Congress

End Runaway Government Spending

Impose a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of the inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth. (Mark Meckler, Sacramento, CA)

SUMMARY

Since 2001, federal spending has grown 51 percent faster than inflation, and now stands at $29,813 per household. President Obama’s budget could push real federal spending above $37,000 per household by the end of this decade. Taxpayers clearly cannot afford to fund this level of spending.

Families and businesses are tightening their belts and capping their spending. Yet Congress is not subject to any statutory spending caps. Entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare grow 7 percent annually on autopilot with no Congressional oversight. Discretionary spending is budgeted annually (at growth rates recently averaging 8 percent), yet Congress bypasses even those minor restraints by declaring any additional spending “emergencies.”

The only way to force lawmakers to set priorities and make trade-offs is to enact a law capping the growth of the federal government to the inflation rate plus population growth (approximately 3.5 percent annually). No more blank checks, no programs on autopilot, all programs competing against each other for tax dollars. Any additional spending should require a 2/3 supermajority vote (which should be reachable during a real emergency). Such a spending cap – starting from the pre-recession 2008 spending levels – could likely balance the budget by 2020 without tax increases. It’s a vital step towards protecting the family budget from the federal budget.

~ Brian Riedl, Heritage Foundation

Defund, Repeal, & Replace Government-run Health Care

Defund, repeal, and replace government-run health care. Make health care and insurance more affordable by enabling a competitive, open, and transparent free-market health care and health insurance system that isn’t restricted by state boundaries.

SUMMARY

One of the defining moments in the formation of the Tea Party movement was the opposition to government-run health care. The antithesis to government-run health care is a competitive, free market system that puts patients first. Over 84% of Americans already have health insurance, and 75% of those are satisfied with the care they receive. Enacting real health reform that keeps costs in check not only satisfies the majority, it also makes health care more affordable for those who don’t have coverage. Competition thrives when the barriers to entry are low, uncertainty is eliminated, innovation flourishes and customers are free to choose from a range of options. Together, these factors put downward pressure on costs.

Congress could easily and cheaply enact health reform laws that allow insurers to compete across state lines. In so doing, burdensome regulations that differ from state to state would be streamlined so that all insurers could compete on a level playing field. New competition rewards the most innovative companies, and customers would have a wider range of coverage options. The end result is patients will have more freedom, more choices, and a competitive system with built-in incentives to control costs and stay competitive.

~ Rick Scott, Conservatives for Patients’ Rights

Protect the Constitution

Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does. (Proposed by: Brooke Storrs, Midland, MI)

SUMMARY

For too long, Congress has been passing bills with little or no constitutional authority. Legislative counsel have twisted provisions like the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the General Welfare Clause beyond all recognition, not tying congressional authority to any particular power enumerated in Article I. Going forward, Congress should only be allowed to exercise powers that directly and plainly flow from a specific constitutional grant of authority.

~ Ilya Shaprio, Cato Institute

FairTax, Flat Tax, and the Need for Fundamental Tax Reform

Our nation faces many important issues, of which the Contract from America will offer a handful of actionable solutions that can reasonably and immediately be addressed by those who seek to represent Americans in Congress.

For many Americans, the need for fundamental tax reform is front and center. They recognize our tax system has evolved into an unfair punitive government mechanism to redistribute wealth and serve special interests.

Many interesting ideas, including the FairTax and the flat tax, have been offered as potential solutions to our broken tax system. At first glance, some of these ideas reflect competing interests. However, the common goal and first priority of those interests should be to raise the profile of the need for fundamental tax reform, sustain a national dialogue on the issue, and allow various solutions to compete with one another in the marketplace of ideas. Those ideas will rise and fall based on the merits, with the very best ideas naturally rising to the top.

Importantly, FairTax is a founding coalition partner of the Contract from America. Based on survey responses, comments on the orignal Contract from America site, and discussions with Neal Boortz and Ken Hoagland, we agreed to unite behind the notion of fundamental tax reform broadly and deal with the FairTax / flat tax debate once fundamental tax reform is squarely on the national agenda.

What about all of the support for the FairTax during the early stages of the Contract from America initiative? Why isn’t the FairTax or the flat tax specifically mentioned in the current choices on the Contract from America?

When this effort began, the original website made clear that the early stages of the process would be used to generate ideas and engage in debate. Visitors could vote on ideas and advance issues important to them in ways that were virtually unrestricted.

For example, highly engaged activists often returned to the site over and over to promote and support their favorite ideas. While some had the support of well-organized efforts, others (that were often just as compelling) were buried under mountains of political discourse.

In addition, the process offered a four month window of opportunity to introduce and debate ideas. Those that were introduced early in the process had a significant advantage over those that were introduced in the final weeks. With few exceptions, specific ideas introduced early received more votes.

The most important part of the early stage of the process was to identify the issues that truly resonated with Americans and the need for fundamental tax reform was identified as one such issue. With regard to the specific proposals of FairTax and the flat tax (not to mention other compelling proposals), we concluded that to choose one over the other at this early stage will only serve to divide rather than unite us on a critical issue impacting every single American.

In the end, there are hundreds of important issues and only the Constitution is well-suited to address them all in a manner consistent with the values of the Founding Fathers.

Americans will continue to weigh in on the issues important to them and the Contract from America will become a stronger, more refined document as a result.

Reform is a process. The Contract from America is part of that process. It cannot possibly be all things to all people, but it can help refocus the national debate, and offer a tool to hold elected officials more accountable in 2010 and beyond.

HANNITY: Newt Gingrich Discusses the ‘Contract from America’

Newt Gingrich talks with Sean Hannity about a new grassroots initiative called the Contract from America, a collection of policy proposals developed and chosen by the American people.

Watch more videos like this at the American Solutions YouTube channel…

AMERICAN SOLUTIONS: Contract from America and What it Means for 2010

At CPAC, American Solutions took part in the formal launch of a new grassroots initiative called the Contract from America. We believe that it has the potential to define the 2010 elections.

Spearheaded by Ryan Hecker of the Tea Party Patriots and the Houston Tea Party Society, this is an effort – after demanding that Washington listen to us – to tell Washington exactly what we want them to do.

Currently a collection of 22 policy proposals developed and chosen by the American people, voting is now open to you and every other American, so that you can decide upon a final 10-point Contract to be unveiled on April 15, 2010 – the next round of nationwide Tea Parties.

The Contract from America provides a vehicle for every American that believes in free markets, limited government, and individual liberty, and here are 5 reasons why:

1. A focus on America, not President Obama.
President Obama deserves a lot of blame for what’s happening in America right now, particularly the unprecedented intervention of the federal government in the economy and the tripling of the national debt. But Washington’s failures have been bipartisan, and our current challenges are much bigger than President Obama.

By providing a blueprint for building a better future, rather than a recipe for how to beat President Obama, every American concerned about the direction of Washington can be assured that the Contract’s purpose is not partisan success, but American success.

2. Moderate Democrats vs. the Secular-Socialist Left.
Red America vs. Blue America is a myth. As the Tea Party movement and the victories of Scott Brown, Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie are proving, there is huge (70 percent plus) tri-partisan majority of Americans who believe in lower taxes, limited government and individual liberty – and they’ll vote for it when given a real choice.

The secular-socialist Left, represented by President Obama and Speaker Pelosi in Washington, represents a small percentage of Americans, which is proven every day that they try to run over the moderate Blue Dog-wing of their party, and more and more Americans reject their policies.

There are plenty of items in the Contract that moderate Democrats can be for, and the Contract provides them an opportunity to stand up to the Left, which is driving them off an electoral cliff.

3. The Contract is not a platform – it is a contract.
Campaigning is much easier than governing; just ask the current Democratic majority. It’s one thing to gain power, it’s quite another to hold together a coalition, fix real problems, and give voters a reason to keep you around.

With the Contract from America, candidates are not just signing a platform from which they will campaign; they are signing a contract with voters that they will actually do these things.

4. An alternative vs. opposition.
When the President and Congress try to take over, for example, both the healthcare (public option) and energy sectors (cap and trade), it’s not only good, but essential to say no and do everything in our power to stop them. However, we must do more than that. We must alter the terms of the debate, on our grounds. America is rejecting the Left’s policies, but they won’t embrace ours until we define, explain and communicate what they are, clearly and simply. The Contract can be our vehicle.

5. Honesty and Transparency over Ideology.
Ideology is important, and conservatism is on display throughout the Contract from America. However, a good bit of it (like the original 1994 Contract with America) focuses on honesty and transparency, such as the required posting of bills online and more choice for parents in education.

Most Americans are not ideological. They just want government to work, to be responsible, and to know that the people, not politicians, are the ones calling the shots at the end of the day. Just think about the healthcare debate – every American may not know exactly what the public option is or what cap and trade means (most of the politicians don’t either), but they do know that they don’t like their supposed representatives shoving it down their throat.

Something is wrong when our representatives are crafting deals behind closed doors, when they won’t hold townhalls in front of their constituents, and when outright bribes are explained away as just “the way things work in Washington.”

For many Americans, the focus on honesty and transparency will be a breath of fresh air.

And with that, go ahead and pick your Top 10.

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Visit American Solutions for more information about this and other important issues.

NEWSMAX: Contract From America Rose from Obscurity

By Ronald Kessler

Ryan Hecker got the idea while he was shaving: Why not hold politicians accountable to conservative principles with a “Contract from America”?

Bookish and intense, Hecker, 29, is hardly the sort of person you would expect to galvanize a political movement. But as a Harvard Law School graduate and a lawyer with Vinson and Elkins in Houston, Hecker has impressive credentials.

He has another thing going for him: Outrage.

Outrage was what he was feeling about the Bush administration’s plan to bail out banks when he thought up the Contract from America in December 2008. In contrast to Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America, the new contract would bubble up from the grass roots, setting forth principles that politicians would be asked to embrace.

Now, tens of thousands of activists have voted on what they consider the top 10 principles.

At a press conference at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week, Hecker and other Tea Party Patriots, FreedomWorks Chairman Dick Armey, Sen. Jim DeMint, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, the National Taxpayers Union, Liberty Central, and Regular Folks United announced plans to unveil the final document on April 15.

Despite the growing power of his concept, until now, no one in the media has interviewed Hecker about his background and how he arrived at the idea for the contract.

Hecker tells Newsmax he grew up in a liberal family in Manalapan, N.J. His father taught math at a middle school and at the College of Staten Island, where his mother also taught math. Hecker’s uncle, Democrat Marty Markowitz, is Brooklyn’s borough president.

When Hecker was 16, Hecker’s congressman, Republican Michael J. Pappas, got him a page job, which exposed him to the arguments of Republicans on the Hill.

“A lot of the pages were running around delivering packages all day, but my job was to sit in the cloakroom and wait for phone calls and go on the floor,” Hecker says. “So I witnessed a lot of debates.”

While attending New York University, Hecker joined a debate team and was impressed by the arguments of conservatives who leaned toward being libertarian.

“The strongest arguments, especially on economic and individual rights issues, were for me always the conservative position,” Hecker recalls.

Hecker was not shy about letting his parents know that he had become a Republican.

“My mom still thinks like, Oh, you’re doing what you’re doing, and it’s not what I agree with, but I’m proud of you,” Hecker says.

Hecker had no problem breaking the news to his future wife, Niru. Born in the U.S. of parents from India, she is a conservative who met Hecker when she was attending Bryn Mawr and debated him.

In 2005, Hecker graduated cum laude from Harvard and was hired by Sullivan and Cromwell in New York. After two years, he left the law firm to join the presidential campaign of Rudy Giuliani as an opposition researcher.

When the campaign was over, Hecker joined the law firm of Vinson and Elkins in Houston, where his wife had begun a residency in neurosurgery.

Last Feb. 27, Hecker was on his way to lunch and ran into a rally of conservatives. He joined them and helped organize a rally on April 15 by the Houston Tea Party Society, where he became an executive board member. Hecker later became a board member of the Tea Party Patriots, one of the leading tea party groups in the country.

In September 2009, Hecker launched the ContractfromAmerica.com Web site. The idea is to enlist candidates from both parties to subscribe to such goals as “Stop the Tax Hikes,” “Stop the Pork,” and “End Runaway Government Spending.”

“The Contract from America is based on the principles of individual liberty, free markets, and constitutionally limited government,” Hecker says. “The goal is to really create a grass-roots feeling that we can make a difference, that individuals can make a difference, and that it’s time for the Republicans and the Democrats and politicians in general to listen to the people.

Continue reading on Newsmax…

WEEKLY STANDARD: Grand Old Tea Party – The insurgents meet the insiders.

Grand Old Tea Party – The insurgents meet the insiders.

By Mary Katharine Ham

It was a good week for proclamations, with Washington conservative leaders, tea party activists, and the GOP all touting statements of principle as thousands of conservatives came to town for the annual CPAC conference. The GOP’s statement has yet to be released, but each group’s intentions have nonetheless been scrutinized and parsed by the media in what feels like a political version of the eHarmony compatibility test.

Will the tea partiers drag the GOP toward the unelectable fringe? Will the conservative movement tap into the antiestablishment energy of the tea partiers? Will the Republican party adopt the ideas of either? Can they all come together without sullying the grassroots authenticity of the tea party movement? Will they or won’t they form a third party? Is this the beginning of a beautiful relationship, or is someone going to get used?

Sixteen miles from the Capitol, at the Mount Vernon home of President George Washington, a group of conservatism’s gray eminences gathered to sign the Mount Vernon Statement—a noncontroversial (to conservatives) manifesto to unite and recommit their movement to the “ideas of the American Founding” in the “critical political and policy battles ahead.”

As a George Washington impersonator presided over the signing of the oversized Declaration-style document, a couple of newcomers mingled with such Beltway fixtures as former attorney general Ed Meese and the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins. Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler of tea party Patriots, a loosely organized national umbrella group, had come to town for the unveilings of both this document and a tea party document.

It wasn’t the only odd juxtaposition of outsiders with insiders this week. A handful of tea party leaders had an hours-long meeting with RNC chair Michael Steele at the Capitol Hill Club—a locale the media gleefully chortled was too elitist for the group. “The club is a place for Oysters Rockefeller and pictures of Eisenhower, not tricorn hats and Don’t-Tread-on-Me flags,” Dana Milbank wrote in the Washington Post (proving either he had never set foot in the decidedly non-swank building or assumed his readers wouldn’t know better).

But what the press often portrays as a prickly fight over the soul of the Republican party looked more like a first date, with both sides attempting to make a good impression. The tea partiers wanted to introduce themselves, and Republicans and conservative leaders were happy to meet them in light of their new electoral credibility after Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts.

“The atmosphere was very positive,” said RNC communications director Doug Heye of the meeting, which he said was initiated by tea party activists and ran more than an hour beyond its hour-long slot on Steele’s schedule. Steele “made it very clear that he was going to answer every question. I think that really created a lot of good will with the people who were there in the room.”

When tea party activists held an unveiling for their own document— the Contract From America—at CPAC on Thursday, heavy hitters like former House majority leader Dick Armey and Senator Jim DeMint were there, but noticeably took a back seat to tea party activists, who referred to themselves as “leaderless” no fewer than five times.

Ryan Hecker, a Houston lawyer who devised the plan to create a tea party platform using thousands of ideas and online votes from activists, exemplified the unpolished, grassroots nature of the press conference when he fumbled the microphone while stalling for DeMint’s arrival. As the mike’s crash quieted, he smiled and said, “As you can tell I’m kind of a newbie at this stuff.”

Like Hecker, many of the tea party activists at CPAC for the first time this year acknowledged they are new at the game, but are also confident that’s their strength. Polling suggests they are right, with voters sour on Washington and both parties. As for the politicians, they made sure to show proper respect to the new activists. Every major speaker gave kudos to the tea party movement from the CPAC dais on Thursday.

House minority leader John Boehner was no exception. “The Republican party should not attempt to co-opt the tea parties,” he said. “I think that’s the dumbest thing in the world. What we will do as long as I’m the leader is respect them, listen to them, and walk amongst them. The other party will never, ever do that.”
Continue reading Mary Katharine Ham’s article at the Weekly Standard…

DAILY CALLER: Tea Party leaders ask voters to help draft ‘Contract from America’

It reeks of 1994, but in addition to budget balancing and term limits amendments, there’s a plank for preventing the government from regulating the Internet.

The Daily Caller obtained the list of 20 potential items for “Contract from America,” a Newt Gingrich-style document to be developed by Tea Party activists of 10 Tea Party priorities.

The items range from prohibiting the Federal Communications Commission from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine to calling for a complete audit of federal agencies and programs.

Tea Party Patriots, the group organizing the effort, will hold a press conference on Thursday in Washington, D.C., at the CPAC conference to announce the launch of contract.thelibertylab.com, where activists can help “draft” the finalized contract by voting for their top 10 of those issues. After releasing a final “Contract from America” on April 15, activists will ask members of Congress to sign the final document.

Ryan Hecker, a national coordinator of Tea Party Patriots and a member of the Houston Tea Party Society who developed the contract idea, said it “is a grassroots, bottom-up document.”

“It’s going to be a very democratic process,” Hecker said.

Continue reading at the Daily Caller…