Mt. Vernon Statement

The Contract from America

We, the citizens of the United States of America, call upon those seeking to represent us in public office to sign the Contract from America and by doing so commit to support each of its agenda items and advocate on behalf of individual liberty, limited government, and economic freedom.

  1. Protect the Constitution
  2. Reject Cap & Trade
  3. Demand a Balanced Budget
  4. Enact Fundamental Tax Reform
  5. Restore Fiscal Responsibility & Constitutionally Limited Government
  6. End Runaway Government Spending
  7. Defund, Repeal, & Replace Government-run Health Care
  8. Pass an ‘All-of-the-Above” Energy Policy
  9. Stop the Pork
  10. Stop the Tax Hikes

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Click here for the full text version.

NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: The Limited-Government Big Tent

By Michael G. Franc

In February an impressive cross-section of national conservative leaders, including one Kathryn Lopez of NRO fame, released the Mount Vernon Statement. This succinct document eloquently sets forth the tenets of constitutional conservatism. To me, its most significant passage is the one that summarizes how the “natural fusion” provided by America’s founding principles unites the various traditions of modern American conservatism:

[Constitutional conservatism] reminds economic conservatives that morality is essential to limited government, social conservatives that unlimited government is a threat to moral self-government, and national security conservatives that energetic but responsible government is the key to America’s safety and leadership role in the world.

The Contract From America sets forth a similar case for limited government, arguing: “When our government ventures beyond [those limited powers that have been relinquished to it by the people] and attempts to increase its power over the marketplace and the economic decisions of individuals, our liberties are diminished and the probability of corruption, internal strife, economic depression, and poverty increases.”

Its policy platform calls on lawmakers to first, do no harm: repeal Obamacare, jettison the regulatory nightmare of cap-and-trade, and reject tax increases of any kind. On the proactive side, the Contract calls on Congress to approve a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, a “simple and fair single-rate tax system,” an “all of the above” energy policy that would revive domestic energy production, an end to earmarks, and a hard cap on overall federal spending.

Continue reading at National Review Online

Grassroots Activists Help Launch Historic “Contract from America”

Download a hardcopy of the official press release here.

On April 15th, hundreds of local Tea Party and limited government groups around the country will join together to announce the launch of the “Contract from America,” a grassroots legislative blueprint for 2010 and beyond. Originally proposed by Ryan Hecker, a Houston Tea Party activist and National Coordinator for the initiative’s chief organizing group Tea Party Patriots, this project is intended to present a different kind of agenda for our federal lawmakers: unlike the Contract with America introduced in the 1990s, everyday citizens proposed and voted on every plank of the Contract from America.

Grassroots activists from across the country visited the website to choose their top ten priorities from a list of 21 action items that committed Americans from all walks of life proposed. The top ten issues comprise the final Contract. By asking website visitors to propose and vote on the agenda, the result is not a list handed down from on high by old-bull politicians, but one handed up from the true grassroots in this country. After garnering nearly half a million votes in less than two months, the Contract from America has now been finalized into a blueprint that will serve notice to public officials about what the people want for their future.

And the top ten are…

1. Protect the Constitution
2. Reject Cap & Trade
3. Demand a Balanced Budget
4. Enact Fundamental Tax Reform
5. Restore Fiscal Responsibility & Constitutionally Limited Government in Washington
6. End Runaway Government Spending
7. Defund, Repeal, & Replace Government-run Health Care
8. Pass an ‘All-of-the-Above” Energy Policy
9. Stop the Pork
10. Stop the Tax Hikes

We are proud to join with millions of Tea Party activists across the country to announce the arrival of the Contract from America and the exit of elected officials who continue to ignore calls for fiscal responsibility, constitutionally-limited government, and free markets.

Enact Fundamental Tax Reform

Adopt a simple and fair single-rate tax system by scrapping the internal revenue code and replacing it with one that is no longer than 4,543 words—the length of the original Constitution.

SUMMARY

The current tax system is a perverse combination of class warfare and special interest gimmicks. With more than 70,000 pages of law and regulation, it is an anchor weighing down the American economy. High tax rates, corrupt loopholes, and pervasive double taxation of saving and investment are a recipe for reducing American competitiveness. To make America more prosperous, the internal revenue code should be replaced by a flat tax or a sales tax, both of which are based on the notion that laws should apply equally to all people. Moreover, people are rewarded for creating jobs and wealth with real tax reform, rather than rewarded for having more lawyers, lobbyists, and accountants. Real tax reform also means a low tax rate to make America a vibrant competitor in the global economy.

But it is also important to identify what is not real tax reform. Under no circumstances should politicians be allowed to adopt a new tax – such as a European-style value-added tax – without first completely repealing all income taxes. Politicians should not be allowed to pull a bait-and-switch that will finance a much bigger burden of government. Politicians have been swapping loopholes for campaign cash since the income tax was created in 1913. It’s time to end the scam.

~ Dan Mitchell, Ph.D. Cato Institute

Reject Cap & Trade

Stop costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation’s global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures. (Proposed by Jan Heinricks, Spring, TX)

SUMMARY

Affordable energy is literally fundamental to prosperity. High energy prices always contribute to economic slowdown. The whole point of cap-and-trade (see definition here) and other such schemes is to raise energy prices to discourage the use of fossil fuels. They therefore will have a significant negative effect on the economy. The European Union’s weak cap-and-trade scheme has cost European consumers over $130 billion since 2005, but has not yet contributed to any reduction in emissions. Analyses of various cap-and-trade schemes suggest that they will do little to avoid rising temperatures without China and other nations following suit, which they have consistently refused to agree to.

Cap and trade also has a significant regional effect, imposing new costs on states that produce and use energy intensively (for example, in manufacturing), while rewarding states that use less energy intensively (for example, by being service industry-based). This will essentially translate into a wealth transfer from interior states to coastal states.

Congressional efforts to introduce cap-and-trade schemes should therefore be opposed. Heavy-handed regulation by the EPA would also have the same, or worse, effect. Congress has the power to stop EPA imposing such harmful regulations and should do so.

~ Iain Murray, Competitive Enterprise Institute

“All of the Above” Energy Policy

Authorize the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries and reduce regulatory barriers to all other forms of energy creation, lowering prices and creating competition and jobs.

SUMMARY

Energy is the stuff of life. With it, we can accomplish practically anything; we grow food, make necessities, provide warmth and shelter and comfort, education and entertainment. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) estimates U.S. supplies at 117 billion barrels of oil and 651 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, on shore and off. This is enough oil to replace entirely our OPEC imports for more than 50 years, and enough natural gas to supply all U.S. needs for more than 30 years. That’s not counting our even more vast supplies of coal, counting in the centuries. We must no longer deny ourselves access to our most productive and affordable energy types.

The BLM found that 60 percent of the onshore federal lands with potentially significant domestic amounts of natural gas and crude are politically inaccessible. We as a nation are sitting on vast deposits of oil and natural gas that we could be using to reduce our imports. Increasingly, our coal reserves are subject to similar political constraints, even as we pour billions into clean coal technologies.

~ Tom Tanton, Pacific Research Institute

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.