The Bogus GOP State of the Nation Survey

The National Republican Congressional Committee, at the behest of House Speaker John Boehner, has sent out a “State of the Nation Survey.” It’s really a way to raise money for the GOP. I doubt that Boehner wrote the letter that came with the survey or that he or anyone in a leadership position will even read the results of the survey, even though the Speaker assures us that the “survey answers will shape guide and confirm our Republican Majority’s approach to dismantle the liberal programs that President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and the Democrats put in place during the past two years.” Give me a break.

The Republicans are equally complicit in the debt and spending debacle. Boehner’s been in the House for 20 years, and the Republicans have had some majorities going back to Reagan. Spending and the number of Federal programs have only gone up

The survey questions are pathetic. They know the answers before they get the results. (You can fill it out online here.) They don’t really want to know what you and I think, so they serve up a softball question like this: “Do you believe that the State of the Nation has improved under the leadership of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats?” Of course not. What Republican would say yes? A better question would be, have the Republicans done enough to stop the Democrats?” Or, “Are you tired of the Republicans compromising so they will be liked by the Democrats and the media (it’s never going to happen) and get re-elected so they can retire on a big-fat pension?”

Here’s one I found particularly insulting. Are you in favor of returning to 2008 spending levels – before the bailouts and ‘stimulus’ spending?” 2008? I want to go back to 1981 levels when Federal spending was 657 billion dollars that year and estimated to be 742 billion in 1982. There was a chance to beat this problem back then, but as David Boaz wrote at that time, “The increase has been continuous in both Democratic and Republican administrations. . .” It’s no different today. Does any of the following sound familiar?:

People around the country seem to understand what no one in Washington will admit: The budget is out of control. The growth of government is out of control. We seem to have lost our perspective in the last 20 years, as government has taken on more and more functions, and members of Congress have made more of the budget “uncontrollable” in an attempt to absolve themselves of blame for its growth. The program proposed in this paper is not just a list of budget cuts. It is something that needs to be done to solve our national crisis.

This was written in 1982. The only thing that has changed is that it’s gotten worse. We’ve moved from billions to trillions. A billion is a thousand million. A trillion is a thousand billion. The numbers are so large that no one can comprehend them. When someone says that cutting a $25-billion program won’t make a dent in the deficit, you know we’re in trouble.

Here’s another bogus question: “Do you support shutting down the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay and transferring captured terrorists into U.S. federal prisons?” Huh? I’m for shutting down entire governmental agencies, starting with the Federal Department of Education and the so-called Department of Energy that only stops us from getting any new energy. As of this year, the discretionary budget of the Department of Education is $69.9 billion. The Department of Energy Budget for fiscal 2011 is $27 billion. In 2006, the federal tax on motor fuels yielded $28.2 which about pays for the Department’s expenses that doesn’t get us any energy. Insanity.

Not many people remember the Private Sector Survey on Cost Control (PSSCC), best known as The Grace Commission. It was headed by businessman J. Peter Grace (1913–1995). President Reagan, in announcing the selection of Grace to lead the Commission on waste and inefficiency in the Federal government, said:

We have a problem that’s been 40 years in the making, and we have to find ways to solve it. And I didn’t want to ruin your appetites, so I waited till now to tell you this, but during the hour we’re together here eating and talking, the Government has spent $83 million. And by the way, that includes the price of your lunch. Milton Friedman is right. There really is no such thing as a free lunch. The interest on our debt for the last hour was about $10 million of that. . . . I’ll repeat to you today what I said a week ago when I announced Peter’s appointment: Be bold. We want your team to work like tireless bloodhounds. Don’t leave any stone unturned in your search to root out inefficiency.

This was in 1982. The results? If the recommendations had been followed, the United States would be a better place in 2011 and all this talk of debt ceilings and deficit spending would be a bygone-era anachronism. Instead, we got the following:

The Grace Commission Report was presented to Congress in January 1984. The report claimed that if its recommendations were followed, $424 billion could be saved in three years, rising to $1.9 trillion per year by the year 2000. It estimated that the national debt, without these reforms, would rise to $13 trillion by the year 2000, while with the reforms they projected it would rise to only $2.5 trillion. Congress ignored the commission’s report. The debt reached $5.8 trillion in the year 2000. The national debt reached 13 trillion after the subprime mortgage-collateralized debt obligation crisis in 2008.

The report said that one-third of all income taxes is consumed by waste and inefficiency in the federal government, and another one-third escapes collection owing to the underground economy. ‘With two thirds of everyone’s personal income taxes wasted or not collected, 100 percent of what is collected is absorbed solely by interest on the federal debt and by federal government contributions to transfer payments. In other words, all individual income tax revenues are gone before one nickel is spent on the services [that] taxpayers expect from their government.

“Congress ignored the commission’s report.” We’re hearing the same story being played over and over again. Been there, done that. Both parties had a chance to fix this mess a long time ago. They didn’t have the backbone to do it. They played “kick the can” and hoped no one would notice.

If the Republicans really want us to believe that things will change, then they need to put out a better survey, an honest one.