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The annual Senate Republican Conference retreat offers senators an excellent opportunity to identify the key issues facing the American public and develop strategies to address them during the second session of the 107th Congress. On behalf of the nearly 300,000 members of Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), I wanted to take this opportunity to inform you of our legislative priorities and to pledge the assistance of our network of dedicated activists to fight for lower taxes, less government, and more freedom.
CSE is very concerned about the potential for unsustainable government growth in the coming years and months as the nation responds to the realities of the post-September 11th world. In the State of the Union address, President Bush signaled his willingness to increase funding for homeland defense and the United States Military. In addition, President Bush called for over $55 billion in new domestic spending to expand existing programs and create new entitlements. Taken in whole, the new spending would threaten to dislocate a record amount of capital from the private sector at a time when our economy can simply not afford it.
There is a better way. As Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Dan Crippen made clear in his testimony before the Senate Budget Committee, the recession is the cause for 70 percent of $300 billion decline in estimated FY 2002 revenue. In many ways, this is no different from the hundreds of corporations that have revised earning estimates, or reported negative quarters due to the slowdown in economic activity. Yet, while these private sector entities cuts costs, reduce budgets, and expect their staff to do more with less, the government takes the opposite approach.
While some cyclical spending, like unemployment benefits, will rise as the unemployment rate ebbs upward, discretionary federal spending only increases when Congress authorizes the appropriation of additional funds. With federal revenues lagging, now is the time to stand up to calls for increases discretionary spending and to force federal agencies to enact the same sort of accountability measures and cost containment as the private sector.
Containing government spending is also important for Social Security, the future of which is certain to be an important topic in the fall. For at least the past 18 years, economists, statisticians, and federal actuaries have warned of the impending collapse of Social Security. With the start of the baby boomer retirement now on the immediate horizon, reforming Social Security is no longer a political issue, it is a lawmaking imperative.
The Congress must act now to bring about wholesale improvements in the program by giving Americans the opportunity to invest a portion of their payroll taxes in equities, bonds, mutual funds, interest-bearing deposit accounts, or whatever private accounts they desire so that they can take ownership of their future. 2002 is the year to force a vote on reform so that its opponents can explain how they would address the impending crisis.
CSE asks that you make the tax cuts signed into law last June permanent. Under current law, all of the tax cuts would expire in 2011. The economic consequences of this automatic repeal are profound: consumption, investment, and estate planning decisions have all been negatively impacted. Making the tax cuts permanent would increase certainty and promote consumer and investor confidence.
While 2001 was a disappointing political year in many respects, the most unfortunate development was the Senate’s reluctance to fulfill its Constitutional responsibility to vote on the suitability of judges for the federal bench. With overloaded courts, a war on terrorism, and the possibility of future domestic attacks on the consciousness of the nation, the senate must act to staff the federal bench at this critical time. CSE urges you to do everything in your power to compel Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D- Vt.) and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) to schedule hearings and vote on President Bush’s judicial nominees.
Finally, CSE urges you to address regulations and land use policies that have caused America to rely on foreign sources of energy to a greater extent than the market would otherwise dictate. Over 57 percent of our oil is imported. We have long needed a new approach to energy policy that recognizes the need to find new domestic sources of energy. Given the current international situation, America’s energy security must be a national priority. In this time of uncertainty, the Senate should join in restoring America’s energy security and independence by passing the bi-partisan Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) Act of 2001. The stalling tactics of the bill’s opponents must stop.
There are many issues with which you will be faced during the next year, but these five have the potential to shape the direction of public policy for years to come. I hope that you will join with CSE to promote these important issues during the second session and work to defend economic liberty wherever and whenever it is under assault.
President and CEO
To read the letter sent to the house click here.