The president elect has been pursuing an “all-star” cast for his cabinet. Most of us can’t believe how focused, dedicated, competent and committed these people are to good policy and streamlined government, as well as to restoration of constitutional discipline and separation of powers, not to mention common sense and family values.
There is only one piece missing – an official with a cross-function / cross discipline focus on reducing Washington’s size and power by eliminating functions, and transferring most of the rest (except national defense and Homeland Security) to the private sector, or devolving them to states and local governments. There is one person available to do that job who is the most experienced hand in America: Newt Gingrich.
By 1992, Democrats had controlled the House of Representatives for all but two of the previous 62 years, when Newt led his Contract with America revolution to capture all of Congress. The new Republican House majority continued for another 14 years, until 2006. But Newsweek magazine could not resist greeting the new Republican leader, only the second Republican Speaker of the House for the previous 6 decades, with a childless play on his last name, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
But there was nothing in Gingrich’s Contract with America, just overwhelmingly endorsed by the American people in the last election, that would remotely justify the boys and girls at soon to be bankrupt Newsweek characterizing him as the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Gingrich’s tenure as Speaker rivaled Reagan’s as President, ending Reagan’s deficits with record setting budget surpluses for 4 straight years, by cutting taxes and spending by trillions more. Those policies helped extend Reagan’s 1980s economic boom to ultimately 25 years, from late 1982 to late 2007.
Gingrich also led the first successful entitlement reform, leading bipartisan adoption in 1996 of Reagan’s original vision for welfare: block granting federal financing assistance for welfare back to state control. While Gingrich’s welfare reform only applied to just one federal welfare program, the old, New Deal, Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (AFDC) – it is the model for the future.
Quite the opposite of “the Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” that reform led to the sharpest reduction in poverty in American history. Within a few years two-thirds of those dependent on AFDC left welfare for work in private sector jobs. But there are still dozens of federal welfare programs operating on the same basis as AFDC, to which Newt could apply those same block grant reforms can, along with the 1996 work requirements, including Medicaid, Food Stamps, and dozens of housing and job training programs.
Federal and state taxpayers currently spend a trillion dollars a year in taxes for these programs, which are actually perpetuate, rather than cure poverty. All those programs can and should be devolved back to the states through block grants, so the states can compete through the American system of federalism with innovative reforms to actually reduce poverty.
Trump should hire Newt as an independent contractor, to work with his former House colleague Mike Pence in meeting with each cabinet officer to achieve the overall Trump goal of downsizing Washington. He can work precisely on extending those 1996 block grants to all federal means tested entitlement programs, saving trillions in unnecessary spending over the next 10 years.
Newt could also work on expanding leases and permits for energy exploration and development on all federal lands and waterways, liberating American energy producers to lead the world as No. 1 in production of oil, natural gas and coal. That would greatly contribute to restoration of booming economic growth, the revival of naturally energy intensive manufacturing, and American energy independence for the first time in over 60 years. That would produce millions of new jobs and trillions in new revenues from lease and permit fees, and taxes paid through the resulting increased production and GDP growth.
Newt can also organize orderly auctions of non-environmentally sensitive, excess federal land in the western states, where the federal government anachronistically holds far too much land in what are supposed to be sovereign, self-governing states. That would raise trillions more in new revenues over the next 10 years.
Newt could also work closely with new HHS Secretary Tom Price to help develop the best plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, and help get it through Congress. He could also help get pro-growth tax reform through Congress, as he did as Speaker.
Newt could further work on terminating “Executive Overreach,” for any future president who might try to rule by regulation and administrative fiat again, like Obama.
Lew Uhler is Founder and Chairman of the National Tax Limitation Committee and National Tax Limitation Foundation (NTLF). He served and personally collaborated with Ronald Reagan from California to the White House, and with contemporary Milton Friedman. Peter Ferrara is currently Principal and General Counsel for the Raddington Group, an international economics consulting firm, and a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute and NTLF. He served President Reagan in the White House Office of Policy Development and President George H.W. Bush as Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States.