Governmental Reform: It Starts at the Top
The most important factor in revitalizing our economy is electing the right leadership.
The right leadership will immediately inspire the confidence that businesses, investors, and consumers are looking for, but are finding in short supply. When people see strong, visionary leaders fill the seats of government, they will have the confidence to get back to the business of starting new businesses, expanding existing businesses, hiring new employees, making big purchases, and investing in the future.
First, as a demonstration of authentic leadership, Congress should cut the pay of its own membership by 25-40%, the amount by which it needs to cut total federal spending. Then Congress will have the moral authority it needs to make the cuts necessary to balance our budget, get us out of debt, and to ignite our economy.
Second, Congress should replace the current health care benefits for its members with Medicare, Medicaid, enrollment in the Veteran’s Health Administration, or cash stipends. The cash stipends could be used to purchase private health insurance in the individual market place or used to pay out of pocket medical expenses. The members of Congress should be randomized to one of these four groups so that they understand the health care challenges faced by their constituents. This will be very educational for the members of Congress and perhaps it will help them to enact sensible health care reform that puts patients in charge of affordable care.
Third, Congress needs to cut its own operational budget by 25-40%. It needs to become the model of how government can do more with less.
Fourth, Congress must cut the operational cost of the Federal Government by 25-40%.
This can be done by refocusing the Federal Government on its core missions and ending its involvement and interference in areas where it is not needed. For example, there are many tasks the Federal Government has taken upon itself that are also being handled by the states, creating major redundancies and other inefficiencies. A good example is education, which should ideally be managed at the local level, yet the Federal Government spends generously on this, at our expense. In so doing, it effectively interferes with local control, also funded by us. In the end, we pay more for a conflicted, lower quality system of education.
Government can further cut operational costs and improve service by adopting principles that have proven themselves successful in the private sector, such as “lean” thinking and constant process improvement. In this spirit, one major way the Federal Government can deliver more for less is to reform the contracting process in order to make it more transparent, less beholden to special interest, and more competitive. Repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act would be part of this process. This act causes the Federal Government to pay more than necessary for contracted services by preventing contractors from hiring workers at the most competitive wages.
Fifth, the Federal Government must cut total spending by 25-40%.
By doing this, Congress can reduce spending below the level of revenue, eliminating the deficit and creating a surplus. The surplus can then be used to repay the national debt.
To be successful in cutting total spending by 25-40%, Congress must reprioritize spending, eliminating waste and nonessential expenses. It must consider all expenditures; there can be no sacred cows for Congress to be successful.
One area that needs special scrutiny is the matter of the Federal Government awarding money to the States. It seems that the States have become overly dependent upon the Federal Government for financial support; it is estimated that Washington State gets approximately 30% of its revenue from the Federal Government, through many different channels. Ironically, United States Senators and Representatives all over America have made careers out of “bringing home the bacon” to their home States. This has been excessive, and the result is a massively bloated federal budget, tremendous regulatory burden and waste, and, worst of all, a generalized lack of political will in Congress to cut spending.
To help counter this phenomenon, Congress should eliminate “earmarks,” the method by which members of Congress load “pork” onto proposed bills in exchange for their agreement to vote in favor of the bill.
Another way to eliminate excessive Federal subsidization of States via “pork” and other unnecessary spending would be to re-establish the role of the Senate as the formal interface between the States and the Federal Government. This role of the Senate might have been compromised with passage of the 17th Amendment, which changed the way senators are chosen. Before passage of the amendment, senators were chosen by their respective state legislatures, an arrangement which may have resulted in greater accountability of the Senate, and thus the Federal Government, to the State Governments. Specifically, we need our Senators to meet with their respective State Legislatures and Governors on a regular and formal basis to provide the means for the Federal and State Governments to coordinate spending, regulation, and policy so that we can reduce redundancy, waste, and promotion of special interests at the expense of us all. As your senator, I will propose such nonpartisan meetings to the Washington State Legislature and Governor.
If we elect leaders who have the necessary vision, integrity, and courage, we can cut Federal spending by 25-40% and get more from the dollars we spend. In turn, we can balance our budget, pay our debts, stabilize our currency, end excessive inflation and cut tax rates. Add to this a more effective, less burdensome and more predictable regulatory environment, and something wonderful will happen. Investors will become more confident and will pour more money into our economy, new businesses will form, existing businesses will expand, and large numbers of jobs will be created. We will have the conditions necessary for a vital and enduring economic recovery.
However, the much hoped for recovery will not happen magically. Rather, the best way for it to happen is by electing the right leadership that understands what must be done and has the determination to implement the solution. This leadership begins at the top, with Congress, and it will be the catalyst that brings the change we need.