Governor Romney, we are “Independent Americans” who believe in voting for the Presidential candidate who will put the longer-term best interests of America first, before loyalty to political party, political donors, or even, your own personal political ambitions. For us to vote for you, we really need to know whether you, and Paul Ryan, believe in some basic principles of American “self-governance.” So, let us outline for you ten (10) issues Independent Americans are concerned about most.
1. Social Divide & the Federal Government: America is too divided when it comes to “social issues,” like same-sex marriage and abortion. And, the federal government is causing the social divide among us to be even wider and deeper with some of its recent “forced” mandates that infringe upon deeply-held religious beliefs. The federal government does not have to decide social issues for us. We can decide these things among ourselves as Americans in our public forums where the most persuasive social ideals become public policy. That is what self-governance is all about. Independent Americans are all over the board as to whether there are “Constitutional rights” involved in certain social issues and what the involvement of the federal government shouldWhat do you believe is the role of the federal government in social issues? For the sake of coming together to solve the serious financial problems we have in this country, Independent Americans have “agreed to disagree” among ourselves on some of these social issues. We trust that our federal court system will eventually figure out just where Constitutional rights start and stop on social issues.
Let us comment on a related issue-religion. As Independent Americans, we are not interested in which “brand” of religion you believe in, or what your specific religious beliefs are. We believe that for 236 years the real religious “glue” that holds us together as Americans is an American ethic that says, “We will sacrifice our todays, so that future generations of American tomorrows will be better.” Some of us find that ethic expressed in a particular religious faith, and some of us believe in that ethic even though we have no active religious affiliation. We just don’t want to be among the first generations of Americans who abandon that ethic and cause American “tomorrows” to be worse than American “todays.” But, we see that happening with the way America is managing its finances.
We want to comment on healthcare here. Don’t just say you will repeal ObamaCare on your first day of office. That does nothing to solve the problem with healthcare costs in America. Healthcare costs in America are 20% of GDP and are rising faster than underlying GDP growth. That is a problem. If you want to repeal ObamaCare-fine. We didn’t like the way it came down either. But, what is your “better solution” to bend down the costs of healthcare in America and, at least, provide some minimal “safety net” to the deserving poor in our country. Having the federal government help the less-fortunate among us in a way that fosters “self-responsibility” does not make us a socialist welfare state. Government waste, abuse, fraud, mismanagement, and political paybacks are greater threats to our faith in government entitlement programs. We want our elected representatives in Washington, DC to spend less time trying to solve a social divide in this country that we need to solve ourselves as Americans and, instead, spend more time solving America’s “bigger” problems with credible “non-partisan” solutions, without all the political rhetoric. Besides, neither the Republican nor Democrat parties are hardly in any position to lecture Americans on how to resolve political differences.
2. National Security & Foreign Affairs: The number one job of the President is to keep Americans safe from America’s enemies. We are not nave to the fact that America has very real enemies, like state-sponsored terrorists, who will kill Americans, given the chance. We want to know who you think America’s primary enemies are, what specific threats they pose, and how you are going to help Americans be as safe as possible from these threats. Little else matters, even the economy, if Americans are not safe. We hope America can, one day, be a nation at peace. But, that day has not yet arrived, in our opinion.
Governor, we want to know the full cost of being safe. We are willing to contribute a portion of our federal taxes to be safe as Americans. But, we also know that a number of weapons programs being developed today are for large-scale warfare and are not specifically designed to eliminate the threats posed by terrorist organizations, which have only shadowy ties to a particular country. Regardless of how much money has already been spent (or misspent), we want to know you will stop any further military spending or foreign affairs spending that is not a “must-have” to keep Americans safe. Equally important, we want to know what you would do, if anything, when a foreign country is torn apart in a civil war, where those in power brutally murder their own people who oppose them. We believe America should, generally, not get involved in foreign civil wars directly, or indirectly through the CIA, unless a clear “humanitarian line” is crossed and war crimes are actually being committed. Where do you, as President, draw that line? We don’t want American “boots on the ground” in foreign lands, unless there is a verifiable threat to America’s safety or there is a clearly-defined “military outcome” to prevent war crimes. Just because we have the military means to get involved in another country’s internal civil wars, does not mean we should. Yes, we know countries like Iran will try to incite internal conflict in a country, like Iraq, so they can fill the “vacuum in power” with their presence. But, eventually ordinary citizens in these countries are going to have to rise up and determine their own brand of self-governance, like Egypt and other conflict-torn countries in the world are attempting to do. The path to democracy and self-governance will likely be as difficult for those countries as it was for our country.
And, while we are on the topic of national security, can the Republicans finally give President Obama some credit for keeping America safe? That is his number one job. He deserves credit for the decision to take out Bin Laden. Criticize him for being ineffective in certain areas, but give him credit for where he has been an effective President.
3. U. S. Economy: We have heard a lot of political rhetoric about how you are a “job creator” and have created jobs in the private sector. We note you plan to create 12 Million “new” jobs in America in your first term of office, if you are elected President. But, the specifics are lacking. You have consistently criticized President Obama’s economic policies for not creating jobs in America. Okay, we get it-President Obama’s economicpolicies have not been very effective. But, it is not enough to persuade us to vote for you just because President Obama’s policies have been ineffective. Please spend more time articulating your specific economic solutions for our country, without the political rhetoric. We will hear you better, if you do.
[Note to the Obama campaign: Your candidate is losing credibility with Independent Americans with some of the recent campaign ads you have used (abused?) to attack Governor Romney.
And, please don’t say, “The Republicans made me do it.” We have similar issues with some of the Republican campaign rhetoric, too. Is this what American politics has degraded to-a voter choice of which party has run the “least-dirty” campaign? America deserves better.]
Governor, here is where we come out on the economy-until America solves its problems with too much debt, continuing federal budget deficits, a “politicized” tax system, education non-competitiveness, energy dependency, illegal immigration, and the insolvency of federal entitlements, how are you realistically going to implement economic policies that will get America back to full employment? We think the federal government has the “cart” before the “horse” in solving economic problems in our country.
4. Federal Finances: Both parties have been guilty of running budget deficits. Stop the blame game. There are no pain-free solutions to balancing the federal budget, but we believe we must get to a balanced budget by 2020, at the latest. We want to know your specific plans for balancing the federal budget. We need to understand, with clarity, your plans to balance the budget through both a combination of expense cuts and tax increases. It is not credible to think America will get to a balanced federal budget on expense cuts alone, if GDP grows no more than 2% per year and real inflation is more than that (3%+). Yes, we know both parties are counting on 5% annual GDP growth to “grow” America out of its debt problems after a 30-year debt binge in this country. But, 5% growth is not credible given the increasing costs of servicing household, corporate, and government debt that has left America with total American debt of over 370% of GDP; including, $16 Trillion of “reported” federal debt, with continuing budget deficits for the foreseeable future that will almost certainly increase federal debt to $20 Trillion by 2020, even under a best-case scenario. Including state and local government debt, we are already at $20 Trillion in total government debt in this country-a staggering 130% of GDP, with no end in sight to the amount of additional government debt we are piling on America. Can’t any of our elected representatives understand you don’t really solve a “debt problem” in this country with more debt? We would like to know how much more federal debt America is likely to take on under your administration to get to a balanced federal budget, if GDP grows no more than 2% per year.
We also want to comment on the way the federal government reports economic numbers. Whether it is the CPI, unemployment numbers, government debt numbers, unfunded entitlement liabilities, or similar economic numbers, the government overstates positives and understates (or worse, ignores) negatives. How does that build trust in government? And, why can’t the federal government keep its books according to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) like all corporations in America are required to do? We know federal finances are in bad shape; we just don’t know exactly how bad, because the federal government does not tell us the “whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
Here is where Independent Americans come out on our country’s financial health-the patient is seriously ill and headed to a terminal state, if we don’t find a cure for the economic “cancers” of (i) federal debt in excess of 100% of GDP, (ii) continuing federal budget deficits in excess of underlying GDP growth (8% vs. 2%), and (iii) federal government expenses to GDP in excess of the historical post-WWII average (24% vs. 20%). It is troubling enough because of a “negative multiplier effect” from having all three economic negatives at the same time. And, alarmingly, America’s weakened financial condition is also converging with a fourth economic negative-slowing economic growth (or worse, recessions) in the other major economies in the world (Euro Zone, China, Japan).
Governor, do you see the seriousness of what we see here regarding America’s financial future? So, perhaps, you can see why we are somewhat skeptical of a simplistic economic plan to simply cut taxes and reduce government regulations that purports to cure our country’s economic ills and create jobs for Americans. More specifics, please! The campaign messages from both parties are long on “economic rhetoric” and short on “economic substance.”
[Note to our elected officials in Washington, DC (and also to the Federal Reserve): To those of you who think Independent Americans don’t pay attention to monetary and fiscal policies, can’t understand our country’s finances very well, and won’t hold you accountable for the “unsound money policies,” you are implementing, we say to you, “We do, we can, and we will.”]
5. Taxes: Almost no one believes the existing federal tax system is fair. Our tax system has been so “politicized” over the years with elected officials giving special tax breaks to so many favored groups that it has caused a major trust deficit between the federal government and Independent Americans who really want to pay their “fair share.” Taxes are what we pay for the privilege of being Americans. Period. No one should be exempt from paying taxes. How is it fair to have almost 50% of Americans not pay any federal taxes? We can support a “progressive” tax system where wealthier Americans pay a “reasonably” higher tax rate than less-wealthy Americans. But, please simplify our federal tax system into only a handful of tax rate brackets without extreme differences between the highest and lowest tax rates (e.g., 10% at the low end; 30% at the high end). If Congress passes a federal budget that equals 20% of GDP, then we want to see the tax system raise revenues that equal 20% of GDP. How is it financially responsible to spend 24% of GDP on federal expenses, but only raise 15% of GDP in tax revenues, like we are currently doing? We need a President who can get bi-partisan agreement for an acceptable federal government budget-say 20% of GDP and, then, make federal income equal federal expenses like every responsible American household has to do. Stop the federal budget deficits. Will you be able to do that? We are going to go out on a limb here and say that we believe that federal, state, and local taxes, combined, should not be more than 35% of GDP. There, we said it. We have not heard either candidate for President say what the total tax burden on Americans should be on a “fully-loaded” basis. Reasonable Americans can disagree whether the total tax burden should be 30% of GDP or 40% of GDP. There is room for honest differences here in what an American believes are government “must-haves” versus “nice-to-haves.” But, most Independent Americans believe that a people who pay much more than 40% of their total income to government are not really a “free people.” We will be more impressed with you, if, at the end of the day, you take something away from everyone in simplifying our tax system and making it fairer.
6. Energy & the Environment: We believe America can be energy independent in 10 years given our current natural resources, particularly, natural gas. But, America is dependent upon too few carbon-based energy providers (oil, coal, etc.), both domestic and foreign, to fully ensure that America will be truly energy independent in the future.
America needs a bold energy vision that gets us to total energy independence with cheaper scalable energy sources that have minimal environmental negatives. The federal government has a role to play here. We are not against “renewable” energy sources (wind, solar hydro, thermal, etc.), and they have their place in a national energy plan; but, they also have some of the same energy generation, storage, and transmission deficiencies as carbon-based energy sources. We would like to know what your “Manhattan Project” might be to bridge America away from our current sources of energy to a more efficient energy source like-hydrogen, the most abundant energy source in the universe. Regrettably, we don’t really have the federal finances right now to fully fund a Manhattan Project for energy. But, we want to see an energy independence plan developed for America, just the same. What is your specific plan? Think bold. Our economic and environmental future depends upon it.
And, yes, Independent Americans do care about the environment-only in a balanced way. It is a scientific fact that the planet has warmed by approximately 1.36 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 100 years. Science does not agree on how much of this global warming is due to man-made causes. We don’t know either. But, we would like to know your science-based views on environmental issues, if you have any.
7. Education: It is clear to us that America can’t create “good” jobs unless we first solve some serious problems in our education systems. We still have the world’s best graduate and post-graduate education system, although costs have become an issue with education debt growing significantly faster than underlying GDP growth. But, our K-12 education system is not good enough to keep America competitive in the world longer term. We are falling farther and farther behind other countries-particularly, in the math and science skills that are needed to innovate technology-enhanced jobs in America. We absolutely believe education choices, teacher accountability, and most importantly, personal responsibility should all be part of an education policy. We would like to know the specific details of your education policies. Don’t just say you will return education to the states. The federal government has a role to play in helping America become smarter and more competitive with the rest of the world. What is it?
8. Immigration: This issue has been highjacked by both the “far right” and the “far left.” We wish we didn’t have an illegal immigration problem. But, we do. So, the real question is, “What do we do about it?” It is not credible to think we can mass deport 11 Million illegal immigrants. But, it is equally bad to continue to ignore this problem and not deal with it definitively. Neither party has offered any comprehensive “least-bad solutions” for having illegal immigrants either (i) become legal citizens or documented guest workers in a reasonable timeframe (say, three years), or (ii) leave our country in a humane dignified way. There is no perfect solution here that will satisfy everyone. And, please don’t tell us “self-deportation” is a solution. That is just not credible. Offer us a comprehensive non-partisan immigration solution-even if it doesn’t satisfy everyone.
9. Government Entitlements: The present value of the unfunded liabilities for federal government entitlements like Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, etc. is at least $50 Trillion, and could easily be $100 Trillion, if GDP only averages 2.0% annually. We will say it, “Entitlement Insolvency.” There is no credible way we can honor future entitlement promises without drastically cutting entitlement benefits or drastically raising federal taxes. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats has given America a credible comprehensive entitlement solution. We personally believe (i) entitlement eligibility requirements will need to be raised (e.g., retiring at an older age), (ii) entitlement taxes will, likely, have to be increased, and (iii) future entitlement benefits will need to be reduced and/or “means tested.” Independent Americans know there are no “pain-free” solutions to fix our entitlement insolvency problem. Let’s not ignore the problem any longer. It will not get any better in the future, given the demographics of an “aging” America where more and more older retiring Americans are supported by fewer and fewer younger working Americans. And, escalating healthcare costs are making this entitlement insolvency problem even more difficult to solve. We have to solve a healthcare cost problem, too, as part of an entitlement fix. What is your plan to fix our entitlement insolvency problem? Again, we will be more impressed with you, if, at the end of the day, you take something away from all of us, rather than trying to appease everyone and kicking the “entitlement can” down the road.
10. Term Limits: We believe one of the major problems in our political system is there are no term limits for Congress (The cost of getting elected is also a problem). Many of us believe that the only way to get Congress to finally pass term limits for themselves is to have a courageous President first limit his time in office to only one term. We want, and deserve, a “full-time President” for all four years of a President’s term in office, not a “part-time President” in his fourth year of office like we have had with almost every President seeking reelection, including President Obama. Would you really be all that different, if you were seeking to be reelected after your first term in office? You would serve all Americans most effectively, if you could do whatever it takes to get bi-partisan support to solve the really big problems we face as a country, even if it means (i) agreeing to serve only one (1) four-year Presidential term, (ii) resigning your party affiliation after the election, and (iii) agreeing to not campaign for anyone else while you are President. We know you would not be popular in Republican circles. But, is this country more about “Americans” or “Republicans?” President Obama has had his chance to let us know whether this election is more about “Americans” than “Democrats.” We are concerned that this Presidential election has become so divisive on both sides of the political aisle that, if you were elected President, the bitterness and resentment from Democrats would cause you to be as ineffective as President Obama has been, given Republican bitterness and resentment toward him during his term in office. How are you going to change this negative political divide, if you win the election?
To really solve the big problems we face as a country, we believe you will need to get bi-partisan agreement on comprehensive solutions that are (i) financially responsible, (ii) fair to all Americans (even the less-fortunate among us), and (iii) in the long-term best interests of America. We believe the majority of Americans are “center right” and “center left” on the political spectrum and are “independent” enough to put political affiliations aside and come together to solve the really big problems in our country. But, we need a President and a Congress who will do likewise. Governor, are you that President?
Brad Oates, an Independent American