The Cloakroom

Phil Kerpen on the ‘Clown Show’

Phil Kerpen on the 'Clown Show'
President of American Commitment, Phil Kerpen

The Cloakroom spoke to the president of the Washington-based American Commitment about his life in Washington and the political fights ahead.

“What we’re trying to do is fill the capabilities gap between the think tanks and the grassroots groups,” said Phil Kerpen, who joined the group in April 2012 after five years at Americans for Prosperity, also based in Washington.

“What I mean by that is you have all these think tanks putting out 20- or 30-page papers with a lot of research and analysis, universities as well, then, you have this tremendous boom of grassroots groups that have come up with the tea party and the 9-12 movement,” said the author of “Democracy Denied: How Obama is Ignoring You and Bypassing Congress to Radically Transform America—and How to Stop Him.” He is also editor of the “Phil Kerpen Newsletter,” whose landing and sign-up page is at philkerpen.com.

“I think it’s too difficult sometimes for the activists and the grassroots groups to access and understand the material that’s coming out of the think tanks,” he said.

“We bridge that gap with substantive research-based analysis, getting real facts and numbers there that are very easy to digest and understand and use,” he said.

They are currently engaged in opposing the Treasury’s Department’s proposal to mint a platinum coin assigned a $1 trillion value and they will also be active in the debt and spending debate, he said.

The married father of three said his wife is a lawyer in Washington. “Our oldest is 21 months and we have three-and-a-half month old twins,” he said.

“I met her here in D.C.,” said the native of the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. “It was the cocktail hour before an event, we were talking about the Pension Protection Act, which I had worked on some elements of when the bill was moving forward and she implementing it for clients,” he said. “It was a very nerdy thing, but it worked out.”

Kerpen’s first job in Washington was interning at Washington’s Cato Institute and working on Stephen Moore’s book “It’s Getting Better All the Time: 100 greatest trends of the last 100 years.”

When Moore left to start Club for Growth in 1999, Kerpen said he left with him.

Kerpen came to Washington because he was very active in college debate and it seemed to him more productive to come to Washington to be a part of real debates, than debate in the abstract from far away, he said. He received a generous stipend and full scholarship to join the debate team at the State University of West Georgia, which is best known as the one-time teaching home of Newt Gingrich.

Walden leads the charge

One of the hero’s leading the fight on the debt is Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), he said.

“The near-term fight is on this ridiculous $1 trillion coin idea that some of these morons on the left are pushing,” he said. “We’ve got a petition to put letters into Congress to support Greg Walden’s bill to close the loophole and stop the platinum coin trick.”

The platinum coin trick is a ruse whereby the Treasury mints a single coin made of platinum and marks it as “worth” $1 trillion. Because so much of the Treasury-issued federal debt is purchased by the Federal Reserve, the Treasury could hand the coin to the Federal Reserve and in effect buy down $1 trillion of the federal debt.

With this one-coin deposit, the debt ceiling would suddenly have $1 trillion more space to grow—and it could be done over and over again—ending the debt ceiling as a brake on federal borrowing.

Federal law restricts how the Treasury mints coins, but the law currently allows the Treasury to mint platinum in any denomination. Walden’s bill would end that.

Kerpen said American Commitment has collected more than 12,000 letters it will deliver to Congress protest the platinum coin trick.

In addition to being an obvious con job, the platinum coin trick will irreparably hurt the good credit of the Treasury, he said.

“The reaction from the rest of the world and the global markets for trying to sidestep the debt ceiling with a platinum coin would be even more severe than a payments crisis of going past the debt ceiling drop dead date—not only would it be apparent that we can’t get our act together politically, but it would be apparent that we are running a clown show in the government of the United States,” he said.

“It is a cartoonish scam,” he said.

With a re-elected President Barack Obama, Kerpen said he is ready to engage members of Congress on a range of issues that would not be a problem if former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney had been elected.

In the last year, American Commitment was fighting Obama’s regulatory war on coal mining and use, and that is going to continue, he said. “As those rules move forward, we’re going to try to force some Senate votes in order to get these most outrageous rules overturned—and use that as an opportunity to engage people about the EPA.”

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