Special interests vs. a balanced budget: Winner, special interests

posted at 2:41 pm on June 15, 2012 by Dustin Siggins

Not that conservatives need any more reason to be despondent over the unwillingness of Congress to get our fiscal house in order, but yesterday brought out some pretty depressing news in the Senate. From my inaugural post at Big Government, co-authored with policy consultant and blogger Nick Brown:

A number of Members of Congress are fighting to prevent all sequestration cuts to the Defense Department from being enacted. This is not being done because they believe it will endanger national security – though that is certainly a defensible argument many others in the House and Senate are making. Rather they believe it will cause economic harm. To be fair, many Senate and House Republicans have supported or voted for legislation to replace the defense cuts with cuts from the rest of the budget, but while that shores up the national security argument it undercuts the economic argument.

Senators not only voted to continue full funding of food stamps next year, despite an amendment by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) to cut $37 billion from the program and shift nutrition program responsibility to states, but did so in a bipartisan fashion with 13 Republicans joining Democrats in opposing the amendment. Sugar farmers will also continue to receive significant subsidies, with the support of 15 Republican Senators.

Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) are leading the Senate Finance Committee to attempt to pass a tax package before year’s end. However, this is not just any tax package. From the article:

The tax package is a fraction of the cost of the Bush tax cuts, but this list of tax credits — which deal with everything from alternative energy to mass transit — is a top priority for the business community, as well as special interests on K Street.

The House is also in rough shape when it comes to cutting spending:

Also on Thursday morning, Red State’s Erick Erickson posted about a Club for Growth “Spending Cut Scorecard” for House Members. Erickson gave the following depressing news:

  • Only 20 members of the House have voted for every amendment to cut spending. All are Republicans.
  • 50 members of the House have voted against every amendment to cut spending. 49 are Democrats. One is a Republican (Bonner).
  • The average Republican voted for spending cuts 59% of the time. (Republican Freshman are only slightly better at 60%.)
  • The average Democrat voted for spending cuts 6% of the time.
  • The nine Republicans, including four freshmen, who have least often voted to cut spending are: Bonner 0%, Meehan 4%, LaTourette 4%, Bass 4%, Simpson 4%, Lucas 4%, King, P. 4%, Grimm 4%, and Dold 4%.
  • The eight Democrats who have most often voted to cut spending are: Matheson 32%, Rush 31%, Kucinich 30%, Polis 28%, Cooper 20%, McIntyre 17%, Velazquez 17%, and Honda 17%.

The fact of the matter is that spending needs to be cut and the tax code needs to be reformed, and soon. Not ten years from now, not five years from now. This year or next year, lest we hit the fiscal cliff Nick and I talk about in the piece. Yet many Members of Congress are unwilling to do either in case it loses them the next election. Which begs the following questions:

  • First, are older Americans willing to forgo part of their hard-earned retirement benefits in order to begin the process of bringing the budget back into balance?
  • Second, are younger Americans willing to pay taxes for retirement benefits they won’t receive, in order to phase in reforms?
  • Third, will Republicans admit the Defense Department should do less and should spend tax dollars more responsibly with what it does fund?
  • Fourth and most importantly, will Democrats admit that even if we cut defense spending to zero starting today, we’ll be essentially bankrupt as a nation in the next two decades as social spending (including entitlements) takes up a growing share of the federal budget? (I won’t go so far as to ask if Democrats will ever admit most, if not all, social spending shouldn’t be funded by federal tax dollars in the first place.)
  • And fifth, will taxpayers vote in politicians who will consistently and purposefully ignore special interests in order to create a flatter, loophole-diminished tax code, to create greater economic efficiency and bring in more tax dollars (which should go straight to deficit reduction) to the federal government through economic growth instead of higher taxes?

Washington Post columnist George Will recently decried the way “bipartisanship” is often put on a pedestal, and picked out a few egregious examples of how bipartisanship has made things worse in America. Yesterday was a prime example of how the wonders of bipartisanship can also fail to find solutions. Nick and I offer our blunt, if despondent, take on the situation in our closing, and basically call out the American people to make the changes we all know need to happen:

This year America is going to run its fourth straight trillion-dollar deficit, and Baby Boomers are going to keep retiring at a rate of 10,000 people per day for roughly the next 18 years. If Congress cannot even cut 2.85% from this year’s expected deficit – which is about what Senator Paul’s amendment would have resulted in saving – or stop themselves from using the tax code to get re-elected, how can we trust members of this body? How can the citizenry be assured that the federal government is safeguarding middle-aged people from losing their retirements? Or that it will prevent the Debt-Paying Generation from paying enormously high taxes and bearing the burden of retired Baby Boomers in Greekesque brink-of-collapse fashion while unemployed at unthinkable rates and required to work long past the current retirement age? The short answer is, “We can’t,” and the longer answer is, “We can’t, and our nation is going to suffer greatly for it.”

 

 


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Jeez, this Dustin Suggins person is amazing, an intellectually honest conservative. We’ll never see him on Fox.

libfreeordie on June 15, 2012 at 2:47 PM

50 members of the House have voted against every amendment to cut spending. 49 are Democrats. One is a Republican (Bonner).

The nine Republicans, including four freshmen, who have least often voted to cut spending are: Bonner 0%

…think we need a new Speaker?

KOOLAID2 on June 15, 2012 at 2:54 PM

……think we need a new Speaker?

KOOLAID2 on June 15, 2012 at 2:54 PM

Bonner =/= Boehner.

alwaysfiredup on June 15, 2012 at 3:09 PM

Bonner /= Boehner

Cecil on June 15, 2012 at 3:09 PM

Jeez, this Dustin Suggins person is amazing, an intellectually honest conservative. We’ll never see him on Fox.

libfreeordie on June 15, 2012 at 2:47 PM

Never took you for a Tea Party con. Welcome to our side.

spinach.chin on June 15, 2012 at 3:10 PM

Federalism is the only way out. We have to forcibly take power from the Federal government and return it to the states. States are forced to be somewhat more responsible est they lose citizens and businesses. And they can’t print money.

See my series here.

Charlemagne on June 15, 2012 at 3:13 PM

May I suggest a speculative investment in ammo, torches, pitchforks, tar, feather, and rope? If the Congress continues in its inebriated way, I foresee a big future for these commodities.

Archivarix on June 15, 2012 at 3:14 PM

It’s past time for the spending spigot to be switched to off.

Including some defense projects.. my hubby worked on a ship for the Navy and found it to be the most wasteful, lazy, unsafe place to work.. (oh yeah, it was a union shop).

The whole Social Security and SSDI programs need to gone through, the fraud weeded out, the top heavy administration trimmed to the bone etc. I currently have 4 relatives collecting SSDI, all relatively able bodied and able to work. I have a cousin-in-law currently working for the Social Security admin that is getting his masters degree (courtesy of the govt.)… if we don’t start chopping away and soon, we are all doomed.

kringeesmom on June 15, 2012 at 3:15 PM

……think we need a new Speaker?

KOOLAID2 on June 15, 2012 at 2:54 PM

Bonner, not Boehner. /facepalm

gravityman on June 15, 2012 at 3:17 PM

……think we need a new Speaker?

KOOLAID2 on June 15, 2012 at 2:54 PM

Jo Bonner, R-AL… not proud to say he’s my congressman.

kringeesmom on June 15, 2012 at 3:17 PM

•And fifth, will taxpayers vote in politicians who will consistently and purposefully ignore special interests in order to create a flatter, loophole-diminished tax code, to create greater economic efficiency and bring in more tax dollars (which should go straight to deficit reduction) to the federal government through economic growth instead of higher taxes?

Taxpayers first have to understand that it is the special interests that politicians work for, not the voters. I have not seen sufficient evidence that voters are engaged enough to understand this… or not enough voters.

I would love to see that happen, and I think it is one of the most important things that needs to happen. I believe many of our other problems can be resolved by Congress if the members of Congress werent so beholden to those special interests.

In answer to your question… I have no faith that enough voters will recognize the problem in order to fix it.

gravityman on June 15, 2012 at 3:22 PM

……think we need a new Speaker?

KOOLAID2 on June 15, 2012 at 2:54 PM

Bonner, not Boehner. /facepalm

In spite of this error, yes we do.

hawkeye54 on June 15, 2012 at 3:23 PM

Which begs the following questions:

Hot Air contributors, you keep making this mistake. I’ve seen multiple commenters trying to correct you. What you mean to say is it “raises the question”. Begging the Question is a logical fallacy in which one assumes the conclusion of an if/then statement is already true. That is, you use the conclusion to prove itself.

Goldenavatar on June 15, 2012 at 3:27 PM

…..OK! OK!…*face palm*

KOOLAID2 on June 15, 2012 at 3:28 PM

Never took you for a Tea Party con. Welcome to our side.

spinach.chin on June 15, 2012 at 3:10 PM

I like the elements of the tea party that really use the primary process to unseat entrenched power. I disagree with probably 2/3rds of what the tea party is into. I believe social spending is a thing that should happen. However, I am increasingly convinced that the federal government can not do it effectively. In my ideal world we’d have some pretty aggressive progressive income taxes on the state level and a decreased federal burden, a massively reduced military and “war on drug” infrastructure. Really strong department of justice to monitor civil rights and environmental regulations on a state level (because, history, duh). I’d really like to see how southern red states do without the federal revenue from wealthier blue states. I think what would happen is that those states would be even more aggressive than they currently are about locking folks up as that seems to be a version of welfare the right is comfortable with.

libfreeordie on June 15, 2012 at 3:31 PM

(that’s what I get for thinking of him as Crybaby Bonehead all the time…forgot how he spells his name!)

KOOLAID2 on June 15, 2012 at 3:37 PM

Excellent argument for term limits. Most of these a**clowns aren’t interested in anything but furthering their own careers.

sage0925 on June 15, 2012 at 3:47 PM

Including some defense projects.. my hubby worked on a ship for the Navy and found it to be the most wasteful, lazy, unsafe place to work.. (oh yeah, it was a union shop).

kringeesmom on June 15, 2012 at 3:15 PM

I would agree with defense cuts if the cuts were to the wasteful processes and not to the systems needed by the warfighter. While your anecdote regarding the work environment and surrounding waste are illustrative of process issues, that does not negate the need for that ship being added to the fleet. There are numerous processes that have been implemented over the years, ostensibly designed to deter “waste and fraud” that are extremely expensive to both implement and administer (for grins, look up “earned value management” and its requisite handbook). Many of those processes are prime examples of Congress legislating processes that spare no expense to save money. Lots of that could be cut out and efficiency would be returned to the whole procurement process. Would a few bad apples get through? They do now. What would happen is a lot of the top-heavy bureaucracy would be reduced.

AZfederalist on June 15, 2012 at 4:12 PM

And now, we have a package bill from the House, 14 bills affectionately known as the “Conservation and Economic Growth Act”, which includes Sealaska HR 1408, where the gov’t gives land to Sealaska Corp, OUTSIDE of the Alaskan Native Claims Settlement Act (of 1971), to the tune of an estimated $5.5 B.
- Why is the Federal Gov’t picking a single timber company ??? Solyndra, anyone ?

Don Young and Lisa (thank you Mitch) are trying to sneak this through in a cr**-sandwich, hoping no one will notice. Read more here.

Ted Stevens may be gone, but his legacy lives on !

williampeck1958 on June 15, 2012 at 4:42 PM

AZfederalist on June 15, 2012 at 4:12 PM

I couldn’t agree with you more. No one is out to save time/money,and following idiotic processes saves neither time nor money.. it’s a clusterfark.. surely the job can be done more effectively..

kringeesmom on June 15, 2012 at 4:48 PM

Another reason, well the #1 reason, to dislike all politicians. They must really hate themselves…

kirkill on June 15, 2012 at 4:51 PM

These b@stards aren’t going to wake up until it’s too late for a lot of innocent people and the gravy train then ends abruptly. Bernanke won’t be able to print our way out. The dollar is only as strong as the economy is productive. Print more dollars, the economy is less productive. Cutting spending isn’t enough. Things need to be abolished and if, and probably when, Romney and Republicans “fail” to eliminate Obamacare, I’m hoping that’s the end of the Republican party.

rickv404 on June 15, 2012 at 5:13 PM

•First, are older Americans willing to forgo part of their hard-earned retirement benefits in order to begin the process of bringing the budget back into balance?

i would quibble with this somewhat. “hard earned”. if you are speaking of soc secur and medicare, neither of these are “earned”. they are transfer payments; i.e. similar to welfare. payments from current working young directly to current ‘old’ who have attained a certain age (which is statutory and can be changed) and regardless of whether the recipient has “retired” or not; they can be received for example when an ellibigle recipient is still in the workforce. “retirement benefits” in theory could only be received after retirement. they are not defined benefit plans per se with paid in premiums for example, and there is no vested benefit accrued at anytime. several court cases have established this. these payments are classifed as transfer payments and therefore really cannot be “earned”. perhaps they could better be classified as “old age welfare without any correlation to current income, wealth or need”.

t8stlikchkn on June 15, 2012 at 5:21 PM

That picture of dollar bill toilet paper must have come from the House restrooms, I expect to see $1,0000 bills in the Senate restrooms and $10,000 in the Oval office restroom the way these clowns throw money at their cronies and lame projects.

daj on June 15, 2012 at 5:25 PM

T8stlikchkn,

Good call. You are correct regarding SS and Medicare being transfer payments, not a direct returnon investments, per se. My error.

Dustin Siggins on June 15, 2012 at 5:33 PM

I believe social spending is a thing that should happen. However, I am increasingly convinced that the federal government can not do it effectively.

libfreeordie on June 15, 2012 at 3:31 PM

Cool. I’ve been looking for years for a liberal who would rather enact their liberalism on the state and local level than the federal level. Good to meet you. :)

NukeRidingCowboy on June 15, 2012 at 5:35 PM

Dustin Siggins on June 15, 2012 at 5:33 PM

i didnt mean to be a jerk about it, but these distinctions are i think going to become important in the near future as we struggle with entitlement reform. most folks do not understand this at all. i try to explain it to my clients and its not easy. when means testing becomes unavoidable, the whole country is going to have to receive this lesson from someone; someday, somehow, this heavy lift is going to have to be done. for everyones sake, esp the “young”. i think this is what newt gingrich was tlaking about about his infamous “right wing engineering” statement. i think he meant that we needed to have a serious high level education program for all americans BEFORE we attempt to make these types adjustments to entitlement programs.

t8stlikchkn on June 15, 2012 at 5:49 PM

T8stlikchkn,

You weren’t being a jerk. Not at all. You were factually accurate, and I was a bit inaccurate.

Dustin Siggins on June 15, 2012 at 6:26 PM

Second, are younger Americans willing to pay taxes for retirement benefits they won’t receive, in order to phase in reforms?

You ask this as if it were a choice and not an inevitable fact of reality. Raise your hand if you think Social Security will be around 40 years from now… *crickets*

CapnObvious on June 15, 2012 at 9:44 PM