With the embarrassing collapse of the “Super Committee” and its inability to come up with even a nominal $1.2 trillion “cut” from an artificially bloated ten year baseline, budgeting in the nation’s capital has reached a new low.
Remember that this latest failure is on top of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s refusal to pass a budget resolution – the blueprint that sets the roadmap for annual appropriations and program authorizations for the fiscal year – for three years running.
Facing an unprecedented $15 trillion in debt, this abdication of Congress’s first responsibility puts at risk any hopes of economic recovery and the futures of our children and grand children, who will literally pay for Washington’s profligate ways with lost opportunities and massive tax burdens.
Given their demonstrated inability to set priorities, why would Senate Democrats block grassroots citizens trying to do it for them? That’s exactly what happened earlier this month when over 250 citizens traveled to Washington to deliver the findings of the Tea Party Debt Commission (TPDC), a bottom-up crowd-sourced plan to balance the budget and reduce the national debt.
Senator Mike Lee offered to host a meeting in the Russell Senate office building and got approval to do so. Together, we wanted to offer an alternative to the Super Committee’s secretive conclave, a hearing for We The People to speak, and members of Congress to listen. With all of us gathered in the Kennedy caucus room, Senate Rules Committee staff, saying that Rules Chairman Charles Schumer had ordered it, kicked us out.
In a video that captured Schumer’s staff ousting us, Senator Lee can be heard asking the question: “Does the First Amendment have no application here?”
The staff first claimed that Lee was violating Senate rules by “simulating a hearing,” despite the fact that Senator Schumer has made a regular practice of holding mock hearings on Senate property.
There was also the odd coincidence that Shaun Parkin, one of the “non-partisan” Rules staffers evicting the group had long worked for Senator Robert Bennett, whom Lee and the Utah Tea Party had ousted in 2010.
Even odder was the ex-post facto decision by the Capitol Police to demand, and receive, a correction to a New York Times report to reflect that security concerns and a mysterious package down the hall that forced an evacuation. Since e-mails and video demonstrably prove this to be a false account, on who’s behalf did the Capitol police act?
This palace intrigue raises serious questions, but such strong-arm tactics reflect one thing for certain: The Democrats don’t want you to see this citizen’s budget.
The Tea Party plan stands in perfect contrast to the failed Super Committee. The process was completely open and transparent. Everyone was welcomed to participate. A series of field hearings across the country asked citizens to take the microphone to offer to the TPDC commissioners – 12 local leaders who volunteered their time to oversee the process – their ideas to balance the budget. The TPDC also crowd-sourced ideas and priorities online, receiving input from over 50,000 citizens.
Turns out that the American people have plenty of ideas. Unlike the trimmed sails of the Super Committee, this citizen commission went bold. Very bold. We set out to find $9 trillion in savings, and found $9.7 trillion.
Compare that to President Obama’s proposed $2.3 trillion increase in spending over the same period. We set out to balance the budget in ten years, and did it in four.
President Obama proposes deficits and red ink forever. We cut total spending as a percentage of GDP to 16 percent from its current 24 percent, actually cutting the national debt.
The Tea Party Debt Commission:
*Eliminates four cabinet agencies – Energy, Education, Commerce, and HUD -- and dramatically scales back or privatizes many others, including the EPA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
*Ends farm subsidies, ethanol credits, TARP subsidies and government-provided student loans.
*Saves Social Security for seniors and improves benefits for future generations by shifting to a defined contribution that is controlled by individuals, not government. This proposal is based on legislation introduced by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
*Gives Medicare recipients the same benefits as members of Congress, giving them the choice to opt into the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program (FEHBP). This is based on Senator Rand Paul’s (R-TN) Congressional Healthcare for Seniors Act.
*Cuts waste and duplication from Defense spending, and eliminate or move all programs from the Pentagon that have nothing to do with national defense.
Many of these changes make good sense regardless of our fiscal situation. Some are tough choices, decisions viewed in the context of the next generation: Is any one of the programs trimmed or eliminated more important that the future of your children? This is the indisputable kitchen table logic that so infuriates big spenders of all political stripes.
The fairest criticism to the Tea Party budget is its political feasibility. Is Washington really able to make these tough changes? There are paid lobbyists, government employees, crony capitalists and well-heeled “progressives” ready to spring into action to defend every line item in the bloated federal budget.
James Madison warned future generations of Americans about these special interests -- they are the main reason great nations decline and fail.
Today, we will balance the budget and finally get our fiscal house in order only when grassroots Americans beat Washington. Based on Senator Schumer’s extreme reaction, we must be well on the way to our goal.
Check out the plan for yourself at TeaPartyDebtCommission.com.
Matt Kibbe is president of FreedomWorks and co-author of "Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto."