Here’s the Nonsense: There is nothing unique or unusual that any of the GOP candidates are offering. It’s all just Washington business as usual.
Here’s the Horse Sense: At the foreign policy debate in South Carolina, Governor Perry made a point that is probably the most important issue in the entire campaign and few people, if any, noticed it. Perry said that he would use zero based budgeting for foreign aid and then went on to allude to using it throughout the entire federal budget process. When asked, Newt Gingrich agreed. This idea is in stark contrast to the way business has been done in Washington for decades. This is the only kind of thinking that can turn Washington around and save our nation. And if we don’t do that nothing else will matter.
While other candidates were not specifically asked about it, Cain has said in his campaign: “Nothing should be off the table. Every federal agency, every government program and expenditure must be reviewed and revised with a keen eye and a red pen. Leaders should be willing to shrink budgets by target percentages, and those charged with implementing those changes must be held accountable.” With my 37 years in business I can say that this sounds a lot like the typical zero based budgeting mindset of a successful executive. And if he’s proven to be anything, Mr. Cain has proven he’s not just a pizza maker, he’s proven himself to be a successful problem-solving executive over and over again.
Now I should also say that it is very possible that some of the other candidates may agree with these views, but no one that I’ve heard or read has said it in a way that is so recognizable as it is with Perry, Gingrich, and Cain. (For those unfamiliar with zero based budgeting please see the section marked with an asterisk (*) that I put at the end of this post describing it.)
Why is this the most important point in the campaign? Because America is at a time of decision. We Americans have allowed our government to go berserk with spending. We spend far more than we bring in and go into debt for the balance. Our debt and unfunded mandates are at a level that are virtually impossible to pay off. Many people both inside and outside of government have given different estimates of how large our unfunded mandates really are. I’ve seen numbers ranging from $60 trillion to $200 trillion. Add to that our national debt, which is now well over $14 trillion and climbing and you have at least $74 trillion in bills we owe. That’s in addition to our annual government expenditures in the federal budget, which currently run over budget to the point where over 40 cents of every dollar spent is borrowed money. No one can borrow 40 cents of every dollar they spend and survive without curtailing spending and adopting strict fiscal controls.
So, how bad is it to have those debts and unfunded mandates? If we use the low numbers and it’s only $74 trillion that would mean that if we paid $365 billion each year over and above all other government expenses, it would take 202 years to pay the entire amount. This will take serious sacrifice on the part of Americans. If we don’t, the future our children and grandchildren face is much different that the lives we’ve lived. Chances are it would result in a standard of living that would be somewhere like what it was in the late 19th or early 20th century when people had far less. The American Dream we have all grown up with would be over until we could get out from under that debt.
That is why a zero based budgeting approach is so necessary to get spending under control in Washington. And as much as we may think other issues are important, if we don’t get our financial house in order our nation as we know it will no longer exist. We will become enslaved to those who hold our debt and to the lifestyle that is forced upon us because we would not make the sacrifices now to fix the problem once and for all.
In my book, Many Are Called But Few Can Manage, two of the character traits that I identify of true leaders are good judgment and common sense. In the case of the federal budget and the economy a candidate who understands the importance of using a zero based budgeting type of approach shows extremely good judgment and a whole lot of common sense. These are some of the many character traits we should be looking for in a leader to turn our nation around. They are exactly the opposite we see when we look at our current president. The idea that we can spend our way out of debt has proven itself fallacious over and over again. The idea that we can continue to ignore the need to create an environment that is friendly to businesses is crazy. If we don't create that business-friendly environment, then we will not see the economy turn around. We will not see jobs increase. We will not see prosperity return to the nation that once, not so long ago, was the envy of the world with prosperity and abundance available to those who were willing to work for it.
So how is the race shaping up for a GOP nominee? The campaign is starting to tighten up. The Democrats and media are trying to push some candidates out of the running and shorten the list of choices voters have. They have chosen their candidate to run against President Obama and that’s Mitt Romney, who they see as the easiest candidate to beat. That’s why they keep saying he’d be the hardest to beat, hoping that the GOP is foolish enough to fall for it and make him the nominee (It’s called reverse psychology for those of you who don’t recognize it.)
The alternative to Mitt Romney could be one of a number of people. Right now it appears that the two front runners for that position are Cain and Gingrich. Both have good things about them that should be considered and both have some issues to deal with. But either would be a serious contender against President Obama.
I have no doubt that on the Democrats secret list of the hardest candidate to run against Cain and Gingrich are the top two contenders. I’ve talked about some of Cain’s merits in the past and we cannot and should not disregard those. But we don’t know exactly which way the nomination battle will go and we have to be smart enough to look at all contenders. This should hopefully give us a number of good choices, and potentially make it easier to eventually identify the vice presidential nominee, too.)
Gingrich has now shot to the top of the polls. He is another serious consideration for the nomination. And I am sure he will now start to be attacked by the media, as all top contenders have been except Romney.
Gingrich’s command and knowledge of the issues makes him a very viable choice. While he’s had some issues in his past that the Democrats could try to raise up, those have been dealt with long ago and may not be the issue some fear they could be. We must also realize that we only have a limited field of choices now and we must choose the best of those choices. It is too late to look for the perfect candidate (which will never exist anyway).
Don’t take Newt lightly. We haven’t had such a good debater on the GOP side since Reagan. Newt comes across well with the public, too. The attitude he’s showed toward the press in the debates is very representative of the general public’s attitude about them. You can see that by the response he gets from the audience every time he goes head to head with the debate hosts (Go back and watch him educate Scott Pelley on the difference between an enemy combatant and a U. S. criminal. Then make sure to listen to the audience’s reaction.)
Debates aren’t everything, but they are a very serious method of choosing a candidate for a large number of voters. And just imagine Newt debating President Obama, especially if the president will accept Newt’s planned offer of Lincoln/Douglas style debates. The president is not the great public speaker or debater that the press wants you to think. They figure if they tell you a lie enough times then eventually you’ll start to believe it. That’s why they continually try to tell us what a great speaker and debater he is. Remember, this is the same president that has to have a teleprompter when he speaks to first graders! This person is not a debate threat.
Newt’s a good sport, though. He’s said that if the president will have the Lincoln/Douglas style debates with him he’ll allow the president to use a teleprompter. And Newt’s even willing to debate the GOP side without notes!
There is still time before a nominee is picked. The media has worked hard to tear down each person as they rise to the top against Romney. Their most recent attack is against Herman Cain with unfounded allegations. Whether Mr. Cain is innocent or not does not matter. It is virtually impossible to survive attacks of this magnitude from the media.
Mark Twain said you should never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel. Whether he knows it or not, being a leading GOP contender has put Mr. Cain at odds with the media. He is a great threat to their hero, their messiah, the president they chose to sell their souls for and abandon any serious efforts to any longer act as true journalists. Sadly Herman Cain may never get justice. He may only get a lynching in the media by people whose hatred is so evident. Mr. Cain may weather the storm, but that remains to be seen. But if he does, the issues they are throwing at him may take so much energy out of his race that the real issues will be ignored and his chances of winning will be reduced to minimal at best.
We must remember that we are in a fight for our nation. This is a fight to save America for our children and grandchildren. An army may find some of its best soldiers get wounded and others who are still healthy must be sought to fight. There may be a good chance that Mr. Cain is that wounded soldier and we need to be smart enough to have other soldiers to offer in the fight. No one knows the fight in Washington like Newt Gingrich. No one has the experience or has so successfully pulled together a national coalition to win on issues. Gingrich may be the strongest opposition the GOP can offer against President Obama.
And by the way, if Herman Cain does survive the attacks, maybe a ticket with both Gingrich and Cain on it would be considered. It would bring a lot of different strengths from two candidates with quite varied backgrounds and be very difficult for the Obama/Biden team to overcome.
* For those unfamiliar with zero based budgeting it simply means that each year when you do a new budget every item must be justified. No item is exempt and no item is automatically accepted as being funded under the new budget. This is the way that you make sure you are spending your money wisely. Congress does not do this. They use something called baseline budgeting that was put into effect through the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 and amended in 1987 when Congress amended the baseline to automatically keep pace with inflation. In using baseline budgeting Congress automatically assumes that every item in the federal budget will be an expenditure again each year. And ironically, they also assume that every item will get an increase in expense so their decision isn’t whether or not the expense should continue. In fact, it’s not even whether or not the expense should be increased. They assume it will be an expense and that it will be increased. Their decision each year is how much to increase it. And when they talk about spending cuts they are talking about how much less they will increase the expense than they had planned.
As an example, let’s assume that they automatically figure things will get a 5% increase each year. If they are “cutting” expenses they simply look at the possibility of not increasing it that much. If they only increase it 4% they tell us taxpayers that it is a 1% cut. I don’t know about you, but that’s not how it works in my personal budget. But that is Washington and they are spending addicts in need of an intervention. And the only intervention that can possibly work is to take the kind of answer offered by Perry, Gingrich, and Cain and go to a budgeting system that stops the insanity and starts us on a path of responsibility.