Tuesday, April 29, 2008

RightWingNews.com: An Interview with Thaddeus McCotter, Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee About The GOP Fiscal Integrity Task Force

Late last week, I got together with Thaddeus McCotter, Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee to talk about the new GOP Fiscal Integrity Task Force that has been announced in the House. I'm always happy to talk with McCotter because he's one of the good guys in Congress -- friendly to blogs and the grassroots, and a sharp thinker when it comes to conservative principles.

What follows is a slightly edited transcript of our discussion.

Earmarks are a big bone of contention even though, percentage wise, they're a very small factor in the deficit. John McCain has said that he wants to eliminate earmarks. Do you anticipate that being something the GOP's Fiscal Integrity Task Force will support?

The first thing we're going to do is look at the definition of earmarks, because there are several floating around. I think McCain's position is important, as is the work of members like Jeff Flake, Jeb Hensarling -- to use this as a symbol of government overspending.

What will also have to be addressed is what takes the place of earmarks. As you'll remember, the reason that earmarks took off in the Gingrich era was because bureaucrats were spending taxpayers' money and bureaucrats and civil servants are unaccountable and unelected. That meant there was nothing that could be done about their bad decisions. So Gingrich, in trying to empower the electorate and the Congressional branch that actually appropriates the money, wanted to bring the accountability down so that if you don't like what your member is doing, you actually have recourse. What broke down though, is the self-policing mechanism, I think.

So, from our point of view, what we want to do is define what earmarks are in a way that makes sense and can help address the problem. Then secondly, if earmarks are banished, how do you prevent the bureaucrats from spending them? So, we have to identify the solution properly, diagnose it, and then go treat it.

...Again, as you point out, the percentage of the spending isn't as important as the symbolism of it. I am like you, hoping that McCain gets elected, as opposed to his two rivals on the Democratic side -- because as we've seen from the Democratic Congress, they've not paid any attention to earmarks other than when we make a stink about it, then they give it lip service and hope it goes away....

...The public should be aware of what the new Democratic Majority wants to do with your money. I think it could be reduced down to one simple phrase: the Democrats take and waste strategy. ...Because they seem to think that every dime government spends right now is so perfectly spent that they have to raise people's taxes to do all this wonderful redistribution of wealth. We would argue as Republicans -- something of a lost art for the last couple of years -- that in fact the government does not appropriately spend every dime of your hard earned money that it takes and the first place they should look is in the waste, fraud, and abuse that's going on in the unfortunately overexpansive promises and entitlements that the government has made....That's the place to start. You don't start by promising to spend money because everything is done properly; you start by looking at the reality that the government wastes a lot of your money and you should always (cut) that before you go looking for (more money).

I have never voted for a tax increase because I have yet to find a governmental entity that doesn't, in one way, shape, or form, have a better way of dealing with your money and treating it in the fiduciary manner it's supposed to....

Now, in your opinion -- people have tried to do this many times before and failed -- what's the most realistic way for us to go about cutting entitlement spending?

Well, I think the way that they've done it is that they've tried to kick the ball down the field. You have to have a realistic assessment of what the global age is going to require and when you look at it, in the past, in the industrial age...there was kind of a deal struck. The corporations would pick up some of the future pensions and health care benefits of employees and the government would fill in the gaps to maintain social order and a social safety net. With globalization, what we're finding is that companies tend to become more multi-national and virtual in their headquarters. The result is that the paradigm between splitting the pensions and health care benefits between the private sector and public sector is breaking down.

What we would argue as Republicans is that you start from the fundamental premise is how you empower Americans to take care of their own needs in the future so that they do not become governmental dependents. That's a fundamental debate we're having with the Democratic Party.

...So, we want to take the premise of "how do you empower people to control their own destiny" and apply it to entitlement programs that were set up under the entitlement programs of Lyndon Johnson...and Franklin Roosevelt, where they firmly believed they could do it with the government on a limited basis because the private entities would also be there as a safety net...that's gone. So, we're trying to look at it through an entirely new prism.

John McCain is advocating a "one-year pause in discretionary spending growth that should be used for a top-to-bottom review of the effectiveness of federal programs." You think that's something Republicans in the House should support?

I think it's great, especially in the sense that the FIT task force is kind of getting a head start on that so that we will be able to come in with ideas to help the McCain Administration as they freeze spending and get it up and running.

...McCain's right. Unless you figure out what's going on, you're going to see the Democrats continue to tempt people to give away their liberty and prosperity in return for government benefits and that has to stop. I think that the one year McCain freeze on discretionary spending can be very helpful to let Americans realize what the real choice is between parties. It's either that their future will be moving towards individual liberty, empowerment, and prosperity or towards government dependency.

Another McCain proposal is that it should "require a 3/5 majority vote in Congress to raise taxes." You think the GOP would support that overwhelmingly?
Absolutely. We're reaching a very dangerous point. I think the Christian Science monitor reported (that more than half of Americans receive significant revenue from the federal government). Also, you see studies that show half of all federal tax filers only pay 3.5% of revenues. If you reach a point where people consider higher taxes a boon rather than a burden, our entire exercise in self-government and our free republic is going to be in danger. I would argue that the harder you make it for the government to take what you make, the better off you're going to be.

Pushing a Balanced Budget Amendment would send a powerful signal about the GOP's seriousness on fiscal conservatism. Is that something you think might happen?
Absolutely. There are people who say that it will never happen. But, we live in a country that has seen the Constitution amended so that slavery has been abolished, so that women have the right to vote, and I think those were a lot harder things to do than to just ask politicians not to waste your money and run up deficits...We always hear arguments from people about how something can't be done, but if we would have listened to that, we'd probably still have 13 colonies.

What issues do you think the pundits and bloggers are not spending enough time on in the spending front?
I think that they're doing it pretty well, but I always like to point out one fundamental thing: the Democrats told us Washington spent too much money, they got elected, and then they immediately spent more.

So, I think what would be helpful is if people had instances or ideas about government spending that they wanted to send to the Fiscal Integrity Task Force, send them to the House Policy Website or post them, because we check the blogs. Give your ideas to us; now's a great time! Also, ...if they think their Congressman would be a good member of a FIT task force, encourage them to join us. The more the merrier...

John Hawkins
Right Wing News

Find this story at: http://www.rightwingnews.com/mt331/2008/04/an_interview_with_thaddeus_mcc.php?comments=show#comments

Friday, April 25, 2008

Rep. McCotter on America's Energy Situation

Mr. McCOTTER. I appreciate that. Thank you. We have a fundamental agreement and yet a disagreement. I think that everyone can see that there are three key elements to America's energy situation: Production, conservation, and innovation. We all agree on conservation. We'd like to see America more energy efficient, and we differ on whether or not what the extreme would be in terms of conservation. Republicans generally would hope that they would be community-oriented conservation, recognizing
these tiny ripples of hope, citizen engagement in protecting their local environment would be the most efficacious way to deal with this situation rather than pass an overarching bill in Washington, with no citizen participation and only hope and more regulation, taxation, and burden upon America's industry and upon the American people.

In the area of innovation it is a very stark difference. Our side of the aisle believes that the free market and the genius of the American people will come up with the innovative solutions necessary to move us toward green fuels and a cleaner environment. The other side of the aisle believes the government knows best, and if they just capture enough revenues from the hardworking American people, they will then determine what ideas will work and will not work and force them upon the market.

But it is most noticeable in the area of production where the two sides differ. We believe production is essential. The gentleman from Iowa has properly laid out we live in a global economy. Supply and demand are the keys to the crisis today. If America does not produce more energy from its own sources, the cost will continue to go up because the supply will remain constricted, if not finite, and the demand will continue to grow from developing countries such as Communist China, India, and others.

What we believe is necessary is a declaration of energy independence which, like our own country's Declaration of Independence, recognizes that it would not happen overnight, it would not be easy; it would require sacrifice, and yet together we would get there.

We need to continue to produce domestic energy as we transition through a free market-based approach to innovations that will get us to a green energy policy and through the community-based conservation that will help foster and perpetuate energy efficiencies within our communities, within our homes.

Now the difference between these two policies is clear in the chart that the gentleman from Iowa has put before us. As someone who does not come from Iowa, but from Michigan, once known as the arsenal of democracy, a proud manufacturing State, the State that put the world on wheels, we see what the cost of energy does. It is not an abstract number, it is a situation which causes an intense amount of pain and anxiety to the constituents of my district and the constituents of my State.

Manufacturing requires energy. We know the manufacturing sector has been decimated by unfair trade competition and other unfortunate policies. Yet, when you take the cost of energy on top of it, you are almost signaling the death knell of the manufacturing base as we know it and as we would like to preserve it, because that cost of energy, as it rises, is put into everything the manufacturer must do. And in the age of global competition, it becomes increasingly difficult for the manufacturer
to keep his costs down, his fixed overhead rising, and in the end, there comes the push, especially from the tier one and tier two suppliers, the push comes from above to either eat the cost or send it offshore.

We also are starting to see what the government dictates in terms of innovation with the emphasis on ethanol and others is we are beginning to hear stories about food shortages in the United States, we are now beginning to hear about how the cost of basic staple commodities is rising. Again, in our economy today, which is slowing down, the cost of energy, the cost of gasoline in particular is the cause. In my mind, this is the cause. Because it is one important commodity that is continuing to
go up in price without any relief in sight, and it also has spillover costs to all of the other commodities related to it.

There is nothing that does not wind up on your kitchen table that does not require energy to produce and transport. There is nothing in your home that you turn on, your Internet, or anywhere else, that does not require energy. As the cost of energy goes up, the cost of everything goes up. If we do not help increase the supply of energy, the costs will continue to rise, the American people will continue to suffer.

Now there will be an attempt, because evidently production conservation and innovation in a sound way is not palatable to some in this chamber, indeed a majority, there would be the attempt to shift the blame for the rising costs of energy to the producers. I am no fan of any multinational corporation. But then, again, I am not their executioner either. Because I remember what Ronald Reagan once said, Corporations are not taxpayers, corporations are tax collectors.

You want a windfall profits tax, you want a punitive tax on oil companies, energy producers, you can do it. And where are these energy producers and oil companies going to get that revenue from? They are going to pass the cost right onto the American people at their pumps, because Americans right now cannot survive without driving their cars to work. They cannot survive without energy. It would seem to me that these are simple lessons that we should have learned in our youth.

Then it occurred to me as I watch my children grow up, we have an entire generation of voters that were not alive in the 1970s. They did not live through the OPEC oil crisis, they did not live through taxation upon energy producers, they did not live through the syn fuels, where government raised taxes, put money in a fund, handed it out and we were going to be energy independent, or when Jimmy Carter went on TV and declared that by turning down the thermostat to 68, this was the moral equivalent
to war.

The gentleman from Iowa and I have in the past talked about our love of history and its need to be taught in the schools. Because anyone with a remote understanding of the 1970s would understand that the failed policies of the 1970s are inadequate to meet the pressing energy needs of today. What we need is a 21st century energy strategy, not a failed 1970s Jimmy Carter policy that actually helped pave the way toward more energy dependence in America.

So I thank the gentleman for what he is doing today, and I would encourage my colleagues to go back and look at what was tried before and failed and then perhaps they would be more amenable to coming across the aisle in joining with us to try to take concrete steps to alleviate not only the rising cost of energy but the rising cost of everyday life that is associated with it.

I yield back to the gentleman from Iowa.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Boehner Announces Plans to Form GOP Fiscal Integrity Task Force for Comprehensive Attack on Government Waste

House GOP Policy Committee Chairman McCotter Tapped to Head Task Force; Members to Be Appointed in Coming Days

WASHINGTON, DC – House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) today announced plans to form a special GOP task force to identify and fight for spending reforms “that will get government off Americans’ backs and out of their wallets.” The Leader’s Fiscal Integrity Task Force (“FIT Force”) will be headed by Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), the chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee.

“Americans are tired of Washington wasting their hard-earned money while they’re getting squeezed by the rising cost of living,” Boehner said. “Republicans are the party of fiscal integrity, and we’re going to prove it to Americans by fighting as a team for reforms that will get government off their backs and out of their wallets.”

“We need to attack the problem of wasteful spending in its entirety, from earmarks to entitlement spending, and everything in between,” Boehner added. “I appreciate Thad’s willingness to lead this task force, and I look forward to appointing a broad cross-section of members from throughout our Conference to serve on it.”

The goal for the task force, Boehner said, will be to put fiscal integrity into government budgeting, taxing, and spending, and to demand that Congress run the federal government like a family budget.

Boehner noted the task force will not be starting from scratch, but rather will be able to draw from work already done by the Policy Committee, House Republicans’ internal “Reasons to Believe” working groups, Republican committee members, and others, in addition to incorporating new solutions.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

McCotter Votes to Ensure Continued Access to Student Loans for American Families

WASHINGTON D.C. – Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), House Republican Policy Chairman, applauded the passage of bi-partisan bill to ensure the economic downturn does not deter students from accessing financial aid needed to pay for college.

McCotter voted for the legislation, The Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act of 2008 (H.R. 5715), which increases the limits on federal school loans and grants. The bill provides new safeguards to ensure families have uninterrupted access to federal college loans in the event that stress on the economy leads to reduced availability to student loans and lending activity. The bill carries no additional cost for taxpayers.

“Especially here in Michigan, families have been hurt by the economy. With millions of American families budgeting for college costs, we must ensure students can still receive a higher education,” said McCotter. “They are both our future and our hope.”

In recent months, the crisis in the nation's credit markets has made it difficult for some lenders that participate in the federally guaranteed student loan program to secure the capital needed to finance their student lending activity.

H.R. 5715 would:

*Reduce borrowers' reliance on costlier private college loans by increasing the annual loan limits on federal college loans by $2,000 for all students, and by increasing the aggregate (the total loan limit over the course of a student's education) loan limits to $31,000 for dependent undergraduates and $57,500 for independent undergraduates;

*Give parent borrowers more time to begin paying off their federal PLUS loans by providing them with the option to defer repayment until up to six months after their children leave school – giving families more flexibility in hard economic times;

*Help struggling homeowners pay for college by ensuring that short-term delinquencies in mortgage payments and medical bills don't prohibit otherwise eligible parents from being able to borrow parent PLUS loans;

*Clarify that existing law gives the U.S. Education Secretary the authority to advance federal funds to guaranty agencies in the event that they do not have sufficient capital to originate new loans, and allow guaranty agencies to carry out the functions of lender of last resort on a school-wide basis. Under the Higher Education Act, these guaranty agencies are obligated to serve as a nationwide network of lenders of last resort if requested to do so by the Education Secretary;

*Give the U.S. Education Secretary the temporary authority to purchase loans from lenders in the federal guaranteed loan program, ensuring that lenders continue to have access to capital to originate new loans. The Education Department would be authorized to purchase loans only if doing so would not result in a net cost for the federal government; and

*Include a Sense of Congress that calls on federal financial institutions, including the Federal Financing Bank, to consider using their current authorities to inject liquidity into the student loan marketplace at no cost to the taxpayer to ensure students and parents continue to have access to low-cost federal loans.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

McCotter Bill Fights Illegal E-mail and Cell Phone SPAM

WASHINGTON D.C. – Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), House Republican Policy Chairman, has authored a bill to help fight unsolicited electronic mail, spam, in America’s inboxes and cell phones. HR. 5717, known as “Inform and Deter Spam Act” or “ID Spam Act” will strengthen the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) ability to capture illegal spammers. It establishes a fund to prosecute spam case and also provide rewards to individuals who help identify and prosecute them.

“Spam is an irritating intrusion into Americans’ lives. Billions of spam messages infiltrate our personal inboxes infested with scams, frauds, attempts to steal our identities, images corrupting our children, and viruses aimed at damaging our computers.”

“Because computer technology is advancing so quickly, the Federal Trade Commission does not presently possess every necessary tool to stop spam. The ID SPAM Act will strengthen their ability to protect internet users and catch and convict illegal spammers,” said McCotter.

The ID Spam Act would implement some of the FTC’s recommendations and complies with the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act.

The ID Spam Act would allow the FTC to establish a fund to prosecute spam cases.  The FTC would have the authority to issue a reward no greater than $100,000 to individuals who help the FTC identify and prosecute high value, illegal spammers.  To be eligible for the reward, the informant would have to cooperate fully with the FTC and their information must lead to a civil judgment in the case.  Additionally, under the ID Spam Act all assets seized as part of a civil judgment would be returned to the spam fund.

The problems with SPAM:

*Spam’s new focus is identity theft, a scheme known as “phishing,” aimed at obtaining a recipient’s personal information. About 43% of the population has been targeted by phishing, costing consumers an estimated $1.2 billion in 2003. Experts believe “phishing attacks represent a collaboration of the world’s most skilled hackers and organized crime.”

*Pornographic spam hurts children. 1 in 5 children have received unwanted sexual solicitation e-mails in the past year. 20% of these children were “very or extremely upset” about receiving these messages. Over 67% of the unwanted exposure occurred at home.

*Scams via spam are rising. In 2007 Americans reported more then $240 million in losses in connection to internet crime.

*Spam is a burden and raises cost. Spam shifts the burden of cost on the receiver and the internet service provider. Recipients are forced to may more for a less efficient internet. Spam slows down message delivery and accessibility for all by usurping resources from legitimate service.

*Spam is bad for the economy costing U.S. business over $10 billion in 2003. It hurts businesses by making users less productive and forces companies to use resources to combat spam.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Rep. McCotter Co-Sponsors Unemployment Benefits Extension Bill

Bipartisan Effort Would Help Over 3 Million Jobless Americans

WASHINGTON D.C. - Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, (R-MI-11), House Republican Policy Chairman, co-sponsored H.R. 5749,  Emergency Extended Unemployment Compensation Act, which extends unemployment benefits to help the American people weather the current economic downturn.

“We in Michigan have been suffering a one state depression.  Now, with the national economic outlook clouding, it is ever more imperative to help our workers through these difficult times,” said McCotter. 

“This bi-partisan legislation will extend vital unemployment benefits to temporarily unemployed workers, who are clinging to their American dream and desperately seeking opportunities in our state.”

The legislation would extend the 26 weeks of unemployment benefits by 13 weeks. It also provides states with higher unemployment, like Michigan, an additional 13 weeks (26 weeks total) of extended benefits.

During the last three months, the US economy has shed 232,000 jobs. The national unemployment currently sits at 5.1 percent and is expected to rise due to the sluggish economy. Michigan has an above average unemployment rate of 7.2 percent.

If passed H.R. 5749, Emergency Extended Unemployment Compensation Act would:

*Immediately provide up to 13 weeks of extended unemployment benefits in every State. 

*Provide an additional 13 weeks (for a total of 26) in States with high unemployment (six percent or higher)

*Be financed by the federal unemployment trust funds, which now have more than enough reserves to cover the cost.

The legislation was introduced earlier this month by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Rep. Phil English (R-PA).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter Statement on White House Ceremony with Pope Benedict XVI

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, (R-MI-11), House Republican Policy Chairman, today attended a ceremony at the White House honoring Pope Benedict XVI.

“It was a blessing to be a part of the momentous occasion of Pope Benedict's visit to the White House.

“Like his predecessor, the Holy Father has struck a chord with the American people by serving as a humble servant of God, who is full of timeless wisdom.

“Pope Benedict reminded us how, during our earthly journey, we are compelled to promote the liberty and dignity of our fellow human beings. His message of renewal and hope touches people of all faiths and has a heartening effect for all humanity throughout our turbulent times.

“The Holy Father eloquently expressed the moral duty of public officials to serve the least of our brothers and sisters through a humane dialogue Founded upon faith and reason, the first principles upon which our free republic was founded.

People of all faiths should pray for the Holy Father; embrace his message of renewal and hope; and wish him a happy birthday.”