize this opportunity.
5. We need to strengthen retirement security for our children and grandchildren. And we need to stop spending the Social Security surplus.
When Social Security started in 1937 - 60 workers were paying in for every one person taking out. In 2005, only three workers were paying in for every person taking out. But today, through the miracles of medicine, people are living longer - in1937 the average was 60 years, today it's 77 years.
By 2017, Social Security will begin paying out more benefits than it collects in revenues. By 2041, the Social Security program will be insolvent. Without changes, Social Security will have to cut benefits by 27 percent.
There are a lot of ideas out there. We need to bring the debate back to the surface. Would a lockbox help? Can we all agree that Congress needs to stop spending the surplus?
Unfortunately, the Democratic Party has made Social Security the line in the sand and its Leadership has worked actively to "punish" those Members who reach out and work with Republicans. This kind of Leadership may play well to the San Francisco types - but I know that y'all are more concerned about your children and grandchildren's future than what limousine liberals think.
6. Reduce the size of the federal bureaucracy, cut red-tape, and make the federal government work smarter.
The government model should be companies like Amazon.com, Google, UPS, American Express, Visa, and Verizon; not FEMA, the US Postal Service, and US Citizenship and Immigration Services. We need to change the culture of Washington from "good enough" to the "best it can be." Unfortunately there isn't a switch we can pull, but we need more oversight over federal agencies and we need to cut out those folks who can't cut it.
We can learn a lot from the CEO's of some of America's most successful companies. We should ask them to help us by auditing our programs and finding ways to make them work harder and smarter.
We should renew our commitment to annual oversight included in the recently passed budget reform proposals. Saving money should be an everyday mission and not just something done when political pressure mounts.
7. Make health care more affordable, accessible, and patient-centered.
The high cost of health care is putting many large companies out of business and curbing the growth of small-business. Fortunately, Congress and the President have been working on these issues and will continue to do so, but instead of spreading out our efforts we need to deliver a complete package of the many related ideas that would help improve the nation's health care system including tort reform, medical technology reforms, association health plans, and deductibility of health costs.
8. We need to continue to fight and win the war on terror.
We have seen much progress in the war on terror. In fact, last year the people of Iraq democratically elected its four-year, permanent government. Successful elections are another sign that we are beginning the end of the military phase of our involvement with Iraq and will begin the political stage, permanently. I am very proud of what's going on over there and it will be a great accomplishment for the people of Iraq, the United States, and all of the Coalition Forces.
Regardless of what rhetoric Democrats spit, instead of supporting our troops in the war on terror, Democrats would rather we stick to a strategy of "Lose, Leave, and Wait." Democrats would liken our efforts to that of the French - we should admit defeat, cut-and-run, and go home and wait for the terrorists to attack us.
Congress needs to have a unified national vision that can be understood and followed by our constituents. We need to insist that the Defense Department outlines what is ahead and what is expected in order to ensure that we can measure progress and get the troops home as soon as possible.
Thanks for letting me share these ideas with you.
Clearly, when Republicans are on offense - we win.
As I said yesterday, if you think Republicans need a game plan - I urge you to call your Republican Congressman and tell them what issues matter most. If you run a local radio program - let your listeners discuss this with you. If you host a blog - weigh in with what you think should be on our agenda. This coming weekend, House Republicans will gather to discuss our vision for the coming year. This is your opportunity to help steer the wheel.
Thanks a lot for your friendship,