09 May, 2011

An Open Letter to Speaker Boehner & My Congressman

TO: House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH-08)
CC: Congressman Dan Burton (R-IN-05)
Mr. Speaker,

I realize that the election of 2010, while historic, granted the Republican party very limited power in Washington, D.C. We still have to deal with President Barack Obama (D-USA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). However, I wonder if you are making proper use of even what limited power you have. Like Velma Hart, I am exhausted of defending you. I stood by you after the budget deal over the CR for the rest of fiscal year 2011. I understand the difference between appropriations and allocations, and I realize that you probably got all you were going to be able to get out of that deal. I think you got played on the “czars” part of the deal, but I have faith you won’t let that happen again, and will punish Obama for bargaining in bad faith.

However, your recent comments regarding Congressman Paul Ryan's (R-WI-01) Path to Prosperity leave me gravely concerned. You seem to agree with Congressman Dave Camp’s (R-MI-04) statement regarding the plan:

"I'm not really interested in laying down more markers," said Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.). "I'd rather have the committee working with the Senate and with the president to focus on savings and reforms that can be signed into law."
In fact, your own words on the subject are these:
"My interpretation of what Mr. Camp said is a recognition of the political realities that we face. While Republicans control the House, the Democrats control the Senate and they control the White House," Boehner said at a Thursday press conference.

Again, I understand the political realities we face. I realize that in the end, to pass both chambers and to get the President’s signature, any measure will have to have bipartisan support. I also understand the desire to avoid a vote that will be interpreted by many as purely symbolic. Mr. Camp is correct that the Ryan plan does not have any chance of success in the Senate.

However, I think this path is fraught with peril.

The people that brought you this majority in 2010, did so because we are gravely concerned about the future of this country. Not just for our children, not just for our retirement savings, but we have serious doubts about the next 10 years. We see the headlines about Greece and other countries in the EU, and we wonder if we’re very far behind. Just this weekend it was revealed that the Greece bailout may be failing and that while there is a high risk of default, further bailouts are being considered.

“We have not been discussing the exit of Greece from the euro area. This is a stupid idea. It is in no way - it is an avenue we would never take,” [Head of Eurogroup] Juncker told reporters.
“We don't want to have the euro area exploding without reason. We were excluding the restructuring option, which is discussed heavily in certain quarters of the financial markets.
“We think that Greece does need a further adjustment program,” Juncker said. “This has to be discussed in detail.”
In fact, some economists are not just saying that we’re following Greece, but we’re already there.
[Boston University Economics Professor Laurence] Kotlikoff believes a better benchmark of fiscal fitness is the fiscal gap, or the present value difference between all future expenditures and receipts. His calculations reveal Greece future expenditure at 11.5% of the value of future GDP, after incorporating the new austerity measures.
The US figure, based on the CBO projections--12.2%--is worse than that of Greece, but not by too much.
However, Kotlikoff says the U.S. is in much worse shape than the 12.2% figure suggests, because the CBO’s projections assume “a 7.2% of GDP belt-tightening by 2020,” with "highly speculative” assumptions, such as a substantial rise in tax receipts and wage growth.
A separate analysis by the New York Times also put the U.S. debt--measured by medium term deficit as a percentage of GDP--higher than that of Greece. (See chart)  Furthermore, in a roundabout way, Kotlikoff and Da Gong, the largest credit rating agency in China, seem to be in agreement as to the fiscal position of the United States; although many have dismissed Da Gong’s objectivity when it downgraded the U.S. from AAA to AA.

Mr. Speaker, the time has come to draw a line in the sand. This far. No further. The people that gave you this majority are not interested in bipartisanship. They are interested in saving this country. That will take some hard bargaining on your part, and some strong efforts by Mr. Camp and others, as well as your counterparts in the Senate. We realize that Medicare reform as designed by Chairman Ryan may not pass, but we can not afford to take it off the table without getting something just as significant in return. The Ryan plan should be the starting point in negotiations. We can not move the starting point even further to the left.

We expect you, no, we need you, to stand firm against the destructive plans of Leader Reid and President Obama. We will do our best to give you more tools to work with in 2012, but you have to prove that you’re willing to use the tools that we’ve given you so far.

It’s not entirely your fault, but the citizenry of this country has acquired a high level of distrust for our elected officials. We came out in historic numbers in 2010, not because we suddenly believe in the Republican party, but because of our concerns for the future. We had hope and belief that you understood your mandate and what we expected of you. Then we read things that make it seem as if nothing has changed in Washington, and that you still don’t get it. That doesn’t help your case in attempting to regain our trust. If you want more of our trust and more tools, you’re going to earn it. That means fighting for us, every day, every hour, with every breath you have. We demand, expect, and will accept nothing less. Because we will be doing the same.

If you’re not willing to do that, let us know now. We’re tired of being fooled and we’re tired of waiting for real leadership.

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