By Nancy Thorner -
The Heritage Foundation is currently on a nationwide tour to rally support for conservative principle, understanding that the solutions to America's problems lie outside the Washington Beltway bubble. Heritage's 11th stop in its nationwide tour took place in Chicago on Tuesday, March 8, at the Inter-Continental Chicago, 505 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, and attracted a large gathering of Heritage supporters and friends. The Heritage Foundation and its sister organization, Heritage Action for America, is leading a six year, $750 million campaign to Reclaim American from the destructive dominance of the Left. Located in Washington, D.C., The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action for America are "in" Washington, but not "of" Washington. Whereas The Heritage Foundation does the policy work, Heritage Action goes to Congress and further keeps a scorecard on how each legislator votes on every bill.
The goals of the "Reclaim America Campaign" are fourfold:
- Reclaim our Economy, with bold economic solutions to scale back government and free the American people.
- Reclaim our Culture, by making the case for why religious freedom, life, marriage, and a vibrant civil society matter for the survival of limited government.
- Reclaim our Safety and Security, with sound foreign and defense policies that repair the catastrophic damage of the Obama years.
- Reclaim the Constitution and the Rule of Law, with determined action to defend the nation's laws and Americans' civil liberties.
The Heritage event featured a panel discussion starting at 4:30 p.m., with the main event at 6:00 p.m. following a short break.
Panel Discussion - Andrew McIndoe, moderator, The Heritage Foundation
Participating in the panel were Andrew McIndoe and Paul Winfree, representing The Heritage Foundation, and Jason Yaworske, who spoke on behalf of Heritage Action. Andrew McIndoe as moderator, introduced Paul Winfree and Jason Yaworske. Mr. McIndoe is Senior Advisor for Strategy and Assistant Director of Major Gift Planning at The Heritage Foundation.
Andrew McIndoe, prior to introducing Paul Winfree and Jason Yaworske, touted the tax code as an out-of-control 70,000 page monster. As such reforming the tax code became the issue around which Winfree and Yaworske tailored their messages. The Heritage Foundation puts out pro-growth tax policies.
Paul Winfree and Jason Yaworske were introduced accordingly by Andrew McIndoe:
Paul Winfree is an economist and leading voice in Washington for free markets and fiscal responsibility. Paul is also director of the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation, as well as the think tank’s inaugural Richard F. Aster fellow.
Jason Yaworske is a Legislative Strategist and a registered lobbyist for Heritage Action for America. He works with the Heritage Foundation and with people on and off Capitol Hill to provide conservative analysis and recommendations for policies being generated in Congress.
Despite the youthful appearance of all three men, their messages were well-crafted and well-received. Their competence was on display as they promoted the work of The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action.
Panel Discussion – Paul Winfree, Economist, The Heritage Foundation
Paul Winfree noted how tax reform is shaping up to be a big issue this fall. All Republican candidates are talking about tax proposals in one form or another with all on board, unlike Democrats with their recycling of what Obama has been putting in budgets for the past eight years. With a page of new regulations added every day to the tax code, Republican candidates need to be updated in their message presentations.
Two major tax code problems were outlined by Mr. Winfree:
1. Fairness relative to the horizontal inequity issue, so what you invest in and how you spent your money is not the same across the board.
2. Complexity issue. As American spend 6 billion hours complying with the tax code, this leads to issues relative to tax enforcement of which tax avoidance is paramount. The complexity issue give rise to $5 – $6 billion in lost investments every year, stemming from those who circumvent the tax code.
Noted were those attributes Heritage would like to see in the tax code:
- Fairness across the board. Includes closing of corporate loopholes.
- Efficiency, which doesn't square with the IRS that is too complex and too large to enforce the tax code.
- Elimination of penalties on savings and investments.
That said, Paul believes tax reform will have to wait until another administration, hopefully a Republican one. Furthermore, spending must be taken into consideration when talking about tax reform, as the power to tax is linked to the power to spend. Spending is a must when it comes to paying our debt, funding the military, and providing for the general welfare.
Panel Discussion – Jason Yaworske, Registered Lobbyist, Heritage Action
Jason Yaworske spoke about what is happening on the Hill regarding tax reform, where he advances the policies of The Heritage Foundation as a registered lobbyist. Legislators do recognize a need for tax reform, especially corporate. A Task Force for Tax Reform was set up last year by Paul Ryan's Ways and Means Committee. In the Senate, the Senate Finance Committee looked into International Tax Reform. While some progress was made, tax proposals are often put on hold when both sides conclude that the tax reform it favors would better serve as a campaign issue. Jason predicts tax reform this year will be a net zero. Reducing corporate tax rates hit a brick wall due to Democratic opposition.
Thinking outside of the box was advanced by Mr. Yaworske as a way to advance tax reform. Presently the Congressional Budget Office hires friends who see eye-to-eye. New blood is needed in the agency; Congress must be encouraged to make changes in personnel.
$230 billion is now spent on annual interest payments. This amount will balloon to $830 billion in the next 10 years if the nation's debt is not reduced. Because of the way Washington operates, It means nothing if the debt is only 1/2 as much as it was a year ago. Why? Because things don't have to be given up. The attitude is: If you want something, then I want this in return. There is only one solution: Congress must cut spending!
Heritage Foundation's "Blueprint for Balance: A federal budget for 2017", published March 6, 2016, is the latest from The Heritage Foundation in its effort to present budget-cutting ideas. It is worth checking out. Blueprint for Balance provides detailed recommendations for the annual congressional budget. Congress needs to drive down spending — including through reform of entitlement programs — to a balanced budget, while maintaining a strong national defense, and without raising taxes.
Main Event – 6:00 p.m. Jim DeMInt, CEO, The Heritage Foundation
With confidence, vigor, and enthusiasm Jim DeMint mounted the stage. The crowd of well-wishers at the InterContinuental Chicago greeted DeMint with a round of applause that reflected their affirmation, admiration, and support of Jim DeMint as CEO of The Heritage Foundation.
In addressing Heritage supporters and friends, DeMint reflected on his own remarkable entry into politics DeMint was 47 years old when he decided to run for office. Prior to his plunge into politics, DeMint had led a busy life. A father of four, DeMint was involved in his community and with his business of 15 years with 20 employees. Having never thought about party labels, DeMint was a member of neither party. But at some point DeMint began reading policy papers published by The Heritage Foundation. DeMint couldn't help noting how many of the policies being put into practice by lawmakers encouraged the wrong thing. In agreeing with Heritage on issues such as welfare and the tax code, as Heritage was considered a Republican think tank, DeMint came to the conclusion that he too must be a Republican. This was DeMint's Don Quixote moment. As a marketing guy DeMint knew he had to run on an issue people cared about. Determining that Republicans wanted change, DeMint's slogan became: "Bring Freedom Home." Jim DeMint went to Washington, D.C. in 1999 to save the country, elected by South Carolina's 4th congressional district.
Speaking from his knowledge and own experience, Jim DeMint revealed what happens when elected officials get to Washington. Related by DeMint was an occasion that summed up the situation. Seated in a room with other elected representatives in Congress, the message was to vote in favor of a bill because the bill would only get worse when sent over to the Senate. DeMint stood up and after expressing his displeasure, was told, "Don't worry you'll get used to it." As DeMint explained the process: "You go to Washington to drain the swamp, but like a hot tub, it feels so good so why not join in?"
Cited by DeMint were twin threat that threaten Washington: Progressiveness and the Establishment
Progressiveness: Centralized power and the need for experts to make decisions for folk who aren't qualified to make good decisions for themselves. Consider Detroit, Baltimore and possibly Chicago where governments under central management and control have failed.
Establishment: Includes those in our own party. Others are vilified if they don't fall in step with the establishment movers and shakers.
This nation has a $19 trillion debt. She didn't accumulate so much debt without partisanship to arrive at the astronomical figure. A government must be created with opportunities for all, but with favoritism toward none, one where a level playing field exists
Clarifying what The Heritage Foundation represents, DeMint emphasized how Heritage is not a political organization. Rather, its job is to be a light — such as the North Star — to guide how people think about issues through presenting its research to the public through written and on-line publications. As DeMint stated, "We can't win the battle from the inside. The battle must be won by winning the hearts and minds of the people."
Main Event - Mark Needham, CEO, Heritage Action
Next up was Mark Needham. As CEO of Heritage Action, Needham's group involves citizens at the grassroots level working with members of Congress. A telephone call is held every Monday night to alert those in Heritage Action's Sentinel Program what will be happening in the Congress and the Senate during the week to follow, so Sentinels can follow up with their elected legislators. Although some complain that Mark Needham terrorizes Washington, Mark dismisses this claim as par for the course. If trying to do the right things, people will hate you. But the only way to win is to win. Money must be taken away from the government and given back to individuals. Washington must be changed from the inside out.
Needham presented this brief history of Heritage Action: From 1980 – 1990 Heritage made a big difference with its ideas and research papers. But that was not enough. As a 501(c)3 organization, The Heritage Foundation could not engage in direct lobbying, so it created Heritage Action to serve as its lobbying and advocacy arm in 2010.
Heritage Action first went to battle, with Mark Needham as CEO, over what became Obamacare, engaging in political advocacy following the March 2010 passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Republicans were told not to fight Obama's health care bill. Nevertheless, Heritage Action launched its first advocacy campaign in July 2010, targeting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. By August 2010 the organization had helped to secure 170 Republican co-sponsors for a petition by Rep. Steve King to force a vote on repealing the healthcare reform.
Heritage Action went into action again with its August 2013 campaign to link the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as the ACA or "Obamacare," with laws to keep the federal government open or to increase the federal debt limit. There was hand-wringing by many Republicans fearing a shutdown would cause the party to lose seats in 2014. Although Heritage Action played an instrumental role in the government shutdown of October 2013, the Republicans gained seat in 2014, contradicting fears held by Republicans that campaigning on Obamacare would prove to be a losing issue.
In the war over Obamacare in 2013, and the shutdown that resulted, Needham reflected whether Republicans were really serious about repealing Obamacare, when Republicans offered up for negotiation, as a requisite for consideration, Obamacare's Medical-Devise Tax which had support on both sides. There were far more important issues involving Obamacare that needed to be addressed.
Participants were encouraged to donate to The Heritage Foundation's "Reclaim American Campaign". A form was provided to make tax deductible donations. Participation was likewise touted to become a citizen grassroots activist (a Sentinel) with Heritage Action. For citizens who are engaged and informed scare politicians, when politicians become aware that their actions and votes are being observed and duly noted.
A reception followed a Question and Answer session.