Vol. 43, No. 3

In This Edition

It’s been said that politics is like a pendulum because it swings between two extremes. Over the past eight months or so in Washington, we have certainly seen that to be the case.

Congress Must Take the Giant Leap for Future Generations

As America marks the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, the Virginia Congressman states that the country’s next great challenge is to eliminate the nation’s debt.

Keeping TARP Transparent

With over $700 billion authorized to shore up the country’s financial markets, the Senator from Florida declares that taxpayers have a right to know how it is being spent.

The New Revolutionary

The continuing protests in Iran may have been fueld by the controversy over the dispute presidential election. But they are being led bu brave Iranian women who no longer want to be oppressed.

Ileana’s Cause

The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee discusses her longtime fight against tyranny in Latin America and why the U.S. must stand with those who are seeking justice and liberty.

Why Democracy Matters

In a speech at the Reagan Library, the former Secretary of State argues that standing for freedom is in America’s best interests, and is the moral thing to do.

Securing Our Future

The European Union’s Ambassador to the U.S. discusses the transatlantic bond and the need to keep this relationship strong.

To Russia with Hope

Instead of resetting our relationship with Russia, President Obama may have set himself a trap.

Hunger is on the March

The head of the World Food Program discusses efforts to confront the global food crisis.

H20=Health, Hope and Opportunity

Bad water kills 1.8 million children each year. One non-profit in Haiti is showing how the problem can be addressed.

Flight of the Centrists

To reach centrists, [Republicans] need to return to being the party of ideas. We cannot afford to simply discredit the Democrats’ programs; we have to propose solutions and show why ours are the right ones for America.

Minivan Moms and the GOP

The Republican Party’s slippage with married women with children is concurrent with the party’s slide in the suburbs.


The Ripon Society convenes its Second Bully Pulpit of the Year on Health Care

Ripon Profile of Jan Brewer

“Although immigration remains an important topic in our national debate, public discussion on the true cost of illegal immigration enforcement needs more emphasis.”

Congress Must Take the Giant Leap for Future Generations

As the nation commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing this summer, and astronaut Buzz Aldrin called for the kind of investments it will take to bring America’s space program back to the moon and beyond, I couldn’t help but think about how far behind American students are in the sciences compared to their international counterparts.

Tests show that one-third of U.S. students lack the competency to perform the most basic mathematical computations. The U.S. was ranked 21st out of 24 countries in math and science proficiency in 2006. Now more than ever we need to ask ourselves: where will we find the money to close this gap?

The national debt has topped $11 trillion, doubling since 2000, for the first time in our nation’s history and will double again over the next 10 years if left unchecked. This year’s federal deficit is exploding at a staggering $1.8 trillion leaving red ink as far as the eye can see. Instead of confronting these issues and ensuring that the country’s best days truly are ahead, the 111th Congress seems content to kick the can down the road and saddle our children and grandchildren with mountains of debt and a lower standard of living.

This year’s federal deficit is exploding at a staggering $1.8 trillion leaving red ink as far as the eye can see.

Congress, at the president’s urging, passed the $787 billion economic stimulus bill in February, which has done nothing to stop unemployment from reaching a 26-year high of 9.5 percent in June and some believe could reach 11 percent or higher. Now the president wants health care reform with a measure — moving through the House fast enough to give lawmakers whiplash — that has a current price tag over $1 trillion and does nothing to address the skyrocketing cost of Medicare and other entitlement programs.

Medicare and Social Security add up to a massive $56 trillion in promises Uncle Sam has made that are coming due as the Baby Boom generation begins to retire. This year’s Medicare and Social Security trustees report found both programs are hurtling toward bankruptcy even faster than previous annual reports have predicted. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently released projections that publicly held government debt will reach 82 percent of GDP – double what it is now – by 2019. Standard and Poor’s Investment Service has reported that the U.S. could lose its coveted triple-A bond rating by 2012. Look at California — its credit rating has been lowered twice and the state is now paying bills with IOUs. Look at countries like Ireland or even Great Britain, which received a downgrade warning from Standard & Poor’s. Why do we believe that our federal government is insulated from the same fate?

Economists of all stripes have expressed concerns about policymakers getting the country’s fiscal house in order. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan recently told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that the government’s deficit in the single biggest hurdle to economic recovery, and that the stage is set for a potential upsurge in inflation if lawmakers continue to do nothing. It’s astonishing that we are willing to allow countries such as China and Saudi Arabia to buy up America, while Congress continues to swipe the seemingly limitless taxpayer credit card.

Simply put, our nation is going broke. If lawmakers were serious about the debt and the deficit, issues that Americans are increasingly worried about, Congress would halt the budget gimmicks, the slick talking points, and muster the political will to have an honest conversation with the American people about where we are, where we’re headed, and what changes need to be made to get us back on track.

To ensure that this overdue conversation takes place, Jim Cooper, a Blue Dog Democrat representing Tennessee, and I have introduced legislation to create a national bipartisan commission that will look at the totality of our nation’s financial future – entitlement spending, other federal spending and tax policy – and offer a recommended plan of action to Congress which requires an up or down vote. A key part of the process would be town hall style meetings in each of the 12 Federal Reserve districts to allow and encourage the American people to weigh in. Similar to the base closing process, the Cooper-Wolf Securing Americas Future Economy (SAFE) Commission has teeth, and Congress would be forced to act.

Instead of confronting these issues and ensuring that the country’s best days truly are ahead, the 111th Congress seems content to kick the can down the road and saddle our children and grandchildren with mountains of debt and a lower standard of living.

America is facing extraordinary economic circumstances, and I believe there are moral implications to allowing our children and grandchildren to be swept away by what former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker has called “a financial tsunami strong enough to swamp our ship of state.” Every day that lawmakers wait for these issues to be addressed through “regular order” is another day that entitlement spending will tighten its grip on the vital discretionary dollars and squeeze out would be opportunity for future generations.

The bipartisan commission concept would restore Americans’ confidence in Congress’s ability to come together when the going gets tough, and would ensure that the resources are available to give our children the first class education they need to compete in the global marketplace, to fund clinical trials that will lead to breakthroughs in medical research, and keep America’s transportation and infrastructure safe.

Congress needs to trust the wisdom of the American people. Some 56 percent, according to a Peter Hart/Public Opinion Strategies poll, believe the bipartisan commission concept is the best way to deal with America’s financial future. The idea is supported by over 70 House members, and Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad and ranking member Judd Gregg have endorsed a similar measure. I offered the SAFE Commission as an amendment to the stimulus legislation when it was marked up in the Appropriations Committee where I serve, and again on the annual Financial Services spending bill that passed the House earlier this month. In both instances, it was denied a vote on the House floor.

The SAFE solution has been endorsed by academics at the Brookings Institution, the Heritage Foundation, the Concord Coalition, the Business Roundtable, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the National Federation of Independent Business, and both the Virginia and Tennessee chambers of commerce. Syndicated columnists such as David Brooks, David Broder, Robert Samuelson, Michael Gerson, and Fred Hiatt have all written favorably about the proposal.

It’s time for Congress to come together – Democrats and Republicans – and make a difference for the generations of young Americans who are counting on us for a secure future.

Frank Wolf represents the 10th District of Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives.