My conference call with Tennessee Senator Bob Corker

Today I am in Bristol, Tennessee, still enjoying the crowd of over 100,000 people who descended here for a great NASCAR race. Later today in the tradition of fast cars I will be Knoxville bound. Yet sports was yesterday. Today it is back to politics. Tennessee is ground zero for a serious policy proposal by hometown United States Senator Bob Corker.

(I am not covering Libya today because the significance of what “happened” was grossly overstated. An unidentified nation hit a building. Khadafi remains in power. This is not news.)

I was on a conference call a few days ago with Senator Corker. The call was put together by the Blue Collar Muse, who also writes at the ConserVOLliance.

The entire conference call was dedicated to the “Commitment to American Prosperity (CAP) Act of 2011.”

For those worried about a Tennessee Senator talking about something with the word Cap in it, do not fear. This Cap is positive, and this Senator is a real Tennesseean.

Senator Corker described the CAP Act as a “fiscal straitjacket” that “caps federal spending.”

“Over 10 years we would reduce, spend 7.6 trillion less. The debt to GDP ratio is kept at 64%.”  With current policies it will be 146% over 20 years.”

“This is a 10 page bill, not a bunch of whereases in it.”

“We are spending 24.5% (will be 26.8%) of economic output on federal spending. The 40 year norm is 20.6%. This takes us back down to the 20.6% level.”

A major key provision in the legislation is that it calls for “sequestration.”

“The OMB each year, if Congress has not taken action to cut spending, they come in on a pro rata basis and take money out of those accounts.”

“This is the first time everything is included in the budget…Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.”

“This year we spend 3.7 trillion, take in 2.2 trillion. If you eliminated all discretionary spending including defense you would not close the budget. You have to take on entitlements. They are not sustainable.”

“Sequestration is avoided with a 2/3 vote in the house and senate. This is a statutory bill, not a constitutional amendment.”

“First we need to get all 61 billion of the house Republican cuts. The debt ceiling vote is later this year. I have no intention whatsoever of voting for a debt ceiling increase unless steps are taken to curb spending. It is irresponsible not to be responsible prior to debt ceiling increase.”

“When we are not paying attention, Washington will fall off the wagon. The American people will start focusing on something else.”

“The third anchor is passing a constitutional amendment. This is a three pronged plan. Lower discretionary spending, pass cap act, and pass a constitutional amendment.”

“I am a cheerleader for the Paul Ryan roadmap, but even after 10 years we are still at 22.6% spending. Even the president’s commission would take spending down to 21.8%.”

“I am not interested in messaging. I am interested in doing something about our debt. If we don’t deal with this issue in the next couple years we could have a crisis like we have not seen before. I need all 47 Republicans and 12 more Democrats (Claire McCaskill signed on).”

“After we agree to the straitjacket, then we can quibble over the cuts.”

“We go to 18% in 5 years, then 18% in 10 years. Paul Ryan gets to 18% in 2055. The Democrats want to increase revenues. We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. I don’t want to talk about revenues, I know where that goes. I want to talk about spending. I started with a 20 year bill that got down to 18%. The problem with a 20 year bill is that keeping people focused for 3 years is tough around here.”

When asked about a presidential veto, Senator Corker was very blunt.

“I don’t think he would veto something attached to a debt ceiling vote. The debt ceiling vote creates leverage. To even consider voting for it without getting dramatic change would be irresponsible. We have a tremendous opportunity.”

“All of us, there are a lot of things we care about, that will have to be reduced to get our country back to where we need to go.”

“One of the best contributions we have in the Senate is Ron Johnson (from Wisconsin). He is a businessman. What he likes about the CAP Act is it does give you that flexibility. He is astonished that we never know where we are going. We have flexibility on how to meet the targets left on an annual basis.”

“This generation of folks has been living and making easy decisions and passing things for your (younger) generation. This would cause us to be mature, use common sense, be like the adults we should be.”

“I hope the American people don’t lose sight of this problem. The folks who buy our debt are not going to lose sight. We have gotten in such a bad position that if we don’t do something the bond market is going to react. PIMCO is not buying any more Treasury debt if we don’t act.”

I asked Senator Corker a public relations question.

“Senator, every time we try to cut something small like PBS, the left claims that we are trying to shoot Elmo and feed him to kids as school lunch. Republicans talk tough but then get scared over being fired. What can you do to give them a steel spine?”

He was complimentary of my phraseology, but more importantly clearly ready to make the hard choices.

“Many Republicans understand the problems deeply that we have as a country. They are talking about how bad this problem is. It is really sobering. There is a recognition that we have a huge problem. In 4 years I haven’t done a poll. That could be a bad decision. Polls say Americans care more about jobs than government spending. Those on this call care about government spending. Constituent groups come in and raise cain and people get nervous. If they care about the economy and jobs and we don’t deal with this, it is a huge distortion of our economy. Making those tough cuts and sacrifices are important to people’s livelihood. We haven’t made a good enough case.”

“John Taylor of Stanford totally refuted the Goldman Sachs study. We have to arm senators with the information that this is going to be good for the economy and job creation. Going back to Elmo and NPR… Senator (from Indiana) Dan Coats is saying this…’constituents come in, we have to be saying to them…you have to talk to the other side and deal with entitlements. If we don’t, every discretionary item is going to be cut.’ If you talk to me about a specific program, go down the hall and make sure Senator X deals with entitlements. Every discretionary item will be cut.”

“I don’t have that flair, other people are quicker…get on our team, help us reform entitlements. Go down the hall, talk to senate Democrats, tell them all programs are going to go away if we don’t deal with this.”

“I began at age 25 with a pickup truck and $8,000 and built a company. I don’t take my senate salary now, it goes to charity.”

“We have a lot of problems in this world…Japan is a terrible tragedy, there are problems in the Middle East, problems all around. Congress can’t deal with the economy. We have to encourage the private sector. We can’t micromanage. The one thing we can deal with is spending. This is the most solvable problem congress can deal with. It’s just us 535 people. It is eminently solvable, with no excuses. The American people should hold our feet to the fire. It’s about us having the courage, being farsighted, and realizing this is one issue that can take our country down that we have total control over.”

If Senator Corker can get others on board, America will be better off. The people of Tennessee and America are lucky to have his service.

I thank Senator Corker for his graciousness, his candor, his seriousness of purpose, and his decency and civility.

As for the Senators who insist on reflexively opposing him and any other sound policy proposals, we know that they favor increased spending regardless of the consequences. Although the bill does not call for it, the straitjacket he proposes should be more than fiscal. It should be used for those politicians taking us over the cliff due to the combination of their own gutlessness and selfishness.

Good luck Mr. Corker. We are rooting for you.


One Response to “My conference call with Tennessee Senator Bob Corker”

  1. Responsible “adults” pay their bills, not change the bills. If the GOP was willing to raise some taxes in order to cut some spending, then the “adults” could work together to get things done. But most republicans are not “adults.” They only care about the very rich. It’s time the “adults” insist the rich pay their fair share, as the rich are the only group not being asked to sacrifice here.


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