Want to avoid future “fiscal cliffs”? Eric Singer, portfolio manager of the Congressional Effect Fund, argues for three reforms. First, adopt Economist Thomas Sowell’s idea to pay Members of Congress at least $1 million a year, but make the pay subject to all the rules and tax rates experienced by every other taxpayer. Second, pass Warren Buffett’s proposed constitutional amendment to ban from reelection any current member who presides over a budget deficit. Third, require members to forfeit any pay increases when there is a budget deficit. According to Singer, the result would be timely, serious budgets.
Why this approach?
The celebrity life with its fame and wealth requires constant performance, and full engagement in the task at hand. Even the Yankees benched Alex Rodriguez when he stopped doing his job. When lawmakers hide inside the fog of politics and can’t produce serious budgets, keep us safe or meaningfully prevent us from going over the cliff, it’s time to bench them.
After all, it’s not just a game, it’s our country and its future. Let’s see which new players are interested once we align Congress’ interests with those of America.
This is the opening salvo, predictably enough from the New York Times. This is by a constitutional law professor who argues that some provisions of the Constitution are downright “evil.” He says we should just scrap the whole thing. I think this view is far more common on the Left, and in the White House and upper echelons of the Justice Department, than the liberals will yet publicly admit. But expect this meme to grow. This is dangerous. These people are dangerous. They must be argued down, with energy and right reason.
Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post has a very insightful post about why Republicans are in political position to refuse a bad deal on the “Fiscal Cliff.”
Of the 234 Republicans elected to the House on Nov. 6, just 15 (!) sit in congressional districts that Obama also won that day, according to calculations made by the Cook Political Report’s ace analyst David Wasserman. That’s an infinitesimally small number…. The Senate landscape paints the same picture — this time looking forward. Of the 13 states where the 14 Republican Senators will stand for reelection in 2014 (South Carolina has two, with Lindsey O. Graham and Tim Scott up in two years time), Obama won just one in 2012 — Maine…. [But] fully one-third of the 21 Senate Democrats who will stand for reelection in 2014 represent states that Romney won.
It is axiomatic on the right that Republicans have misplayed the already-weak hand they have been dealt in these “Cliff” negotiations. I myself think the misplays have been not quite as egregious as others think, although I do think the strategic, tactical, and communications skills of the GOP are in pretty bad shape overall. (I also think, as I wrote here a few weeks back, that the whole idea of these closed-door negotiations was misguided.) But even different degrees of “bad” are all still “bad,” which means conservatives are left in a poor position no matter what. But Cillizza’s long view shows that, politically speaking, Republicans probably have less downside than had been thought, if we “go over the cliff.” My biggest concern about the cliff is the gutting of defense spending. That can be fixed. It almost certainly will be, after the fact, regardless. But Republicans actually will have almost as much leverage (they can’t have much less, because they now already have so little) in coming months on taxes as they do now. And perhaps the extra time might give them a chance to find somebody who can actually communicate their message more effectively, thus changing the narrative and giving everybody right of center (and therefore, the whole country, because our principles are good for public policy) a better deal than we might get in these last 12 hours of the year.
Twitter now says GOP concedes it will get ZERO spending cuts in cliff deal. This would be worse than going over the cliff. It would be utterly unacceptable. Better to accept the taxes and defense cuts and bank the AUTOMATIC domestic spending cuts, then go back later to restore defense and cut taxes again. MUCH MUCH better to do it that way than to not achieve the already-automatic levels of spending savings.
To let spending start growing again while also saving the lower tax rates on those who create the least economic growth, but not on the “investor class,” would be the absolute worst of all worlds. The deficit and debt would rise, the economy wouldn’t be any better off (and might be worse), and the principle of fighting tax-rate hikes would be out the window.
If this really is the shape of the deal, it is utterly unacceptable. No deal is better than this.
The Hill is reporting that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has the 51 votes needed to change the upper chamber’s filibuster rules. Historically, rules changes to Senate procedure are done with two-thirds support (currently 67 votes) in order to ensure bipartisanship. Making the change with only 51 Senators would mean only the majority of Democrats favor the move.
An ad hoc group of Senators from both parties is trying to broker a compromise reform that would speed certain processes along – such as some judicial nominations and the amending of bills – but so far their version of reform doesn’t include the most obvious change: Actually requiring an objecting Senator to verbally filibuster.
Call me simplistic, but I think presidential nominations should get an up-or-down vote, and filibusters should be real. There’s too much posturing in politics. I’d much rather see politicians put their reasons on the record than suffer through another year of finger-pointing.
Peter Cove writes in City Journal about the success of America Works, his for-profit company that specializes in getting jobs for long-term welfare recipients:
In the past 27 years, America Works has placed more than 250,000 poor people, with an average of five to six years on the rolls, in private-sector jobs, with an average starting wage of $10 per hour plus benefits. In our New York program, to take one example, more than half of these new workers were still on the job after 180 days. The employers that we have worked with include prestigious companies, such as Time Warner, Cablevision, Aramark, J. C. Penney, and American Building Maintenance Industries. Most of these employers keep coming back, asking for more of our referrals.
In his article, Cove recounts his transformation from welfare-state-liberal to work-first reformer. The theme throughout is that long job training programs are colossal wastes of time and money compared to the America Works model:
…clients with shaky self-confidence are best served by early success in getting a job, not by long periods of preparation. Our weeklong training sessions are narrowly focused on the attributes and skills needed to land an entry-level job. Our trainers work with clients on the basics, such as maintaining a businesslike personal appearance, speaking properly, preparing a résumé, and showing up on time. Clients quickly learn that success depends on self-discipline and their own motivation and effort.
According to a report by U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), as of February 2011, “Nine federal agencies spent approximately $18 billion annually to administer 47 separate employment and job training programs.” Unfortunately, the Government Accountability Office says that “little is known about the effectiveness of most programs.”
Which do you prefer? A for-profit company with 27 years of experience getting people into jobs they keep, or 47 cross-cutting initiatives that can’t prove whether or not they are effective?
Two weeks ago on the local news in Mobile (the great WKRG), I explained some of the numbers behind the budget. Watch here. What I said then still applies. I noted that if Barack Obama only went a little way back towards an apples-to-apples domestic discretionary spending equivalence with what that Scrooge (NOT!) Bill Clinton thought was acceptable, we would be more than $250 billion (over ten years) closer to an agreement, before doing any of a number of other cost-saving measures.
Anyway, the clip is just about 150 seconds long.
I’ll have more to say on this subject soon; for now, suffice it to say that it is Obama, not Boehner, who is being entirely unreasonable (and irresponsible) in these negotiations.
Richard Rahn explains how the Federal Reserve’s low interest rate manipulation taxes savers to help government spend more of taxpayers’ money:
By artificially holding down interest rates to lower-than-expected real market rates, the Fed is, in effect, expropriating interest income (an implicit tax) that savers normally would be expected to enjoy. This interest manipulation enables the government to fund its debt at less than what would be real market rates at the expense of savers, making the deficit appear much smaller than it really is.
And don’t forget that the main reason given for not auditing the Federal Reserve and opening it up to other oversight measures is that it’s supposed to be an independent government agency staffed by experts who operate above the political fray.
For more than four years I have been convinced that Barack Obama was not just an arm’s-length devotee of radical activist Saul Alinsky, but a by-the-letter disciple of Alinsky’s. For almost as long, I have believed it is possible that Obama is a firm adherent of the Cloward-Piven strategy of deliberately causing government to spend more than it possibly can bear, in order to cause such a crisis in society that, rather counter-intuitively, only the government is left as an institution strong enough to step in, thus giving government vast new powers to create a Leftist version of Utopia — which of course is actually a dystopia.
For both Alinsky and Cloward-Piven (as for Obamite Rahm Emanuel), a crisis is not only not something to be avoided, but is actually something very much to be desired — and, further, something to be striven for, as long as the blame for getting there can be pawned off on someone else.
Hence we come to the so-called Fiscal Cliff. Does anybody really think Obama fears the consequences of not getting a deal?
It would be foolish to think he does so fear them. As the Wall Street Journal reported the other day (as discussed by Ashton in a post a couple of days ago), Obama threatened Speaker John Boehner that if Boehner didn’t fold, Obama would simply use a special speech plus the State of the Union address to blame Boehner and Republicans. Obama’s not playing for a better short-term outcome for the American people; he is playing for near-total anihilation of his political opponents, en route to long-term political power for himself and his allies.
A crisis combined with a cynical, hardball blame game is exactly what he wants.
The political right seems unable to communicate in a way effective enough to push the blame right back where it belongs, which is on Obama’s shoulders. This could be a very rough ride.
In keeping with the Christmas theme (from the post below), conservatives of a certain age love to quote the wisdom from the comic-strip Pogo that “we have met the enemy, and he is us.” On Christmas, it might be better to quote Pogo’s version of a famous Christmas carol:
Deck us all with Boston Charlie
Walla walla wash, and kalamazoo
Nora’s freezin’ on the trolley
Squalor dollar cauliflower, alle-garoo
Don’t we know archaic barrel
Lullabye, lilla-boy, Louisville Lou.
Trolley Molly don’t love Harold
Boola boola, Pensacoola, Hullabaloo!
Try singing that song at a family party this week, especially if you can’t carry a tune, and the enemy you meet will indeed be you.
Sometimes it’s easy to strive too hard to find new meanings in the old familiar Christmas story. The symbology is in some senses profound but also so obvious, and in some ways so simple, that it can seem hackneyed, especially in our modern, jaded world. The impulse is either to give mere lip service to the Christmas message or, for those with a different cast of mind, to try to complicate it in search of some great new insight.
My eventual conclusion is that there’s nothing wrong with simplicity.
Philip Klein draws attention to reporting by the Wall Street Journal on how President Barack Obama “negotiated” with House Speaker John Boehner:
Mr. Obama repeatedly lost patience with the speaker as negotiations faltered. In an Oval Office meeting last week, he told Mr. Boehner that if the sides didn’t reach agreement, he would use his inaugural address and his State of the Union speech to tell the country the Republicans were at fault.
At one point, according to notes taken by a participant, Mr. Boehner told the president, “I put $800 billion [in tax revenue] on the table. What do I get for that?”
“You get nothing,” the president said. “I get that for free.”
It’s worth remembering how often President Obama has tried to identify himself with Abraham Lincoln. Recall Lincoln’s most famous line from his Second Inaugural – “…with malice toward none, with charity to all…” Lincoln was referring to the treatment he intended toward people who had been in armed rebellion against the United States of America. If Obama goes through with his threat to use his Second Inaugural to make a partisan dig about an important, but, in comparison to Lincoln’s context, a monumentally less significant issue, it will be a stark reminder of how much distance separates Lincoln and his facile successor.
…despite all of the dramatic hyperbole about the “fiscal cliff,” it’s important to remember that going over the fiscal cliff will reduce the budget deficit by $503 billion in 2013, and $682 billion in 2014, relative to the “solutions” being bandied about on Capitol Hill.
Moreover, since President Barack Obama and his fellow liberals in Congress refuse to link tax increases with entitlement reform, perhaps it’s better to go over the fiscal cliff than accede to some tax increases and no reforms. At least then Obama & Co. would own the tax-and-spending system their intransigence created.
In an interview with CFIF, Robert Knight, senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times, discusses the most recent cases related to attempted bans on Christmas decorations, the ACLU’s threatened lawsuit over opening government meetings with a prayer and free speech versus the sound of silence.
On the heels of heated protests in response to the state of Michigan passing legislation that prevents workers from being coerced to join a labor union, CFIF’s Renee Giachino sets the record straight on the benefits of right-to-work laws.
If U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) becomes the next Secretary of State, expect several dominos to fall. Soon-to-be-former Senator Scott Brown seems poised to run in yet another special election. Bay State Tea Party groups will have to decide whether to support a member-turned-establishment figure like Brown over someone more conservative, but arguably less able to win.
And then there’s Ben Affleck. What? According to The Daily Caller, Affleck, the Hollywood star and Massachusetts native, recently met privately with Senator Kerry in Washington, D.C., possibly to discuss running for the latter’s open seat in 2013. If you’re looking for qualifications, Affleck graduated from Harvard, won an Academy Award for co-writing “Good Will Hunting,” and founded the East Congo Initiative. Oh, he’s also married to actress Jennifer Garner.
But if Affleck isn’t your ideal Senator, remember, it could be worse. Minnesota gave us Saturday Night Live’s Al Franken. If Affleck takes a pass, America could get his friend and Palin-hater, Matt Damon. Can you imagine Damon and Elizabeth Warren together?
Stuart Rothenberg perfectly articulates the difficult post-election position of fiscal conservatives:
Republicans may well be correct that the nation’s biggest problem is that “the government spends too much, not that it taxes too little,” but at some point political realities rather than ideological beliefs or past party dogma ought to guide both party leaders and members of its rank and file.
The Roll Call columnist also shows just how much Beltway logic drives his analysis. If Republicans are right that “the government spends too much, not that it taxes too little,” then Republicans are justified in pushing for reduced spending and resisting tax increases. And, if Republicans are right, then President Barack Obama and his fellow liberals are wrong to demand the opposite.
That’s not ideology, just math and common sense. Political calculations may end up trumping both eventually, but that doesn’t mean that fiscal conservatives within the Republican Party are wrong as a matter of logic from defending their position.