This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, which deregulated American freight…
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Happy 40th to the Staggers Rail Act, Which Deregulated and Saved the U.S. Rail Industry

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, which deregulated American freight rail and saved it from looming oblivion.

At the time of passage, the U.S. economy muddled along amid ongoing malaise, and our rail industry teetered due to decades of overly bureaucratic sclerosis.  Many other domestic U.S. industries had disappeared, and our railroads faced the same fate.  But by passing the Staggers Rail Act, Congress restored a deregulatory approach that in the 1980s allowed other U.S. industries to thrive.  No longer would government determine what services railroads could offer, their rates or their routes, instead restoring greater authority to the railroads themselves based upon cost-efficiency.

Today, U.S. rail flourishes even amid the coronavirus pandemic…[more]

October 13, 2020 • 11:09 PM

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How to Win the Next Budgetary Fight Print
By Quin Hillyer
Wednesday, December 18 2013
With regard to the debt ceiling, Republicans in Congress should not wait until mere days before the deadline.

When fighting budget-related battles during Fiscal Year 2014, can conservatives have any hopes that the third time is the charm?

Yes, but only if they are willing to play “small ball.”

The “third time,” in this case, will involve the next confrontation with the federal debt ceiling, expected in early February. Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan is trying to make up for his weak negotiating on this month’s spending deal by promising to take a tough line then. But, after bitter defeats in the Ryan negotiations and in the “shutdown” fight in October, it may be an idle promise.

Already, the nastiest of fulminators on the left is belittling Ryan’s promise/threat, as is one of the most active participants in the right’s internal wars, Erick Erickson. (My always-astute colleague Ashton Ellis also has eminently justifiable doubts.) They say conservatives have little leverage, few political motives to make a real battle of it, and too pronounced a record of caving under political pressure.

The doubters raise good points. But that doesn’t mean conservatives should completely give up on using the debt ceiling to force some limits on government. It’s just that this time we need to avoid brinksmanship over huge ultimatums (such as repealing ObamaCare), in favor of smaller demands that Democrats would look horrible for refusing.

The key goals are threefold. First, re-establish, after abandoning it in October, the principle that the debt ceiling should never be raised without at least some new, substantive limit on government. Second, re-establish in the public mind the idea that conservatives/Republicans are fighting not just for political advantage but instead for sensible, achievable, thoughtful savings for taxpayers. Third, create a situation where the Democrats/liberals, not those on the right, feel the political heat.

The key to achieving these three goals is to identify proposed savings that are easy to explain and understand, that are eminently reasonable without any hint of Scrooge-like tendencies, and that particularly highlight the idiocy of big government. For a past example, consider the political efficacy of the fight against the “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska: With identifiable, concrete targets to shoot at, fiscal conservatives can win the battle of public opinion even against the forces of the liberal media.

With regard to the debt ceiling, Republicans in Congress should not wait until mere days before the deadline. The public right now is sick of brinksmanship. Instead, very early in the new year, the GOP leadership should lay out its markers and very publicly – and not confrontationally – ask Democrats to work with them to achieve their modest aims before the debt limit is directly imminent.

And what should those markers be? Well, start with selected items from the just-released “Wastebook” compiled by Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Of the $28 billion in potential savings identified by Coburn, surely the Republicans can highlight, say, $5 billion for which to fight. Start with the $17.5 million in tax credits for brothels for breast implants and the like, move on to the $325 thousand for studies of marital arguments, and continue with the $1.5 million spent by the FBI to coach Hollywood on how to portray the agency in movies. And so on.

Next, insist on at least one of the “pay-fors” offered this week by Senators Jeff Sessions of Alabama or Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire to replace the cost of pension cuts for military personnel. Surely, for example, $4.2 billion in refundable tax credits for illegal aliens – identified even by the Treasury Department’s Inspector General as unwarranted waste – should be eliminated before it adds further to the debt and necessitates a debt ceiling hike.

Finally, consider another attempt to eliminate the exemption from ObamaCare that Barack Obama, via an arguably illegal executive diktat, provided for congressional and White House staff.

If Republicans tie the debt ceiling hike to spending (or “tax subsidies”) that are almost impossible politically to defend, they make it clear that it is Democrats in opposition, not the GOP, who are being intransigent and risking government default for no good reason.

Of course, conservatives will want to win much bigger battles – as well they should. But the way to win political battles is to get the public on one’s side. And the first step to winning the public’s favor for big changes is to gain the public’s confidence on smaller matters without scaring the heck out of anybody. Perception really does matter in politics, and right now Republicans and conservatives must change the perception that they are radical, cynical and mean-spirited.

A small-scale debt ceiling fight can start building confidence in conservative aims and judgment, while making clear that new debt will never be allowed without at least some savings. Incrementalism works. It’s time to try it.

Question of the Week   
Which one of the following was the first 20th century presidential candidate to call for a Presidential Debate?
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Quote of the Day   
 
"Wait until Scranton hears about this.One of Joe Biden's ways of contrasting himself with President Trump has been to declare the election a battle of Park Avenue values vs. Scranton, Pa., values.Now we learn that Biden has secretly been playing footsie with China.The statement Wednesday night asserting that the former vice president was a willing and eager participant in a family scheme to make millions…[more]
 
 
—Michael Goodwin, New York Post
— Michael Goodwin, New York Post
 
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Do you believe you will be better off over the next four years with Joe Biden as president or with Donald Trump as president?