When it comes to earmarks, Matt Silverstein describes himself as a Democratic version of U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn.
Silverstein said he agrees with Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican who has become famous for attacking wasteful federal spending, that Congress must eliminate earmarks and take other steps to balance the government’s books.
“Tom Coburn is right (about earmarks),” Silverstein said in a phone interview Tuesday. “They are a gateway drug to spending more.”
He said he is displeased with the Democratic Party because it is not talking about ways to keep federal spending in check.
A native Oklahoman, Silverstein works as an independent investment planner for families. He lives in Bixby with his wife and two young daughters. Earlier this year, the 33-year-old Silverstein decided to seek public office for the first time. He is the Democratic nominee to unseat U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Tulsa Republican who has held office since 1994, in the fall election.
Silverstein will square off against Inhofe, who defeated three other Republican candidates in the June 24 primary election, and three independent candidates in November. The winner of the general election will take office in January.
Silverstein recently unveiled his three-point proposal for reducing the federal deficit and boosting government efficiency. The elements of the plan are:
• Permanently banning earmarks and the “backdoor” ways lawmakers implement them.
• Freezing automatic pay raises for all members of Congress until they balance the budget.
• Creating an Office of Debt Reduction and Public Integrity to identify waste, fraud, abuse and duplication in government.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office, an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress, already investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars. But Silverstein argued that taxpayers need another agency to keep tabs on federal spending.
“The General Accountability Office — the GAO — is actually required by law to do all that they can to identify waste and duplication,” he said. “But the problem is so broad and severe that it actually requires special attention.”
Silverstein said his plan would eliminate wasteful spending and restore the government’s fiscal health.
The budget wasn’t the only topic on Silverstein’s mind. He touched on several other issues facing the federal government, including national security, Social Security and Medicare and the health care law known as Obamacare.
• National security: Silverstein said he thought the United States should abolish outdated military programs, consolidate redundant programs and take other steps to modernize America’s armed forces. He said he knows the military has several overlapping or obsolete programs, but he would leave the task of identifying those programs up to experts in the field.
“It’s something that I think should be left to the decision-making of the generals on the ground,” he said.
• Social Security and Medicare: Silverstein characterized Social Security and Medicare as “sacred promises to our seniors” that must be protected for Americans’ children and grandchildren.
“My approach to investing wisely and cutting wasteful spending is an important first step in keeping these programs solvent,” he said.
He said getting rid of earmarks, freezing pay raises for lawmakers and attacking waste would help achieve the goal of protecting Social Security and Medicare.
• Obamacare: Silverstein said he favors preserving some elements of the health care law, including a provision barring insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions. But he said the law does not do enough to rein in the cost of health care.
“I don’t think anything that the new law does tackles the central problem with our health care system, which is the soaring cost of medical care,” he said. “There’s just nothing in there that does it. This is a huge chunk of our economy, and in order to get our health care system functioning properly, we are going to have to get the cost under control.”
Reach Eric Swanson at firstname.lastname@example.org.