Déjà Vu, All Over Again?

I don't know about you, but I voted in November to send a message to stop runaway spending, stop government expansion, and defend our country from our enemies. I voted against incumbents, both Republican and Democrats, who voted against my wishes. Yes, I celebrated with my compatriots across the country who voted the same way I did. Unfortunately, I am sensing that this new class of politicians may disappoint just like the last one!

Already I am getting a sinking feeling in my gut that this new crop of politicians may fall prey to the same inside-the-Beltway disease. I did not vote for "business as usual," but instead I voted for representatives who would begin to dismantle the damage done over the last two years by the current administration. As Mark Meckler from Tea Party Patriots said, "If this new bunch of representatives doesn't do what we want, we'll toss them out also until we elect ones who will."

When these candidates were running for office earlier this year, they were asked about the "Contract from America" as a blueprint for actions. Some signed up to endorse this list, while others danced and weaved around the question because they couldn't support one or two actions. These ten items sure looked like a commonsense list to guide their initial days in office.

When these candidates were running for office earlier this year, they were also asked about Congressman Paul Ryan's "Roadmap for America's Future" as a comprehensive plan to begin to address the debt burden facing this country. A few endorsed this approach, while others bobbed and weaved around the question to avoid getting linked to some of the more controversial elements in the road map.

Finally, the Republican Party published a "Pledge to America" as a platform guide for actions once in office. Again, this document did not gain sufficient traction by the candidates to give confidence that it would actually be followed by the new class in Congress.

The recent leak of the president's Deficit Commission preliminary report gave some insight into how the new Congress will act. Unfortunately, it looks a lot like "business as usual." Capping spending at the highest rate in recent history is not spending restraint. Capping tax revenues at a rate never seen before portends a huge unspecified tax increase in our future. Finally, raising taxes to new highs to fund new expanded spending is not the sign of innovative solutions, but rather incrementally raising the heat under the pan to boil the frog! Tweaking the indecipherable tax code is not the answer, either, since fundamental overhaul is long overdue for replacement, with a flat Fair Tax being the ultimate objective.

Incremental changes will not fix systemic problems -- just like jumping a motorcycle across the Grand Canyon can't be achieved with a series of hundred-yard mini-jumps. Our government suffers from 75 years of incremental "improvements" that have all but obscured the initial admirable objectives from the kluge of regulations and governmental overreach that have accumulated through the years. For America to return to its limited government roots, much of the rules and regulations created over the years must be reevaluated and, in some cases, discarded completely.

The fundamental question that must be asked is this: what is the proper role of the federal government? The Constitution tells us that "[t]he powers not delegated to the United States (federal government), nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." The first thing to be done, therefore, would be to abolish more than half of the existing cabinet departments -- Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, and Transportation -- as unconstitutional expansions of federal power.

The federal government today is doing many things never envisioned by the Founding Fathers, and we should stop doing anything not specifically enumerated in the Constitution. The next thing would be to privatize many federal programs and agencies in which the government has no legitimate role: Social Security; Medicare; Fannie Mae; Freddie Mac; Ginnie Mae; all ownership positions in various private banks, insurance, and automobile companies; the Postal Service; Amtrak; and the Tennessee Valley Authority. 

We not only need to change direction, but we need to repair the damage done by repealing a number of laws that stretched the Constitution all out of shape. The transformation of this country back to its roots of free-market capitalism, limited government, and a strong defense will take at least one term to reverse the damage done by the current administration. It will take at least another term to begin the downsizing of our federal government back to the Founding Fathers' commonsense approach to government.

The federal government could easily be cut in half by privatizing or transferring programs to the states where they belong. This reduction in size and mission should also reduce federal taxes by at least half. Imagine a world with half the federal government and half the regulations! 

Many Americans have been yearning for someone to appear who can describe what needs to be done and the steps to fulfill his vision. Where are the businesspeople to help devise realistic and pragmatic transition plans to guide us in undoing the damage already done? The current politician culture is an incremental one of "what can be done?," not a transformational one of "what must be done?"

What I sense is that there is no one on the horizon with foresight enough to lead this required change.

David Coughlin recently retired from IBM after 31 years. He is now a political pundit who manages his website, "Return to Common Sense." He is an active member of the White Plains Tea Party. He was educated at West Point.
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