Gingrich says scrap super committee and extend payroll tax holiday

C.J. Ciaramella Contributor
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Scrap the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction and focus on passing real reforms, GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich recommended Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

In a speech at the Heritage Foundation today titled “A Better Approach to Deficit Reduction,” the former Speaker of the House lambasted the so-called super committee tasked with cutting the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion over 10 years.

“This is a total disaster,” Gingrich said. “It’s a disaster in process, it’s a disaster in constitutional means, and it’s a disaster in solving our major problems.”

Instead of relying on the 12-person committee, Gingrich said Congress should focus on passing numerous small reforms to streamline government. In the end, he said, those cuts could add up to more savings than what the super committee is tasked with finding.

“These grand compromises don’t work very well,” he said. “But 1,000 small, smart things would actually get more done. My guess is you could be in the $3 trillion range by Christmas, scored over 10 years.”

And Gingrich, well known in Washington as a prolific “ideas man,” had no lack of suggestions for reform.

He offered up ideas like selling off government assets, overhauling the visa application process and Food and Drug Administration, increasing offshore energy production and applying “Lean Six Sigma” — a business strategy used to identify and eliminate waste — to federal agencies.

Increased royalties from energy production, Gingrich believes, could fund infrastructure spending and environmental conservation efforts, a good compromise for industry and conservationists.

Gingrich lamented the defense spending cuts that many predict the super committee will make, but he said there are plenty of common sense areas to trim the Pentagon’s budget, like reducing the number of troops stationed overseas.

During the Q&A portion of the event, Gingrich said he couldn’t see Republicans blocking an extension of the payroll tax holiday.

“I think it’s very hard not to keep the payroll tax cut in this economy,” Gingrich said. “I don’t know what Republicans are going to say, but I think it’s very hard to say ‘no.’ We’re going to end up in a position where we’re gonna raise taxes on the lowest income Americans the day they go to work and make life harder for small businesses.”

But Gingrich said he’d oppose extending unemployment benefits unless states were allowed to require recipients to attend work training programs.

As is his style, Gingrich covered a wide range of ground during the appearance, sliding from domestic to foreign policy to reflections on Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln and finishing with one of his favorite hobby-horses, bureaucracy.

“You are never a subject, which is why the current bureaucracy has to be thoroughly overhauled because it is a European-style bureaucracy, which treats Americans as though they are subjects,” he said. “It does not treat them with the dignity and authority to be citizens.”

According to reports, the Heritage speech was scheduled hastily on the heels of the Ames Straw Poll.

Gingrich’s criticism of the super committee during his visit to Ames — “as dumb an idea as Washington has come up with” — was one of the biggest crowd pleasers of the night. (RELATED: Ron Paul: Debt limit agreement ‘super committee’ unconstitutional)

Despite a strong speech, Gingrich only culled 2 percent of the vote at the Ames Straw Poll. However, Gingrich spokesman RC Hammond said the campaign spent $0 on Ames, in comparison to the hundreds of thousands spent by other campaigns. Gingrich, Hammond said, remains undaunted.

“Ames is the beginning of a long conversation,” Hammond said. “Voters will pick the Republican who can convincingly beat Obama and fix this mess. Newt, with his bold solutions and unique ability to communicate and lead, will be at the top of the ticket come Tampa.”

The Florida straw poll is September 22-24.