Commentary: After 18 Years, Time for New Ideas in Congress


Congressman Bob Goodlatte is a good man. He is also part of a broken system. During his six years in the Washington majority, Republicans ran up the debt by .45 trillion = ,500 per taxpayer (x2 per working couple) plus 0 in annual interest.  Americans will owe that debt and its ballooning interest as long as our country is in debt, which currently totals trillion (,000 per taxpayer), the legacy of decades of alternating Republican and Democratic rule.  About half of that debt is owed to foreigners.  Our country needs to turn things around, and now!

Goodlatte’s role in creating this debt is exemplified in agriculture spending.  The past twelve years, Goodlatte has taken more than $1 million in agribusiness donations.  In the two years after the 2002 farm bill, these donations jumped from $70,000 to $363,000.  During his twelve years in the House majority, Goodlatte presided over $288 billion in Federal agriculture spending = $2,100 per taxpayer. That’s not fair to the rest of us.

It’s time for some balanced budgets and some financial common sense in Washington. Unlike Goodlatte or anyone else in Congress, I have drawn up a specific, detailed draft budget to balance the Federal books by 2014, including tax reductions AFTER we start paying our bills in budget surpluses.

For his part, Goodlatte wants to throw out the tax code, but without specifying what spending he would cut or how he would pay for what remains.  That’s like quitting your job in a bad economy with a mortgage to pay and a family to feed – and with no plan for paying the bills.

Our country needs more responsible financial leadership than that.  We all agree that certain spending can be cut.  We disagree, sometimes sharply, about the details.  That’s how democracy works.  In the end, we’re in this together, not least in paying the bills.  Our Chinese and Middle Eastern creditors, among others, don’t care about our internal disagreements.  If they ever think we can’t pay our bills, they’ll drop the debt that Republicans and Democrats have sold them, creating a depression that makes our current recession look easy.

In addition to publishing the most specific balanced budget to be found, I furthermore pledge to maintain at least 50 percent of my net worth in Federal bonds (currently 65 percent), in order to get more American debt out of foreign hands and back into our own country.

America faces a host of other problems and irresolutions as well.  Take health care.  Bob Goodlatte agrees that the health care system is broken and needs fixing. It’s about time! He’s been in office since 1993. Yet when the Republicans led the House for twelve years, Goodlatte: (1) left pre-existing condition exclusions in place; (2) left insurers free from interstate competition; and (3) handed a multi-billion-dollar government subsidy to drug companies without forcing them to offer Americans the same lower prices as in other developed countries.

I propose “Rebate Health Coverage,” a uniquely American plan inspired in part by the Dutch and Swiss systems of universal coverage, based on better regulation, with no public option.  The rebate aspect is based on pilot successes in certain U.S. Health Savings Account plans.  Everyone should have:  (1) the “right to be seen” when sick, (2) the responsibility to pay for their own medical care if able, and (3) the right to fair, continuous coverage at a fair price.  We don’t have to create government-run health care in order for Americans never again to worry about losing their health insurance.

I look forward to meeting many more of our district’s citizens between now and November, and to serving our shared interests in Congress.

Jeff Vanke of Roanoke is a candidate for Congress in Virginia’s 6th District, for the Center Party of the United States.