Fred Thompson has offered more detailed plans to fix what ails this country than all the other candidates combined. Now he’s posted his plan for balancing the budget. Here’s the highlights of the plan:

  • Limit Non-Defense Federal Spending to Inflation. Federal spending is expected to grow an average of 4.5 percent each year over the next five years. This growth is more than twice as fast as the estimated rate of inflation! Slowing the rate of growth in federal spending would help the federal government balance its books. Further cost savings can be achieved by limiting increases in the annual rates of growth for mandatory federal spending programs.
  • Implement a One-Year Hiring Freeze Pending Completion of Federal Government Strategic Assessment. Initiate a senior-level Administration assessment of the federal government’s activities to determine their proper alignment with national priorities. This assessment will permit a re-shaping of the federal government to best address these priorities. Until that assessment is completed, institute a one-year freeze on the hiring of all non-essential civilian workers and contractors. This will give a new Administration time to assess its personnel requirements in order to “right size” the federal workforce, commensurate with national priorities, to match staffing and contracting needs to agency responsibilities across the executive branch.
  • Conduct a Comprehensive Cost-Benefit Analysis of All Federal Programs. Over the past few years, the Office of Management and Budget’s Program Assessment Rating Tool has found that many federal programs are ineffective or only moderately effective. With the aid of rigorous cost-benefit analysis and relying on the Government Performance and Results Act, the President must work with Congress to determine which federal programs to eliminate, reduce, combine, or place on probation.

My friend King will especially approve of conducting a comprehensive CBA of all federal programs. Frankly, that type of clear-headed thinking should’ve been implemented decades ago. I’m sure Democrats will criticize Sen. Thompson’s plan but that’s ok. When they criticize Fred’s plan, we’ll simply ask what they have against efficient government. (The dirty little secret is that they hate efficient spending because that’s how they pay off their political allies.)

Buckle up because that’s just the first part of Fred’s plan. Here’s another important, and impressive, portion of his plan:

Enact Meaningful Earmark Reform

Congressional earmarks add up to tens of billions of dollars each year. In Fiscal Year 2006 alone, the cost to the American taxpayer was more than $64 billion. Even more disconcerting is the fact that many earmarks do not benefit the America people but only serve to support special interests. To accomplish real and meaningful earmark reform, the following actions must be taken:

  • Provide President with Line-Item Veto Authority. Congress can provide this authority without a Constitutional amendment. Such authority would better control spending and prevent the use of public funding for wasteful earmarks.
  • Direct Agencies to Ignore “Soft” Earmarks. “Soft” earmarks are those included in Congressional report language, but not in actual legislation. Failure to include such earmarks in the bill language itself makes it easier for Members of Congress to hide their earmarks and prevents the full House and Senate from voting on them. Federal agencies must not fund these “soft” earmarks unless they otherwise meet agency standards for a funding award.
  • Propose Legislation on Earmark Procedures. Promote greater transparency by urging Congress to approve legislation that requires the posting of all earmarks on the Internet for the public to view at least 24 hours before the underlying bill is brought to the floor for consideration.

Now that’s a robust reform agenda that voters can rally around. Everyone from good government liberals like Mort Kondracke, David Broder and Norm Ornstein to fiscal conservatives like Jeb Hensarling, Jim DeMint and Michele Bachmann would applaud these provisions.

Like I said, these are just some of the highlights of Fred’s fiscal responsibility package. By comparison, here’s the entire contents of Gov. Romney’s Spending page:

The Federal government must stop its borrowing and spending binge. The debt is a burden on our economy, our currency, our foreign policy, and our future.
This is beyond pork barrel spending. We must address entitlement programs, not just to save money, but to give Americans confidence in their future.

“Every legislator and politician knows this spending can’t be justified, so why do they do it? Because it gets politicians praised, and re-elected.
There’s no courage involved in spending more money. Drawing a line on spending is hard and fraught with criticism. When I vetoed $458 million of excessive spending in the budget this spring, I knew that community newspapers across the Commonwealth would decry my elimination of local pet projects. And, I knew that the Legislature would over ride most of my vetoes. In fact, they over rode all of them, to a chorus of community acclaim. But someone has to say no.”
– Governor Romney, Boston Globe, September 12, 2006

Here’s the other quote from Mitt’s page:

“I don’t want to add entitlements. I want to find ways to reform our entitlement programs.”

– Governor Romney, Boston Globe, January 27, 2006)

Fred’s page is full of details that tell voters that he’s thought this through and he’s serious about balancing the budget and restoring the GOP’s image of fiscal responsibility. Mitt’s page isn’t the blueprint of a comprehensive reform agenda.

Expect conservatives to start rallying to Fred once they examine this. Fred’s plan is the agenda of a serious reformer. This also spotlights the fact that Fred was part of the congress that balanced the budget 4 years in a row. When Fred chaired the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, his committee assembled a report listing over 1,000 programs that were either inefficient or didn’t serve a useful purpose. Let’s see anyone else match that record.

That’s a track record and agenda that’ll make Ron Paul look like a fiscal liberal. That’s the track record and agenda of a serious man seeking the highest office in the land.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

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