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Gingrich calls for slashing taxes and spending, getting tougher on terrorists

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 24, 2010 - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told hundreds of like-minded conservatives Wednesday night that the best cure for the nation's ills was to put fiscal conservatives back in power, so they can cut federal spending and taxes.

This fall's election is "one of the most important in the nation's history," said Gingrich, a Republican who led the U.S. House from 1995-1999, while Democrat Bill Clinton was president.

Gingrich addressed a packed ballroom at the Airport Renaissance hotel, where he highlighted the key tax-cutting objectives of a group he founded, American Solutions fo8r Winning the Future.

His proposed tax cuts include "an immediate two-year 50 percent reduction in the payroll tax," including the amount earmarked for Social Security and Medicare. The tax cut could be financed with the unspent federal stimulus money, Gingrich said, and would prompt Americans -- when they see how much fatter their paychecks would become -- to press for permanent cuts and changes in the two largest entitlement programs.

The proposals also call for permanent elimination of taxes on capital gains and on inheritances, which Gingrich said would free up more money for jobs and economic growth.

The audience listened in rapt silence, peppered with frequent applause, as Gingrich talked for 90 minutes about what he viewed as the nation's missteps on energy, the economy and national security. Most of the blame was directed at President Barack Obama.

At one point during the question-answer session, one woman said she wished that she could refer to Gingrich as "Mr. President." Chuckling, Gingrich made no reference to the speculation that he might run for president in 2012.

Those in the audience included Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a fellow Republican. Former state GOP chairwoman Ann Wagner, most recently ambassador to Luxembourg, served as the evening's emcee.

Gingrich contrasted the current spending in Washington with his years in control of the House. "We set priorities to get to a balanced budget," Gingrich said, adding that the U.S. House during those years kept the federal budget growth below 3 percent, balanced the budget within four years and "reformed welfare."

Gingrich didn't mention Clinton, who was president at the time. Instead, Gingrich compared Obama to former President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat who served one term before he was tossed out by Republican Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election.

Claims Obama Too Connected to Out-of-touch Political 'Elites'

Gingrich contended that Obama, like Carter, was a smart man who was out of touch and too closely tied to the "elites" who Gingrich said have pressed wrong-headed, ideological policies that endanger the nation's finances and security.

For example, Gingrich decried those who oppose more off-shore drilling, especially in shallower waters just off the nation's coasts. He also called for more aggressive use of non-fossil fuels such as ethanol, wind and nuclear, and more focus on the cleaner methods of using coal. He warned that China appeared poised to have in operation the first coal-fired plant to remove carbon, the chief pollutant.

Gingrich said that cutting business taxes was a better way to protect American jobs, rather than punish American firms who outsource jobs overseas.

Gingrich said the Obama administration also is too soft on terrorist suspects and compared the try-them-in-court approach to Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt's swift handling of 14 German saboteurs caught on U.S. soil during World War II. At FDR's behest, they were tried in military court and executed within six weeks, Gingrich said, with FDR warning the U.S. Supreme Court to stay out of the matter.

If the 9/11 terrorist attacks had happened with the U.S. exhibiting the same World War II mindset, Gingrich said, the nation would have rebuilt the World Trade Center towers identical to the ones destroyed -- except with American flags on top. He noted that construction continues on different buildings, and a memorial, at the World Trade Center site.

He also accused the Obama administration of soft-pedaling the religious aspect of the terrorist threat, saying officials have downplayed the religious reasons the would-be airplane bomber from Yemen, a Muslim, had explosives in his underwear and was supposed to blow up the Delta Airlines plane on Christmas Day.

"We are the only society in history that says your personal power comes from God," Gingrich said.

Still, Gingrich refuted a few audience assertions that Obama was a Muslim and really born in Kenya, not Hawaii, making him ineligible for the presidency.

Amid a few crowd complaints, Gingrich said there was no question that Obama was born in Hawaii. In any case, he said, the debate "doesn't get you anywhere."

Critics should instead get involved in campaigning for congressional candidates who oppose Obama's policies, Gingrich said.

Afterward, Wagner said that Gingrich had met earlier Wednesday with area Tea Party activists and some Republican conservatives, including former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent and current congressional hopeful Ed Martin.

She lauded Gingrich as one of the national GOP's most original thinkers, who exudes "vision and clarity."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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