An Idea-Based Conservative Future by Marco Rubio

June 1, 2010 18:29

America’s proud legacy of limited government, free enterprise and personal responsibility is under assault in Washington in the form of Obamacare, the so-called stimulus and cap and trade. Washington is broken, and there’s a fundamental question voters must ask themselves this election year: Who do you trust to fix it?


With the right leaders, the right agenda and the right movement of people and ideas, we can reverse this trend. America can remain exceptional, but it’s going to require bold and decisive action in the very near future. It’s going to require leaders who are willing to not only stand up to the Obama agenda, but offer clear alternatives as well.

Saying no to bad ideas is very important in the Obama Era, but so is laying out an alternative conservative vision. We did just that in Florida. As I prepared to become Speaker of the House, we created a book called 100 Ideas for Florida’s Future. It was a book of ideas and proposals collected over many months from all across the state. Many of them came from political leaders, academics and researchers. But some of the best ideas came from everyday working Floridians who simply wanted to promote limited government, maintain our freedom and keep Florida great. We took the 100 best ideas on issues like tax reform, education and insurance reform and put them in a book which became the foundation of my agenda as speaker.

Sharing our vision didn’t cost us politically. It enhanced us. We didn’t lose by taking risks, but we surely gained by showing the people of Florida that politics can be about more than just personal ambition and winning elections. We need more of that thinking in Washington.

For too long, politicians of all stripes have made false promises to different groups of Americans, often paid for by other groups of Americans, and always paid for by the next generation. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, pensions and other government programs are on unsustainable growth paths that will bankrupt the country and fundamentally alter the relationship of citizens to their government in ways that are not in sync with our founding principles.

Many countries have chosen to have the government run the economy. They chose to allow government to decide which companies survive and fail. They chose to allow government to determine which industries are rewarded. The problem is that when government controls the economy, those who can influence government keep winning, and everybody else stays the same. In those countries, the employee never becomes the employer, the small business can never compete with a big business, and no matter how hard your parents work or how many sacrifices they make, if you weren’t born into the right family in those countries, there’s only so far you can go.

So what do we do to avoid their fate? Here are some commonsense ideas that will help reverse the trend we are on and put us back on the right track:

First, we should freeze non-defense and non-veteran discretionary spending at pre-Obama levels. Though it’s a relatively small part of the budget, non-defense and non-veteran discretionary spending has ballooned in recent years and must be brought under control. We should cancel the unspent stimulus funds, repeal a TARP program that has evolved into a revolving bailout and slush fund, and sunset discretionary spending programs every 10 years after the Census. This will force our political leaders to evaluate the success and cost effectiveness of each and every government program on a regular basis. Lastly, we must also rein in the size and compensation of federal government workers. We need a freeze on civilian employment and adjust their pay and benefits, which are now some 70% higher than their private sector counterparts.

This freeze has to be enforced by a 21st century version of a Gramm-Rudman-type sequester. Again, politicians in both parties have demonstrated their unwillingness to control spending. If they keep refusing, we need a mechanism to do it for them. Additional safeguards, like a Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment with a supermajority to raise taxes, and a line-item veto would be valuable long-term. However, given the current Congress’ penchant for massive spending, taxpayers shouldn’t hold our breath in the short term.

The second needed step is to reform our entitlement programs and prevent their impending bankruptcy. Here’s a simple fact: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are going broke. They are like sticks of fiscal dynamite whose wicks are getting shorter by the day. We have to tell the truth and admit what’s obvious: for today’s seniors and those over 55, we won’t make changes. But for those like me who are under 40, the programs will need to change.


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