FFYR Blog

Government Reform

debtThe current debate surrounding the federal debt ceiling (about $16.7 trillion) only hints at the true, enormous debt of our country.  Our government hides its true liabilities from the public and the media, while for the last two decades, economists have been predicting that our runaway entitlement programs would go bankrupt.  In reality, our nation’s unfunded liabilities are $126 trillion, or $1.1 million per taxpayer!

We must take the lead in reforming Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid now, since the other party refuses to do so.  Furthermore, we must not compound our dire fiscal outlook with another $6.5 trillion in debt that would come by granting amnesty to illegal immigrants.  This platform provides Republicans with common-sense reforms that can be promoted to reduce the size of the government and restore some fiscal sanity to the nation.

Government Reform

We are the party of government reform, and we mean to limit its expansion.  Very little government spending is backed by evidence that the money is being spent wisely.  Government programs should have a mechanism for tracking their effectiveness systematically, so that effective results and wise spending can be promoted, while worthless programs can be eliminated.  In the results-oriented government we envision, we believe in holding politicians accountable for supporting and funding programs that do not efficiently serve the taxpayer.  First and foremost, the structure of federal entitlement programs and their unfunded liabilities must be reformed now to avert higher taxes and/or skyrocketing debt in the near future.  A true fiscal crisis and a shredded safety net would impact the most vulnerable members of society the hardest, and reforming these programs now will help the poor, who society and government have a special responsibility to care for.

Without major reforms, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will soon grow to consume all tax revenue that the federal government raises.  The continuing failure to be honest with Americans about these programs puts our retirement and health security in a perilous state.  Though policymakers have known about the problems for decades, they lacked the political will to deal with the underlying structural issues that weaken these programs.  We believe that there are clear reforms that should be undertaken now to strengthen and save each program.

Social Security is intended to provide a minimum level of income security for retirees, those with disabilities, and survivors.  Due to increased life expectancy coupled with lower average retirement age, it no longer functions like it did when it originated in the 1930s.  The risk to the program is nearer at hand than most acknowledge, and our generation will inherit an unstable program that we cannot rely upon.  The other party takes a deny-and-delay approach, so their pledges of future retirement security are nothing but empty promises, because we recognize that sharp benefit cuts (or substantial tax increases) are forthcoming.  If we act sooner rather than later, changes can be gradually phased in.

The current system redistributes wealth from workers’ taxes to pay benefits to retirees in a massive shift of earnings away from young, working families towards recipients.  These taxes cannot be passed to future generations, as private accounts can.  We support allowing our generation the option of creating personal accounts that could build wealth better than Social Security accounts, where we have freedom and control over our investment decisions and where we take more responsibility for our income in retirement.  We would preserve the program for seniors, grow benefits more slowly for higher-income workers, and provide lower-income retirees with more targeted assistance than those who have had ample opportunity to save for retirement.  We oppose taxpayer bailouts of underfunded private-sector pension plans, and we urge states to address their unfunded public-sector pension liabilities.

Medicare is critical to help seniors to achieve health security in retirement, and the trend line of future health care spending is on an impossible, unsustainable path.  We recognize the unprecedented fiscal challenge that we face with a Medicare program that will bankrupt the nation without reforms.  There are two ways to control this spending:  keep the current system of bureaucrats setting price-controls and deciding which health care services can be used, even though we know that cutting payments to providers lowers quality of care and restricts patient access to doctors, or give patients more power to utilize providers who deliver high quality, low-cost care.

We can put solutions in place now, to fix Medicare’s flaws for future generations, which would not disrupt those in and near retirement.  We believe in empowering individuals with the freedom to choose either the traditional fee-for-service plan or a more efficient pay-for-performance plan;  whichever they choose will have a government premium-support payment to pay for or offset the cost of the plan, with increased support for low-income and less-healthy retirees, and guaranteed affordable coverage choices for all seniors.  The strengthened Medicare program that we support would require wealthy seniors to pay an increased share of their plan premiums, raise the age eligibility, and encourage older workers who can still work to do so.  These plans would be forced to compete for service quality and price, and free market healthcare competition guarantees better care at lower cost.  We believe that the patient should be the customer of medical services, not the federal government, and patient power serves their needs better than bureaucrats.

Medicaid, the program of health care coverage for the poor shared between the federal and state governments, is also experiencing spending growth at a rate much faster than the growth of the economy.  The open-ended nature of Medicaid, and the perverse incentive for states to grow the program, creates rising costs for taxpayers.  In addition, billions of dollars are wasted every year in fraudulent payments caused by inadequate oversight.  Despite the money being spent, quality of care is actually declining for Medicaid patients.

We believe in strengthening Medicaid by providing state governments with greater flexibility to help recipients through the ability to design their own modernized systems.  We support the conversion of the federal share of Medicaid spending into a block grant the program to the states, just like the successful welfare reforms in the 1990s.  States should be freed to tailor Medicaid to fit the needs of their populations, unshackled from federal requirements and enrollment criteria.  States will be able to achieve savings, provide better access to care, and design innovative coverage options, without federal mandates.

Immigration reforms should be enacted to serve the American people, not to expand the size of the government.  Any solutions must contribute to our economy, while protecting the contributions of our national asset – the American worker – from being undermined by competition with illegal labor in the workplace.  Immigration reforms must not contribute to the depression of wages of our lowest-paid native-born workers, or sacrifice the economic interests of working families in deference to corporatists who want cheap labor.  For the sake of higher economic growth, we should strategically encourage visas for high-skilled, advanced STEM degree holders, and support reforms to lower barriers for these immigrants to become citizens.

On the other hand, the tacit approval of illegal immigration that violates our sovereignty, threatens our national security, and introduces unidentifiable elements of terrorism, drug cartels, human trafficking, and criminal gangs into our homeland is unacceptable.  We are the party of the rule of law, and our current immigration laws should be enforced and strengthened.  State efforts to reduce illegal immigration by enforcing federal laws should be encouraged.  We believe that those who come into the country legally but overstay their visa should be identified and penalized.  We believe that those who practice identity theft, deal in fraudulent documents, and traffic in human beings should be punished.  We believe that the federal government must secure our borders and build the previously approved fencing on the southern border.  We support the mandatory use of the E-Verify program that confirms the identity and employment eligibility of job applicants.

We object to granting amnesty or expediting a path to legal status to intentional violators of our laws, especially if it precedes tougher enforcement measures.  Our laws should not be undermined by pardoning illegal immigrants while unfairly penalizing those who have waited through the legal immigration process.

Natural Resources

Young people should naturally care about energy and environmental policy, because we will inherit an America shaped by the decisions made today.  We are the party of traditional conservation – developing our God-given natural resources, preserving them for the future, and recognizing our moral obligation to be good stewards.  In June 1984, at the dedication ceremonies for the New Building of the National Geographic Society, Ronald Reagan remarked, “What is a conservative after all but one who conserves, one who is committed to protecting and holding close the things by which we live…And we want to protect and conserve the land on which we live — our countryside, our rivers and mountains, our plains and meadows and forests. This is our patrimony. This is what we leave to our children. And our great moral responsibility is to leave it to them either as we found it or better than we found it.”

obama-cartoon-gas obama-cartoon-gas2We support an all of the above, “Made in America” energy policy, because diversified domestic energy production of coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, biofuels, wind and solar power will allow us to control our energy future.  Our country is blessed with abundant natural resources that can be responsibly developed to reduce our reliance on imports to meet our needs, and there is an impending North American oil and gas boom that will help drivers strapped by higher fuel prices, strengthen our economy and provide strategic flexibility abroad.  Energy independence leads to national security, since lowering our current over-dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable parts of the world will lead to less constrained foreign policy options and fewer foreign entanglements.  Today’s purchases of foreign energy put us in the position of funding both sides of the war against terrorism, and subject our economy to a foreign cartel, where arbitrary price spikes can prompt recession.  Keeping our energy spending here at home, with a strong domestic energy sector that creates jobs and boosts manufacturing, has an added benefit of lowering prices for all working families and businesses.

We believe that free market forces and consumers will separate the economically viable winners from the losers in the energy development marketplace, and we believe that federal energy subsidies should be eliminated since they allow the government to interfere with this marketplace.  We must lead the global competition for clean and renewable energy markets and technologies, and federal energy policy should encourage private investment to improve efficiency primarily, without mandating a “cap-and-trade” program and overregulation of emissions that are already falling in this country.

We oppose any efforts to wage an unnecessary “war on coal”, a cheap and abundant resource that represents our largest source of electricity.  Besides just ourselves, developing nations need this cheap energy to climb out of poverty, and taking it out of the equation will drive up prices for everything.  We encourage the pursuit of onshore and offshore oil and natural gas resources, by opening new areas for exploration and production and allowing new technologies, like hydraulic fracturing (fracking) that makes gas supplies more accessible.  We would immediately approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would transport crude oil to refineries in the Gulf Coast, and would support tens of thousands of jobs during its construction.

We agree with Reagan that we have a moral responsibility to pass on clean air and water to future generations.  Our party has a great legacy of conservation, with Ulysses S. Grant establishing the first national park and Benjamin Harrison establishing the first national forest.  Good environmental and natural resource stewardship is a common sense, timeless, core conservative value; conservation and environmental protection are not exclusively liberal causes.  We believe that a healthy environment and a sound economy are not mutually exclusive choices.

Agriculture is a fundamental part of the American economy, to feed our nation and the world.  Specifically, Florida’s agriculture, natural resources and food industries provide a huge economic impact on our state, accounting for millions of jobs and ranking highly among other industries in contributing to our state’s economic production.  We support cost-effective federal farm programs, but not a complete shift of risk from the farmer to the government.  Spiraling federal crop insurance costs must be curtailed and programs that artificially drive up food prices should be repealed.  We endorse eliminating most agriculture subsidies and letting market forces work.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) now makes up about 80% of the Department of Agriculture’s budget, as federal financial assistance, distributed by the states, for purchasing food.  Participation in this program has risen significantly during the current administration, as the economy has failed to improve enough and unemployment has remained too high.  We support Republican legislative efforts to bifurcate the unrelated farm and nutrition programs, which have been joined together in the “farm bill” for more than three decades.  We endorse reforms to convert SNAP into a work activation program that promotes self-sufficiency and personal responsibility while continuing to provide vital support to our fellow Americans who truly need a hand up.

Constitutional Government

We are the party of our nation’s founding principles, the Constitution, and the rule of law, and we are the only party seeking to restore ordered constitutional republicanism to preserve the civil society.  No government may infringe on our God-given unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and we are the party that will defend these rights.  While the centralized, consolidated, post-constitutional government promoted by the statists is a serious threat to our prosperity and conflicts with the work of the Framers, limited government can play a positive role in society.

Self-government derives its power from the people, yet today it operates in the shadows, negotiating and signing omnibus, and allegedly comprehensive, bills into law before the people can determine the effects these laws will have.  The elected Legislative branch also delegates broad power to an unelected and unaccountable administrative state of unnamed bureaucrats to write rules and regulations.  The Executive branch decides not to faithfully execute laws it dislikes, strictly for policy reasons.  The Judicial branch regularly usurps powers from the other branches of government, and the Supreme Court can impose activist rulings without recourse, effectively rewriting the Constitution on economic and social issues.  None of these three branches is popular with the American voters, with pluralities disapproving of their job performance.

We have solutions that will restore the system of checks and balances articulated by Montesquieu.  We endorse an open, transparent and deliberative legislative process in local, state, and federal governments.  We believe that every proposed bill must cite its specific constitutional authority, and all rules and regulations from the administrative state must conform to the Constitution.  We demand a transparent and accountable budget and appropriation process, eliminating base line budgeting mechanisms and continuing resolutions that allow ineffective programs to continue indefinitely.  We support the appointment of constitutionalist jurists who will interpret the law as it was originally intended.

State governments play an important role in our country and the Framers of the Constitution expected that those legislatures would prevent the concentration of power in the federal government.  In general, we view the States as workshops of democracy, where problems are solved through innovation and competition with the other States.  We believe that all federal agencies should be examined, and their functions should be returned to the States if they could be performed better.  We support state legislatures that want to apply for a Convention for proposing constitutional amendments, especially if they believe that Congress will not propose changes to restore ordered constitutional republicanism.

But for the Bill of Rights, the Constitution would not have been ratified.  Our party conserves these first ten amendments, as intended to protect us against tyranny and limit the government from violating our personal liberty.  We support religious organizations who are taking legal action against the federal government to protect their First Amendment rights of conscience.  We believe in the fundamental right to self-defense of life and property, and we oppose federal gun registration and restrictions to our Second Amendment rights.  We oppose unwarranted aerial surveillance with drones as a violation of our Fourth Amendment right to privacy.  We protect private property and demand limited power of eminent domain per the Takings Clause in the Fifth Amendment.  However, the Bill of Rights does not list every right that “We the People” have; we will continue to remind our fellow Americans of the Ninth Amendment’s implicit reference to our God-given natural rights.

We believe that unborn children have a fundamental right to life, and we support legislation to clarify that the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause applies to them.  We endorse the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act that would generally prohibit abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy.  We also endorse the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, which prohibits discrimination against the unborn on the basis of sex or race, and we oppose any efforts to overturn the partial-birth abortion ban.  We support legislative provisions like the Hyde Amendment that bar the use of federal funds to pay for abortions, and we oppose taxpayer-funded subsidies to organizations that provide abortions.  Instead, we support funding organizations and resource centers that offer services to women and families faced with the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy.

In order to restore ordered constitutional republicanism, we support amendments to the Constitution.  We advocate for a balanced-budget amendment, with spending caps set at 18% of GDP and a super-majority requirement for tax increases.  We endorse a marriage amendment, to define that institution as the union of one man and one woman.  We support a human life amendment, to define and protect the sanctity of human life.  Because it is profoundly unfair when our citizen representatives operate under different sets of rules than the people, we recommend an amendment that prohibits Congress from making any law that does not also apply to the Senators and Representatives.

The Economy

For several years, the economy has been described as the most important voting issue, and 75% of likely voters consider it “Very Important” for their 2014 congressional vote.  Right now, only 20% of consumers rate our economy as good or excellent, and twice as many rate it poorly.  Americans have become more negative about the economy this year, and only 27% think it will get better during the upcoming year.

Americans do not think that the nation is headed in the right direction, we do not approve of Barack Obama’s handling of the economy, and our feelings towards Wall Street firms are negative.  More American adults believe the job market is worse instead of better than it was last year.

On the other hand, polls also show that voters favor Republicans most to handle the economy, taxes, job creation, government spending, and issues affecting small business.  Arguing on behalf of this economic platform reinforces these perceived strengths.  We must continue to promote independent individuals, working families, and small businesses with free-market policy that leads to economic growth and full-time job creation.  At every opportunity, we must continue to discourage crony capitalism, wasteful deficit spending that burdens our generation, and excessive regulations that hinder our economy.

Economy

We are the party of capitalism and economic freedom, and we reject concentrated, consolidated elite economic power and corporate statism.  Our economic vision focuses on small business and the individual, not big business masterminded by big government.  We know that free market policies lead to economic growth, which is our primary goal.  The economic recovery since the Great Recession ended in June 2009 has been much worse than previous recoveries, despite unprecedented federal deficit spending promoted by the other party.  There is an alternative to the past four years, with less spending, lower taxes, more jobs, faster economic growth, and a better quality of life for all Americans.

We are committed to reducing government spending at all levels, and primarily to downsizing the Federal government, and we join with all Americans, of every income level, to bear this burden.  Current levels of out-of-control Federal spending cause our enormous national debt to escalate, and we must support policies that stanch further increases to the debt load that will be inherited by our generation.  We support reining in wasteful spending, testing every program to see if it is constitutional, effective, necessary, and worth borrowing money for, and terminating programs that fail these tests.  We believe that our tax payments are only intended for authorized and effective services, not for income redistribution or crony capitalism.  We reject corporate cronyism, disagree with Federal socializing of corporate losses, and do not think that taxpayers should be on the hook for bailing out corporations or other governments.

We believe that excessive regulation burdens and unnecessary bureaucratic red tape restricts the economy, and must be reduced in order to promote growth and job creation.  The costs imposed by regulations are a hidden tax on the economy that does not pay down the debt.  In order to increase accountability for and transparency in the Federal regulatory process, we support legislation, like the REINS Act, that requires a joint resolution of approval, enacted into law, before a new, costly, major regulation issued by a Federal agency may take effect.  We also support sunset requirements to force reconsideration of regulations.

For simplifying our tax system, we endorse the repeal of the 16th Amendment and the abolition of the Internal Revenue Service, and we would replace the current income taxes with a single-rate national sales tax on final retail consumption, like the FairTax.  Our tax system should reward hard work and savings, but the current code creates disincentives to work and is biased against the saving and investment that is crucial to future economic growth.  With no corporate taxes on income, America would be more competitive worldwide; companies would migrate back and bring jobs and investment to our country.

Thirty-five years ago, Congress gave the Federal Reserve a “dual mandate” to maximize employment in addition to maintaining price stability.  We support the repeal of the Humphrey-Hawkins Act, so the Federal Reserve can solely focus on managing inflation.  We need monetary policy decisions that are based on sound economic principles, but the “dual mandate” makes the Federal Reserve a political actor pressured to bring down unemployment by creating money, while ignoring the long-term effects for the short-run illusion that people are better off.  We oppose further “quantitative easing” and loose monetary policies that are good for the indebted and stock investors, but not for working families or retirees.  With a focus on improving transparency, we support an annual audit of Federal Reserve’s activities.

We know that individual prosperity and self-reliance provides the means to be independent from the government, so we support policies that foster economic growth through entrepreneurship and a healthy and thriving small business community.  A recent study shows that Florida is already more entrepreneurial than the nation as a whole, and four out of five Floridians are employed by small businesses.  We support regulatory reform and tax reform that will help these employees and employers to prosper.

Creating jobs and getting Americans back to work is the top domestic priority of all.  The current labor-market crisis represents a human tragedy, as millions are unable to realize their full potential.  The jobs picture is not improving as it could and may get worse, because businesses still lack confidence.  People have become frustrated and stopped looking for work, low-paying industries and part-time jobs account for most of the jobs being added, and millions are working part-time when they would prefer full-time work.

The current high unemployment and underemployment rates, which are well above what is typical for a healthy economy, do not need to be accepted as the “new normal.” We have solutions that will generate full-time jobs that create stability, security and are essential for an upwardly mobile society with opportunity for all.  The availability of full-time jobs is the foundation of working families, and implementation of our pro-growth agenda of spending cuts, regulatory reform, tax reform, free trade expansion, and domestic energy production will create the jobs we need.

Student Loan Debt

Attention, current college students and recent college graduates: Recently, total student loan debt surpassed credit card debt in the U.S. with a debt of more than one trillion dollars. Senator Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, wants students to pay more. A bipartisan plan that would keep student loan interest rates from doubling from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent is on the table and ready to be passed. But according the Associated Press, Sen. Reid said it would never pass, and is unwilling to consider it for a vote. The bill needs to be passed and signed into law by July 1, or student loan interest rates increase.

This is important to college students on both practical and philosophical levels. First the practical, the obvious point is that rates will increase. Paying a projected extra $2,600 on average does not help these college graduates. First-time homeownership (an area typically dominated by college grads) has also slid, and this rate increase may affect this too. Next philosophically, Sen. Reid tells recent college graduates and current students that they will pass legislature in their favor. So why is Sen. Reid unwilling to see it through before the July 1 deadline?  One of the reasons is because Republicans support the bill. Reid is unwilling to let anything with strong Republican support be heard on the Senate floor. That is why Republican-led House bills (including several budgets and debt crisis solutions) never surface when they reach Senate. Sen. Reid decides the agenda, and if he does not like it, it will not be voted on.

Young Republicans face the same issues as college grads: they worked hard, they continued their education after high school and are paying their debt. If voters allow Sen. Reid to table this bill student debt rates will increase. Call Sen. Reid—let him know you are not happy.

NSA Seizure of Verizon Phone Records: Is This Hope and Change?

Seven out of ten Americans have a unique passcode to lock their phones. The passcode protects personal information and interactions with others. It would defeat the purpose of having a passcode if people wanted someone they did not know to see their phone records. Americans recently learned that the National Security Agency has been requesting and receiving phone records from Verizon Wireless. NSA has been receiving records of more than one million Americans. We demand an answer from them: Why do they need these records?

This is another reason to demand transparency from our leaders. We can discuss the various scandals all we want, from Operation Fast and Furious that left American guns in the hands of Mexican drug cartels, to the cover-up of the events of consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya, to the more recent news of illegal phone taps of the Associated Press and the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups, but some of those (if not, all) would be glossed over by the greater number of young people who voted for Obama.

As a young person, I recognize that a large portion of our lives is spent on our smart phones. Whether it is because we are busy or because it is convenient, many of us answer emails, update Facebook statuses, send tweets and share our lives through our cell phones. In fact, there is an increase in the number of people who do not even get home phone service anymore because they only sue their cell phones. And now, tens of thousands of us have had our phone records seized by the government? They claim they just look up where the calls were made, to whom, for how long, but does that not make you think they could be looking at more? Perhaps the apps you downloaded last month? The picture you sent to your boyfriend, girlfriend, mother or father? If you are reading this post on your phone, do they know you are reading it? Are they listening to your conversation right now?

This action is unacceptable, let alone downright illegal. Regardless of voting choices or political leanings, we can all agree that this is an invasion of privacy. The claim is that the records are being used for national security research. Let me ask you, have you honestly done anything to warrant the NSA to seize your records? Who would have thought that calling that new restaurant you visited “da bomb” would suddenly lead you to be targeted as a suspect? Tens of thousands of Americans are not doing anything that warrants the NSA from taking any of their phone records and playing this bizarre game with security where they think they will find the needle in the haystack by making the haystack bigger. We all must demand that this practice been ended immediately and that the government is held accountable for taking away our individual freedoms. The people of America must demand a more realistic answer from President Obama, who has claimed that many of the scandals mentioned above were situations that he was unaware of. Often, he gives us flat-out lies. We want transparent leadership in the White House. Either Obama has control over his administration’s actions or he does not.  The youth of America would like to know so we can determine if he really is the right one to institute  “change” in our great nation.

So, fellow young Americans, is this really the hope and change you wanted?

While Congressional Republicans Are Hard at Work, Obama Portrays Them As Inactive

A recent article published by the New York Times referred to several focus groups that were directed towards discovering young adults’ perception of the Republican Party. One of the comments made was that [Congressional Republicans] needed to “just pass something.” The Obama White House has done everything possible to portray Congressional Republicans as sitting around and doing nothing while singing praises of Congressional Democrats who are depicted as working overtime to make a deal. The work of the melodramatic Obama spin-machine has never been more evident than with the current perception of “The Sequester.” Fortunately, informed young adults can see right through the theatrics put on by the White House while President Obama shirks his responsibilities as a leader and instead points the finger of blame at anyone but himself. Continue reading

Tampa Bay Times Prioritizes Progressivism over Parenting

Op-Ed response to “Rubio’s stale school plan[1]” published by the Tampa Bay Times on Saturday, February 23, 2013.

Tampa, FL – It seems that even after re-electing President Obama for a second term, holding on to their majority in the Senate, and seeing further implementation of the Affordable Care Act, it’s Senator Marco Rubio that keeps Progressives up at night.

In a late night (3:30 a.m.) editorial posted by the Tampa Bay Times, Editorial Writer Robyn Blumner reminds us that Progressives and Democrats are under the continual belief that government, not the individual, always knows what’s best for you and your family. Undoubtedly, it is this blind faith in government and this President that has led to a stagnant economy and failed foreign and domestic policies. So this is our timely reminder to Blumner and Progressives everywhere, that in fact, our national motto is still “In God We Trust.” That motto not only refers to whoever our God may be, but those inalienable rights granted to us by Him and outlined in our nation’s Declaration of Independence. Continue reading