CSE’s Agenda for the 108th Congress

January 10, 2003

Dear Legislator:

The 108th Congress will provide an opportunity to identify the key issues facing Americans and develop comprehensive bi-partisan plans to address them. On behalf of the 250,000 members of Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), I wanted to take this opportunity to inform you of our legislative priorities for the new Congress and to pledge the assistance of our network of dedicated activists to support a policy agenda that will restore economic growth and create jobs.

FUNDAMENTAL TAX REFORM

Fundamental tax reform will be a central issue for CSE and our members. Our nation cannot achieve its maximum economic potential so long as our 17, 000 page, 55 million words tax code punishes savings and investment, hard work, and entrepreneurship. The tax code is fundamentally unfair, costs taxpayers billions of dollars in compliance expenses, and penalizes marriage and those wanting to bequeath the benefits of their life’s work to family members.

The first step toward overhaul of the tax code is to make the tax cuts signed into law last June permanent. Under current law, all of the tax cuts will expire in 2011. The consequences of this automatic repeal are profound: consumption, investment, and estate planning decisions have all been negatively impacted. Making the tax cuts permanent would provide a degree of financial certainty and promote consumer and investor confidence. Subsequently, by assuring a predictable tax code, we can work to reform the system and replace it with one that is simple, fair, and honest and rewards hard work and responsibility.

SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM

The Social Security system is in dire need of reform; the nation’s demographic situation portends bankruptcy if we fail to enact costly, but necessary and bold reform measures. Social Security will begin spending more on benefits than it collects in taxes in just thirteen years, and will continue to run cash deficits as far as the eye can see. According to Social Security actuaries, under moderate economic conditions, these cumulative cash deficits will total $21.6 trillion by 2075 – six times the current national debt. 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.

You should begin 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. Personal Retirement Accounts offer the potential for genuine wealth creation. American’s are ready for an honest debate on this issue and as numerous polls have demonstrated, voters are amenable to reforming the system by employing Personal Retirement Accounts.

TORT REFORM

The U.S. civil justice system continues to be exploited by trial lawyers who have placed their own special interests ahead of citizens with honest grievances. The pace at which plaintiffs’ lawyers have submitted unwarranted and frivolous class action lawsuits before the states’ courts is untenable. Annually, more than 15 million civil cases are brought before state courts and the direct costs of the tort system on the economy is nearly $180 billion annually. Eventually, the costs of this excessive litigation is passed onto Americans who then pay a “tort tax” the equivalent of 2 percent tax on consumption, a 3 percent tax on wages, and a 5 percent tax on capital income. Moreover, these massive suits have bankrupted companies and threaten to shutter important industries that provide jobs for working Americans. Congress must act and pass meaningful tort reform.

WELFARE REFORM

The 1996 Temporary Assistance to Needy Families welfare reform bill has proven to be extremely successful: welfare caseloads have been cut in half and the poverty rate of single mothers, who make up the majority of welfare recipients, has been cut by a third. Reauthorization of the bill is due and, unfortunately, some have proposed measures that would reverse the gains made since 1996. Weakening work requirements would only harm welfare recipients and recreate the cycle of dependency that plagued the program for so long. Instead, Congress should seek to strengthen work requirements so that welfare recipients can build the critical skills needed for financial stability.

ENERGY INDEPENDENCE

Finally, CSE urges you enact a comprehensive energy bill that would reform 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. The simple truth is that the U.S. imports 57 percent of its oil because stifling regulations and policies limit domestic exploration and development of new energy sources. Congress must change these circumstances. Given the current international situation, America’s energy security must be a national priority.

There are many issues with which you will be faced with during the next year, but these 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 108th Congress and work to defend economic liberty.

Sincerely,

Paul Beckner,

President and CEO

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