Illinois Republican Congressional candidates should join the ‘Fiscal Wake-Up Tour’

Poll numbers continue to show that despite record setting low approval ratings for the Democrat controlled Congress, Republicans don’t appear to have much hope of gaining ground this fall. A lot can change in three months, but if it doesn’t, it’s not looking good for many of our Republican congressional candidates here in Illinois.

Both in the short term and in the long term there are countless opportunities available for Republican success if our candidates would take up a few strong positions and get aggressive about making their case – as a group – to the public. The Lone Ranger strategy, as we’ve pointed out often, isn’t as effective.

The biggest issue that’s obvious to everyone is the need to increase drilling for domestic sources of oil. Another issue that Republicans need to start getting serious about is the national fiscal mess.

Last week we mentioned the efforts of “Truthin08.org.” Another organization that is doing a fine job of shooting off warning flares is the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. Its website home page flashes several quotes – here are two of them:

“Fact: Every American is now burdened, most them unknowingly, with more than $175,000 in federal liabilities and unfunded government promises.”

“Fact: As 78 million baby boomers prepare to retire, the sum of America’s unfunded liabilities and unfunded off-the-balance sheet entitlement promises currently exceeds three times the size of the entire U.S. economy.”

To the left of the flashing quotes is this:

“The Real National Debt – Per most recent available data.

Total Federal Burden: $52,700,000,000,000

Your Share: $175,000″

“Our Mission

We are dedicated to increasing public awareness of the nature and urgency of several key challenges threatening America’s future, and to accelerating action on them…”

Setting aside any proposed solutions the foundation might have, surely Republicans should share the mission of “increasing public awareness of the nature and urgency” of the problem.

The foundation is headed up by former Comptroller General of the United States David M. Walker, and recently he delivered the keynote address at the Washington Policy Center’s Government Reform Conference. Below are a few excerpts from his speech.

Illinois Republican incumbent members of Congress and challengers might want to begin addressing some what of Walker is saying if they hope to stave off some of the consequences of running in what used to be the Land of Lincoln but now is the Land of Obama.

Not long ago, one wit poked fun at Illinois by drawing up an electoral map of the nation showing forty-nine red states going for McCain but Illinois standing true-blue for their favorite son Barack. Humor aside, if our national Republican delegation doesn’t step up, then our Illinois Republican members of Congress should caucus together, run as a team, and make some noise. The press will cover it, and more Illinoisans will begin to understand and will start to move in our direction.

David M. Walker, April 2008:

I am here to tell you, our Republic is at risk. Washington is out of touch and out of control. I’ve had the good fortune of going to 26 states and 40 cities as part of the ‘Fiscal Wake-Up Tour’ during the last two years. I’ve been to a number of other states, and many more cities in my capacity as comptroller general of the United States, and now in my capacity as president and chief executive officer of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. …

Frankly, I’m not just concerned about the sustainability challenges we face. I’m concerned about how far this nation has strayed from the solid foundations that our Founding Fathers provided for us in 1789. And let me mention just a few examples.

First, the size of government. The Founding Fathers believed in limited government. In 1789 the federal government was 2 percent of the economy. Today it’s 20 percent and is scheduled to get a lot bigger.

Second, the composition of government. At the beginning of our republic, the federal government focused on things that realistically only the federal government could do.

Responsibilities like national defense, foreign policy, treasury, postal service, Congress, and the Executive Office of the President of the United States. Today, the 38 percent of the budget that is deemed to be ‘discretionary spending’ contains every major express and enumerated responsibility envisioned by the Founding Fathers for the federal government. Every single one. What happened to the provision written by the founders: that any role or function not expressly reserved for the Federal government belongs to the states and ultimately to the people? We have lost our way …

Let me touch briefly on a few sustainability challenges. …

Firstly, our federal fiscal challenge. It’s not our current deficits, and it’s not our current debt levels that are the problem. Yes, the deficits are larger than they should be. Yes, our debt levels can hardly be justified given the principles our founders established…

We have large deficits and debt levels, but the real problems are off-balance-sheet obligations. As per the latest federal financial statements, we have over $44 trillion (there are 12 zeros to the right of that 44) in off-balance-sheet obligations, primarily in the form of unfunded Medicare and Social Security obligations. Adding this number to our nation’s current net liabilities means that our total federal fiscal hole was about $53 trillion as of September 30, 2007. That unfunded hole is getting bigger by $2 to $3 trillion a year by doing nothing. If you balance the budget tomorrow, which we’re a long way from doing, that hole would still grow by $2 trillion-plus a year. $2 trillion-plus a year!

Now, what is $53 trillion? It’s $455,000 per American household. What’s median household income in America? Less than $50,000 a year! Therefore, based on our present policies and programs, the typical American household has an implicit mortgage of over nine times their current annual income, but no house to back that mortgage. That’s the big sub-prime crisis.

Click here to learn more about the Peterson Foundation.

©2008 John Francis Biver