December 18, 1995
THE ROAD TO GENERATIONAL EQUITY
Congressman Tim Penny
Governor Richard D. Lamm
Senator Paul E. Tsongas
International Conference Foundation
1995 National Symposium
"Locating the New Political Center in America"
Monday -- December 18, 1995
We start with a parable: When the Ecclesiastical soldiers went to arrest Galileo for the heresy of stating the earth went around the sun when everybody knew it was the other way, he set up his telescope and said to the head guard, "Look into the telescope. Look into the telescope. You can see the shadow of the earth on the moon. How could it be any other way than the earth going around the sun?" But the guards didn't look in the telescope; and, of course, it took hundreds of years to correct that error. Because they didn't look into the telescope. Now, this slide shows our attempt to project realism into American society. This comes from the Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform, which was chaired by Senator Bob Kerrey and Senator John Danforth. Look at this chart. It essentially shows that in the year 2012 (which is the day after tomorrow in public policy terms) our current tax system applied to the revenue we anticipate in 2012 will only fund entitlements and interest on the national debt. Nothing else. No Judiciary. No Executive Branch. No defense. No national park. Nothing else. Then in 2029, our current tax structure will only fund four programs: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and federal retirement.
Now, it is our position this chart will require a substantial rethinking of American public policy. This is not a change in the weather; it is a change in the climate. It will require us not only to rethink our politics, but most of our fundamental programs.
We come to you today with a message. It is a message of issues and policies and position papers -- but it is more than that.
It is, above all, a cry from the heart. It is a message which derives its energy from the need to nurture our young and safeguard their future. It derives its passion from our collective judgment that our generation's self-indulgence has jeopardized our progeny; and, in so doing, has violated the central premise of human existence -- the obligation to ensure the viability of those we have created.
We believe America needs a new road, a road that clearly and unequivocally leads to a healthy future for our nation and its children.
We are not alone. We express the views of a national coalition which already exists -- but a coalition, perhaps, unaware of its own existence. It is a coalition calling for "generational equity."
We are Democrats, we are Republicans, and we are Independents, but we are more. We are parents and grandparents who feel we have been forced to choose between party loyalty and our children's future.
We rebel against that choice. We vehemently reject it. It is, in fact, no choice at all.
To those in politics and the media who accuse us of party disloyalty, we have but one response. Look into the eyes of your children, look into the eyes of your grandchildren. Is what you feel not powerful and compelling? Does what you feel not move you in the deepenst regions of your soul? Is that child not more worthy of your loyalty than party labels or comfortable ideologies?
Our vision today is seen through the eyes of "generationalists." We seek our message to be judged by those who hear our voices today, and by those who will follow in our footsteps tomorrow. We seek the approval and support of both generations. But, if we must choose, we clearly seek to be honored by those who come after us. That is the only judgment which counts.
We say all of this up front.
We say this so you can understand the philosophical foundations of our policies. We are said to be the first generation of Americans to leave less behind for our children. We refuse to accept the inevitablity of that legacy.
We come to you seeking to reach out to the best within all of us -- to those values that have endured throughout history --and without which no civilization can survive. We believe America is ready to be called to a more responsible level of public policy. A level of public policy more focused on what we can leave our children tomorrow than what we can consume today.
Unlike the generations who came before us, we pre-spend our children's dollars; and we do so cavalierly, as if it were within our rights to do so. It is not. Running a deficit might have been necessary public policy in the 1930s and 1940s, but it has been a disastrous policy as practiced in the 1980s and 1990s. We agree with one congressman who called this practice "fiscal child abuse."
We have long since passed the balance of production and consumption. The political agenda which guides us today has promised more than our economy can deliver or, at least, more than we are willing to tax ourselves. We inherited the world's largest creditor nation and, to our children, we leave the world's largest debtor nation. We have gone from being the world's largest exporter of goods to the world's largest importer. We consume more than we produce and we spend more than we earn -- and it happened on our watch.
An aversion to pre-spending our children's money, to pre-consuming their environment ties us together. Any child whose nation constantly spends more government money than it raises in taxes, consumes more than it produces, borrows more than it saves, imports more than it exports can only inherit a society in great peril.
America has many tangible strengths, but a nation's wealth and status are like starlight -- the starlight we see today is often the light of a star which has ceased to exist. Great nations have great momentum. Past investments in education and productivity continue to give benefits even after those investments deteriorate. One generation benefits form the seeds planted by their fathers and mothers. We, in turn, plant seeds for our children. They will reap what we sow.
This is our core belief:
We can no longer stay the course, spending more than we earn. No political party or coalition thinks as a monolith. On various policy issues we will disagree on the particulars, but on this point, there is no room for concession or compromise. Our litmus test must be whether or not our political agenda, as a whole and in the particulars, is good for the nation's children, and whether our policies are depeleting or replenishing the star's light. The answers are clear. The choices will be difficult.
Never has a generation so encumbered their children with debt. Americans need to hear the hard facts. We inherited wealth and abundance, and we leave debt and institutions that are unsustainable. In 1981, we had a $3 trillion economy and a $1 trillion national debt. By 1986, we had a $4 trillion economy and a $2 trillion debt. In 1992, we had a $6 trillion economy and a $4 trillion debt. By 1996, we shall have a $7 trillion economy and a $5.3 trillion debt. Our debt grows considerably faster than our economy. We are maintaining our standard of living by borrowing from our children.
No nation in the world can long sustain this trend. American public policy is increasingly becoming a Ponzi scheme. Neither political party can or will tell the American public the truth -- that all the roads to renewal require sacriice. Neither can we admit that we must dramatically restructure some of our most sensitive and successful social programs. We seek to tell the American public there is no painless prosperity.
The Passionate Center
The ongoing roll call of retirements from the House and Senate reveal a stark reality. The centrists in both parties are feeling more and more isolated, more and more removed as the centers of gravity of our two major parties respond to the centrifugal forces that now pull them to the edges of ideology. The Sam Nunns and the Nancy Kassebaums. The David Borens and the Mark Hatfields. The David Pryors and the Alan Simpsons. These notable Senate changes mirror announcements which have occurred in the House of Representatives as well.
One could view all of this with alarm. Indeed, many people do. If the centrists of both parties leave, they argue, those who remain will be even less likely to respond to common sense policies as opposed to the litmus test issues of the left and right. It is as if we have two options -- one becoming increasingly acidic and one becoming increasingly alkaline.
Too many Democrats do not recognize the limitations of government, and too many Republicans do not see the value of government. The Democrats are often fiscally irresponsible, and the Republicans are often socially irresponsible. The Democrats cannot add, and the Republicans cannot compassionately subtract.
This trend does not portend well for the nation. The Republican center of gravity is now noticeably right of center, reinforcing the party's worst instinct of societal exclusion, environmental exploitation, and a devil-take-the-hindmost social policy. The Democratic center of gravity, particularly among its Congressional leaders, is now noticeably left of center, reinforcing the party's worst instincts of fiscal irresponsibility, interest group politics, and incumbent protection.
This bizarre scenario would be quite frightening were it not for the fact that while the two major political parties are edging to the fringes, the majority of Americans are returning home to the political center. Every day, more and more of our fellow citizens look into the mirror and see common sense pragmatists staring back at them. While there are surely others who see wide-eyed ideologues, the mirrors of most Americans are reflecting what we would term the passionate center (or the sensible center, as Colin Powell phrased it, or the radical center, as others have argued).
This center comprises four basic points of agreement:
First, it is fiscally conservative. It strongly supports a balanced budget. Not so much because of the economic consequences of massive debt (though they are significant), but because of the generational irresponsibility such debt symbolizes. While it is true a balanced budget will lower interest rates and free up capital to enhance our competitivenenss, this factor is not what fueled this issue. The passion for fiscal responsibility flows from the common revulsion people feel about saddling their children and grandchildren with a $5 trillion albatross of debt (and counting).
Second, it is socially inclusive. Most Americans are not racist. Most Americans are not sexist. Increasing numbers of Americans are accepting of sexual orientation. Not surprisingly, the polls show most Democratic and most Independnt women are pro-choice. What is surprising is the polls also show most Republican women are pro-choice as well. And what's more, the polls reveal those who hold these views (racial harmony, equal opportunity, reproductive rights) do not simply "support," but rather feel very passionately about them.
Third, it is pro-environment. Where did anyone get the idea Americans were so fed up with regulation they would sign off on roll-backs in the Clearn Water and Clean Air Acts? Or the opening up of wildlife refuges for oil exploration, or the myriad of other miosguided ideas that have surfaced in the past year? Most Americans see the environment as God's creation, as a legacy to be protected and passed on from one generation to another. The environment is fundamental to any decent quality of life -- and these sentiments cross generational lines. Our youth feels passionately about our environmental resources, and it is our responsibility to protect it.
Fourth, it is pro-campaign finance reform. It is sickened by the never ending corrosive impact of money and politics. Political Action Committees (PACs) owning the Congress, "soft money" funds which evade campaign laws to benefit the very people who pass these laws. The unabashed sleaziness of it all. When Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich shook hands in New Hampshire many months ago to pursue campaign finance reform, Americans had two reactions. One, it is about time; and two, they aren't serious. It turns out, of course, they were right on both counts.
Run these four principles past most American audiences and you will meet very little resistance. We know because we have done just that countless times all across this nation.
Now, ask that audience which of the two major parties share these principles. You will get silence. Yes, there will be Democrats who will get up and talk proudly about their party's noble record on human and civil rights. Quite true. And, yes, there will be Republicans who will get up and talk proudly about their party's courage in 1995 in dealing with the budget deficit. Quite true. But on all four principles? Or on even three of them? No. Neither party delivers.
Why? Why is it that the only attempt by the White House to produce a balanced budget missed by some $200 billion a year? Why is it that the current Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate have never even tried? Never. Indeed, why is it that no Democratic or Republican president has submitted a blanced budget since 1969?
Why is it that Republicans want a tax cut for the wealthy which will necessitate Darwinian cuts in programs that provide opportunity and hope for America's most vulnerable?
Why is it that not one Republican candidate for president is pro-choice?
Why is it that the Democratic National Committee floats the idea of dinner with the president for $100,000, and the White House remains silent until the resultant public outcry forced its hand?
The answer is complicated, but at the core lies a basic fact. Both parties are beholden to the ideologically pure in their ranks. Old time big spenders on the Democratic left, and the sons of the Willie Horton ad on the Republican right.
And, thus the "passionate center" of Americans feels alienated and adrift.
In 1992, they embraced Ross Perot until the issue of his temperament diverted their interest from his noble efforts to educate the country on the perils of massive deficit. This year, they not only wanted Colin Powell, they longed for him.
Our group seeks to force, persuade, and embarass the two major parties to move toward this passionate center -- and truly represent the will of the American people. We prefer a two-party system. We do not seek to be spoilers who are unmindful of the practical consequences of our actions.
The untouchable in American politics has become the unavoidable. We cannot afford to defer our problems through yet another presidential election cycle. We must act now -- and we must do so decisively and with the vision that the sacrifices we endure today will unencumber our children.
Principle No. 1: Economic Stability
The last balanced budget was submitted in 1969 by President Nixon. For young Americans, this is a lifetime. It is no wonder then that a majority of Americans seem to view and accept deficit spending and exponential increases in the Federal debt as simply American politics.
The hard truth is that America has become part of a Darwinian world economic order. We are surrounded by a growing list of nations whose people are willing to wordk hard, save, demand little of government, and thirst for education. The United States cannot blindly assume God is an American who will protect us no matter how hedonistic and inefficient we become.
There is simply no choice but to have sustained economic stability. It is the foundation of our country's institutions and the yardstick on which our citizens can measure their quality of life. To compete in the new world market place, we must work hard and save. A savings society is an investing society. A society that invests is a job-producing society.
Economic stability means two essentials;
1. No inflation to precipitate destructive boom and bust cycles; and
2. No federal budget deficits to soak up an already inadequate national savings pool.
We support and urge national policies for:
1. A balanced budget amendment;
2. No tax cut until the federal budget is balanced;
3. True reform of entitlement programs;
4. Significant and immediate reforms to restore Social Security's financial viability and ensure its future service for generations to come;
5. A consumption-based income tax;
6. An inflation averse monetary policy; and
7. A phase-out of farm commodities subsidies not specifically intended to preserve land.
No more prolonged studies whose findings are shelved for political convenience. We know what must be done -- and it is time to do what we must.
Balanced budget amendment: We must integrate into our individual and national consciousness that the need for a balanced budget is immediate and absolute. It must have the necessary safety valves in case of war or recession, but that must be the only concession in a renewed commitment, -- indeed, a constitutional requirement that the Unites States balance its checkbook and spend within its limits. Congerss will not balance the budget without a constitutional demand.
No tax cuts until the federal budget is balanced: No tax cuts until the federal budget is balanced. We simply cannot afford it, not in terms of fiscal reality nor in principle. Americans across the country are keenly aware they cannot spend what they do not have. Parents teach their children financial responsibility, and yet, the leadership of their nation has lost sight of this simple, but critical, principle.
We object to tax cuts while we are running large deficits, and we object to the type of tax relief given. To us, the current Congressional leadership has it backwards. Tax cuts should help better balance the winners and losers in society -- not further enrich the winner. We object to the Republican plan to cut back on the earned income tax credit and give a further tax break to the wealthy.
It is imperative we incorporate that same fact of life in our national spending. No tax cuts. Not under any political banner. Not under any social guise and certainly, not in the political rhetoric of the 1996 presidential campaign.
Entitlement Reform: The current, unlimited nature of our entitlement programs must be adapted to the realities of our economy and our society as it exists today. A great deal has changed since the 1930s when our entitlement programs were first created. We have adhered to the philosophy of the 1930s when, in fact, we should be redesigning them to reflect the realities of the 1990s. The Social Security System alone has $13 trillion in unfunded liability.
In the 1960s, the demographics of our population clearly indicated the Social Security system would face a cataclysmic financial hit early in the 21st century. Had the political leaders in the 1960s and 1970s addressed that reality then and begun a gradual privatization of Social Security, we would have an additional $13 trillion in savings rather than $13 trillion in unfunded liabilities for which we must now tax our children. A tax they pay even though the insolvency of Social Security is likely for this younger generation, and the demise imminent in the next.
None of those who have followed have addressed serious reform of Social Security. It is a hard choice, but it is time. What could have been, can be.
We all support the Kerrey-Simpson legislation which would take 1 and 1/2% of the payroll now going toward FICA and put this money in self-directed saving accounts. We need a melding of the public and private programs to restore confidence in the Social Security system. There can be no sane future for our children without major reform of Social Security.
Means testing, eligibility restriction: We believe means testing entitlement above the $40,000 income level, and extending the age of eligibility for Social Security is a strong first step in the Social Security System. We believe people should work more than 40 quarters before they vest. The 40 quarters vesting rule merely allows thousands to "double dip." Closing this loop hole alone would impose little financial stress on those who double dip; and yet, it would save the American taxpayer tens of billions of dollars per year!
Consumption based income tax: Our tax system has become riddled with loop holes that benefit those who need it least. Congress entertains tax cuts when we can least afford them. It is time to adopt a pay-as-you-go mentality at the national and at the family level.
We urge adoption of a consumption-based income tax. Every generation should pay its own way. Spending is the least common denominator and the fairest test for who should pay what tax. If you want it, you should pay for it. If you won't or can't pay for it, then perhaps it isn't really a priority. If there is no bottom line, everything is a priority.
Inflation Averse Monetary Policy: The Federal Reserve has been effective in maintaining an inflation-averse monetary policy, and we urge them to continue doing so.
Principle No. 2: Economic Competitiveness
Economic competitiveness is no buzz word to the millions of American workers whose jobs fall victim to technology and international competition. While our ability (or lack of it) to compete has its roots at home, it reaches around the globe. Each year in America, thousands of college graduates struggle to compete and all too many find they simply do not have the tools they need to effectively compete in a shrinking and increasingly sophisticated and global job market.
There are 130 million jobs in America, many of which revolve around repetitious tasks. The fundamental economic issue is job creation in the private sector, to offset the job dislocation that comes primarily from the application of technology and information to the workplace.
Changes in the workplace and challenges from global competition have resulted in feelings of insecurity for the average worker. Imagine the insecurity of our youth today, coming out of schools, colleges and universities into a world whose reality is much harsher than they imagined it would be. At the same time, a majority of Americans have not seen improvements in their standard of living. Many feel threatened by forces beyond their control -- and rightly so.
Our nation spends more electing its politicians to office and spends more lobbying than when they are there. No nation has as many appeals in its criminal law system or as much complexity and procedural delay in its civil court system. We spend more than any other industrial nation on health care; and while we lead the world in the advanced quality of our medical facilities and in pharmaceutical research, we clearly have a system which needs to be more efficient. However brilliant, we spend too much on surplus doctors, duplicative hospital beds, bureaucracy, and end of life heroics.
We endorse the concept of managed care. We believe the existent movement towards managed care in the private sector has amply demonstrated the value of such a system -- as contrasted with the single payer format. We believe Medicare and Medicaid recipients would be well-served by such a system, and the cost of these worthwhile programs would be contained. These efforts should maximize the commitment to preventive care, especially in prenatal and child care areas.
We believe the advanced quality of American health care requires a federal commitment to the viability of research teaching hospitals.
We call for the re-examination of the current system of health care for our veterans. There should be an attempt to distinguish between ordinary and extraordinary health care for those who have served our nation. We believe our obligation to our veterans to provide the best possible health care would allow for managed care systems for everyday medical services. More complicated, or service related matters, should remain the province of VA facilities, unless deemed by the VA to be performed elsewhere.
Finally, we call upon America to have a conversation with itself over what is appropriate for end-of-life health care. Recent studies have documented what we already know; namely, heroic measures are often employed at great expense in end-of-life situations even when the patient and their families would have it otherwise. Living wills and a more mature recognition of the natural life process are beginning to become mainstream in America. Our political, religious, and institutional leaders should not be afraid to engage the nation in this discourse.
Ultimately, it is not companies that compete. Ultimately, it is a nation's systems and institutions that compete, and no country will succeed in the world marketplace unless it finds efficient and effective ways to educate its children, resolve conflict among its citizens, deliver health care to its people, and elect people to public office.
A viable economy requires economic stability and a competitive America. The latter requires capital that is abundant, properly directed, and patient. It also requires knowledge. To replenish the shining light in America's competitive star, we must renew our national commitment to make the long-term investments -- and to do so in full recognition that the return will not be fully realized in the short-term. Immediate gratification must be forfeited in favor of long-term economic competitiveness. We need a long-term solution to ensure the decline in our nation's ability to compete is short-term.
We must regain control of these forces which so dramatically affect our domestic markets. Government policies must be growth oriented. Our first priority must be to balance the budget over a reasonable period, while retaining investments in education, training, and research. Unnecessary regulation of industry should be eliminated.
The burden of federal regulation and red tape is a drag on America's entrepreneurial sector. Small companies go bankrupt while awaiting FDA approval. New products in health care and life saving drugs experience a several year backlog at the FDA, thereby increasing costs to both consumers and business.
OSHA and environmental standards rely on adversarial approaches and punitive remedies which lead to expensive litigation, instead of timely mitigation of the problem.
The FDA's role should be narrowed and focused on areas where consumer protection needs government rather than a free market solution. Mediation and negotiation should be implemented to assure quicker and less expensive compliance with health, safety, and environmental standards.
We must renew and revitalize all U.S. institutions. Our education system spends more than practically any other nation; yet, our children are always in the bottom third of all international comparisons. In education, improving school quality by innovation is going forward in virtually every state. Washington bureaucrats do not often have the flexibility this period of classroom experimentation requires. Federal dollars should be concentrated on equal opportunity goals, such as special education, thereby freeing state and local dollars to lead the way toward excellence in education. We support:
.public school choice;
.school to work opportunities; and
-- all which will help restructure the education delivery system in America.
Just as telecommunications advances have transformed the workplace, they must also transform our public school system.
Education is a good example of where America must radically transform its internal institutions. A world class economy needs a world class education system, and efficient ways of resolving conflict. Law is another example. Today, we have six percent of the world's population; yet, 50 percent of the world's lawyers. No nation in history has ever sued its way to greatness. We need to devote time and thought to reforming our tort laws, moving to alternative dispute resolution, streamlining and simplifying America's way of resolving conflict. We need to de-lawyer our society by finding simpler and more expeditious ways of running our society. Beyond a certain threshold of lawyers (which are indispensable), adding needless lawyers adds needless transactional costs to society, and exerts a drag on the economy.
We believe part of the approach to regain world class competitiveness must include:
1. IRAs and a consumption-based income tax to reward savings;
2. Zero capital gains tax, but only for securities (thus maximizing flow into the manufacturing sector), and only if held for five years (the patient capital);
3. Prioritizing education and science in domestic discretionary spending; and
4. Commitment to free trade, such as the GATT agreement.
Principle No. 3: America As One Family
The reality of America is not complicated. We are, by and large, a Judeo-Christian tradition whose structure is based upon Western Civilization.
Our governance is representative democracy.
Our focus is the individual.
Our priority is the legacy of our children.
Our economics is Capitalism.
Our language is English.
America is a melting pot of diverse cultures and people. A Joseph's coat of many colors and creeds that, unified, makes us a great nation. What we have in common far outweighs our differences.
Too many have lost sight of the fact that it is unity, within a framework of diversity, which binds us together. America is a nation united. We are not a collection of cultures and diverse people who happen to live in the same place and share a standard of living. Americans share a common language, a national currency, and more. Unity is the social glue that melds our diversity into one. We must be able to talk to each other. It is a blessing for an individual to be bilingual -- it is a curse for a society to be bilingual.
Without unity, diversity has little value. If we are a segmented society, with separate goals and values, we forsake our melting pot heritage and risk national division.
The history of multiple cultures living togther without assimilation is fraught with war and division. We see ethnic divisions in our cities today that turn on mythical principles of diversity. When, in fact, the ultimate resolution for these communities has been the reinvigoration of their unity. These conflicts have confirmed that diversity, in and of itself, is an asset only if it is secondary to unity. The emphasis must be on the "Unum," not the "pluribus." It is important to respect diversity. It is essential to celebrate unity. A "melting pot" that does not melt becomes a pressure cooker.
To acquire true unity, each piece of the American mosaic must be willing to exist within our national framework. Our founding fathers gave us genius and it must not be undermined in the name of political correctness.
The American family is not static. It has evolved from a traditional "Mother, father, and child" structure into a diverse mosaic of family structures. Single mothers and fatherless families have become the norm in too many of our neighborhoods. And in this evolution of family, our traditional values have been weakened and our moral fiber has become frayed.
Immune from any evolution, however, is the absolute in what is right and what is wrong. Crime is wrong. Parenting and nourishing children is right. As we are painfully aware, these two factors all too often come together to defeat even the best effort to protect our children. You cannot nourish children amidst an environment of drugs and crime. The current debate on "family values" has had a myopic focus, failing to recognize or accept that traditional family structures will never de-evolve back to the simplistic days of yesterday.
We must refocus the debate on the kinds of social glue, values and commonalities, which can strengthen our societies, unify our communities, and best provide what is right for our children.
America is a family dedicated to unifying its diversity. We must accept that every piece of the mosaic is of equal value. We are a meritocracy. A culture of inclusion. And we need to reaffirm our resolute commitment that no one is the lesser by virtue of who they are.
An inclusive America celebrates unity, embraces diversity, and speaks boldly in behalf of all the civil rights agenda: race, gender, age, reproductive choice and sexual orientation.
Clearly, a nation healed will be far more competitive than a nation embroiled in agonies over its societal differences.
Additionally, the balance between individual rights and privileges and an individual's duties and responsibilities has been lost in this country. Clearly, America has been at its best when it is inclusive and honoring the value of the individual, as we showed in the fight against slavery, for civil rights and for women's rights.
There are numerous instances, perhaps unique to our times, where one individual's rights encroaches upon or even violates another's. A community needs duties and responsibilities as well as rights and privileges. Some restrictions should be accepted even in a free society. Restricting smoking in public places and panhandling on our sidewalks, sobriety checks on our highways, imposing drug bans in public housing are but a few of these. These and similar situations permeate our neighborhoods and provide the catalysts for litigation, civic battles and more.
Each American must recognize his or her rights must be exercised with respect for another individual. Each American must accept these rights and privileges are best preserved by a commensurate show of responsibility and commitment to duty.
Every American must accept a responsibility to give more than they take. A free republic demands a profound sense of personal responsibility, a willingness to govern one's own passions, a capacity for initiative and self-reliance, a taste for personal independence, and a sustained spirit of civic cooperation.
Principle No. 4: A Spiritual America
No society which is aspiritual will survive. No society which is acultural will survive. No society which neglects to share and pass on intrinsic values to its children will survive. No nation approaching a 40 percent illegitimacy rate can look forward to anything except crime, violence, and profound social disorder -- no matter what crime bills are passed.
The founding fathers believed in a higher being, believed in "traditional" values, believed in a strong and unifying culture. They would be appalled at the gratuitous sex and violence which pervades our society. They would instinctively understand our youth are being brutalized when all the guideposts promote instant gratification and consumptive lifestyles.
Obviously, school prayer of the majority religion crammed down the throats of everyone else is not acceptable. And while a moment of silence for prayer and meditation in schools would be appropriate, it is not the answer.
One does not legislate values. We need a national discussion with ourselves. Family. Hard work. Education. Spirituality. Sacrifice. Community.
We need leaders who can unabashedly understand these values are more than just nice -- they are the essential glue which holds our society together.
Principal No. 5: A Sustainable Environment
The pinnacle of generational responsibility is to leave a global environment that is in equilibrium. Leaving behind a poisoned planet whose resources are inadequate to sustain the population is equivalent to nuclear holocaust, except slower and more gruesome. Whatever economic competitiveness, whatever set of family values, whatever sense of societal inclusiveness we achieve -- it will all be torn apart if we must fight over access to water, food, energy, and clean air.
A world overpopulated, consuming its natural resoures to the point of depletion, is asking for war. War fought simply to survive. And war without end, since there is no way to replenish the resources that have been consumed.
In addition to this self-preservationist reason to protect the environment, there is a second imperative. This earth is a sacred trust. To turn away from God's creation, to despoil that creation is to violate any sense of spirituality. It would rob us of the wonder at the natural order, it would rob our children of their rightful inheritance, and leave us all radically diminished.
Towards this end we believe that the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Preservation of the Arctic Wildife Refuge from oil exploration, the protection of wetlands, and the funding of the EPA are all basic to any serious commitment to our environment. In addition, we call for action on the single most explosive environmental threat -- the unconstrained growth of world population.
Population has passed the point of global sustainability. The United States should specifically state that a sustainable world population is the official policy of our government, and we should help to properly fund those programs which seek to achieve this vital purpose.
Principal No. 6: National Security
The Cold War is over. Turmoil is with us. The Warsaw Pact nations will never sweep aross the German Plains, but other hostilities will exist as long as man exists. War. Atrocities. Aggression. Ethnic conflict.
Our mission is prevention whenever possible, but containment when it is not. America will be involved. And we will lose precious American lives. In some cases, such as Somalia, we have overextended; and in some, like Bosnia, we have been too passive.
Wherever we are -- acting alone or aligned with NATO, the UN or the OAF -- the United States has a responsibility. We assume that responsibility because we are the last superpower, and because we cannot insulate ourselves in a world consumed by chaos.
And a world in chaos leads to the most serious threat to our shores -- the specter of nuclear terrorism. Specifically, the detonation of a nuclear device in an American city perpetrated by a terrorist group.
As we approach the next millenium in a world swimming in unaccounted for nuclear weapons and weapons grade uranium, we must view the access to this resource by terrorists as the primary national security threat to our people. Our foreign policy must derive from the recognition of this threat, and national security resources must be redirected to guard against it.
Principle No. 7: Political Reform
Our nation is anchored in democracy. It is our founding principle and our greatest strength. It is the most fundamental piece of our national character. It is how our laws are made, how our people are governed. Politics is the machinery of democracy. And yet politics has become distasteful, untrustworthy, and more.
Politics is one of the least trusted professions in our nation today -- and with good reason. Campaign issues are usually not the real issues. The inability of America to dialogue on the issues which need to be talked about will haunt us into the future.
Our political system is wildly inefficient. No society spends more money to elect our politicians to office; and yet, when they get there, they can't efficiently solve complex and long term issues, let alone the hard ones. Congress has balanced only a single budget in the last 26 years. Our expensive political system only operates in a crisis -- and then only enough to ameliorate, not to solve the problem.
The realities of how we finance our political system creates havoc in Congress. By definition, a candidate for national office today is a perpetual fund raiser. He or she must raise a great deal of money -- the "average" campaign for a candidate to the House of Representatives stands at $650,000, or more than $1000 per day for every day of their two-year term.
The system itself has become disdainful to a growing class of senior legislators which includes some of our nation's most reputable and talented national politicians. To date, four Republicans and eight Democrats have announced retirement from the Senate. This is the greatest number of departing Senators in the last 100 years, since 1896! Next week or next month, the number of legislators calling it quits will rise again. Clearly, there's something wrong on Capitol Hill.
In closing the door to another term, more than one member of Congress has decried the dialing-for-dollars nature of the profession and called for change.
Rather than blame those in Congress for not long ago enacting serious campaign reform, we simply need to move forward.
The American system of democracy has served our country well for 200 years. The founding fathers of our nation crafted a constitution adaptable for our future, whatever that proved to be. We must follow in their footsteps. We must restore to our democracy the pinnacle on which it stands -- fair representation of the people.
We have let our legislative branch and our election system go far beyond the horizon of reason. We, therefore, have much to repair -- and we must do so in the near future, and no longer defer the hard choices a majority of americans are ready to make.
We support numerous changes to restore the effectiveness of our political system. These must include:
1. Adoption of the line item veto;
2. Elimination of all Political Action Committees (PACs);
3. Closure of loop holes to prohibit "soft money" slush funds;
4. Reduction in congressional staffs;
5. A realistic paring down in the number of congressional committees to make them effective and not just prolific;
6. Significant reductions in franking privileges; and
7. A wholesale restucturing of campaign expenditure limits, including free access to televised broadcast for qualified candidates.
We end, as we began, with a parable. The Admiral of the U.S. Navy was on the high seas when a blip showed up in his radar screen. "Tell that ship to change its course 15 degrees," said the Admiral. The radio barked back, "You change your course 15." The Admiral said, "Tell that ship that I am an Admiral in the U.S.Navy -- and to change its course 15 degrees!" The radio cracked, and this was said, "You change your course 15. I am a lighthouse."
America must change its course. If we do, we will miss the shoals.