(Boston) Beyond the extravagantly and justly praised Lincoln the best of the holiday movies is the riveting Ben Affleck vehicle Argo based on the true story of the daring rescue of six American Embassy employees hiding in the Canadian Embassy during the 1979 Teheran Hostage Crisis.
When questioned by Secretary of State Cyrus Vance about alternatives to the bizarre scheme of creating a fake Hollywood movie as a cover for the escape the CIA agent who would lead the rescue (Affleck) replies: “There are no good ideas, sir. Only bad ones but this is the least bad one “ while making clear that doing nothing would be worse still.
This exchange perfectly captures the best way to look at the recently consummated Fiscal Cliff “Deal”. Given the bind Republicans were in “winning” was simply a non-starter. The only question was what the least bad way of losing was. Further, the idea of doing nothing i.e. going over the cliff- as some in the GOP were seriously advocating- would have been a disaster.
The dogged, unexciting, and much maligned Speaker Boehner put it well: “If you have ten people in a pool drowning and your choice is between saving nine or none, it should be pretty obvious what you gotta do”.
In the end Barack Obama signed a law that made the Bush Tax Cuts which Democrats have loathed and fought to over-throw for more than a decade permanent for all but the top 2%- something George Bush himself was unable to do even during the six years the GOP controlled both houses of Congress.
Sure, there are a lot of Stinkers in the fine print of the “The Deal” as ably reported by the Wall St. Journal but as every doctor knows by definition triage doesn’t mean saving everyone.
Like Sherlock Holmes’ famous “Dog that barked in the Night” what is most significant about the Deal is what didn’t happen. What it prevented. If we had gone over the Cliff it would have been Christmas all over again for Liberals. The hated Bush Tax cuts would be history, taxes would rise for everybody- permanently, trillions in new revenues for the insatiable Democratic Spending Machine would stretch as far as the eye could see, and best of all Republicans would be blamed for this “national calamity”.
The liberal media echo chamber was ready with all the supportive story lines: “Obama the Reasonable done in by Boehner the Obstructionist. Middle Class Rethinks one-time support of Tea Party. Nancy Pelosi says she would’ve prevented this disaster”.
Anyone doubting that the GOP dodged a bullet should listen to liberal voices in deep Blue New England as I have been doing while enjoying the abundant snow of Northern Vermont and listening to political Massachusetts obsess over the soon to be vacant Kerry Senate seat.
In Vermont Howard Dean calls the Deal “A missed opportunity of tragic proportion”. Senator Patrick Leahy on January 2nd says “We’ll never again have the leverage we had just 24 hours ago”.
In Massachusetts Barney Frank- suddenly warming to the phrase ‘Senator Frank’ – says “at a minimum we should have gotten the Debt Ceiling Lift. We didn’t fight hard enough”. Another Senate “wannabe” Congressman Ed Markey told a TV interviewer, “I really don’t understand. We held all the high cards, but in the end, Democrats really didn’t get that much”. The Boston Globe puzzled over Obama’s “detachment” and “strange passivity” and chides him for “failing to go for the kill” when he clearly had the GOP “on the ropes”.
No Democrat would flat out say they wanted to go over the Cliff (too dangerous) but Dean and Washington Senator patty Murray came very close. However any reading of their history and transparent disinterest in real compromise or even serious negotiation made clear that while the Cliff was bad for the country, for Liberals it was the Promised Land.
So, how much better off is the GOP after “The Deal” than they were before? What is the preferred strategy going forward?
Make no mistake, the prospects for Republicans may be marginally less dire, but they are still pretty grim. They are dealing with the most ideological Administration in American History, and one that is brimming with confidence as a result of the election. So much so that they are stunningly open about their determination to go forward with even more tax increases.
Hope for the GOP and the country reside in the ancient maxim “Pride Goeth Before a Fall”. The Democratic worldview is on a collision course with reality. Where that worldview leads is pretty clearly outlined by the current travails of the European Union.
As the American people begin to feel the weight of the back-loaded tax increases caused not by Republicans but by Democrats- mainly the spiraling costs of Obamacare- and watch this Administration pushing for even more tax hikes despite a still staggering economy an anti-incumbent mood will inevitably set in. The “sixth year political jinx” that has hammered virtually every second term in the last seventy-five years will be the political expression of this reaction.
Still, Republicans must intelligently regroup and demonstrate resolution and fidelity to timeless principles if they hope to be beneficiaries of this coming turnabout.
William Moloney is a Centennial Institute Fellow and former Colorado commissioner of education. His columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, and Human Events.
(Centennial Fellow) In the aftermath of every Republican Presidential defeat in the last half century the Democrats aided and abetted by the “mainstream” media have declared the GOP to be dead, on the “wrong side of history’’ and about to disappear like the Whigs.
The template for this tactic was set following Lyndon Johnson’s thrashing of Barry Goldwater in 1964. Amazingly the Democrats showed no inclination to abandon this tactic even after losing five of the next six Presidential elections- four of them by landslides.
Even their worst defeats never called into question the sublime virtues of the Progressive Agenda to which they have been devoted since the days of Woodrow Wilson. Instead they blamed their losses on Republican “dirty tricks”, stupid voters, unworthy candidates or campaign misstep.
To understand the persistence of this ideological conviction one must view the Democratic Party in its’ historic context. Going all the way back to the party’s founder Thomas Jefferson who saw much to admire in the French Revolution there has been an element in the Democratic party that has had an enduring fascination with European Leftism.
Philosophically this belief system espoused the vague but attractive principles of “equality” and “social justice”. In practice these principles disguised an unchanging commitment to State Planning (Big Government) and Income redistribution (“Fairness”).
In this Socialist/Progressive world view the enemy is invariably Capitalism in general and the “Rich” in particular.
In the campaign of 2012 the doctrine of Big Government/Income Redistribution found an advocate of remarkable skill in Barack Obama who inveighed endlessly against “millionaires and billionaires”, and promised to aggressively tax and regulate the “fat cats” and “greed-mongers” of Wall Street.
As we know by a margin of 51% to 48% this campaign of unalloyed Class Warfare- the Politics of Envy- succeeded.
Despite the relative closeness of the election the Democrats are acting as if they have a clear mandate to aggressively implement the above noted Progressive Agenda.
In the Democratic view the only obstacles to these plans are a badly outdated Constitution and the appalling unwisdom of American voters in granting Republicans continuing control of the U.S. House of Representatives and a majority of state governments.
The Democrats however believe that these obstacles can be overcome if they persuade a significant number of Republicans that the only way the GOP can get on the “Right Side of History”, and avoid the fate of the Whigs is to start acting (and voting) like Democrats.
With mock solicitousness Democrats and their media echo chamber urge Republicans to yield to “historical inevitability” and start supporting Amnesty, Gay Marriage, more taxes, more regulation, and less freedom because it’s the “right thing to do”.
In return for this betrayal of their principles Republicans can hope to someday “rise from the dead” as a political party, and maybe- just maybe- win a County Council election or two, somewhere down the road.
What all this amounts to is as follows: Having thoroughly “Europeanized” themselves over the last half century, Democrats are urging Republicans to do the very same thing.
The bottom line- should this happen- is that the United States would continue to have a two party system, however, both parties would be Liberal, just like our European role models.
It is more than ironic that Republicans and by implication our whole country are being pushed leftward toward the Socialist Welfare State at precisely the moment we are seeing that model beginning to crumble in Europe.
The crisis of the European Union derives from long standing inherent contradictions best summed up by the famous dictum of Margaret Thatcher: “The Problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money”.
The looming economic catastrophe in Europe is simply a more advanced case of the same disease that is already metastasizing in the United States where the exponential growth of ballooning debt and deficits is on track to wreck the world’s greatest economy and destroy the American Dream in the process.
This stark object lesson unfolding before our eyes both here and in Europe should be more than sufficient to deter any Republican even toying with the idea that the Democratic Agenda is the way to go.
So, if becoming Democrat-Lite is a non-starter for Republicans, what is the better road for the GOP going forward?
First, Republicans must recognize that they have more control over the “Fiscal Cliff” than they realize. Without delay Speaker John Boehner should give the following speech.
“As it is now clear to all that President Obama and the Democrats have zero interest in real compromise or negotiation, the House of Representatives must do all in its power to avert economic catastrophe for the American people.
Up until now we had hoped for a ‘Grand Bargain’ that served all Americans. In Good Faith we even offered to discuss the issue of revenues though only in the context of reforming the Tax Code which all serious parties agree needs to be done. We hoped that before the end of this session a beginning could have been made. The only response to these hopes has been endless demagoguery by Democrats. All our efforts have been rebuffed.
The Senate has passed a bill that makes permanent the Bush Tax Cuts for the Middle Class- 98% of the population.
Until now Republicans had sought to preserve the Bush Tax Cuts for all Americans including our small businesses who must be a principal driver of any real economic recovery.
It is now clear however that as recent remarks by Senator Murray, Governor Dean and others illustrate, the Democrats want to raise everybody’s taxes. As Governor Dean very candidly put it: “Raising taxes on the wealthiest 2 % won’t give us anywhere near the revenue we need. We must raise everyone’s taxes, including the Middle Class”.
Thus we see the Democrat’s pose as defenders of the Middle Class as a sham and a deceit. They want Middle Class Taxes to go up, but only if Republicans alone get the blame.
The House of Representatives is refusing to accommodate them. This day we have passed the Senate bill making the Bush Tax Cuts for the Middle Class permanent without any changes.
We now call upon President Obama to do what he has repeatedly promised: Sign the Bill into Law on the very day it achieves final passage.
Doing so will give tax stability and predictability to the vast majority of the American people, and will be an enormous boon to the American economy.
At the same time we sadly note and decry President Obama’s unswerving determination to wage class warfare. Tax rates on the upper 2% of earners will rise on January 1st not because it is just but because such result is the ideological “pound of flesh” that he demands.
The severe damage that will be done to our economy will not fall upon the “billionaires and millionaires” the President endlessly decries, but instead will devastate the small businesses that are the principal job creators in America.
So the end result will be less revenue for the Treasury and fewer jobs for the American people.
Also this day the House of Representatives has passed an appropriation that fully restores the Sequestration of Funds for the Department of Defense.
Every dollar of this appropriation has been paid for by spending cuts enumerated in the bill.
We do this to avoid what Defense Secretary Panetta rightly called a “catastrophe” and a ”hollowing out of the U.S. military” that would dramatically increase the vulnerability of our people from the many threats posed by this dangerous world.
We call upon President Obama and the Democratic party to step away from the “War on the Military” and instead support this bill which is essential not just for our brave men and women now serving in Harm’s Way but also for the continuation of the United States’ indispensable role as World Leader.
My Fellow Americans, today we in the House have done what we can and what we must. So much more needs to be done, but we cannot do it alone.
Finally, let me thank you for the chorus of support we have heard from across our great country. It is you who are the vital foundation of the work we do this and every day in the People’s House.
God Bless You and God Bless America”.
If Speaker Boehner were to do and say the above the following things would be achieved:
1. GOP would have saved the Middle Class- the 98 %
2. Obama would lose his most devastating one liner: “Republicans are holding the Middle Class Hostage to save their billionaire and
Millionaire friends “
3. GOP would disassociate itself from Tax Increases on Anybody thus uniting the House Caucus
4. Democrats would be deprived of the trillions in future revenues that they have been lusting for.
5. Obama and Reid would bear the burden of the Defense Sequester.
6. The largest single element in the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ – Middle Class Tax Increases- would be averted.
7. 7. The pernicious extension of unemployment benefits- The Democrats' hoped for road to a permanent dole- would be avoided.
8. Advantage in any future negotiations would shift from Obama to GOP
Someone have a better Idea? Time is Running Out.
William Moloney is a Centennial Institute Fellow and former Colorado Education Commissioner. His columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post and Human Events.
(Centennial Fellow) In the course of perusing the “fiscal cliff” rhetoric dominating the political world recently, I came across a story about deliberations over the Times magazine “Person of the Year.” While meditating on the issues surrounding the fiscal cliff, it occurred to me the perfect nominee for the Times cover is Julia — the haplessly dependent animation the Barack Obama campaign used to show the joys of cradle to grave handouts. Sure, Sandra Fluke does a mean real-life impression, but I doubt her actual impact.
I’ll get back to that. First, the fiscal cliff. The American economy faces a
lose-lose proposition. Absent some kind of deal between President Obama, Senate Democrats and House Republicans, tax rates will rise across the board, including those for the middle class, and send the economy back into recession.
Well, we don’t want that. So what is option B? Unfortunately, the only option seems to be Obama’s vengeance tax on the wealthiest. Oh dear.
One thing that’s curiously absent from any of the current bedlam surrounding the “fiscal cliff” negotiations is any proposal to actually deal with the provenance of this theatrical mess — debt and spending. Neither of these options address the problem, let alone repair the beleaguered economy.
Democrats remain intoxicated with “tax the rich” hysteria fueled in part by their election victory. Their blood lust for a tactical victory in the Great Class War has blinded them to much else. So we are left with a Democratic president and Senate whipped into a frenzy to punish the rich with tax increases and a largely ignored spending crisis.
It’s unlikely a deal will be hammered out that isn’t economically harmful, let alone beneficent. As conventional wisdom suggests, Democrats have little to lose.
If we do plunge off the cliff, they can blame Republican intransigence. If a deal is struck, they get their tax increases — nothing else is on the table — and still blame the resulting economic disaster on whatever token concessions they might have thrown to “ideological” Republicans.
Still, lurking in the background as the Dems raise celebratory glasses will be the persisting situation of stagnant growth, ballooning debt and unsustainable spending — problems freshly compounded with higher taxes.
So what are Republicans to do? Holding firm and insisting on real solutions will send the economy over the cliff — and they will be blamed for it. Caving in to White House demands for tax hikes makes them responsible for the outcomes of such irresponsible policies and lends credence to complaints of Republicans being no better than Democrats.
Well, it might not be quite as bleak as that. Yes, it’s stinging after the election, but the GOP has more leverage than conventional wisdom would suggest.
First, President Obama no longer has another election to worry about, but a legacy – one he has no desire to see tarnished by renewed recession.
Second, even if the Republicans take the brunt of the blame for cliff-induced consequences, Democrats won’t be immune. They are, after all, the party in power. Continued or worsening economic malaise will offer the GOP the chance to demonstrate they were right all along.
The Republicans, as I eluded to in my previous column, need to present an alternative, a real solution — pro growth tax reform that doesn’t raise anyone’s taxes; cuts to federal spending based on an analysis of what the federal government is really for; and meaningful, even revolutionary, entitlement reform — a conservative program that can position the GOP as a reasonable and wise alternative to the status quo … if the GOP is adroit enough to make the case. That’s a big “if.” In any event, it’s the Republicans’ best, perhaps only, play in addition to being proper policy.
Yet, I remain pessimistic an economically acceptable deal can be reached. What’s ultimately driving the U.S. off this coming cliff is an electorate comprised of real-life “Julia’s.” Obama appealed to Julia. Julia voted en masse for Obama. Obama will either steer us off the cliff or into the mountain. And Julia is who the GOP needs to speak to after her taxes and costs rise in inverse proportion to her economic prospects.
Julia, therefore, receives my nomination for most influential person of the year — for better or, I fear, worse.
('76 Contributor) Believing a free press to be a vital safeguard of liberty, Thomas Jefferson said, “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” Many believe the inverse of Jefferson's maxim — the people are uninformed, and therefore the government can't be trusted. After all, what well-informed American would knowingly allow politicians to lead us to the monumental economic and budgetary “cliffs” we face? Despite a proliferation of new media, it's increasingly difficult to separate fact from narrative. Combined with rancorous political discourse in which opponents are demonized in order to delegitimize competing arguments and render unnecessary the defense of one's own, it makes demoralized Americans struggle to discern the truth.When invited by The Aspen Times to help diversify its opinion page, I proposed my “Think Again” column as a fact-based, issue-oriented commentary that would challenge conventional wisdom and remind readers of the values that made America the freest and most prosperous nation in world history. Like “Ripley's Believe It or Not!” I attempt to expose readers to easily certifiable facts and perspectives they might not otherwise consider (see columns at www.thinkagainusa.com). The goal of “Think Again” is not to change minds but to open them, for civil discourse requires being informed and thoughtful, which is the essence of citizenship.Last month, a community member targeted me in the letters-to-the-editor section with an unusual level of hostility and mean-spiritedness — he accused me of being an egregious, bald-faced liar and an embarrassment to Americans. Declaring me guilty without any possibility of innocence (or trial), my accuser and those who defended him from criticism believe their claims are objectively true and mine are lies. Calling someone a liar is the ultimate character assassination. It means truth doesn't matter to that person and that lying is not only habitual — it's an indelible mark of a deceitful and immoral character. According to Jewish ethicist Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of “Words That Hurt, Words That Heal,” the most grievous violation of ethical speech is “giving another a bad name,” for words are like bullets whose damage is mortal. To fight fairly, he writes, “you have the right to state your case, express your opinion, explain why you think the other party is wrong, even make clear how passionately you feel. … You do not have a moral right to undercut your adversary's position by invalidating him personally.”In my columns, I've made the case that our undisciplined, indebted and special-interest-oriented government is a bipartisan problem that subverts everybody's interests. I've quoted Sen. Tom Coburn, member of the Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission, who said, “Our economy is on the brink of collapse not because politicians can't agree but because they have agreed for decades … to borrow and spend far beyond our means … to create or expand nearly 40 entitlement programs, carve out tax advantages for special interests, build bridges to nowhere and earmark tens of thousands of other pork projects.”I believe it is a moral travesty that we've mortgaged our children's futures because we're unable to live within our means and are more indebted than any other nation in world history. Mandatory spending on “entitlements” (such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) is the single biggest financial problem we face, consuming 60 percent of our annual budget — up from 21 percent in 1955. As baby boomers retire and live longer, the current spending trajectory is unsustainable. Without reforms, it's unlikely that these vital programs will be available for people who need them in the future. One fact in particular irritated my accusers: We've spent less cumulatively on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars plus the 2008 TARP bailouts than we spend annually on mandatory programs. In contending that I'm a liar, and without citing sources, they claim the wars' total costs will exceed $5.8 trillion and that TARP exposure exceeds $15 trillion. It's not my goal to disprove their claims, only certify mine. According to the Congressional Budget Office — created by Congress in 1974 to “provide objective, impartial information about budgetary and economic issues” — federal spending (excluding interest expense) totaled $3.3 trillion in fiscal year 2012, of which $2.1 trillion were mandatory expenditures for entitlements. Meanwhile, the Budget Office reports that through October, a total of $1.4 trillion was spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, while TARP has cost a net of $24 billion, after repayments. My accusers argue that “true” costs must project a decade's worth of related and longer-term expenses. Therefore, we'll have spent $29 trillion on mandatory expenditures through 2022, according to the president's fiscal year 2013 budget, while unfunded liabilities exceed $60 trillion, according to the trustees of Social Security and Medicare. To put these numbers in perspective, consider that 1 trillion hours ago, dinosaurs roamed the earth.No doubt, fighting fairly is difficult, especially given the personal narratives that inform how we see the world. But as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Unfortunately, the one thing on which die-hard partisans seem to agree is that only one party is at fault — and it isn't theirs. Unable to hold competing facts simultaneously in mind, it's not surprising that they consider inconvenient truths to be lies. But embedded within our First Amendment right to free speech is a responsibility not merely to tolerate others' perspectives but to listen. Imagine if my accusers and I were to summon the mutual respect necessary to listen to each other's concerns. I'm confident we'd discover that despite our differences, we're equally committed to a “more perfect union.” Think Again — instead of playing the “liar” card, we might each learn something new, informing us enough to elect leaders who can be “trusted with our government.”Melanie Sturm lives in Aspen. Her column runs every other Thursday. She reminds readers to Think Again. You might change your mind.
Now that President Barack Obama has treated us to a madcap budgetary joke, it's time to get serious for the sake of national survival.
To be sure, it's a laugh for him to act like he wants to further defund Social Security by extending payroll-tax cuts, especially when you know Social Security is already in the red, and entitlements -- including Medicare and Medicaid -- will take up every cent of revenue by midcentury, minus restructuring.
Real reform would justify the move, but Obama's only nod to lowering the entitlement bill is to give less money back to hospitals and doctors for their services. At some point, some of them go out of business, or more doctors quit treating Medicare patients or find ways to multiply procedures, getting just as much money as they did before for essentially the same work. You cannot help snickering even as you grow eager for the joke to end.
And yet there are other parts of the joke, such as insisting we the people engage in assault and battery on that dastardly, evil minority that's getting away with robbery, rape and murder, or if none of those, at least grotesque, spit-on-the-poor unfairness.
We are talking about the rich and the Obama scheme to tax them more in ways that will lead to less investment and fewer jobs in small businesses. The unfairness claim is a hoot because the rich already pay the mother lode of taxes in this country at much higher rates than the rest of us. The instances of the superrich getting by with paying nothing much are rare, and if you want to dwell on capital gains, yes, by all means, let's get universally tough and tell the baby boomers that any profit on life savings is going to cost them plenty.
I know, I know, you think all this humor is too much for easy digestion, but I am not to the punch line yet, for there is the business of paying for infrastructure work through ending the costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In other words, if your debt is Rocky Mountain high and you finally finish the installments on your new car, you improve your situation by buying something else hugely expensive? I don't think so, and at any rate, our infrastructure problem is mainly a problem of bureaucratic incompetence and pork. Obama and team are far from being either competent or an enemy of pork. His stimulus bill was pork city.
Here's another giggle: the Obama plan to get rid of tax deductions for oil and gas production. Maybe you think that will mean more revenue, but there could well be less exploration and less oil and gas and, therefore, less revenue. We are at the beginning of a gas-and-oil boom that could help make the 21st century as much the American century as the 20th was. And we're going to quell that with wishful thinking about replacement-energy technologies still in swaddling clothes?
The punch line is that this president, who is on his way to having given us four trillion-dollar deficits in a row, himself confesses to another $10 trillion worth of debt in 10 years on top of the current $15 trillion.
That alone would likely end the American experiment with a continental whimper, but the policies he plans would almost surely cost us trillions more. He promised in 2009 to cut the deficit in half, now saying he didn't because the recession was worse than imagined. The scenarios he now projects are also less rosy than pretended, though it is central to understanding this joke to know the budget won't be enacted. Even the Democratic Senate let his 2012 proposal for economic mayhem die unattended, with no attempt at resuscitation, and is not about to pass this one. The Republican House would sooner kiss Wall Street Occupiers.
Sadly, the beginning of a serious answer may not arrive until November.
Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado and a Centennial Institute Fellow.
Budgeting is about setting priorities.In most states, K-12 education is the top priority and receives the lion’s share of funding. Yet across the country, states are grappling with a budget monster that pits education funding against federal health care mandates.In the last three years, total spending on K-12 education in Colorado has fallen by $389 million. Spending on health care, however, has increased by $763 million during that same period.The problem is that states no longer have the ability to set their own priorities. The federal-state Medicaid “partnership” increasingly resembles a shotgun wedding. A state that rejects the federal spending mandates also loses out on federal matching funds that pay for half of the $5 billion price tag of Colorado’s program.In the past five years, the number of Coloradans participating in Medicaid has swollen from 391,962 to 613,148. If that weren’t a big enough problem, ObamaCare (ironically named the “Affordable Care Act”) locks in current spending and requires states to expand eligibility to 133% of the federal poverty level. Worse still, government health care programs are notorious for exponentially exceeding estimated costs.Two years ago, the Colorado legislature, then controlled by Democrats, passed a $600 million hidden tax on hospital patients. Hospitals are prohibited from itemizing this “fee” on patients’ bills. The state planned to use this fee to leverage more federal matching funds and expand Medicaid eligibility to all adults whose income was at or below the federal poverty level.According a Denver Post story by Tim Hoover, state bureaucrats estimated that the new program would serve 49,200 people at a cost of $197 million per year. In fact, the number of eligible participants is closer to 143,000 and the cost of treating them $1.75 billion.For now, Colorado’s Department of Health Care Policy and Finance has controlled costs by limiting eligibility. However, ObamaCare mandates that all states extend coverage to this entire population by 2014. The federal government promises to pay for it by heaping even more debt on our children and grandchildren.Let’s be candid: Medicaid is government-sponsored charity — a noble but costly endeavor.In our family budgets, we may choose to cut back on extras to support worthwhile charities, but we don’t slash basics, like food and shelter for our children, to be even more generous to charitable causes.Given the choice, it’s inconceivable that legislators of either party would slash K-12 funding in order to expand Medicaid, but that’s exactly what’s happened. And the outlook grows even more grim under ObamaCare.So, why haven’t those who want to raise taxes for education or want the courts to force the legislature to spend more on education taken aim at the chief culprit that’s cutting into education funding? Either they don’t understand how Medicaid is eviscerating the state budget or perhaps they find it more expedient to lock arms with others who want higher taxes to pay for more spending on virtually everything.Two sensible options exist for restoring fiscal sanity to Medicaid:• Lobby Congress to turn Medicaid into a block grant program whereby states receive a lump sum from the federal government and are liberated to design their own program without federal mandates. Colorado will have allies because 49 other states are in a similar predicament.• Require Medicaid recipients to pay a small premium or co-pay in exchange for the health care they receive — which costs the state about $4,800 per patient per year.Some will object because Medicaid is a safety net program for the poor. Yet, households with an average income of $17,500 (just below 100% of poverty) spend an average of $879 on junk food and soda pop, $1,160 on eating out and $1,192 on entertainment.If Medicaid patients paid an average of $400 a year out of pocket, the state could add some $300 per student in K-12 funding.So which is more responsible – more cuts to K-12 education or requiring Medicaid customers to help pay for their health care costs by cutting back on a few extras?
Mark Hillman served as Colorado state treasurer and Senate majority leader. He is now the Republican National Committeeman and a Centennial Institute Fellow. To read more or comment, go to www.MarkHillman.com.
(Centennial Fellow) A month ago, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank excoriated U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., for “sabotage” in the work of the “debt supercommittee.” The column was vintage Freudian projection, the technical term in psychology for the left’s attributing to its political opponents its own slanderous behavior. (Who will ever forget hearing Bill Clinton whining hypocritically about being a victim of “the politics of personal destruction?”)
As I write, the Congress is again at an impasse, reminding one of the wrangling last August leading to creation of that “supercommittee” — an exercise in nibbling around the edges that may have been designed to fail, as it certainly did. I suggest the supercommittee came into existence only as a hiding place for Members of Congress as they voted to increase the nation's debt ceiling.
Milbank called Kyl, “cold and ruthless … different from you and me.” Those descriptors are inconsistent. Yes, I like being exempted from Milbank’s projection onto Kyl of being cold and ruthless. It was the height of presumption, however, to suggest fairly that Kyl’s work in preventing another compromise on the road to Pres. Obama’s vision for the United States made Kyl different from a great many of us.
About October 30, 2008, candidate Obama proclaimed to his supporters, “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”
That had a distinctly ominous ring, given the identities of those few known to have influenced Obama up to that time (e.g., Saul Alinsky, Frank Marshall Davis, Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn).
Sinister is the accurate word today in light of nearly three years’ experience with the Obama presidency, two during which Obama enjoyed the connivance of congressional majorities led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Some of us believe the United States of America to be the most successful experiment in world history — a nation exemplifying the exceptionalism so favorably attributed to it by the great Alexis de Tocqueville — and in no need of transformation ala Obama.
The fundamental transformation to statism sought by Obama and his Occupier allies is anathema to a majority of Americans. There is now a bright line between two camps. Neither can compromise, one must win.
The statist camp of the left has a notable advantage: a visceral commitment to being governors (or dictators, as the case may be). They also have the allegiance of major blocks of voters to whom they continue to pander with public resources.
Therefore, those of us in the camp rejecting statism have the more challenging task. The road back to what our Republic must be is narrow. We simply must do all possible to keep policy-makers between the lines on that narrow road. Those fatuously wringing their hands over failures to “compromise” would help drive us into Obama’s statist ditch.
The congressional supercommittee did not have to be Superman, leaping over tall buildings in a single bound. The mission was more on the order of being lackadaisical traffic cops. See all those cars going 100 mph? Let's get the accelerator madness down to 96 or 97, OK?
Sorry, but committee members avoided even that duty. The Democrats wanted a ruinous, trillion-dollar, hit-the-rich-hard tax increase as the major part of a $1.2 trillion, relatively picayunish, 10-year deficit reduction in $45 trillion worth of corruptly tinged spending that threatens immediate crisis and long-term suffering.
Think of it as incumbency investment. Every dollar spent helps buy a vote from some constituency or the other. The rich have few votes, and why get serious about slowing down government growth when we can happily imitate the modern-day, near-collapse of Greece? We can also look forward to our struggling children and grandchildren cursing us as the most selfish, freebie-inebriated generation in American history when they have to foot the bill.
The Republicans on the committee were better. They at least favored some halfway meaningful cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, the most threatening programs in our budgetary future. And despite the overreach of multiple pledges to avoid any and all new taxes, one brave GOP soul stood tall for tax reform simplifying our system, ending numerous corporate and individual deductions and raising revenue both by boosting the economy and grabbing more money right away through the revisions.
But no deal is not a new deal, and we're not going to be saved by the standby law that mostly skips over the entitlements, says phooey on a strong defense and makes it likely that George W. Bush-era tax decreases will be allowed to perish.
That law, referred to as "sequestering," does allow some reductions in Medicare fees paid to doctors and hospitals, meaning health-care providers that do not drop out of Medicare or go out of business will make up the loss by scheduling more appointments, it has been argued.
Don't worry about defense because we don't need as much as we have and there's lots of waste out there, some conservatives join liberals in averring. I, myself, think we still live in a dangerous world and have noticed our secretary of defense saying the cuts could make us weaker than in decades. While I am persuaded by experts that our defense structure needs reshaping to better meet current needs, I do not think lower budgets will accomplish that end. And since when does lowering a bureaucracy's budget do away with a bureaucracy's waste?
If the Bush tax cuts go away, the middle class will learn just how significant they were to them, despite prattle to the contrary, and if we get no leadership soon -- agreeing on $4 trillion worth of 10-year cuts in increased spending right away, and more trillions to come -- the recent news of a record $15 trillion debt will seem a sneeze prior to the heart attack.
Sadly, President Barack Obama, having failed at governing, has turned practically full time to the only thing he does well -- campaigning. He has repeatedly turned his back on opportunities to deal with the debt, negotiates mostly through the inoperable techniques of aloofness and lambasting, aims to please the crowd with dangerous, envy-mongering demagoguery, and has been earning the disgust even of devout followers, one of them being ultra-liberal MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews.
"He never tells what he's going to do with regard to reforming our health-care systems, Medicare, Medicaid," Matthews said before a national TV audience. "How is he going to reform Social Security? Is he going to deal with long-term debt? How? Is he going to reform the tax system? How? Just tell us. Why are we in this fight with him? Just tell us, commander, give us our orders and tell us where we're going."
My apologies for the Matthews understatement. In addition to offering no leadership, Obama has even pledged to veto steps in the right direction. Many cheer, but more and more, people seem to be catching on.
('76 Contributor) I just returned from a family reunion in Sioux Falls, SD, the same day Congress raised the debt ceiling. Family reunions are interesting because a large, extended family represents a statistical sample from which one can infer much of what going on in the World. It is obvious that young people are struggling, leaving their small towns and migrating to urban areas. They are taking upwards of 6 years to get their undergraduate degrees and graduate debt-ridden. The teaching jobs they were encouraged to pursue a decade ago are now few and far between. Many of the most talented women in the family are pursuing jobs in law and medicine, but one wonders whether disruptive change will really afford them the careers they expect. This younger generation is anxious. They cannot begin families without an income and they are hitting the streets with debt and uncertainty.
Another group were the males in the 50 year-old, plus group. Many are unemployed and some have already spent years searching for jobs that have long ago were outsourced or eliminated. Most recently they lost their ability to use their home equity and 401Ks to stay above water and their wives have had to pick up the slack. Their kids have chosen state rather than private colleges. Mobility and retraining seem all but impossible, so a form of siege mentality has set in.
There is one group though, which so far, seems unscathed. They are retired teachers or have jobs in the public sector. Even they know that what has happened is not a business cycle, and profound structural changes are around the corner. It’s as though there is a hurricane in the Gulf and we know it will eventually hit landfall. What is all but impossible to measure is the magnitude and speed of the changes.
Recent discussions about the deficits have focused on the $14 trillion dollars in current federal debt. What this week’s Bloomberg Business Week magazine points out is that there has been is no serious discussion of the looming $211 trillion fiscal gap between government spending and revenues. Whatever number it adds up to be should give us reason to pause, because every $1 trillion dollars in cutbacks represents 10 million jobs. It is now abundantly clear that whatever prosperity we enjoyed over the past thirty years was false, propped up by easy credit. We are now experiencing de-leveraging and we do not know where rock bottom rests.
I believe it is now time to acknowledge that we are in the 21st century. Our lives are about to be transformed the way a caterpillar goes into a cocoon and emerges a butterfly. There will be a disintegration of the old structure. What emerges from the cocoon will barely resemble that old form.
We cannot even begin to solve large problems by cutting costs; we must increase revenues. But, the suggestion that we increase revenues by raising taxes is a false choice. We must increase revenues by generating vast new wealth from exports into the global economy. A new, 21st century economy cannot be manufacturing-based; it must be based on services such as agriculture technology, water, health care, education, sewer, roads, construction and alternative energy. These are all things third world countries desperately need and they are things we are very good at doing. The problem is that we just aren’t very efficient at these things because most of these services have been provided by the public sector. They have never been subjected to the disciplining effects of the market economy. For example, we simply cannot let health care become 20% of our GDP and continue to be an overhead item in our economy. Medicare, Medicaid and health care are the dominant reason we cannot get our government’s fiscal house in order. Nothing short of a leveling of the playing field will suffice. If health care were an export industry we would encourage it to be as big as possible.
You can go through one-by-one the other areas I outlined and see that significant reform must occur if these industries are to become efficient enough to export their goods and services in a global economy. In many cases we will have to let the old structures die off and replace them with new, incentivized, performance-based, competitive structures. We didn’t reform the Savings & Loan Associations back in the 1980s—we killed them off and replaced them. This probably will have to happen with the mortgage industry and retail banking.
I for one believe that none of the change needed will happen unless we start with a transformation of our politics. Recent events in Washington, DC have show how deeply troubled our system is. It is no longer about voting Republican or Democrat. The bipolar two party system has, by necessity been triangulated by Independents and the Tea Party. But, a coalition government is too slow to react and we cannot afford to become Italy. I further assert that any transformation will require the elimination of the dominance of the attorney-turned-politician. I recognize that singling out a profession is dangerous. The chokehold this profession has on American politics is, of late, counter-productive. The industrial age resulted in large, hierarchal organizations staffed by specialists. The lawyer seemed the most general of the group and he was given the job to legislate and govern. In the end, though, the law itself is specialized and a process with more form than substance. Most lawyers do not even take a class in economics. We now need a new generation of generalists and we are going to have to grow them the same way the military breeds generals: Through training and experience.
In the end we are like Alice asking the Mad Hatter which way to go. If you don’t know where you would like to end up, then it doesn’t matter which path to take. We have to decide what kind of a world we want to leave to our children and to what extent we want the rest of the World to enjoy what we have.
Ken Buck spoke yesterday at a Centennial Institute forum on the federal-level Balanced Budget Amendment. While Congress debates raising the debt limit yet again, the long-term strength of our economy becomes ever more threatened.
Permitting more debt won't bolster our economy. Only massive spending cuts can re-establish a strong basis for fiscal stability and economic growth. Substantial cost-cutting can be achieved by not funding desirable but non-essential programs: some aspects of entitlement programs and Obamacare, some government payrolls, much foreign aid and UN funding, support for multi-language programs. Purchasing and labor contracts could be canceled or re-negotiated.
If we taxpayers run into debt, we can't instruct our bank simply to raise our debt limit. Instead, we must find ways to cut our spending. It is time for the federal government to face reality. We need the federal-level Balanced Budget Amendment.