Feature:Opinion

How House Republicans can seize the moment

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Tim Phillips
President, Americans for Prosperity
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      Tim Phillips

      Tim Phillips is president of Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Prosperity Foundation. Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has enjoyed rapid growth, going from nine state chapters in January of 2006 to 25 state chapters today, with 980,000 grassroots activists who are fighting for free-market principles at the state, national and local levels. During 2009 AFP held over 300 "hands off my health care" bus rallies and town hall meetings as part of their effort to defeat the health care takeover. AFP's "Cost of hot air" tours have executed 82 events as part of a national effort to defeat cap-and-trade legislation. Tim is a veteran political strategist and one of the nation’s premier grassroots organizers with 24 years of experience, including presidential, gubernatorial and congressional races, as well as state legislative, local and issue-advocacy campaigns. In 1992, Tim managed U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s (R-VA) first congressional campaign and later served as Rep. Goodlatte’s chief of staff on Capitol Hill for four years. In 1997, Tim helped found Century Strategies, one of the nation’s leading public affairs, political consulting and public relations firms. He was named a "Rising Star in Politics" in 1998 by Campaigns and Elections magazine. Tim and his wife, Julia, have been married for 25 years, and are the proud parents of four children.

The new Republican majority in the House of Representatives possesses a short window to maintain the support and good will of both independent voters and the grassroots Tea Party movement. In fact, they have one budget cycle — from now until autumn — to act.

Polls show that by a margin of 55-40 percent, self-described independents strongly supported Republican House candidates last November. Meanwhile Tea Party activists provided the organizational muscle and passion that catapulted many Republicans across the finish line. Both groups supported GOP candidates not because of, but often in spite of, the Republican Party’s recent dismal record of big spending, wasteful bureaucracy and pork-barrel earmarks.

Now expectations are high. Both independent voters and Tea Party activists expect House Republicans to spur job creation by dramatically cutting government spending and the deficit while bringing genuine reform that gets rid of government red tape and bureaucracy.

If House Republicans settle for a timid “we trimmed a little here and there and slowed down the rate at which we’re going bankrupt because it was the best we could do” approach, they will find themselves discredited and out of power — for a generation. They will invite a third party threat from the right which in my view would be disastrous to both our free market values and the Republican Party.

The advice for House Republicans is simple: be bold. Immediately cut between $500 billion and $1 trillion in federal spending while passing long-term structural budget reforms.

Save billions and give states the flexibility to fix their own budgets by cutting spending for Medicaid and the other 100-plus means-tested federal welfare programs and block-granting them to the states to accomplish program objectives with no strings attached. That’s the successful welfare reform model from the 1990s that rewarded innovation and saved money while still helping folks truly in need.

Cut defense spending — carefully and smartly — by examining the usefulness of each of the more than 700 foreign military bases and every major weapons system. Too often politicians in Congress decide to “save” a weapons program for pork-barrel reasons in their district even though our military experts tell us we do not need certain programs.

End the unfair “defined benefits” pensions for federal employees and make their retirement plans just like the vast majority of Americans have in the private sector. For years these costly pension plans were justified because government salaries were supposedly lower than private-sector salaries. According to an exhaustive USA Today study of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, not only does the average federal employee make $123,049 a year, but federal employees make almost twice as much as private-sector workers who do comparable work.

Use attrition and consolidation of duplicative federal agencies and boards to trim the size of the federal workforce, which hovers at an astounding 2.15 million, not including the military. The House Republican Study Committee has just proposed a 15 percent cut using just this technique. As Senator Tom Coburn points out, job training is important but it’s wasteful for the federal government to have at least nine different agencies doing it. Families and small businesses in the private sector have had to make tough choices in recent years to survive. It’s time for government agencies to do the same thing.

Pass a balanced budget amendment in the House like the one Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte has championed for years now. Every state, except Vermont, has a balanced budget requirement and it works — not perfectly, but as a tool for fiscal sanity, it points us in the right direction.

  • wodiej

    There have been several people who made great suggestions such as closing down Homeland Security, HUD, Dept. of Energy, Education, etc. Get on it.

  • Mike_Stopa

    Dear Mr. Phillips,
    I appreciate the opinions you express here. I myself called for a 10% cut in the Federal civilian workforce back in February 2010 in my unsuccessful campaign for Congress in MA-03. Please be more careful, however. The federal workforce now stands at 2.15 million *including* the military (cf. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/feb/02/burgeoning-federal-payroll-signals-return-of-big-g/)…civilian alone is about 1.45 million. I discuss this in a position paper at http://www.mikestopa.com/2010/10/jobs/.
    Thank you,
    Mike Stopa

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Corky-Aiken/1483953818 Corky Aiken

    Greetings.

    A comment you made is intriguing: “They will invite a third party threat from the right which in my view would be disastrous to both our free market values and the Republican Party.”

    The only third party I can think of right now that has any chance of gaining ground are the Libertarians, and I wager you won’t find more pro-Free Market bunch that they. To whom were you referring that would come in from the right and be so disastrous?

    Thanks.