Thursday, January 3, 2013

January 3, 2013


Bowles, Simpson: 'Washington Missed Magic Moment’ on Budget
by Newsmax Wires
January 2, 2013

Budget-deficit-reduction devotees Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson rue Congress’ inability to come up with a more comprehensive fiscal-cliff solution than the one it just passed.

While the deal represents a “small step forward” for deficit reduction, “it’s truly a missed opportunity to do something big to reduce our long-term fiscal problems,” the duo say in a statement issued by Fix the Debt, a group they founded.

Bowles was chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, and Simpson is a retired Wyoming Republican senator. They headed a panel on deficit reduction appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010. But their recommendations essentially went nowhere.

As for fiscal cliff negotiations, “Washington missed this magic moment to do something big to reduce the deficit, reform our tax code and fix our entitlement programs,” the two say. “Even after taking the country to the brink of economic disaster, Washington still could not forge a common-sense bipartisan consensus on a plan that stabilizes the debt.”

Government leaders now must summon up the courage for real tax and entitlement reform to begin curbing the $16 trillion public debt, Bowles and Simpson say.

They aren’t totally discouraged. “We take some encouragement from the statements by the president and leaders in Congress that they recognize more work needs to be done,” the two say.

But “to reach an agreement, it will be absolutely necessary for both sides to move beyond their comfort zone.”

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Our decadent democracy
by George Will
January 2, 2012

Connoisseurs of democratic decadence can savor a variety of contemporary dystopias. Because familiarity breeds banality, Greece has become a boring horror. Japan, however, in its second generation of stagnation is fascinating. Once, Japan bestrode the world, jauntily buying Rockefeller Center and Pebble Beach. Now Japanese buy more adult diapers than those for infants.

America has its lowest birth rate since at least 1920 — family formation and workforce participation (which hit a 30-year low last year) have declined in tandem. But it has an energy surplus, the government-produced overhang of housing inventory is shrinking and the average age of Americans’ cars is an astonishing 10.8 years. Such promising economic indicators, however, mask the country’s democratic decadence, as explained by the Hudson Institute’s Christopher DeMuth in the Dec. 24 Weekly Standard:
Deficit spending once was largely for investments — building infrastructure, winning wars — which benefited future generations, so government borrowing appropriately shared the burden with those generations. Now, however, continuous borrowing burdens future generations in order to finance current consumption. Today’s policy, says DeMuth, erases “the distinction between investing for the future and borrowing from the future.”
It is now as clear as it is unsurprising that most Americans will be spared the educational experience of “fiscal cliff”-related tax increases and spending cuts, which would have been a small but instructive taste of the real costs of the entitlement state.

Still, December’s maneuverings taught three lessons.

First, there will be no significant spending restraint. Democrats — you know: the people respectful of evidence and science — even rejected a more accurate measurement of the cost of living that would slightly slow increases in myriad government benefits. Accuracy will be sacrificed to liberalism’s agenda of government growth.

Second, Barack Obama has (as Winston Churchill said of an adversary) “the gift of compressing the largest amount of words into the smallest amount of thought.” His incessant talking swaddles one wee idea — raising taxes on “millionaires and billionaires,” including people earning less than half a million. He has nothing pertinent to say about the steadily worsening fiscal imbalance that will make sluggish growth — less than 3 percent — normal.

Third, one December winner was George W. Bush because a large majority of Democrats favored making permanent a large majority of his tax cuts. December’s rancor disguised bipartisan agreement: Both parties flinch from cliff-related tax increases and spending decreases. But neither the increases nor decreases would have tamed the current $1 trillion-plus budget deficit nor made a discernible dent in the 87-times-larger unfunded liabilities of the entitlement state.

This state cannot be funded by taxing “the rich.” Or even by higher income taxes on the middle class. Income taxes cannot fund the government liberals want, and they dare not seek the consumption and energy taxes their entitlement architecture requires. Hence, although Republicans are complicit, Democrats are ardent in embracing decadent democracy. This consists not just of infantilism — refusing to will the means for the ends one has willed — but also of willing an immoral means: conscripting the wealth of future generations.

As economists Glenn Hubbard and Tim Kane explain in National Affairs quarterly, the U.S. political system “cannot govern the entitlement state” that “exists largely to provide material benefits to individuals.” Piling up unsustainable entitlement promises — particularly, enactment of Medicare in 1965 and the enrichment of Social Security benefits in 1972 — has been improvident for the nation but rational for the political class. The promised expenditures, far in excess of revenue, would come due “beyond the horizon of political consequences.”

“Our politicians,” say Hubbard and Kane, “are acting rationally” but “politically rational behavior is now fiscally perverse.” Both parties are responding to powerful electoral incentives to neither raise taxes nor cut spending. Hence, “the clash over raising the debt limit that gripped Washington during the summer of 2011 was just the beginning, not the end, of our fiscal woes.”

But the perils of the entitlement state are no longer (in Hubbard’s and Kane’s words) “safely beyond the politicians’ career horizons.” Furthermore, a critical mass of Republicans reject the careerists’ understanding of “politically rational” behavior. These Republicans have a different rationale for being in politics.

The media, which often are the last to know things because their wishes father their thoughts, say the tea party impulse is exhausted. Scores of House Republicans and seven first-term Republican senators (Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Pat Toomey, Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson, Marco Rubio and Tim Scott) will soon — hello, debt ceiling — prove otherwise.

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Can Boehner Hang onto His Job?
by Matthew Boyle
January 3, 2013

The Speaker of the House will be elected today and some conservatives believe they have the votes necessary to oust John Boehner. In an appearance on CNBC, American Majority Action spokesman Ron Meyer said there are more than 20 House Republicans willing to vote for someone other than Boehner on Thursday when the 113th Congress convenes to elect a Speaker. Another source from a different organization has similarly confirmed that more than 20 have planned to oppose Boehner.

Meyer and AMA correctly predicted Republican opposition to Boehner’s fiscal cliff “Plan B" and the overwhelming House Republican opposition to Vice President Joe Biden’s and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s fiscal cliff deal that passed the House on Tuesday evening.

Outgoing Louisiana Republican Rep. Jeff Landry made a similar prediction earlier in the evening, telling Breitbart News that between the required minimum 17 members and 20 were on board at that point.

Despite rumors that he might do so, Boehner did not resign at a Republican conference meeting Wednesday night.

The reason why some, including Landry, thought Boehner would resign Wednesday is because that group of members supposedly approached Boehner and offered him a way to avoid the public fight that will likely take place on Thursday. An emergency Republican conference meeting was called on Wednesday evening and Boehner’s decision not to resign sent a message to those who want to unseat him that he believes he will survive tomorrow's vote.

Freshman Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas is on the record publicly stating he’ll oppose Boehner on Thursday, but the members also need a leader to rally around. Though there has been speculation that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor may emerge, his spokesperson would not respond to Breitbart News’ inquiries about whether he would. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy also would not go on the record as supportive of Boehner.

But, as Breitbart News reported weeks ago, the document containing the conservative plan to unseat Boehner notes that those members involved expect a new leader to emerge if Boehner were to lose a first election for Speaker (there are potentially multiple votes).

Meyer said in a statement Wednesday evening that his sources are "very Conservative members” and that they "remain optimistic that Speaker Boehner will lose his job tomorrow.” He also noted that sources behind the rumor that Boehner would resign Wednesday night were "different sources than the ones that helped AMA correctly predict the exact vote counts for Plan B and the Biden-McConnell bill.”

Boehner has made concessions to the conservatives seeking his ouster – a sign he's worried about his job. He caved on the Hurricane Sandy package after originally killing Cantor’s efforts to bring the bill to a vote after the “fiscal cliff” package Tuesday evening. After outrage from Reps. Peter King and Michael Grimm from New York, Boehner now will allow a vote on a Sandy package on Friday.

Boehner also, through a spokesman, renewed an old promise he made – but broke. Boehner said he won’t negotiate with the president on his own anymore, and will let the House follow the regular order. "He is recommitting himself and the House to what we've done, which is working through regular order and letting the House work its will,” a Boehner aide told The Hill.

Boehner made a similar promise during an interview with National Journal’s Major Garrett in October 2010, before the Tea Party wave swept Republicans into the House majority – and Boehner into the Speaker’s office. Boehner promised to follow the three-day rule – meaning legislation wouldn’t come to the floor until it was available for three days for members and the public to read – a promise he broke yet again with the “fiscal cliff” deal.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 – the legislation that carved the so-called “fiscal cliff” into law – was negotiated behind-closed-doors between the president and the Speaker. Boehner has also conducted negotiations on each Continuing Resolution (CR) – the legislation that funds the government in absence of a budget – directly with the White House.

We were each elected to uphold the Constitution and represent 600,000-odd people in our districts. We need to open this place up, let some air in. We have nothing to fear from letting the House work its will–nothing to fear from the battle of ideas. That starts with the committees. The result will be more scrutiny and better legislation.”

But now that he’s in trouble, he’s making the same promises again.

Stockman, for one, is not opposing Boehner because he doesn't like the Speaker as a person, but because he believe he’s failed the conservative cause. “We cannot tolerate betrayal of conservative principle and economic reality,” the Texas Congressman wrote in blog post according to the Dallas Morning News, adding that Boehner is a “decent man” who didn’t get the job done.

Landry made a similar argument in an op-ed for Breitbart News on Wednesday. “Thanks to the leadership of Speaker John Boehner, the House passed a bill which raises taxes by $620 billion while cutting spending by a mere $15 billion over 10 years,” Landry wrote. “Usually, a compromise is an even trade (one-for-one). In this trade, House and Senate Republicans traded $41 dollars in tax hikes for every $1 dollar in spending cuts—not exactly a balanced approach.”

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