The United States is at a crossroads. The fiscal policy of the past four years has created a crisis that threatens the very solvency of our republic and breaks our long-standing promise to leave the next generation with more prosperity and opportunity than we inherited.
This is the course President Obama, Harry Reid and Tammy Baldwin have charted for our country: By the middle of this century, Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid will consume all federal tax revenues. If we wait, future policymakers will have no choice but to hamstring our economy with excessive taxes and gut any remaining safety net for our seniors. Our grandchildren deserve better.
According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the president's most recent budget proposal would result in $9.5 trillion in deficits -- more debt than the federal government accumulated from 1789 to 2010 combined. This president and his congressional allies are creating a nation of government dependents. Respected economist Gary Shilling has calculated that a shocking two-thirds of all Americans will derive a major portion of their income from the government by 2018. Simply put, we're evolving from the land of opportunity to the land of handouts, on course to becoming another Greece.
Washington will spend $30,127 per household this year -- up $4,000 in the past five years. And President Obama, Tammy Baldwin and Harry Reid think Americans are getting their money's worth from all that spending.
Today Governor Tommy Thompson is outlining how he will reform our fiscal affairs and usher in a new American prosperity. This isn't merely a list of cuts or budget targets. It is a new way of looking at how government operates and a redefinition of how policymakers uphold the public trust. It breaks the culture of spending in Washington, refocuses our nation on growth and puts faith in the determination of Americans to improve their lives.
This is Governor Thompson's fundamental commitment to restore America, fighting tirelessly to find solutions and working with everyone necessary to enact them.
Deficit Reduction Initiatives
Pass Cong. Ryan's Path to Prosperity
Governor Thompson fully and wholeheartedly endorses Paul Ryan's Path to Prosperity and will take all necessary steps to ensure the U.S. Senate takes up the plan. Addressing runaway spending and the debt it causes is the defining issue of our day. The clearest, most immediate path to achieving lasting reform is to elect a senator who is most prepared to move the core tenets of Paul Ryan's plan through the Senate.
Paul Ryan has done a great service to the nation and the people of Wisconsin by building a serious plan that puts our nation back on the road to growth. Some say the plan goes too far; others say it doesn't go far enough. Governor Thompson believes it is the most responsible, innovative and balanced approach. It neither ignores our most pressing fiscal issues nor acts so quickly that growth or national security is jeopardized.
And Paul Ryan's Path to Prosperity isn't the result of some think tank or academic study. The plan emanates from Wisconsin and the values we hold dear. In a very real sense, the plan is Wisconsin's plan, reflecting the common sense conservative principles that unite us.
While Governor Thompson will have additional entitlement, tax and budget reforms to add to Paul Ryan's plan, its core outcomes of limiting spending to roughly 18 percent of GDP and consistently reducing the deficit over time are the right prescription for our economy. It makes Social Security solvent, preserves Medicare for our most needy seniors, maintains a safety net for the poor and provides for sufficient defense to protect our security.
Make Federal Worker Pay Consistent with Private Sector
A recent CBO report found that federal worker benefits exceed private sector benefits by an average of 48 percent. We cannot ask our taxpayers to sustain this imbalance as they struggle to pay the bills. Therefore, Governor Thompson is recommending the following specific adjustments to federal compensation:
-Increase employee contributions to health care by 10% across the board. Phase in the increase in employee contribution over two years, beginning with the first budget passed after the 2012 elections.
-Create a new performance-management system. Direct the Office of Management and Budget to consult with private compensation experts to define an effective program that incentivizes and rewards performance, not merely time on the job. Current law provides automatic seniority-based pay increases for additional years of service.
-Increase the federal full retirement age from the current 56 to 62. Apply the new retirement age to all new employees and any workers currently younger than 45 years old.
-Provide new employees with one week of paid leave per year of employment up to three weeks after three years. Thereafter, add one week for every five years of employment. Three-year employees currently receive 10 federal holidays, 20 paid vacation days.
Reform Senate Budget Process to Ensure Enactment of a Budget
Nothing speaks more clearly to the failure of current Senate leadership than their unwillingness and inability to pass a budget. Today is the 1,057th day with no federal budget. This is an outrage and an affront to the hardworking Americans who pay for Washington's out-of-control spending.
Governor Thompson has called for reforms that empower all senators to bring a budget to the floor. If they don't act, a budget bill calling for across-the-board cuts would be automatically scheduled for floor action. And if they fail to pass a budget, all senators would lose their pay for that fiscal year. If they won't do their job, they shouldn't be paid.
These process reforms are intended to ensure that when leaders like Paul Ryan bring forward serious proposals to put our country back on the right track, no one will be able to delay and destroy good ideas with political games.
Repeal and Replace Obamacare
The health care law strong-armed through Congress by the president and his Democratic allies will be a parasite on our economy. It destroys the private health care market, breeches the relationship of doctors and patients and is an underfunded economic disaster. It cannot stand.
Beyond merely repealing, however, we must replace it with a system that works for our citizens, taxpayers and employers. Governor Thompson will soon be detailing his Obamacare replacement plan.
Deny Debt Limit Increases
Tommy Thompson will strongly oppose any increases in the federal debt limit without accompanying legislation to balance the budget in a timeframe consistent with the Path to Prosperity. No more endless negotiations and brinksmanship. The future of our economy can't be held hostage to current government spending and politicking.
Additional Spending and Debt-reduction Measures
In addition to these actions, Governor Thompson will support the following measures to permanently change the tax-and-spend culture of Washington:
-Make the Earmark Ban Permanent. For two years now, Congress has avoided using earmarks in appropriations bills. Governor Thompson will pursue a permanent ban on appropriations earmarks. In addition, Governor Thompson will oppose the practice of giving unelected bureaucrats authority to distribute federal dollars for local projects. Rather, Governor Thompson will support block grants to states, which are in a far better position to effectively use federal funds.
-10th Amendment Commission. Washington has created too many layers of government, often with overlapping and conflicting responsibilities. And many of these layers are in violation of the principle of the 10th Amendment regarding states rights. Tommy Thompson will propose establishing a panel made up of a bi-partisan group of governors -- including Governor Walker -- to recommend to the House and Senate Budget Committees which governmental bodies and programs can be eliminated and which powers can be better delegated to the states.
-Line Item Veto. Governor Thompson's 1900 vetoes as governor saved Wisconsin taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. All presidents should have the same power, and we should hold them accountable to use that power in the public's interest. Since the Supreme Court ruled the line-item veto unconstitutional in 1998, our best recourse at this point is to aggressively pursue a constitutional amendment.
-Ban Corporate Welfare. We can't afford corporate welfare any more than handouts to people who don't want to work. Most corporate-welfare spending is buried in obscure projects, but these subsidies amount to market manipulation and a full-employment opportunity for lobbyists. Governor Thompson will pursue a ban on any subsidies to corporations with gross revenues equivalent to those on the Fortune 500 list. There are limited cases where innovation incentives for small businesses can be justified, but larger corporations must stand alone.
-Reduce Waste. Balancing the budget requires tough decisions and major entitlement reform. But there are also extensive opportunities to make a down payment on long-term deficit reduction by forcing our federal agencies to spend smarter. The best way to deal with the problem is to reduce agency budgets across the board. A few examples of outrageous spending that we can no longer allow:
$13 million diverted from Hurricane Katrina relief to build a museum celebrating the Army Corps of Engineers;
$500,000 paid to Alaska Airlines to paint a salmon on a jet; and
$200,000 for a tattoo removal program in California.
TheUnited States is facing a fiscal crisis that threatens our very way of life. Governor Tommy Thompson has full confidence, however, that we can unite around common sense solutions that will restore our nation and usher in a new American century.
It will take courage, creativity and a willingness to work with anyone to get the job done. The solutions are emerging, but the will and skill to enact them is lacking.
And that's what this election is all about.