This afternoon I had the opportunity to participate in a bloggers’ conference call with Congressmen John Campbell of California and Republican Study Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling TX.
Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn also participated briefly.
Ms Blackburn introduced the American Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which has four basic principles and aims to “restore fiscal sanity”.
John Campbell explained 4 broad principles of the American Taxpayers Bill of Rights: People have a right
1. To a government that doesn’t spend more money that they can pay, ” a right to a federal government that does not grow beyond their ability to pay for it”. A limit on government spending.
2. That Social Security is spent only for Social Security. The surplus should be held and spent only on Social Security.
3. To a fair and simple tax code by January 1, 2011, which is when the current tax code expires.
4. To see that the Federal budget is balanced every year, without having their taxes raised. They are working towards a balanced budget constitutional ammendment that would require a super majority vote of 2/3 to raise taxes.
Jeb Henserling: House conservatives believe that “it’s critical that we put the focus on taxpayers” in order to
Eric from Red State: Point #2 on Social Security sounds a lot like Al Gore’s lockbox, so what are that odds that that would happen now?
John: Yes there are some similarities, but we do believe that Social Security should be less like a transfer program and more like a government-assisted savings and retirement program. Where we would like it to go would be a lot different from Gore’s. SS should be about you saving for you, and it’s not spent on other than Social Security.
Jeb: We have a platform where House conservatives will be introducing legislation. The Republican conference is smaller but there are a larger number of conservatives that would introduce personal-account legislation. “The purpose is to move Soc.S. from a debt-based system to an investment-based system so the goverment doesn’t spend it on something else.”
Rob Bluey, Heritage Foundation, How about the Republican leaders, are going to get behind what you’re talking about?
Jeb: Conservatives get it. “Most of our members get it, that the nation wants Republicans to be Republicans, and limited government, smarter government, effective government, is part of our core values, and that brand has been tarnished”. Democrats poll better than some Republicans and our leadership has invited us to bring forth ideas and legislative initiative…We have to focus on the kind of nation we want to leave the next generation.
John: People looking for the nomination for president want to have conservatives, and should pay attention.
John Cambpell’s started a blog,The Green Eye Shade (since he’s also a CPA) to keep people informed of “what is being ground out at the sausage factory”.
NZ Bear, Porkbusters, a suggestion, on transparency: the right of taxpayers to know where the money is being spent, and who’s spending it:
John: There a lot of fiscal ideas not included, earmarks, line-item vetoes, but these four are basic principles, and these other ideas would fit under this umbrella.
Jeb: Not unlike building a house, there are four corners to it. Unless we do something about the culture of spending you can’t reform the budget. “Earmarks are a huge portion of the culture of spending”.
John: And transparency shouldn’t just be limited to earmarks.
James Joyner, Outside the Beltway, has skepticism about this sudden change of course, now that you are in the minority, how can you get a budget amendment passed?
Jeb: The Republican conference is smaller but the conservative group is larger. We have a couple of choices: do nothing, or tell the American people that we understand that accountability and smaller government is a core value of the Republican party. Nothing like an election debacle to focus the mind. We want people to know there’s a strong vocal group that care about these issues.
John: There’s no question that Republicans in Washington lost their way in the past year but we need to stand up and say “this is where we have to go”. “We worked very hard to make sure there’s a stigma attached to raising taxes”. If we can do this things we can make a significant change that can last.
Jeb: There may not be many opportunities to legislate, but there will be plenty of opportunities to communicate what kind of nation we’ll have if government spending is not controlled.
Bruce McQain of Q&O, on the fair and simple tax code, any specifics?
John: We propose to subset the existing tax code to start to get serious discussion, becaused what we got needs to be replaced, and what with.
Jeb: There’s almost unanimity that the present system is rotten, and makes us uncompetitive with the rest of the world. What we hope to do is to reignite the falt tax/fair tax debate.
Bruce: How to you reach the critical mass for this to happen?
John: There is a critical mass to replace the current system.
Jeb: We’re here to talk about core principles of our party, and you’re part of a solution. You guys in the blogosphere can reach a lot of people. This hit a high water mark once, and there was a time when the nation was educated on this and you can help on this as part of the solution.
My question was on the Constitutional amendment for a balanced budget: What kind of time frame are you looking at, and what kind of objections do you forsee?
John: Contitutional amendments don’t come along every day and are not easy to do. The obvious reason for it in 34 out of the last 38 years there has been no balanced budget, so if everybody says they’re for a balanced budget, why not be for an amendment? The argument against is that we won’t be providing the services that people need. Most people see the government smaller, less spending, and a balanced budget.
Jeb: Jefferson wanted to add an amendment to prevent the government’s ability to borrow money. If the American people had to pay for all the government they have they’d choose less borrowing and more opportunity.
The last question, from Ragnar Danneskjold of Jawa Report, was, how do we keep this dialogue going? Who to contact?
Jeb Through the presidential candidates, and by encouraging all House conservatives to bring different pieces of legislation so they continue to educate and sensitize the Amer people to the crushing load that awaits us if we don’t extend these four basic rights to the American people.
You can read The American Taxpayer Bill of Rights at the Republican Study Committee website, available in pdf format.