Now that some of the nation's most influential and respected conservative grass-roots leaders in America have issued the Mount Vernon Statement as a clarion call, we need congressional action to see it through to fruition.
About 80 of those conservatives met in Alexandria, Va., Feb. 17, at a library that was once part of George Washington's Mount Vernon estate, to sign the contemporary restatement of the American commitment to our constitutional republic, the rule of law, and individual liberty.
The Mount Vernon Statement calls for the re-establishment of the first principles of constitutional conservatism. The statement draws heavily on the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
It addresses the three pillars of the modern movement: economic conservatism, social conservatism, and national security conservatism.
The movement will emphasize the founding principles that constitutional self-government should be morally responsible and limited.
The importance of the Mount Vernon Statement is borne out by the list of distinguished organizations and publications taking part: American Conservative Union, Media Research Center, National Review, ConservativeHQ.com, Coalition for a Conservative Majority, Family Research Council, Americans for Tax Reform, Concerned Women for America, Heritage Foundation, Federalist Society, Council for National Policy, American Spectator, Let Freedom Ring, Center for Military Readiness, Americans for Limited Government. Former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese led the coalition.
The uniting force of constitutional conservatism brings conservatives together and provides a framework for a consistent and meaningful policy agenda:
- It applies the principle of limited government based on the rule of law to every proposal
- It honors the central place of individual liberty in American politics and life
- It encourages free enterprise, the individual entrepreneur, and economic reforms grounded in market solutions
- It informs conservatism’s firm defense of family, neighborhood, community, and faith
- It sets the stage for retaking and resolutely defending the high ground of America’s founding principles
Policy declarations such as the Mount Vernon Statement have had substantial success in the past — but only when followed by congressional action.
One such policy statement led to the Contract with America, which then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., spearheaded.
An abbreviated version of the Contract with America follows:
"As Republican Members of the House of Representatives and as citizens seeking to join that body we propose not just to change its policies, but even more important, to restore the bonds of trust between the people and their elected representatives. . . ”
The contract pledged to pass, on the first day of the 104th Congress, eight major reforms aimed at restoring the faith and trust of the American people in their government.
"We shall bring to the House Floor the following bills, each to be given full and open debate, each to be given a clear and fair vote and each to be immediately available. . . for public inspection and scrutiny.
"1. THE FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT: A balanced budget/tax limitation amendment and a legislative line-item veto to restore fiscal responsibility to an out-of-control Congress, requiring them to live under the same budget constraints as families and businesses.
"2. THE TAKING BACK OUR STREETS ACT: An anti-crime package including stronger truth-in-sentencing, "good faith" exclusionary rule exemptions, effective death penalty provisions, and cuts in social spending from this summer's "crime" bill to fund prison construction and additional law enforcement to keep people secure in their neighborhoods and kids safe in their schools.
"3. THE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT: Discourage illegitimacy and teen pregnancy by prohibiting welfare to minor mothers and denying increased AFDC for additional children while on welfare, cut spending for welfare programs, and enact a tough two-years-and-out provision with work requirements to promote individual responsibility.
"4. THE FAMILY REINFORCEMENT ACT: Child support enforcement, tax incentives for adoption, strengthening rights of parents in their children's education, stronger child pornography laws, and an elderly dependent care tax credit to reinforce the central role of families in American society.
"5. THE AMERICAN DREAM RESTORATION ACT: A $500 per child tax credit, begin repeal of the marriage tax penalty, and creation of American Dream Savings Accounts to provide middle class tax relief.
"6. THE NATIONAL SECURITY RESTORATION ACT: No U.S. troops under U.N. command and restoration of the essential parts of our national security funding to strengthen our national defense and maintain our credibility around the world.
"7. THE SENIOR CITIZENS FAIRNESS ACT: Raise the Social Security earnings limit which currently forces seniors out of the work force, repeal the 1993 tax hikes on Social Security benefits and provide tax incentives for private long-term care insurance…
"8. THE JOB CREATION AND WAGE ENHANCEMENT ACT: Small business incentives, capital gains cut and indexation, neutral cost recovery, risk assessment/cost-benefit analysis, strengthening the Regulatory Flexibility.
"9. THE COMMON SENSE LEGAL REFORM ACT: ‘Loser pays’ laws, reasonable limits on punitive damages and reform of product liability laws.
"10. THE CITIZEN LEGISLATURE ACT: A first-ever vote on term limits to replace career politicians with citizen legislators."
The 1994 election saw 54 new Republicans seated in the House and eight in the Senate.
The 10 items in the contract were acted upon in the first 100 days of the new Congress, as pledged. Nine passed the House. Only the constitutional amendment on term limits, which required a two-thirds vote, was defeated.
Hopefully, the 2010 mid-term election will prove as successful as the congressional election of 1994. America desperately needs a change in Congress.
E. Ralph Hostetter, a prominent businessman and agricultural publisher, also is a national and local award-winning columnist. He welcomes comments by e-mail sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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