Sunday, July 25, 2010


Bob Schwartz

Bob Schwartz
By Bob Schwartz, Republican Candidate for the 5th Congressional District

The time is long overdue to discuss the real status of entitlement programs, including: Social Security, Medicare and, also, pensions for government workers. These "safety net" programs have been so poorly managed that they are now at or near bankruptcy. This threatens to significantly affect the lives of millions of Americans.

First, Congress should be tasked with creating and approving a plan by 2012 that brings the nation’s safety net programs into balance.

Social Security and Medicare should receive the highest priority. With respect to Social Security, a shell game was created in the 1960s that has been perpetuated by Democrat and Republican politicians ever since. Social Security was removed from the annual budget and a second set of books was created. This allowed career politicians to “borrow” from the surplus of Social Security and spend it on other programs. The money has never been repaid. Al Gore's infamous "lock box" of the 1990s turned out to be just another game played by Washington. There was no lock on the box and the box itself now holds only IOUs.

Social Security must be returned to the annual budget so it can be accounted for just like all other programs. Politicians must then make the difficult choices that have been clear for a long time: (1) reduce the level of benefits for all recipients, (2) institute means testing based on assets at retirement, (3) raise the age for receipt of full benefits and/or (4) increase the tax on those working to make up the shortfall.

I support an immediate freeze on the current level of benefits while Congress considers the other options. I likely will oppose implementation of some of the options above, such as a tax increase, but all options must be on the table for discussion as Congress works to meet its 2010 goal.

Medicare is the second large safety net program that requires immediate attention. Unlike my primary opponents Jeff Hartline and CeCe Heil, I do not call for the elimination of federal involvement in healthcare (e.g., Medicare, child health). Instead, I believe that these programs can and should be reformed to make sense for the 21st Century.

Much of the needed reform can be accomplished by bringing free market principles into the healthcare marketplace. For example, managed care plans should be allowed to compete across State lines. In addition, healthcare providers should post quality and cost data allowing informed consumers to make decisions about their about healthcare purchases according to their own needs and priorities. In addition, incentives for wellness and meaningful Congressional audits to identify fraud, waste and abuse should be enacted. Please see the Policy section of for more detail on my ideas for healthcare reform.

Finally, government employee pensions must be reconsidered. For example, a government worker who has contributed $300,000 over 30 years of services may receive more than $3,000,000 in pension benefits after retirement. This is simply unsustainable. A straightforward solution has already been designed by Chris Christie, the energetic and visionary new Governor of New Jersey. Under this plan, all pensions will be capped so no one can receive more than $50,000 per year in benefits and a maximum of $1,000,000 in lifetime benefits. deas like this must be considered as part of Congress’ mission to have created and approved a plan to bring our safety net programs into balance.

Here in Tennessee, we make tough decisions on how to fund our priorities each year while keeping the budget in balance. This Volunteer attitude must be taken to Washington! We will show those within the Beltway that what has worked in Tennessee will work across the U.S.A. The application of commonsense conservative and free market ideas will restore the nation’s safety net programs to solvency, offer a level of security to Americans who have supported the programs for years and, all the while, will help to return our federal budget to balance. ONWARD!

This is the most detailed, common sense, and thoughtful positions I have seen any of our candidates take on the question of entitlements or health care. It is pragmatic and moderate. Our other leading candidates have taken more absolutist position or have been short on details.

Jeff Hartline says of entitlements, "I will work to begin the process of revising these entitlement programs. Specifically, Social Security must undergo radical revisions immediately or risk insolvency. The remaining programs must be gradually moved to the States individually." On health care he says, "I will work towards the elimination of Federal involvement in the provision of Health Care, except for the VA system."

Cece Heil does not address entitlements directly but says of healthcare, "Healthcare is not a function of the federal government."

Lonnie Spivak has a more general statement on health care and calls for repeal of Obamacare and for health care reform. He has left himself room to flesh out his position. He has not taken a position that he must explain or defend.

Please visit the candidates websites linked above to see their full statements on these and other issue.

Whoever the nominee is in August, he or she must win the votes of independents and some Democrats to win the election. While we might wish for someone with clearly stated minimalist government positions we do not need to be so dogmatic that we have no chance of winning the general election. Most people are in that broad middle. They do not have a well-defined political philosophy. If they feel we are moving too far to the left they may vote for someone to the right, but they are not ideologues of the left or the right. They will not vote for a "scary" Republican. The only reason we can hope to beat Jim Cooper is because people are concerned about the abrupt shift to the left in this nation. That does not mean they are ready to jettison Social Security or Medicare.

Let us not forget Barry Goldwater who in 1964 advocated selling TVA, a position that I still thing was reasonable. Republicans abandoned him in droves and voted for Lyndon Johnson. Of course Goldwater also advocated some other "nutty" ideas, but the point being is that you cannot get too far in front of the electorate. Barry Goldwater only carried one state.

To look at a more recent example, President George W. Bush soon after beating John Kerry, decided to spend his political capital pushing partial privatization of social security. He stressed that current beneficiaries would keep all their benefits, and that only younger Americans would get the privatization option. His proposal went over like a lead balloon. I was for it. I think it was a modest proposal, and would have been a step in the right direction but the public was not buying it.

I really do believe we are a conservative nation, but part of the meaning of conservative is not an ideological meaning but a disposition. We are conservative in that we resist radical upheaval. We are conservative in that we favor slow measured steps and resist abrupt breaks with the past.

I hope our leading candidates will clarify and moderate their position . To win in the general election they must reassure people that they are reasonable and thoughtful. Taking radical positions may win the primary, but it will doom your candidacy in the general election. I am committed to support whoever wins the primary but I am really not into tilting at windmills. As I look at the candidates I am beginning to think that Bob Schwartz may be the candidate who could fare best in a general election battle against Jim Cooper.

Stumble Upon Toolbar
My Zimbio
Top Stories

1 comment:

  1. I agree Rod. Bob Schwartz is the best chance Republicans have of winning the seat in November. Let's hope he wins the primary on August 5.