Shootin’ Straight on Our Fiscal Challenges
Everybody is talking about fixing earmarks as if they are the sole source of today’s deficit woes, despite the fact that all of my opponents enthusiastically participated in the process, and that earmarks have now been halted. But what I’m talking about is how to fix America’s economy so that entrepreneurs can create jobs and we as a nation can once again live within our means. My plan to cut spending and taxes will help hard-working Americans, and by one estimate, create ten million jobs within three years and move unemployment to below 6%. I will do this with your help by cutting $5 trillion in five years of federal spending we cannot afford, and passing a Balanced Budget Amendment so that we don’t do this again to future generations. More important to our fiscal health than a smokescreen on earmarks, I will reform Medicare and Social Security and end other entitlements for the able-bodied just as I have already done with welfare reform.
Some specific spending cuts I will make include eliminating all energy subsidies while unleashing America’s domestic energy sources, eliminating at least half of the U.S. funding contribution to the United Nations while standing for America’s interests and values around the world, and downsizing the federal bureaucracy by eliminating at least 10% of non-defense related workers. The only government jobs President Obama is willing to cut are military jobs, the men and women who have served our nation in harm’s way, undermining our core constitutional responsibility to defend America. The one thing I will not cut is defense; the top responsibility of the federal government is to keep America safe.
The real fiscal challenge that we face as a nation is the fact that President Obama and Congress are spending more than 40% more than we take in each year; racking up deficits of more than a trillion dollars a year on top of our 15-trillion plus debt which holds back our economy and undermines our future. The federal expansion of entitlements under ObamaCare significantly worsens this problem. President Obama thinks he can tax his way to growth to cover up his extreme over indulgence of hard earned taxpayer money. His theory and practice is to “spread the wealth” which actually spreads poverty and economic decline.
In 2008, John McCain, whose impressive military service to the nation, one I greatly respect, based an entire presidential campaign attacking the earmarking process. Apparently he is bringing this back again as attempted cover for Governor Mitt Romney’s big-government ways such as the freedom-undermining insurance mandate in RomneyCare embraced in ObamaCare. Senator McCain, a moderate in many areas, did that in part in 2008 to shift the focus from his weak record on addressing the financial burden of growing entitlements, the real challenge to our long-term economic viability.
I don’t recall Senator McCain joining me in leading the fight to reform entitlements on Welfare Reform, or arguing around the country for Social Security reform, or successfully embedding fundamental health-care reforms in Medicare, later undermined by ObamaCare. Having said that, Senator McCain is right about at least two things; Mitt Romney was significantly more moderate and big government than he, and, the earmarking process was being abused and had to be stopped. Just listen to Mitt Romney on earmarks: “I’d be embarrassed it I didn’t always ask for federal money whenever I get a chance.” That’s why I supported a moratorium on earmarks.
The real straight-talk express on fiscal issues is the message I’ve been delivering: the need for sustainable entitlement reform. I have been riding around in a truck telling seniors in nursing homes in Iowa, and retirees in South Carolina, of the need to reform Medicare and Social Security, in particular. Entitlement programs represent nearly 60% of government spending, growing further on an unsustainable path as more people are in poverty under Obamanomics and more of our citizens become seniors.
Let’s clear the record on earmarks with the help of Congressman Ron Paul whose passion I admire but who captures well the Massachusetts big-government flip- flopping on earmarks and spending, and Texas-sized grandstanding of my fellow candidates on this issue.
During an interview with Neil Cavuto, after his second run for the presidency, Congressman Paul pointed out that eliminating earmarks wouldn’t cut one penny from the federal budget. Cavuto asked: “But would you argue, then sir, that, when John McCain was here saying the whole earmark thing itself is what’s out of control?” Paul: “Oh, no, no. He – he – totally misunderstands that. That’s grandstanding. If you cut off all the earmarks, it would be 1% of the budget. But if you vote against all the earmarks, you don’t cut one penny.”
Here in 2009 Congressman Paul is telling it straight. Properly done, earmarks don’t add to total spending numbers, they take a percentage of dollars from the control of Washington bureaucrats and let local officials decide what is most important for their community instead, like those in South Carolina did in support of improving Charleston Harbor. You may not have heard that in 2009 Congressman Paul had more earmarks in a spending bill than any other Republican that same year. Paul, representing a single district, made over $157 million in earmark requests for 2011, one of only four House Republicans to request any earmarks. Additionally, he made over $398 million in earmark requests for 2010, again one of the leading Republican House members.
I’m sure Governor Rick Perry, many of whose values I share, also agrees that his 1,180 plus special requests for funding from the federal government and his 26 years of Texas government service doesn’t mean that he no longer supports the 10th Amendment. This adds up to about one federal funding letter request to Washington every four days. To say it’s OK to lobby for local projects — just not vote for them, or to ask for special projects but not to support the constitutional role of the legislature to provide them — doesn’t pass the test.
While I share cowboy boots and many values with Texans, that’s not straight shootin’ where I come from in Pennsylvania. This is Texas-sized grandstanding to quote Congressman Paul. The real gateway drugs and the real challenge to America are not earmarks but exploding overall spending and rapidly growing entitlement liabilities which grow government, dependency, and economic decline.
I’m not ashamed that I fought to have local officials and county commissioners in Pennsylvania decide the best use of their tax dollars rather than Washington bureaucrats. The question of who decides where to spend federal taxpayer dollars has already been decided by the Constitution — it’s the Congress. Abuse should be stopped and corruption should be prosecuted. I raised my hand and swore to uphold the Constitution for 16 years as a member of Congress, and I still passionately support it and thank God for the wisdom of our founders to let the representatives of the people decide rather than bureaucrats. The real question for our nation is who will lead us back to fiscal and economic strength. My focus is not on debating 1% of our fiscal challenges but on facing 100% of them. This abdication of leadership and smokescreens rather than telling the truth will only increase insecurity for seniors, limit the opportunities of young people, and put our nation’s security at risk.
I have held more than 380 public events and town hall meetings in Iowa, more than 100 in New Hampshire, and I’ve already held nearly 150 public events in South Carolina. In every meeting, the American people are responding to real answers because they know the truth and they want the games to stop. They want the real challenges to be addressed head on. They want problem solving and a brighter future for their children. As far back as 1995 I was taking heat from the establishment for “rocking the boat” when I called on the Republican Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee to resign after he switched his vote to defeat the Balanced Budget Amendment by just one vote. Had he joined me and those who voted for it, we could have worked together to take away the credit card and put America on a budget.
I can promise you this: nothing has changed since then except our growing debt. I am prepared to take the heat in order to lead our country once again to fiscal health and to restore America’s greatness for the future. Let’s keep our focus on the real spending problem: entitlements that need to be modernized, restrained, and made sustainable, the real need for a Balanced Budget Amendment, and the real goal which is defeating Barack Obama and restoring America’s future together. Game on.
Rick Santorum, a former representative and senator from Pennsylvania, is a candidate for the Republican nomination for president.