Government debt has become the single greatest threat to liberty and prosperity around the globe. It has swamped Greece. It threatens Ireland and Portugal. The possibility of its spreading across Europe has provoked panic. America faces its own equally daunting challenge. Our national debt now stands at $14.7 trillion, nearly equal to our entire annual output.
This summer, Congress had a golden opportunity to use the debt ceiling crisis to force the substantial spending cuts that everyone knows are needed to save our economy. But once again, the Beltway crowd failed us. But, just as we saw in 2009 and 2010, the tea party is stepping into the breach. Together with local groups across the country, we’ve formed our own “Tea Party Debt Commission.”
Like the Super Committee, our Commission has a dozen members; though instead of powerful insiders, they’re all regular citizens. On Nov. 17, these outsiders will unveil a bold, serious, and credible plan that stabilizes the debt, reduces spending by $9 trillion over the next decade, and balances the budget within ten years without tax hikes.
While the Super Committee meets in secret, we are traveling across the country, holding field hearings in crowded churches, public libraries, community centers, even a Denny’s restaurant. We’re gathering testimony from thousands concerned citizens.
It’s amazing how knowledgeable local activists are on budget matters, the Constitution, and what’s going on in D.C. Americans are clearly watching this debate, and they’re hungry for bold, principled change. Splitting the difference and kicking the can down the road isn’t going to cut it. As one of our commissioners, Greg Fettig, a small businessman from Noblesville, Ind., sums up what we’re hearing: “Go bold or go home.”
Through our website, teapartydebtcommission.com, we are employing state-of-the-art crowd-sourcing technology to learn about people’s priorities. And we’re getting incredible information that the Beltway simply doesn’t have, or hasn’t taken the initiative to gather.
More than 50,000 people have visited the site to date, and more than 8 in 10 of them have clicked through all the way to the end of the survey, an absolutely amazing “retention” rate for a web poll.
Here’s how it works. When you visit the site, you’re asked to choose between two randomly matched pairs of proposed spending cuts. You must choose one of the two items. After you’ve done this eight or ten times, the computer shows you how much money you saved over one and ten years. The 40,000 completed surveys so far have included 725,000 randomly generated budget cut matchups.
And the results? Here are the top 10 currently trending ideas (with the percentage of people who chose the idea over an alternative):
1. Repeal ObamaCare (93%)
2. Reduce duplicative purchases of Pentagon supplies (90%)
3. Eliminate the Department of Education (81%)
4. Privatize Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac (81%)
5. Reduce discretionary spending to 2008 levels (76%)
6. Block-grant Medicaid (73%)
7. End ethanol tax credits (71%)
8. Sell under-used federal buildings (71%)
9. Eliminate HUD (70%)
10. End earmarks (68%)
Together, these reforms would generate $6 trillion in 10-year savings, the same amount as the House-passed Ryan budget, twice as much as the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Commission, and five times the Super Committee’s goal.
We found no significant differences between those who describe themselves as tea party supporters and those who don’t. And our findings are also remarkably consistent across age groups. Most interesting: there’s a strong political consensus — left, right, and center — for a handful of bold ideas, including ObamaCare repeal, privatizing the housing giants, ending ethanol tax credits, and cutting discretionary spending back to 2008 levels. These “common ground” savings ideas would save some $4.6 trillion.
Ending the federal role in education rates very high (80%), as does getting out of the housing business (70%). Folks clearly want to keep defense strong, but also make it leaner. Cutting the big entitlements is less popular, to be sure. But here’s an interesting finding. Fully half of visitors would means-test Social Security benefits; six in ten would reduce future benefit growth.
Are you listening, Washington? The public is informed and engaged. Voters understand what you apparently still don’t: to avoid our becoming another Greece, you must get spending under control. Go bold or go home.