Friday, March 17, 2006

A response from my congressman

Back in February, I sent an email to my congressman, Nathan Deal. I posted about it here.

Here is the email I sent:

Dear Representative Deal,
I am writing you about an issue which I find troubling. With all of the talk about the problems of earmarks in bills, I find it amazing that the Congress has made no progress towards eliminating this. With all of the corruption this process has allowed, I find it inexcusable for any conservative legislator NOT to be pushing this issue wholeheartedly. For me, elimination of the earmarking process is the litmus test by which you will be judged in the 2006 election.

Ed McGonigal

In a letter dated March 8th, here is Representative Deal's response (NOTE: I am excluding the first and last paragraphs which were just longwinded hellos and goodbyes):

"If you are familiar with the Federal budget process, then you know the President submits his budget for the upcoming fiscal year early in each calendar year. The Administration's annual budget submission is followed by Congressional action on the budget, which usually includes the annual budget resolution and appropriations. During the months of deliberation on budget legislation, the Administration often revises its original proposals as a result of interactions with Congress and changing circumstances in the economy and the world. President Bush submitted his budget to the House on February 6, 2006.

Each year, Congress has the opportunity to set its discretionary budget for the coming year. A large portion of federal expenditures is mandatory, set in current law, and does not change without the changing of law. Medicare and Social Security are examples of this type of mandatory spending. The remainder of the federal budget is open to yearly changes by legislators. Each year we must carefully define our priorities, and attempt to find places where waste, fraud, and abuse are occurring. As we aim to achieve the President's goal of cutting the deficit in half over the next five years, we will be faced with many difficult decisions. I will certainly keep your thoughts in mind as we examine each budget request and determine our fiscal priorities. It is imperative that we keep government spending in check. We must ensure that we are not spending more than we are taking in each year.

You may be interested to know that I introduced the Fiscal Responsibility Act on April 28th, 2005. The initial reaction to this legislation has been very positive, demonstrating the importance of deficit reduction to people throughout the nation. This bill is currently awaiting action in the committees to which it was referred, the House Committee on Government Reform and the House Committee on House Administration. H.R. 1980 has been endorsed by the National Taxpayers Union, Americans for Tax Reform, the American Conservative Union, the Small Business Survival Committee, and Citizens Against Government Waste.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act will provide a significant, tangible incentive for all Members of Congress to balance the Federal Budget and avoid excessive, wasteful spending. This bill creates a simple yet effective mechanism that is triggered when the Federal government runs a fiscal-year deficit. When triggered, this mechanism will implement an automatic five-percent pay reduction and void the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) for all Members of Congress. If the deficit spending continues, the pay cut will be increased to ten percent and Member COLAs will continue to be voided every consecutive fiscal year that expenditures exceed revenues. Although the pay reductions will be capped at a maximum of 10 percent, the loss of COLAs will continue to increase the true cost to Members every year we run a deficit. Of course, the pay reductions and COLA forfeitures will not be implemented after a fiscal year in which we run a surplus or expenditures equal revenue.

This bill does include an exclusionary provision for budget outlays that directly relates to military conflict which lasts over 30 days or is in direct response to a terrorist attack on the United States. This provision will allow for unforeseen Defense and Homeland Security spending."

Nowhere in the letter does Rep. Deal address my concern, which is the earmarking process. Calls for spending restraint fall on deaf ears around representatives like Don Young. Until the process is eliminated or heavily restrained, we end up relying on the majority in Congress to show spending restraint. Based on recent history, I do not have a whole lot of faith in that happening.

As for Deal's Fiscal Responsibility Act, you will notice that even if it were to be enacted (fat chance), it still would NOT be in effect right now thanks to the war in Iraq.

In other words, I have to take him at his word that Deal and the rest of Congress will show spending restraint. How come I don't feel reassured?

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