Rutledge gives his report

I’ve given quite a bit of attention to U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Eric Wargotz of late, but there’s others in the race – I’m particularly interested in finding out more about former Delegate Carmen Amedori.

But the other day I received my first “Rutledge Report” in my mailbox and one passage jumped out at me:

In (the) 1920s President Harding faced unemployment numbers doubling from 2.1 million to 4.9 million, excessive governmental interference in the market creating a 24% plunging gross national product, and $25B national debt.  By taking a hard stance, he reduced government spending in half, cut taxes, and watched unemployment numbers drop to a low of 1.8% in 1926.  (Not-So-Great Depression by Jim Powell.)

Today we face similar problems the country faced at the beginning of Harding’s administration. Unfortunately Congress continues to pass legislation creating more government jobs, increasing the national debt and the burden on tax payers.  Businesses have frozen plans for growth because the uncertainty of future costs of hiring an individual. 

We need to follow Harding’s example.  To create jobs and reduce unemployment we must take two simultaneous steps NOW: cut taxes and cut government spending!  We can kick-start the economy by abolishing the capital gains tax and the inheritance tax.  This will keep the money in the hands of the consumers and businesses giving them the freedom to choose their own path forward.  A simultaneous cut in government spending, and not just a freeze, will free-up revenue to pay off the ever growing national debt.

The road ahead is tough and Americans do not back down from challenges!  Now is the time for action – cut taxes and cut spending.  Place into office candidates willing to lead Americans down the tough road.  We can and will get through this together.

While I admire the Senatorial candidate giving a little love to one of my home state’s native sons, perhaps he needs a little bit better research. President Harding died in 1923, so Calvin Coolidge became President. Coolidge served out the remainder of Harding’s term and won election in his own right in 1924, pounding Democrat John Davis and Progressive Party candidate Robert LaFollette by securing over 54% of the vote. (This was back when the colors were proper too as this electoral map shows.)

Anyway, those policies began by Harding were continued by “Silent Cal” and some of this prescription could be enacted today. The biggest difference, though, is that the federal government of Harding’s era didn’t have nearly the entitlements our modern day government has – these Republicans has no Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid to deal with (let alone legions of regulators in a number of agencies.) The Washington of the 1920’s was still a sleepy Southern town.

But we can and should cut spending and taxes. The Americans of the roaring ’20’s enjoyed great economic prosperity, at least until the stock market crash in 1929 (essentially, a price bubble similar to that in real estate or dot-com stocks.) What turned a simple market correction into a depression, though, was enacting the steep Smoot-Hawley Tariff in 1930.

The current set of economic doldrums can be traced in part to a different sort of government intervention and lack of oversight as Democrats prevented a probe of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac several years ago. Once the housing bubble burst, our financial house of cards tumbled down and government overspending has been of little help in resolving the problem.

So why not harken back to Harding for solutions? Just stay away from influence-peddling (as in the Teapot Dome scandal) and things could be all right.

Vote on the Contract FROM America

Earlier today I commented on the newly-minted Mount Vernon Statement, which to me is a noble gesture but seems to fall short on actionable items. After all, most conservatives are America-first, limited-government types who simply want Washington to get out of their way and allow America to continue to be the greatest country on earth – the “shining city on a hill” as it were.

In 1994 Newt Gingrich took similar principles and, with the help of dedicated conservatives, created the Contract With America for Republicans seeking seats in the House of Representatives. The success was obvious as the GOP took over the House for the first time in 40 years and all but one of the ten principles spelled out had some kind of Congressional action (term limits being the exception.) By nationalizing the election, Gingrich and his allies created the impetus for voters to look beyond their district and support a principle of governance.

This time, Newt is a bit of a Johnny-come-lately to the game, and it’s a coalition of conservative groups (including a large number of TEA Party organizers) which are spearheading the effort. And instead of a select cadre determining each planks, this contract is based on input from the grassroots. Ten of these 22 planks will be inserted into the Contract From America.

  1. DEMAND A BALANCED BUDGET: Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax hike.
  2. STOP THE TAX HIKES: Permanently repeal all tax hikes, including those to income, capital gains, and death taxes, currently scheduled to begin in 2011.
  3. COMMIT TO REAL GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY: Every bill, in its final form, will be made public seven days before any vote can be taken and all government expenditures authorized by any bill will be easily accessible on the Internet before the money is spent.
  4. PROTECT THE CONSTITUTION: Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does.
  5. PASS REAL HEALTHCARE REFORM: Greatly improve affordability of health insurance by permitting all Americans access to all health insurance plans sold anywhere in the United States through the purchase of insurance across state lines and allow small businesses and associations to pool together across state lines to buy insurance.
  6. ENACT FUNDAMENTAL TAX REFORM: Adopt a simple and fair single-rate tax system by scrapping the Internal Revenue code and replacing it with one that is no longer than 4,543 words—the length of the original Constitution.
  7. END RUNAWAY GOVERNMENT SPENDING: Impose a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth.
  8. LET US SAVE: Allow all Americans to opt out of Social Security and Medicare and instead put those same payroll taxes in a personal account they own, control, and can leave to whomever they choose.
  9. PROTECT INTERNET FREEDOM: No regulation or tax on the Internet.
  10. GIVE PARENTS MORE CHOICES IN THE EDUCATION OF THEIR CHILDREN: Improve American education by reforming the broken federal role through eliminating ineffective and wasteful programs, giving parents more choices from pre-school to high school, and improving the affordability of higher education.
  11. PASS AN ‘ALL OF THE ABOVE’ ENERGY POLICY: Authorize the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries and reduce regulatory barriers to all other forms of energy creation, lowering prices and creating competition.
  12. PROTECT FREEDOM OF THE PRESS: Prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from using funds to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine in any form, including requiring “localism” or “diversity” quotas.
  13. RESTORE FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY & CONSTITUTIONALLY LIMITED GOVERNMENT: Create a Blue Ribbon taskforce that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality, and identifying duplication, waste, ineffectiveness, and agencies and programs better left for the states.
  14. PROTECT PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS: Block state and local governments that receive federal grants from exercising eminent domain over private property for the primary purpose of economic development or enhancement of tax revenues.
  15. REJECT CAP & TRADE: Prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation’s global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures.
  16. STOP THE PORK: Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the process is fully transparent, including requiring a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark.
  17. NO CZAR REGULATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION: All “lawmaking” regulations must be affirmatively approved by Congress and signed into law by the president, as the Constitution requires for all laws.
  18. AUDIT THE FED: Begin an audit of the Federal Reserve System.
  19. NO MORE BAILOUTS: The federal government should not bail out private companies and should immediately begin divesting itself of its stake in the private companies it owns from recent bailouts.
  20. STOP CAREER POLITICIANS & CURB LOBBYIST POWER: Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require Congressional term limits. No person shall be elected to the Senate more than twice or to the House of Representatives more than four times.
  21. SUNSET REGULATIONS: All regulations will be “sunset” after ten years unless renewed by Congressional vote.
  22. LET US WATCH: Broadcast all non-security meetings and votes on C-SPAN and the Internet.

Talk about your tough choices! Most of the lot is good, but right off the top I would say that items 7, 20, and 21 would be my favorites.

Number 7 is a slightly adapted form of TABOR laws, with TABOR standing for Taxpayers’ Bill Of Rights. This provides for necessary increases in government but not excessive ones. Yes, there is the weakness of not requiring cuts which should be made (since the natural tendency would be to budget to within a gnat’s eyelash of the limit) but the principle is sound.

I would only change number 20 to a 12+12 rule (6 House terms and 2 Senate terms.) However, the one thing missing from this plank is to restore the states’ voice in the process by repealing the Seventeenth Amendment. The idea of popular election of Senators has shifted the balance in Congress and federalized the government, when the intent was to create tension between states and Washington.

Number 21 might just have been my suggestion from three years ago, back when I did my ’50 year plan’ series. My argument now is the same as it was then – if Congress is busy justifying the renewal of old laws, they may be too busy to think of new ones.

I could probably vote for 10, but it’s likely I’ll only vote for a few to strengthen their position. Bullet voting may be a good practice in this case. In any case, here’s a chance for the people to decide what they think is most important and what they’ll vote to change come November.

On the Mount Vernon Statement

Every so often I suppose society feels the need to reinvent the wheel.

Much has been made of the recent resurgence of conservatism as a counterpoint to the statism being foisted upon us by those in power in Congress and the White House. In this instance, President Obama is just the head of the tiger but as a whole it remains a dangerous creature. Responding to this threat is a loose confederation of TEA Partiers who remain leaderless by instinct or by choice; regardless their influence has been credited with stopping the march leftward and winning elections in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

One thing they have not been is – for the most part – a creature of Beltway conservatives. But, in their effort to create order where they see chaos, a group of Washington-based organizational leaders got together to create the Mount Vernon Statement. They see this as a necessary update on the Sharon Statement William F. Buckley and a small group of like-minded conservatives put together a half-century ago.

But it’s interesting to see where the conservative movement has gone in the interceding fifty years. A brief history sees that it influenced Republican politics to one degree or another, but it hasn’t always been successful in convincing the American people of its merits. Barry Goldwater was a disciple, but he was shellacked in the 1964 election. (One caveat is that this occurred less than a year after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, so LBJ could burnish Kennedy’s memory as needed. A little-known fact about JFK’s trip to Texas was that he was worried about re-election and wanted to shore up his base.)

With the possible exception of Reagan, it seems Republican presidents who have ran and won as staunch conservatives moderated to various degrees upon taking office. Nixon started the Environmental Protection Agency and installed disastrous wage and price freezes for a time to combat inflation. George H.W. Bush told us to “read my lips” but knuckled under to Congressional Democrats who promised him spending cuts if he’d raise taxes – only Bush kept his end of the bargain. His son George W. Bush cut taxes but expanded the federal role in education with No Child Left Behind and created a new entitlement program with Medicare Part D.

In my lifetime, we’ve never had a conservative President and Congress simultaneously who have truly acted in concert to reduce the size and scope of the federal government. Consequently, we’ve never had a populace who’s seen the principles in the Mount Vernon Statement (or the Sharon Statement for that matter) put into action.

Yet Presidents when inaugurated don’t swear their fealty to any statement but to uphold the Constitution, which brings me back to the idea I began with of reinventing the wheel.

I have the utmost respect for those who put together the Mount Vernon Statement, just as I do William F. Buckley and those who participated in crafting the Sharon Statement. But in neither case did they pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor as our Founding Fathers did when they declared their independence from the Crown and later wrote the document our system of government is based upon.

A lot changes in fifty years, and even that is miniscule compared to changes in the whole of our rich history. While Buckley and his cohorts were rightfully concerned with the Communist threat from outside our borders, today we face the danger of statism from within our seat of government. More troubling is that neither political party is immune to causing the backslide toward tyranny to continue.

Instead of trying to restate the Constitution to the issues of today, we may need to work all the way back to a new revolution – a revolution which begins at the ballot box in November and continues through 2012. Obviously a Congress dominated by conservatives won’t get a lot past a statist President unless they can achieve a majority able to override his vetoes, and the situation with Senate elections makes that impossible to achieve. Even if Republicans achieved an unprecendented miracle sweep of every Senate seat available this year they wouldn’t even have a clotureproof majority – it would be 59-41 GOP.

Luckily in this case we don’t have foreign soldiers protecting the Crown, but this revolution won’t be swift nor will it be easy. The battle continues for the hearts and minds of America, and the future of the Republic depends on our success.