To: The Political Club for Growth
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Barking Up the Wrong Tree
Look folks, I can understand your frustration. It was almost 20 years ago when I suggested to Dick Gilder that he take the lead among the more entrepreneurial millionaires on Wall Street in supporting only those candidates for public office who are serious about economic growth. The top half of Wall Street, which represents inherited wealth, always will oppose the kind of risk-taking that leads to economic growth that builds up from the bottom. Among the most important philanthropists of our time, Dick never was interested in lobbying for measures to benefit himself or his firm, only in getting economic policies in place that would benefit ordinary people here and around the world. You men and women of the Political Club know that better than anyone.
When Dick founded the Political Club for Growth in the very early 1980s, it became the only place on Wall Street organized to provide financial assistance to supply-side politicians. Even the occasional Democrat showed up at the monthly meetings, made a pitch that was considered in the ballpark, and walked away with handsome political donations. When the GOP got control of Congress in 1994, it looked like all those years tending the vineyards finally would produce results. If there was anyone in Congress who benefited from the generosity of Dick Gilder and his Club it was Newt Gingrich. Yet it soon became clear that Newt was leading the GOP down the same old beaten path traveled by Herbert Hoover and his political heirs. Constitutional amendments to balance the budget!! Targeted tax cuts for the religious right! An assault on the school-lunch program! Closing down the federal government over welfare spending! Conservative social-engineering!
Well, here you are in the new millennium, ladies and gentlemen of the Political Club, with budget surpluses as far as the eye can see, and the folks you supported in the past are hiding in the weeds. They are terrified of Bill Clinton and the Democrats and will not lift a finger against them. Boo Hoo, they cry, they only have a narrow majority in the House of Representatives, so they cannot do anything for supply-side economic growth. The story now is we have to wait for George W. Bush to be elected President, but meanwhile the Political Club for Growth can occupy itself and its resources in defeating Rep. Marge Roukema [R-NJ] in the June 6 New Jersey primary. Why? Because she does not belong to the Hoover wing of the Republican Party!!! I am told by an official of your club that she has voted in favor of SPENDING, for goodness sakes. But there is no member of Congress in my memory who has not voted to spend the tax revenues the government collects. Even a casual reading of her career in Congress tells us she has been prudent in her spending choices, several times winning awards from conservative watchdog groups for her frugality.
She has been in the House of Representatives since her election in 1980 to New Jersey’s 5th district. She came in the same year as did President Reagan and was a staunch backer of his supply-side tax cuts. She and Jack Kemp became friends, which helps explain why Jack resigned from the Political Club as soon as he heard about your plan to unseat her. I’ve never known her to be anything but supportive of economic growth issues. A spender? As far as I’m concerned, she is probably too tight-fisted when it comes to budget issues. The only specific thing your representative in Washington could cite was her opposition to a supermajority requirement for tax increases. I’m opposed to that silly idea myself and I’d be surprised if Dick Gilder would vote to tie the government’s hands with a two-thirds vote. It would only mean the electorate would have to elect more taxers in order straighten out our public finances. Is this what the Political Club has become?? Marge is 70 years old now, one of the nicest and sweetest people I have ever met in the political world. She is the dean of the New Jersey congressional delegation and probably its most popular member. She did almost lose the GOP nomination in 1998 to this young man Scott Garrett, whom you are supporting. This leads me to think you simply have chosen her as a victim because she looks like easy pickings. The Club can then scare other congresspersons with the power of its purse. In other words, you have gotten off track, not Marge. Here, by the way, is Marge’s biography, which you also can find at her website. http://www.house.gov/roukema/
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Chairwoman, Subcommittee on Financial Institutions
Member, House Banking Committee; House Education and Workforce Committee
Representative Marge Roukema, the Dean of the New Jersey delegation, is one of the most respected fiscal conservatives in the United States House of Representatives. Called a "Deficit Hawk" by the Concord Coalition and a "Taxpayer’s Hero" by the National Taxpayers Association, she has been honored by groups such as Watchdogs of the Treasury, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, among many others. She has been a champion of a strong economy, health insurance reform, welfare reform, immigration reform, campaign finance reform, financial services modernization, education funding and protection of the environment. Key components of her Save and Invest in America tax policy package were part of the Balanced Budget Act and Taxpayer Relief Act. Her get-tough child support enforcement legislation was written into the recent welfare reform law and has increased support collections dramatically. Her crackdown on abuse of student loans by scam trade schools saves taxpayers $2 billion annually. And her sponsorship of the Family and Medical Leave Act marked a milestone in job security for hard-working American families.
Born in West Orange, N.J., Roukema holds a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Montclair State University and did graduate work at both Montclair State and Rutgers University. She is married to Richard W. Roukema, M.D., a practicing psychiatrist, and the couple make their home in Ridgewood. She taught secondary-school American history and government before leaving her teaching career to raise three children, Greg, Meg and Todd, who died of leukemia at age 17. The couple have five grandchildren: Greg and Susan Roukema’s Bennett and Evan, and Jim and Meg Roukema Kuhn’s Jimmy, Jennifer and Christopher.
Roukema’s career in public service began early as an active leader in a variety of volunteer community organizations. She co-founded the Ridgewood Senior Citizens Housing Corp. and was active with local family counseling services and a treatment center for women recovering from alcoholism. Roukema was an active member of the Ridgewood Republican Club, serving as president, and won her first elected office as a member of the Ridgewood Board of Education in 1970.
Roukema first ran for the House of Representatives in 1978. She was unsuccessful but ran again in 1980 and unseated a three-term Democrat with 53 percent of the vote. She was re-elected in 1982 with a full two-thirds of the vote and has averaged 75 percent of the vote in every election since.
Fiscal conservatism has been a hallmark of Roukema’s career since the day she took office. She supported President Reagan’s landmark tax cut of 1981. In 1997 — when Republicans passed the first significant tax cut in 16 years — she strongly supported the Taxpayers’ Relief Act, the most significant tax relief for families and businesses in decades. This year, she voted to abolish the Marriage Tax Penalty and is sponsoring legislation to give fair tax treatment to widows and widowers.
With Roukema’s support, Republicans have eliminated 270 wasteful federal programs since taking control of the House in 1995. The Balanced Budget Act supported by Roukema will save $1 trillion over 10 years and will help the federal budget come into balance as soon as the end of this fiscal year. The federal deficit today stands at only 0.3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product — compared with 3.9 percent at the beginning of the decade.
The Taxpayers’ Relief Act reflects Roukema's "Save and Invest in America" program to encourage personal savings, business investment and job creation: expansion of Individual Retirement Accounts, an increased exclusion on capital gains, indexing of capital gains for inflation and an increased ability for small businesses to deduct capital equipment investments. Roukema has also worked to protect the mortgage interest deduction and penalty-free IRA withdrawals for home owners and college education.
The Concord Coalition, the nation’s premier deficit watchdog group, has consistently rated Roukema as one of the most fiscally conservative members of Congress. She has won the coalition’s prestigious Deficit Hawk Award four times.
Numerous groups advocating lower taxes and a strong economy have honored Roukema for her work. She has received the Golden Bulldog Award from the Watchdogs of the Treasury and the Taxpayer’s Hero Award from both the National Taxpayers Association and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste. She has received the Spirit of Enterprise Award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Guardian of Small Business Award from the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
As chairwoman of the House Banking Committee’s Subcommittee on Financial Institutions, Roukema keeps a close watch on the nation’s economy. Her subcommittee has direct authority over the Federal Reserve, the FDIC and the nation’s other banking regulators. She was an original co-sponsor of the landmark Financial Modernization Act of 1999, which updated the nation's Depression-era financial services laws and will make the United States more competitive in the global market of financial services.
Roukema has been a leader in health insurance reform, honored by the American Medical Association and the National Alliance for the Mentally ill among others. She believes that the problems lie in the nation’s health insurance system, not its health care system. In 1993, she opposed the ill-advised attempt by the Clinton Administration to nationalize health care. She co-sponsored the 1999 health insurance reform bill, which will enhance patient protection by taking decisions over medical care away from insurance companies bureaucrats and returning them to patients and their doctors. She was a key sponsor of legislation giving women the right to a minimum of 48 hours hospital care after giving birth and is seeking the same minimum for women who undergo a mastectomy. She has also passed legislation blocking insurers from setting lower spending caps for mental illnesses than physical ailments.
Roukema has long been a critic of our nation’s malfunctioning welfare system. She has worked to bring the system under control and to end a way of life that encourages the proliferation of dysfunctional families while offering cash incentives for teen-age children to have children. She believes welfare must be reformed while preserving the safety net for those who are truly needy. She made major contributions to the welfare reform bill of 1996, which incorporated many provisions of her child support legislation. By forcing fathers to support their children, the legislation reduces the number of mothers forced to go on welfare. While fraud must be eliminated, it is equally important to ensure that the innocent do not suffer. To this end, Roukema restored funding cut from WIC — the nutrition program for low-income pregnant women and their young children. An estimated 180,000 women and children would have been dropped from the program without the funding. Roukema pointed out to colleagues that good nutrition during pregnancy and infancy prevents serious and costly health problems later — making WIC funding not only compassionate but also cost-effective as preventative medicine.
No member of Congress has fought harder to make it impossible for deadbeat parents to escape their legal and moral obligations to financially support their children. Roukema has been a key author or supporter of every major child support law passed since the early 1980s. As a member of the U.S. Commission on Interstate Child Support, she developed the comprehensive child support legislation signed into law as part of the 1996 welfare reform bill. The measure includes license revocations for deadbeats, better cross-referencing of computer databases and easier procedures to enforce child support orders across state lines. Federal and state collection of child support is up 50 percent and the Department of Health and Human Services has predicted that the Roukema legislation will increase collections by billions of dollars over the next 10 years.
On the education front, Roukema was the author of a 1992 law that cracked down on "scam" trade schools that abuse federally guaranteed student loans and Pell grants. The law makes schools with high default rates ineligible for student loans and current Roukema legislation would extend the restriction to Pell grants as well. Scam schools accept taxpayer-supported loans and grants but do not provide the sound educational programs necessary for students to qualify for jobs. The students usually drop out and the schools keep the money.
In the area of immigration, Roukema is a member of the Congressional Task Force on Immigration Reform and co-sponsored the Immigration in the National Interest Act. The new law bans most social services for illegal immigrants, expedites deportation, beefs up border patrols and makes it easier for employers to determine whether workers are legal citizens. Roukema doesn’t want to close the door on the United States’ heritage of welcoming legal immigrants to its shore — her own grandparents were immigrants from Italy. But every congressional office has received untold numbers of letters from families who have followed the law and waited for years to enter the United States legally while millions of illegal immigrants ignore the law and flood across our borders and onto our welfare rolls.