Open letter to the GOP
The Tennessee Center for Policy Research’s Justin Owen pens an open letter to the new Republican majority in the U.S. House, reminding them to stay true to the principles upon which they were elected. This article originally appeared in today’s Nashville City Paper. by Justin Owen Well Republicans, congratulations. You rode an anti-incumbent, anti-Washington, anti-Democratic wave into power. You took the House and broke the Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Don’t screw this up. Again. You were elected by advocating the ideas of smaller government, lower taxes and fiscal restraint. Now govern by them. Whatever you do, don’t look back to your predecessors from 1994, who also surged into power, taking the Senate for the first time in a decade and the House for the first time in nearly a half-century. They campaigned on similar principles, yet they soon abandoned those for political expediency. Under six years of total Republican control during this decade, government spending skyrocketed by 47 percent, and President George W. Bush continued to help the Democrats increase spending by an additional 13 percent until he left office in 2008. It was also Republicans who increased welfare by one third, government medical expenditures (such as Medicare and Medicaid) by 54 percent, food stamps by 43 percent and Social Security by 19 percent. As a result of the GOP’s failure to walk the talk, Americans returned the favor by ushering in the most left-leaning Congress in history in 2006 and a compatible president two years later. Were it not for the GOP, Americans would likely have never uttered the words “Speaker Pelosi” or elected a man to our nation’s highest office who just four years earlier was a relatively unknown Illinois state senator. Alas, those things have come to pass. Upon taking control, Democrats nearly doubled the national debt and drove up deficit spending to “stimulate” an economy that is still in recess. They hijacked our health care system and turned the financial sector into a farce. While we could easily lay all the blame for this at the feet of the left, it was you, Republicans, who paved the road for them. You even installed a fast lane. Although it should surprise no one, a recent poll showed that 57 percent of Americans want Congress to cut spending, even during these tough economic times. Most Americans are firmly aware that Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem — it has a spending addiction. Further, a growing number of Americans are coming around to the cold, hard fact that taxpayers cannot continue to foot the bill for our ballooning entitlement spending. Put simply, Republicans: Voters have given you the authority to do something about out-of-control spending, so it would behoove you to take the cue. Given this sentiment, now is the perfect time to make difficult but necessary changes to our system of government. Start by reforming entitlement spending — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — to reduce the unfunded obligations that together make up nearly four times our entire national debt. Social Security is already bankrupt by any sane accounting standards, so reform must occur now. If reforms aren’t made, these three programs alone will consume all federal tax revenues by 2052. Further, our bloated federal bureaucracy is riddled with wasteful spending. If it’s not a core function of government enumerated in the Constitution, stop funding it with our money. Let the states, and the people themselves, take back many of the responsibilities that the federal government has improperly subsumed over the past century. While you’re at it, reform the earmark process and eliminate ridiculous pet projects that do nothing more than serve as “ribbon-cutting” campaign photo opportunities. You should certainly work hard to return money to your districts — in the form of tax cuts, not bridges to nowhere. To get reelected, you really only need to do three simple things: spend less, tax less and listen more. It doesn’t get much easier than that. Justin Owen is the president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, the state’s free market think tank.