Advocating smaller, more focused, less costly government since 1996.
May 15, 2017
Senator Tom Carper
301 N. Walnut Street
Wilmington, DE 19801-3974
Dear Senator Carper:
Thank you for meeting with Jim Thomen and me about deficits and debt on October 3, 2016, and for the gracious letter that you sent us. It seems that we share a common concern about restoring fiscal responsibility to government.
The situation has changed considerably in the aftermath of the 2016 elections, and the purpose of this letter is to propose a second meeting (say 45 minutes) if you could fit it into your schedule. As was true last time, our goal would not be to “sell” any specific policy (policies). Rather, we would like to exchange ideas about reversing the government’s glide path to a fiscal meltdown.
FIRST, it’s time to bridge the partisan divide, which has been making it well-nigh impossible to have meaningful discussions about policy issues. It’s always easier to impugn the motives of opponents than to show your ideas would work better than theirs.
Thus, in the ongoing battle about overhauling the Affordable Care Act, Republicans and Democrats alike have been indulging in finger pointing and justifying their respective positions with specious arguments. Meanwhile, government healthcare outlays are soaring because people who aren’t involved in paying the bills (except for deductibles and co-pays) won’t voluntarily curtail their use of healthcare services. Costs could be held down by de facto rationing of healthcare services, as has been done in Canada, the UK and elsewhere, but it is not politically expedient for either side to talk about this.
Not only would SAFE like to share our perceptions about bridging the partisan divide with you, but we could testify before Congress on the subject if that would be helpful.
SECOND, we would recommend a book entitled “Going for broke; deficits, debt and the entitlement crisis,” in which Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute systematically discusses the major facets of the fiscal problem and what needs to be done about them. Here are some of the salient points:
#The fiscal problem is not simply due to a failure to balance the budget, it reflects the underlying growth in government, which is diverting resources from the productive private sector. Raising taxes can’t solve the fiscal problem, only spending cuts will work.
#Although it’s desirable to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse, the resultant savings would be comparatively minor in relation to the overall fiscal problem. Even drastic cuts in discretionary spending could only postpone the day of reckoning, as projected growth in entitlement programs would eventually crowd out all discretionary spending including the costs of maintaining a strong US military and protecting against security threats.
#Like it or not, the fiscal problem cannot be solved without restructuring entitlement programs so as to spend less money (Tanner offers specific suggestions for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and GovCare, all of which programs have serious flaws).
#Don’t count on a “grand bargain” to solve the fiscal problem; the oft-cited success of the 1983 Greenspan Commission in “saving Social Security” was based on a huge tax increase coupled with only modest (and long deferred) benefit reductions. This is not the type of solution that is needed.
We would bring two copies of “Going for broke” to the meeting, one for you and a second for a member of your staff. Although not an easy read, it’s the best recent treatment of the fiscal problem that we have seen.
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Please advise if the proposed meeting sounds helpful, and if so let’s schedule it in the near future.
William Whipple III, President
Secure America’s Future Economy