Tancredo On The Issues

Tancredo On The Issues
Immigration

There is no doubt that America is facing an illegal immigration crisis. Currently, there are at least 12 million illegal aliens living in America. I am absolutely opposed to amnesty. In addition to rewarding those who broke our laws, amnesties simply do not solve the problem of illegal immigration. The only realistic solution to the problem of illegal immigration is a strategy of attrition, which seeks to reduce the flow of the illegal alien population over time by cutting off the incentives for coming to and staying in America - most importantly by eliminating the jobs magnet. America must also reexamine its legal immigration policies. Since 1990, that number has been roughly one million yearly - and that doesn't count illegal aliens. America should reduce legal immigration to 250,000 people a year, which will allow the newcomers to assimilate.

"In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language... And we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."

Theodore Roosevelt 1907

Defense
In the wake of the September 11th attacks and the ensuing war on terrorism, it has become clear that the United States is facing a new security threat. The war America is already engaged in will not be fought like the wars of the past. After witnessing the tragic terrorist attacks against the nation, it is now time to coordinate the efforts of federal, state, and local agencies to provide better homeland defense. Tomorrow's attacker is more likely to board a commercial airliner bound for the U.S. with a tourist or student visa - or he may simply walk across our porous southern or northern border carrying a device in his backpack. These issues must be addressed.

We are, I believe, in a clash of civilizations. That clash is fought on many fronts-some military, some diplomatic, and still others, ideological. On the military front we have won two significant victories. One was in Afghanistan where we destroyed the Taliban and Al Qaeda's command and control network. The second victory was in Iraq where, by toppling the Sunni dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and creating the embryonic infrastructure of a democracy, we set in a motion a chain of events that could lead to a major strategic advantage for us and for the West. This advantage emanates from the forced political equilibrium that can be brought to the region and Iraq itself now that Saddam has been dispatched. The deep schisms in Islam will force countries in the region to impose this equilibrium. Our continued presence in Iraq as the referee in a civil war inhibits this development.

We must take whatever steps are necessary to assure our ability to respond quickly to events in the area as the process of creating this new balance of power goes on. But the quicker that process starts, the better.

In his speech to the nation on the war in Iraq, the President said he was establishing a "November benchmark" for the Iraqis to complete the task of controlling all provinces of the country. This should be more than a benchmark. I believe it should be used as the time frame for our disengagement from Iraq.

We can maintain a military presence in the area to act as a quick response force with a mission to destroy Al Qaeda elements while simultaneously aiding the new balance of power in the region to develop.

I am not alone in my thoughts about what to do in Iraq. Former UN Ambassador John Bolton, in a recent interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN, concurred.

"I think it's clear that the United States has met the obligation that it incurred when it overthrew Saddam Hussein. And that's to try and provide some conditions of security for the Iraqis to determine what kind of country or what kind of society they want in the future. We have met that obligation. That obligation does not need to be extended. And this is really the last chance for them. After that, we need to pursue very narrowly what our strategic interest is. And that's making sure that terrorism doesn't find root in that country."---Former UN Ambassador John Bolton

At the end of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, a lady asked Benjamin Franklin, "What have you given us?" He replied, "A Republic, if you can keep it." We have purchased an oppportunity for Iraq and the entire Middle East with the blood and treasure of America. It was a noble endavor for which all who served can be immensely proud. It is now time to see if the Iraqis can take advantage of the opportunity and "keep" what has been so dearly purchased.

Education
Having served as a public school teacher in Colorado and as the U.S. Secretary of Education's Regional Representative, I have earned real world knowledge of how to best educate America's children. Control over the education of our children must be in the hands of the parents. I believe in the ability of parents to choose the educational path best suited for their children. I support tax credits for families who choose to allow their children to attend any other institution whether it be a private, parochial, or home school. I oppose increased federal involvement in education, and broke ranks with my party to oppose the No Child Left Behind Act for that reason.

Social Security
It is important that we acknowledge some of the shortcomings of Social Security as it currently exists.  The current system simply cannot cope with the upcoming demographic changes in our country.  The ratio of workers to retirees will drop close to 2-to-1 within a generation.  To provide for tomorrow's retirees, we must become a nation of owners and savers.

Unfortunately, the existing Social Security program does not save or invest for future generations of seniors.  Without action to strengthen Social Security, the only options available to the government beginning in 2016 will be massive tax increases, deep benefit cuts for seniors, borrowing money on an unprecedented scale, massive cuts in other government programs -- and likely all of the above.

Simply ignoring the impending crisis is irresponsible. Younger workers must be empowered to invest a portion of their payroll taxes into private accounts, which will allow us to gradually move away from the current unsustainable defined benefit approach of Social Security to a defined contribution approach -- similar to 401k programs and the Thrift Savings Plan available to federal employees.  Until we provide the option of personal accounts to younger workers, we will never be able to afford Americans a personal stake in their own retirement.

Taxes
I support tax relief, because it helps families save more for retirement, education, and medical care. In addition to decreasing the overall amount of taxes Americans pay, I also support efforts to scrap the current cumbersome income tax system and start fresh with either a national sales tax or a flat tax.

The income tax system, as currently constituted, is a source of frustration for nearly everyone in America -- with the possible exception of the accountants we pay to help us file each year. I think most Americans, regardless of their political party affiliation or
personal wealth can agree on one thing: The income tax system is in desperate need of reform. The system is inherently unfair, complex, and burdensome. It discourages investment, savings, and the accumulation of capital by taxing the three excessively. The income tax code has become so unruly and confiscatory that the average American family worked until almost May last year just to pay the tax bill required by the federal, state and local governments.

Aside from these direct costs, the cost of complying with the current cumbersome tax code exceeds some $200 billion each year. And remember, once Americans have written their checks to Uncle Sam they will continue paying government taxes every time they fly on an airplane, make a phone call, fill up their gas tank, buy an imported item or even sit down to have a cold beer. These federal excise taxes cost Americans hundreds or even thousands of additional dollars each year -- and that figure continues to rise.

No one disagrees that the government must acquire some form of revenue to carry out its basic functions. The question is, however, how heavy a tax burden should the American people be forced to bear. The tax initiatives that the Republican-controlled Congress approved in recent years reducing tax rates across-the-board, wiping out all federal taxes on dividends, eliminating the death tax, and boosting the child tax were a good start -- but the overall system needs to undergo fundamental change.

One fundamental improvement over the current progressive and punitive tax code is a flat tax system where every taxpayer, regardless of their level of income, pays the same flat rate of taxation on their income. Implementing a lower, flat tax would encourage investment by ending the double taxation of investment income, eliminating loopholes and curbing exemptions that the wealthy use to lower their tax burdens. It would also create equity in the tax code, as well as greatly reducing the time and cost associated with compliance.

Another approach would be to replace the income tax with a national sales tax. Perhaps the most attractive feature of this approach is the elimination of the IRS. By eliminating the requirement for individuals to file tax forms every April, we could eliminate the need for this invasive and often abusive agency. A sales tax would also unleash the full potential of the American economy by repealing business and individual income taxes, payroll taxes, self-employment taxes, capital gains taxes, estate taxes, and gift taxes. In their place, a single, nominal tax would be levied on all new goods and services at the
final point of purchase for consumption -- the same way cities and states collect sales taxes.

A national based sales tax would have many of the same benefits as a flat tax; namely increased compliance, increased savings and investments, decreased cost to the federal government, and increased economic growth.

I would support either of these long overdue tax reforms to our nightmarish tax code.

Abortion
As a devout Christian, father, and grandfather, I am a strong believer in the right to life for the unborn child. For years, activist judges have undermined life. As president, I would stop this by appointing strict constructionists as judges, reining in the power of the judiciary, and supporting constitutional amendments that respect life.

Budget
Government is spending dangerously beyond its means.  For years, Congresses and  Presidents of both parties have continued to spend more money than they take in.  The largest component of this spending-spree is entitlement spending.

Simply put, federal entitlement programs are too big and cost far too much.  The American taxpayer cannot be asked to continue funding numerous entitlement programs or be all things for all people.  Finally, we cannot ask the American people to pay higher taxes to finance this spending spree.  We must remember that federal government is in debt because it spends too much, not because it taxes people too little.

There two types of government spending-discretionary and mandatory.  Discretionary spending, which accounts for roughly one-third of all Federal spending, includes money for things like the Army, FBI, the Coast Guard and highway projects.  Congress explicitly determines how much to spend (or not spend) on these programs on an annual basis.

Mandatory spending, on the other hand, accounts for some two-thirds of all government spending.  This kind of spending is authorized by permanent laws.  It includes 'entitlements'-things like Social Security, Medicare, and Food Stamps-programs through which individuals receive benefits solely because of their age, income or other criteria.  Spending levels in these areas are dictated by the number of people who sign up for these benefits, rather than by Congress.  In order to reduce this kind of spending, Congress must make fundamental changes to the underlying programs - something that few political leaders in Washington have the stomach for.

The only way we can rein in government spending is to take on entitlement spending.  And the only way to take on entitlement spending is to fundamentally reform the crumbling and unsustainable institutions of the welfare state.  Until Americans demand changes in mandatory spending, we will simply be treating the symptom of deficits rather than addressing the underlying problem of excessive spending.  Americans can no longer continue to borrow money from countries like China and allow government spending to run on autopilot.  We cannot sit idly by; waiting for the impending fiscal train wreck that we all know is just down the tracks.

We must make fundamental reforms to our creaky 20th century welfare state if we are going to ensure a prosperous 21st century for America.

Trade
Falling U.S. taxes on imported products and slowly crumbling foreign barriers to U.S. commerce have provided a number of benefits for Americans and American businesses.  American consumers have unprecedented choices when it comes to everything from cars and computers to cell phones and coffee.

U.S. manufacturing and agricultural exports have grown strongly over the last decade.  Between 1994 and 2004, for example, exports in U.S. manufacturing and agriculture have increased 65 percent and 38 percent, respectively.  And United States exports of high technology products have grown by a whopping 67 percent during the past 10 years.

Unfortunately however, it isn't all good news.  Many recent trade agreements have done far more than just phase out high U.S. taxes on imports and open new markets for U.S. businesses - a lot more.  In fact, the primary "import" American trade negotiators seem concerned with these days is foreign workers.

Take the recently approved Central American Free Trade Agreement, for example.  Buried among its nearly 1,000 pages, the agreement contains an expansive definition of "cross-border trade in services."  This definition would effectively give people from Central American nations a de facto right to work in the United States .  In fact, CAFTA is more than a just trade agreement about sugar and bananas; it is a thinly disguised immigration accord.

Little effort is even made by the U.S. trade officials to hide their efforts.  One article of the agreement reads, "Cross-border trade in services or cross-border supply of services means the supply of a service...by a national of a party in the territory of another party."  CAFTA also stipulates that member nations take care to ensure that local and national measures "relating to qualification requirements and procedures, technical standards and licensing requirements do not constitute unnecessary barriers to trade in services," and the U.S. is required to guarantee that our domestic laws are, "not in themselves a restriction on the supply of the service."

U.S. immigration limits, visa requirements - or even licensing requirements and zoning rules - could be considered 'unnecessary barriers to trade' that act as 'restrictions on the supply of a service.'   Congress would then be forced to change our immigration laws, or face international trade sanctions.

If CAFTA and its successors were really just about trade, the agreements would be little more than a few pages long, setting a schedule for opening markets and phasing out unfair taxes on goods.  But they aren't.  In reality, these agreements have become vehicles to expand a growing body of international law that threatens to supersede our own national sovereignty.

Agriculture
As Barry Goldwater correctly pointed out nearly a half-century ago, "no power over agriculture was given to any branch of the national government." Like any other industry, farm production would be "best controlled by the natural operation of the free market."

Federal farm policy has unfortunately moved in just the opposite direction since Barry made those statements.

From the 1930's until the mid-1990's, the government generally accounted for an average of just over 10% of net farm income. Only once in this period did government account for over 30% of net farm income. Yet in recent years, the share of net farm income provided by the government has risen to some four times that amount.

Worse still, nearly half of all commodity payments flow to large farming operations with average household incomes of $135,000 - and the bulk of federal farm benefits are concentrated among a very few farmers. In 2001, for example, nearly three-quarters of all farm subsidies were paid out to just 10 percent of recipients.

Americans are often told that farm programs are designed as a 'safety net' for family farms - but the numbers tell a different story. For example, according to the Heritage Foundation in 2001, the list of recipients of federal farm payments included a number of very wealthy 'hobby farmers'. David Rockefeller, the former chairman of Chase Manhattan and grandson of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller received nearly $150,000, former professional basketball star Scottie Pippen received more than $25,000 not to farm land he owns in Arkansas, and media tycoon Ted Turner received nearly $13,000. Even former Enron CEO and multi-millionaire Kenneth Lay received more than $6,000.

The list also included several Fortune 500 corporations, including oil giant Chevron and John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance which received $80,000 and $134,000, respectively, in 2001.

Like Barry Goldwater, I want to see a prosperous American agriculture industry, one that benefits all taxpayers - farmer and non-farmer alike. That means we must move away from the current centrally planned and controlled agricultural sector of today toward a more free enterprise oriented farm economy of tomorrow.

Stem Cell Research
Medical research to find cures for debilitating diseases like Alzheimer's and diabetes is critically important.  We should do everything in our power to seek new treatments and drugs to help cure these diseases.  We cannot, however, compel American taxpayers to pay for research that intentionally destroys human life, or authorizes the farming or cloning of human embryos.

Embryonic stem cell research is not the only option for stem cell research.  Other promising alternatives which do not destroy human life - such as cord blood stem cell research - have shown much promise without the moral and ethical questions that surround embryonic stem cell research.

Gay Marriage

I support a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

Unfortunately, every state in the union is now just one court ruling from being force-fed a new definition of marriage.  If Congress does not act, people like San Francisco's mayor and a few judges in Massachusetts will be able to dictate to the entire country what does and does not constitute marriage.

To impose gay marriage on Americans through judicial fiat flies in the face of both traditional American values and the time-honored tenets of American federalism.

Health Care
The way to address America's heath care problems is not through bigger government programs, litigation, regulation, or additional government spending.  Indeed, these things have contributed and continue to contribute to the rising cost of health care.

Another contributing factor is illegal immigration.  While illegal immigration isn't generally the first thing Americans think of when they think about health care, it has a significant impact on the cost, availability and quality of health care available to Americans.

The millions of uninsured illegal aliens in this country invariably get sick or injured.  When they do, they seek what ends up being very expensive treatment in hospital emergency rooms - treatment federal law requires health care personnel to provide.  The problem has become so acute that Congress recently allocated $1 billion in taxpayer funds to defray the costs incurred by hospitals treating illegal aliens.  This is another good reason for our government to take the problem of illegal immigration seriously.

I believe in market based solutions to health care problems.  One solution is the use of Association Health Plans or AHP's.  AHP's would assist greatly in improving access to affordable health care - without creating a new big government scheme.

AHPs would allow small business owners to band together through pre-existing professional associations to purchase health insurance at reduced rates.  It will help to reduce the number of uninsured Americans by giving small business the same accessibility, affordability, and choice in the health care marketplace that Fortune 500 companies and unions now enjoy.  Experts estimate that up to 8.5 million uninsured small business workers could gain coverage and small business owners would save up to 25 percent on health insurance enabling more businesses to provide coverage.