Politics

Rogers: Government Will Not Shut Down

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March 16, 2011, 8:33 a.m.

Need to know when your fa­vor­ite can­did­ates are de­bat­ing? Want to be there when Pres. Obama or House Min. Lead­er John Boehner stump in your dis­trict? Book­mark this to check out up­com­ing events. And add an­oth­er book­mark to re­call what’s already happened.

We’ll pub­lish today’s events in each edi­tion of The Hot­line, but you can al­ways find our com­plete list at those per­man­ent homes.

Have events we should in­clude? Email Aman­da Mun­oz-Temple to add your fun­draiser, de­bate, rally or oth­er gath­er­ing.

Wed., Oct. 13

“¢ First Lady Michelle Obama fun­draises for Sen. Russ Fein­gold (D) in Mil­wau­kee and then heads to Chica­go where she will fun­draise for Sen­ate can­did­ate Alexi Gi­an­nouli­as, Reps. Debbie Halvor­son and Bill Foster and House can­did­ate Dan Seals

“¢ Mi­chael Steele fun­draises for the RNC at the ‘Ele­phant Club’ lunch­eon in Min­nesota

“¢ Ex-Sen. Rick San­tor­um (R-PA) is the key­note speak­er for a lunch­eon with Linn Eagles, an or­gan­iz­a­tion com­mit­ted to fur­ther­ing a strong GOP pres­ence in Linn County, IA. Then at­tends a fun­draiser for state rep. Jeff Kaufmann (R-79)

“¢ Newt Gin­grich (R) stumps and fun­draises for Rep. Aaron Schock (R) in Wash­ing­ton, IL

“¢ CO GOV can­did­ates John Hick­en­loop­er (D), Dan Maes (R), Tom Tan­credo (Const.) de­bate in Den­ver

“¢ ID GOV can­did­ates Keith Allred (D) and Gov. Butch Ot­ter (R) will de­bate at the Col­lege of Idaho

“¢ PA-15 can­did­ates Rep. Charlie Dent (R) and John Cal­la­han (D) de­bate

“¢ CT GOV can­did­ates Dan Mal­loy (D) and Tom Fo­ley (R)de­abte

“¢ VT GOV can­did­ates Peter Shum­lin (D) and Bri­an Du­bie (R) de­bate

“¢ AR SEN can­did­ates John Booz­man (R), Tre­vor Drown (I), John Gray (G), Sen. Blanche Lin­coln (D) de­bate the Univ. of Cent­ral AR in Con­way at 10 am

“¢ DE SEN can­did­ates Coons (D) and O’Don­nell (R) de­bate

“¢ AR-04 can­did­ates Joshua Drake (G), Beth Anne Rankin (R), Mike Ross (D) de­abte the Univ. of Cent­ral AR in Con­way at 3 pm

“¢ NV-03 can­did­ates Rep. Dina Tit­us (D) and Joe Heck (R) de­bate

“¢ CA-47 can­did­ates Rep. Lor­etta Sanc­hez (D) and Van Tran (R) face off in a pub­lic TV de­bate

“¢ NY-20 can­did­ates Scott Murphy (D) and Chris Gib­son (R) de­bate

“¢ KS-03 can­did­ates Kev­in Yo­der (R) and Stephene Moore (D) de­bate at a Lawrence Cham­ber of Com­merce for­um

“¢ MI-07 can­did­ates Rep. Mark Schauer (D) and Tim Wal­berg (R) de­bate

“¢ CT-05 can­did­ates Rep. Chris Murphy (D) and Sam Ca­li­gi­uri (R) de­bate

“¢ Grover Nor­quist key­notes a fun­draiser for the NH House Re­pub­lic­an PAC

Two icon­o­clast­ic new stud­ies chal­lenge the grim fa­tal­ism sur­round­ing the con­gres­sion­al su­per com­mit­tee charged with identi­fy­ing the next steps to­ward tam­ing the long-term fed­er­al debt.

The glum, grow­ing con­sensus in Wash­ing­ton is that the su­per com­mit­tee is more likely to per­petu­ate than re­solve the parties’ stale­mate over the de­fi­cit. The bet­ting is that, with Re­pub­lic­ans still re­ject­ing any tax in­creases (even though fed­er­al rev­en­ues, as a share of the over­all eco­nomy, now stand at their low­est level since 1950), Demo­crats won’t ac­cept any mean­ing­ful re­straints on en­ti­tle­ment spend­ing (even though pay­ments to in­di­vidu­als now con­sume more than three-fifths of the fed­er­al budget, squeez­ing all oth­er lib­er­al pri­or­it­ies). Con­ven­tion­al wis­dom now as­sumes that the com­mit­tee will of­fer just enough sav­ings to avoid com­plete fail­ure (which might fur­ther rattle spooked fin­an­cial mar­kets) but not enough to truly con­front the long-term prob­lem.

From Na­tion­al Journ­al: PIC­TURES: Heck­lers of the 2012 Race ‘New’ Vir­us Catches CDC’s Eye Lough­ner Could Stand Tri­al VIDEO: Has Rom­ney Flipped on Edu­ca­tion? Gov­ern­ment Shut­down Scares Through the Years

Yet the two re­cent stud­ies from un­usu­al left-right co­ali­tions show the op­por­tun­ity for great­er bold­ness. In each re­port, groups that star­ted with dia­met­ric­al ideo­lo­gic­al views about the role of gov­ern­ment co­alesced be­hind re­form pro­grams that would sub­stan­tially re­duce the de­fi­cit by elim­in­at­ing pro­grams that are either in­ef­fect­ive or that un­ne­ces­sar­ily sub­sid­ize spe­cial in­terests.

The agen­das offered by these odd-couple al­li­ances alone are not suf­fi­cient to sta­bil­ize the long-term budget — that can only be done by re­strain­ing en­ti­tle­ments and rais­ing more rev­en­ue. But these plans show how aus­ter­ity can en­able re­form: They un­der­score the op­por­tun­ity to use the de­fi­cit chal­lenge to re­think fed­er­al ex­pendit­ures that are now jus­ti­fied by little more than the strength of the lob­bies pro­tect­ing them. Equally im­port­ant, the re­ports should sig­nal to Con­gress that, with enough cre­ativ­ity and de­term­in­a­tion, it’s pos­sible to bridge even gap­ing ideo­lo­gic­al di­vides.

One of the stud­ies, called “Green Scis­sors,” pro­poses $380 bil­lion in sav­ings over just the next five years in pro­grams that, as the re­port ar­gues, “both harm the en­vir­on­ment and waste tax­pay­er dol­lars.” The plan was as­sembled by two lib­er­al groups (Friends of the Earth and Pub­lic Cit­izen) and two staunchly con­ser­vat­ive or­gan­iz­a­tions (the Heart­land In­sti­tute and Tax­pay­ers for Com­mon Sense). “In some ways, [these groups] are fur­ther apart than Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans in Con­gress “¦ on the role that gov­ern­ment should play,” said Ben­jamin Schreiber, a Friends of the Earth tax ana­lyst who helped write the study. “When we can agree on $380 bil­lion in po­ten­tial sav­ings, it shows just how much is out there to save by elim­in­at­ing harm­ful pro­grams.”

One series of re­com­mend­a­tions pro­poses that Wash­ing­ton stop sub­sid­iz­ing private in­terests by char­ging so little for ac­cess to fed­er­al re­sources such as tim­ber, graz­ing land, hard-rock min­er­als, and oil and gas leases on pub­lic lands; as the re­port notes, the Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­ab­il­ity Of­fice has cal­cu­lated that U.S. roy­alty rates for oil and gas pro­duc­tion are among the world’s low­est. An­oth­er set of re­com­mend­a­tions would roll back dir­ect sub­sidies for en­ergy pro­du­cers — such as tax breaks for do­mest­ic oil pro­duc­tion and loan guar­an­tees for an ar­ray of en­ergy pro­jects, from nuc­le­ar power plants to al­tern­at­ive en­ergy. A third buck­et would re­trench or elim­in­ate fed­er­al in­sur­ance pro­grams that sub­sid­ize farm­ers to put new land in pro­duc­tion (of­ten in en­vir­on­ment­ally fra­gile areas), en­cour­age homeown­ers to build on ter­rain vul­ner­able to floods, and lim­it the li­ab­il­ity of off­shore oil drillers for spills. “This is a long list of pro­grams that lots of people can agree are ter­rible ideas,” said Eli Lehr­er, a vice pres­id­ent at the Heart­land In­sti­tute. “This is the real low-hanging fruit in the fed­er­al budget.”

In the same spir­it, the con­ser­vat­ive Na­tion­al Tax­pay­ers Uni­on and U.S. PIRG — a lib­er­al, cam­pus-based, pub­lic-in­terest or­gan­iz­a­tion — re­cently re­leased a re­port (“To­ward Com­mon Ground”) that iden­ti­fied more than $1 tril­lion in po­ten­tial sav­ings over the next dec­ade. Some of those es­tim­ates may be a bit ex­uber­ant. But the re­port con­tains dozens of bit­ingly spe­cif­ic re­com­mend­a­tions for eco­nom­ies or­gan­ized around four large themes: end­ing cor­por­ate sub­sidies (par­tic­u­larly for ag­ri­cul­tur­al and en­ergy in­terests); re­form­ing mil­it­ary spend­ing (mostly by im­prov­ing con­tract­ing and elim­in­at­ing ques­tion­able weapons sys­tems); stream­lin­ing gov­ern­ment op­er­a­tions (es­pe­cially by build­ing on ini­ti­at­ives that Pres­id­ent Obama has already launched to mod­ern­ize com­put­ing sys­tems); and pur­su­ing rifle-shot re­forms that tar­get du­bi­ous pay­ments in Medi­care and So­cial Se­cur­ity.

Few people would sup­port all of the changes in either re­port. And, for each party, a few of the ideas touch raw ideo­lo­gic­al nerves. But most of the pro­pos­als sidestep the left-right im­passe. In­stead, they raise a dif­fer­ent ques­tion: In pur­su­ing de­fi­cit re­duc­tion, will Con­gress tar­get weak claims or only weak cli­ents?

The vast ma­jor­ity of pro­grams chal­lenged in both re­ports rep­res­ent trans­fers to power­ful in­terests that have ap­plied their for­mid­able clout to de­fend­ing spe­cial treat­ment. Once, these sub­sidies might have been more eas­ily jus­ti­fied be­cause most at least par­tially serve some pub­lic pur­pose — for in­stance, en­cour­aging more do­mest­ic oil pro­duc­tion. But now, with every fed­er­al pro­gram un­der pres­sure, the bal­ance between private gain and pub­lic be­ne­fit for all of these pro­grams de­serves much stricter scru­tiny. If the su­per com­mit­tee doesn’t ap­ply that scru­tiny, it can’t say it’s be­cause no one told it where to look.

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