Monday, February 14, 2011

Get Serious About Deficit Reductions

My Dear Fellow Patriots;

This evening, I sent the following letter to Representative Michael Grimm. Some of you may agree with these sentiments, some of you may not.

No matter how you feel about the issue, I urge you to contact Rep. Grimm by email or phone and to make your feelings known:

Dear Congressman Grimm:

Though you have not indicated that you would vote against the proposed $100 billion in cuts proposed by your leadership, I am disappointed that you have co-signed a letter with Rep. Peter King which asks for more than $750 million to be restored to the Republican budget bill.

If you wish certain programs to be spared the axe, you are certainly entitled to make that request - but to do so without identifying other areas in the budget that might be cut in their stead is to simply place the burden once again on the backs of the taxpayers. In a budget that is measured in the trillions, finding $750 million to pay for these programs shouldn't be that hard to do.

In fact, I would be disappointed under any circumstances if you voted for a bill in which any more taxpayer dollars are used to support the money-pit that is Amtrak, and I would further suggest that if you wish to mitigate the burden of the high cost of heating oil that you introduce legislation that would allow for more domestic drilling. To spend taxpayer money on LIHEAP while the President enforces a ridiculous moratorium on drilling in the Gulf is unconscionable.

These are exactly the type of hard choices we need to make as a nation, and if we start to craft fiscal policy based on local interests or regionalism, any attempts to rein in the deficit are doomed to fail.

You ran and were elected to cut spending, as were 86 other freshman Republicans. We, your constituency, were ready, willing and able to support you as you made the hard choices. We still are, but asking your leadership to go easy on you because you think we're shouldering a disproportionate amount of cuts is not what I would consider to be "making those hard choices."

As part of the tea party movement, I have no desire to be less vigilant in observing the actions of my elected officials simply because they may be Republican; Republicans have helped to get us into this mess and are no more deserving of blind trust than Democrats.

As one who lives in the affected area, I am ready to take the hit for the greater good of our nation. You should be, too. By setting such an example, perhaps legislators in every part of the country will realize that their district is not immune to the pain either, and we can put this country back onto the road to fiscal sanity and prosperity.

Thank you.

Your in Liberty,

Frank Santarpia

Staten Island, NY

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bright Lines and Bold Colors

My Dear Fellow Patriots;

When the Staten Island Tea Party got its start, in an attempt to codify the reasons for its existence, I wrote a Mission Statement that can still be found today on our website. It is much too long for a Mission Statement, and I smile when I read it because it reminds me of how green we all were back in March of 2009. The sentiments expressed in it still represent my beliefs, however, and it's worth remembering that there was no charted course, the tea party "movement" did not yet exist and we were all just feeling our way in the dark.

Without realizing it when it was written, I stumbled blindly into the three principles that other organizers throughout the country would find, and would become the legs of the stool upon which the entire movement sits: fiscal sanity, free markets, and a constitutionally-limited federal government. These three beliefs, as simple as they are, have sustained this movement - and the Staten Island Tea Party - through its explosive growth. Why? Because they are so simple and so universal. If you aspire to these three principles you have a home, a comfortable one, in the tea party movement.

If you've ever wondered why you feel so "in sync" with everyone at tea party rallies and events - whether you've stood with 350 people on New Dorp Lane or a million people in Washington, D.C. - it is because everyone shares those three common beliefs. That simplicity, and our unwillingness to try to do your thinking for you on ANY issue, has sustained us.

So it is with some trepidation, but mostly optimism, that I point out the first issue that we cannot ignore and over which we may, as a group, find ourselves divided.

Last year, when freshman Democratic Congressman Mike McMahon voted with his party's leadership to raise the debt ceiling, I referred to it as fiscal insanity. It was a snap declaration, born of the belief that raising the debt ceiling, like raising the credit limit on the plastic in your wallet, would lead to evermore spending and would simply be feeding our addiction to finding uses for money we didn't have.

This year, freshman Republican Congressman Michael Grimm has indicated his intent to vote with his party's leadership to raise the debt ceiling. Does such a vote still represent fiscal insanity?

It depends on how you look at it. Newly-elected House Speaker John Boehner warns that we have to make an "adult" decision about this, as he tries to herd Republican freshman into voting in favor of raising the debt ceiling. Overlooking his insulting choice of words directed to those candidates who promised on the campaign trail that they would slash the budget and never vote to raise the debt limit, he warns that shutting down the government - and risking defaulting on the debt - is not an acceptable outcome.

Then along comes the Republican Study Committee, who introduces legislation that would give the Treasury Secretary (yuck!) the power to prioritize spending as a way of protecting the full faith and credit of the United States government - thereby taking default off the table as a downside risk when making a decision on raising the ceiling.

Congressman Grimm and some other freshman Republicans are siding with Boehner and attempting to tie their votes to a balanced budget amendment. Dozens of others, however, are sticking to their guns - and their promises - and vowing to vote against their leadership. Their tough-love approach has the potential to be very painful; look no further back than 1995, when the government shutdown stalled the Gingrich Revolution and had the unintended consequence of boosting President Clinton's popularity.

Who's willing to risk this outcome now?

Republicans are split over this, and so the first fault lines in GOP unity have appeared. It was not unexpected, and the fact that even though they had months to prepare for the vote they have not been able to formulate a strategy acceptable to 100% of Republicans, speaks to how daunting the conundrum is.

Not surprisingly, divisions exist within the tea party movement, too. Many accept as perfectly rational the explanation that the interest on our debt alone will push us through the ceiling sometime this spring, even if not one penny of additional spending takes place. Or that this is, as the congressman alludes, a great opportunity to advance a much-desired balanced budget amendment.

Other tea partiers are not buying it. Many are taking a "damn-the-torpedoes" approach, believing that there is no point in further propping up this house of cards, that we should blow it down and build it up again on a foundation of fiscal sanity.

In the meantime, those on the left are gleefully waiting to pounce. "Grimm has thrown the tea party under the bus," they will crow. They will say he's a hypocrite who ran as a tea party candidate (he did not, by the way) and is now becoming the same kind of Washington go-along guy as the rest of them.

Let them have their fun. If Congressman Grimm votes in accordance with my beliefs 90% of the time, I think it's a helluva lot better than the former Congressman, who voted with Nancy Pelosi 90% of the time.

But you make up your own mind. I urge you to call both the district (718- 351-1062) and the DC offices (202-225-3371) of Congressman Grimm and let them know how you feel - whether you're for or against a vote to raise the debt ceiling, or what conditions you might put on it.

Me? Personally? I think it stinks, and I don't feel like being "adult" about it. The tea party movement should be about bold strokes and bright lines, and I am loath to see the debt ceiling raised because it's too hard not to, and I long to see Rand Paul's "modest" $500 billion in cuts instituted, which will leave 85% of the government in place without touching Social Security or Medicare.

But I am not the Congressman, and he must find his own way to do the best job he knows how for his district and his country.

If he believes that raising the ceiling is a fait accompli and that he can use his vote to further the cause of the elusive balanced budget amendment, then go ahead, Representative Grimm - hold your nose and vote to raise the limit one more time. But I would counsel you to put your colleagues, your leadership and your constituents on notice - this will be the last time you vote for it.

Your in Liberty,

Frank Santarpia

Staten Island, NY