Friday, June 02, 2006

Mike Sylvester's thoughts on The Freedomworks Plan

Read it yourself at:
http://www.freedomworks.org/informed/issues_template.php?issue_id=2598

My comments in red

The 2006 Freedom Agenda
1. Cut Government Spending
2. Ensure Retirement Security and Personal Ownership for All
3. Unleashing Technology Freedom
4. End Lawsuit Abuse
5. Economic Growth and Full Employment
6. Fundamental Tax Reform
7. School Choice
8. Property Rights

1. Cut Government Spending
The Problem: Federal government spending has grown by 56 percent since 2000. The president’s proposed budget for next year will approach $2,800,000,000,000.00, or $5,323,712.42 per minute. That is a full $1 trillion more than President Clinton’s last budget in 2000. Federal spending now tops $22,000 per household. Before the current administration, it hadn’t been over $20,000/household in inflation-adjusted dollars since World War II. The federal budget grew from 18.5 percent of GDP on Clinton's last day to 20.3 percent by the end of Bush's first term. With the help of the Republican Congress, inflation-adjusted spending on the combined budgets of the 101 largest programs they vowed to eliminate in 1995 has grown by 27 percent. The wasteful spending is epitomized by the explosion of “earmarks” or pork-barrel projects, like the now famous Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska. These projects have ballooned from 958 projects costing $12.5 billion in 1996 to 13,999 costing $27.3 billion in 2005. The 2005 numbers are a 31 percent and 19 percent increase, respectively, over 2004, and cost each man, woman and child in America almost $100.
The FreedomWorks Solution: A spending problem this big must be attacked from multiple angles. To start, the process the government uses to create the budget must be reformed. The current process was created in 1974—when the federal budget was only about one-third of its current size, in inflation-adjusted dollars—by tax and spend politicians and it is designed to grow government. Earmark reform is also needed to curb billions of dollars of unnecessary spending. And, most significantly, the three giant entitlement programs, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, must be reformed. They currently account for nearly half of all federal spending and are growing 7 percent a year. By 2040, they will cost alone 20 percent of GDP, approximately what the entire government costs today, which means these three programs alone would absorb all current revenues, leaving the rest of government unfunded.
I agree with them 100%. Spending is way out of control. If the Democrats get in power they will keep spending money as well. Both Dems and Reps spend and spend some more.

2. Retirement Security and Personal Ownership
The Problem: : The current retirement programs of Medicare and Social Security require us to rely on the promise of the government to provide for us in our retirement and offer no option for ownership. We pay our Medicare and Social Security taxes and, by law they are spent each year by the government. The Supreme Court decided in the landmark case of Flemming v. Nestor that we have no legal right to our Social Security “contributions” and that they are in fact just another tax. As life expectancies rise and birth rates decline, the system is left with fewer workers working to pay the taxes necessary to pay the benefits that have been promised. The current system also unfairly punishes those who die after paying a lifetime in taxes, but before receiving the benefits they were promised. The benefits promised can not be passed on to those left behind because they are not legally owned by the worker; they are just a promise from the government.
The FreedomWorks Solution: Companies across America and countries around the world are switching to retirement security systems based on ownership, where money is saved over a lifetime of work in accounts owned by individuals. Every worker in the United States currently pays 7.65 percent of his or her income to the government for Social Security and Medicare taxes. Every employer pays an additional 7.65 percent of each employee’s salary—money which could otherwise go to the employee—in such taxes. We should be allowed to voluntarily choose to put our 7.65 percent in an account that we own, control, and can leave to our loved ones, so we can provide for our own retirements. The system could be based on the Thrift Savings Plan (www.tsp.gov) which allows every federal employee, from mailman to Congressman, to save in one of 5 diversified and approved mutual funds. Every American worker should be free to choose to own their retirement just like every government worker can choose to own theirs.
I agree that the problem they identified is a large one and I agree that neither the Reps or the Dems will do ANYTHING about it. Private accounts will not fix the problem. The programs are exploding in cost and will not raise enough revenue to pay for themselves. All of the extra money these programs have collected in the last70 years has been spent. There is no surplus. There are only two wayts to fix this problem. Either cut benefits or increase taxes, most likely a combination of the two.

3. Unleashing Technology Freedom:
The Problem: : Amazing new advances in telecommunications can change the face of our nation, but burdensome outdated government regulations are keeping this technology from getting into the hands of most Americans. The worst of these are franchise laws, which make it very difficult for Internet, telephone, and possibly even power companies to provide video programming—what’s usually thought of as cable TV—over new high-speed networks that would compete with existing cable companies. As a result, most Americans face a monopolistic “cable” provider offering higher prices and fewer options than they could have in a truly competitive market. Also, because of these outdated regulations, further innovation and investment are stifled, the economy is slowed, and good jobs are lost. The FreedomWorks Solution: : In today’s world of robust competition, it makes sense for the communications industry to be regulated like other business, by simply protecting consumers and ensuring businesses do not engage in unfair behavior. Reforming the outdated laws strangling this vital sector of our economy would promote economic growth and encourage healthy competition. This would give consumers better service and more innovation, and bring more jobs to our economy. This can be achieved with legislation that eliminates current disparities between voice, video, and data services. Such legislation would do so by phasing-out costly and burdensome franchise laws that currently restrict real competition in the digital television video market. Two such reform bills have been introduced in the Senate: The Digital Age Communications Act (DACA), introduced by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and The Broadband Investment and Consumer Choice Act, introduced by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.). These bills create a communications regulation system that is market-oriented, competition-based, and grounded in sound economic principles.
I agree that our telecommunication kaws and regulations are old and outdated and in need of change. I do not think this is one of the 7 largest problems we face today, certainly not 3rd...

4. Ending Lawsuit Abuse:
The Problem: In the last 20 years alone, tort (damage, injury, or wrongdoing) lawsuits have risen 60 percent. The question is no longer if or when a lawsuit will affect us, but by how much. Recent estimates put the cost of the tort system at $845 per American, or about $250 billion. Of that, trial lawyers collected $40 billion in 2002 alone. These suits drive up prices of good we use every day, and bankrupt good businesses, costing Americans jobs. Asbestos related suits alone have pushed more than 70 companies to file for bankruptcy, costing 60,000 workers their jobs. It is estimated that 90 percent of these suits are baseless. Junk lawsuits are clogging the courts and crowding out justifiable claims, making it difficult for the legitimately harmed to get the speedy trial they deserve. The continued explosion in the number of asbestos lawsuits exemplifies this problem, with as many as 3 million expected.
The FreedomWorks Solution: : The lawyers have set up a multi-pronged, money making system that requires a multi-pronged attack to restore the legal system to its original purpose. This past year we took out one of their best weapons when grassroots activists pushed Congress to pass class action reform. To deal with the asbestos litigation crisis, the same pressure needs to be put on Congress to pass legislation that simply requires litigants show they have been harmed by asbestos by meeting such medical criteria as outlined by the American Medical Association. Medical malpractice lawsuit abuse must also be reined in by weeding out junk suits to help expand the access of all Americans to more affordable health care.
We need tort reform badly. I do not know enough about it to comment on it intelligently...

5. Economic Growth and Full Employment:
The Problem: The constant onslaught of government regulations, higher taxes, and increased barriers to competitive markets slow down economic growth. Welfare statists continually push for “cradle to grave” government intervention; government handouts discourage able-bodied individuals from seeking work; politicians looking to “do something” throw legislative sand in the gears of industry like Sarbanes-Oxley; big business seeks out special favors and exemptions from the government; and entitlements expand and fail to be reformed. Combined, these attacks on our free market system promise less job creation, higher taxes, slower growth, and fewer improvements to our standard of living in the future.The FreedomWorks Solution: : Economic growth is what has makes progress possible. Over the past century, America achieved greater growth, and the resulting improvements in the human condition, than any previous nation in history. And never before have these improvements spread as broadly in a society as they have been in the United States. It is the unique American formula of individual liberty and free enterprise that makes this possible. The results are staggering: The average life expectancy in 1900 was 47 years. Today it is 77, and rising. The infant-mortality rate has dropped from 1 in 10 to 1 in 150. “Poor” Americans today have routine access to a quality of housing, food, health care, consumer products, entertainment, communications, and transportation that even the Vanderbilts, Carnegies, and Rockefellers could only dream of (electricity, air conditioning, TV, motor vehicles, computers). A farmer a century ago could produce only one-hundredth of what his counterpart is capable of growing and harvesting today. In the 19th century, almost all teenagers toiled in factories or fields. Now, 9 in 10 attend high school. Today's Americans have three times more leisure time than their great-grandparents did. In the early part of this century the average American had to work two hours to earn enough to purchase a chicken, compared with 20 minutes today. In 1900 per capita GDP was about $4,800 compared to $32,000, in inflation adjusted dollars, in 2000. To keep these trends going, the great and successful “American Experiment” of individual liberty and free enterprise must continue.
This one is very true. We have WAY too many government regulations and laws. These laws often serve no real purpose. We need to downsize our government and our regulations.

6. Fundamental Tax Reform:
The Problem: : A tax code should simply, fairly, and transparently collect the revenue necessary to pay for the functioning of the government. America’s tax code is fundamentally unfair, unnecessarily complicated, discourages entrepreneurship, and stifles the economic vitality of our nation. America’s tax code instead is over 60,000 pages of special interest loopholes and social engineering. Just complying with taxes requires the average person to spend 26 hours filing a standard 1040. As a nation, we spend 6.6 billion man-hours completing our taxes. Over 60 percent of Americans will pay accounting services for professional help. That’s more time than it will take to build every car, truck, and van in the United States.
The FreedomWorks Solution:: We need to scrap the entire income tax code and replace it with a flat-rate income tax that treats all Americans the same. The flat tax embraces the core belief that all Americans should be treated equally. Rich or poor, black or white, we should all be viewed equal before the law. No more favoritism toward some citizens and harassment of others. No more loopholes. No tax breaks for corporations. No tax shelters. No depreciation schedules. No tables. Nothing. Under a flat tax, like in the Armey-Shelby flat tax bill introduced as recently as the 107th Congress the IRS would need to send out just one postcard to every taxpayer instead of the billions of pages it must send today. Taxpayers would be able to fill out their tax form postcard in minutes. Everyone would make the same simple calculation: income, minus personal deduction, times tax rate. That’s it. While we work toward this goal, we need to work to make the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent, kill the death tax, and keep the internet tax free.
Tax reform is an absolute must. I prefer the Fair Tax to the Flat tax. The Flat Tax is certainly better then what we have now.

7. School Choice:
The Problem: Too many children are not getting the education they need and deserve from government schools. The school monopoly system doesn’t face the pressures of competition that pushes the rest of America to perform so well. Schools today spend three times as much as they did 40 years ago, teacher-pupil rations have steadily fallen since the 1970s, yet standardized test scored remain unchanged at best. More money and smaller class sizes have not made the improvements the education bureaucracy told us they would. Every day that passes is another day during which the children of our country are forced into a failing system. They deserve better. They deserve school choice.
The FreedomWorks Solution: : Empowering parents with control over their children’s education through school choice is working where it has been implemented, and must be replicated across the country. Study after study finds that statistically significant gains in academic achievement are obtained when children are given vouchers to choose which school, public or private, they’d like to attend. It’s still public education when students pay for schooling with vouchers or other tax-funded scholarships, but public education does not have to mean government schools. It’s time to stop penalizing children in low income neighborhoods by forcing them to go to failing government schools. School choice brings both the incentives of competition to the school system and the liberation of being able to escape failing schools to the children. Adults are not forced to shop in a government run grocery store in their neighborhood, and children should not be forced to attend the government school in their neighborhood.
I certainly agree with this one as well. Our education system is a shambles.

8. Property Rights:
The Problem: : Secure property rights are an indispensable ingredient of economic progress, of liberty, and of the rule of law. And they are under attack from all sides. From the increasing income redistribution to the horrible Supreme Court decision of Kelo v. New London to the Endangered Species Act, this institutional foundation of our country is being weakened. These attacks limit the ability that private property once had to work as a barrier to government power; which, in turn undermines the rights and liberties of our citizens. The Kelo decision says the government can take your house to give to a private business if that business will produce more tax revenue. The Endangered Species Act says you can’t harvest the trees on your own private property. These attacks on property rights are inconsistent with a free society and individual liberty.The FreedomWorks Solution: States have begun to fortify their constitutions against the takings permitted by the Kelo decision, but the process has only begun, and more action is needed. We must turn the outrage over this awful decision into the inspiration for reform across the nation, taking action to get the right legislation and state constitutional changes in place. Changing the bad state laws that allow for most eminent domain abuses will secure property rights in a way the Supreme Court fail to. As far as regulatory takings go, although the concept has begun to be understood by the courts, the law is still far from clear. Congress must clarify takings laws. Requiring government to pay for the costs of its regulations will both protect property rights and force needed reform of regulations and environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act.
Yep, this one is imortant too.

Mike Sylvester

10 comments:

Debbie said...

Something to keep in mind if you live in Indiana, and you want lots of freedom as to the education of your children: homeschool them.

It's not expensive.
It's not difficult.
The experience will help your family understand what freedom really means.

Debbie

bobett said...

I Agree Debbie,

I believe Today, yes home schooling will produce a better educated child.

And if there is not an at home parent during the day, then the time, energy and resources a parent has to educate
their child above and beyond the public school's education will advance that child greatly.

Jeff Pruitt said...

All through high school? I took caclulus, chemistry2, physics, computer programming and economics at my public school (years ago - I'm sure there are even more courses available now). There is absolutely NO WAY you could learn all those subjects efficiently in a homeschooled environment.

The major argument for most pro-homeschoolers is an anti-science argument - many are "New Earthers" who don't like the science that's taught at public schools. Or they're against an abstinence-plus education.

Most public school teachers are intelligent, extroadinarily thoughtful and caring people who could provide a much better education for kids than their parents could. Public schools also allow children to be exposed to other ideas, cultures and activities.

Debbie said...

Jeff, homeschoolers are learning those topics every day. You don't need to go to an institutional school to learn those subjects. That's simply a myth certain folks would like all of us to believe.
My two homeschooled through high school, and one is now a college graduate and the other will be a senior in college next year.

There are lots of reasons as to why families choose to homeschool. But what they all have in common is the desire to have freedom and control over their own children's educations. And that's a great thing.

I agree that there are a lot of good government school teachers. But they would be good outside of government as well.

This isn't about bashing teachers, it's about informing people that if they want freedom in education, then the best way to do that is to homeschool. Heck, then you can just hire one of those good government school teachers on the side to teach a subject to your kids if that's what you choose.

Where did you get your information to tell us the major argument for homeschooling? There is no major argument for homeschooling, because each individual family has their own set of reasons as to why they make the choice to take control and responsibility for their own families.

The "exposure" idea is another myth that certain folks want everyone to believe. However, another huge benefit to homeschooling is that your kids are not stuck in a classroom. When homeschooling, the whole world can be the classroom. A much more efficient (and fun!) way to be exposed to other ideas, cultures and activities.

I encourage you to do some research on homeschooling and homeschoolers.

Jeff Pruitt said...

My comment should have been "the major argument for the homeschoolers I've met and talked with" - granted this is probably only about 20 or so. What would you say is your #1 reason for homeschooling your children? And if I may, are you a new-earther and/or abstinence-only supporter?

Exposure is not a myth. Every day school kids are spending 8 hours around other kids while homeschoolers are spending that time around adults and/or by themselves. I feel sorry for anyone who doesn't get to take part in the social atmosphere that schools have.

I do agree w/ some of the ideas behind homeschooling - i.e. less rigidity, self-motivating and self-paced - however I think these can and are incorporated into good public/private school environments.

Also, I had exceptional teachers (one of which has won national awards) and will never be convinced that they could be replaced by a parent and some study guides...

Debbie said...

My main reason for beginning to homeschool was simply to give my kids individual attention and to give them the freedom to learn by following their own interests.

I don't know what "new earther" means so I guess I'm not one.

My kids learned about birth control, but were taught to realize that the best way to avoid any problems is abstinence.

There are tons of homeschool groups that have activities, besides when the other kids get out of school, they all come together in a wide variety of activities. I feel sorry for anyone who has to spend his whole day at school. ;)

Why do you assume that there are not wonderful teachers outside of institutional schools? And why do you assume homeschooling means sitting down all day with a parent and a study guide? There are many, many interesting people out in the world who are absolutely thrilled to share their knowledge with an interested child and they can be great teachers. What it really takes is an interested and motivated student anyway.

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