Monthly Archives: November 2010

If a rematch between Harry Reid and Sharon Angle were held a week from today, she might actually win, given Sen. Reid’s tin ear when it comes to wasteful spending.

But there is no rematch.  He won, she lost, and Reid continues to staunchly defend bringing home the bacon to Nevada; a practice that some of his fellow Democrats are prepared to suspend.  Reid’s defense?

“I am not in favor of delegating my constitutional responsibility to the White House.”

What?

Many Americans are aware that Congress passes the nation’s budget bills.  More specifically, Congress can – and does – authorize and appropriate funds for a specific program within the administration.  Good evening Mr. President and head of Health Services, here’s the brand new health care law we passed and here’s the money allocated to carry it out its specific functions.

Mr. Reid knows this, too, of course.

“I believe, personally, we have a constitutional obligation, a responsibility, to do congressionally directed spending.  I do not feel comfortable turning that over to the people downtown.”

I’m not sure why the disconnect, but “congressionally directed spending” is congressionally directed spending.  Even with an earmark ban, Congress retains the power to authorize and appropriate money.  The budget bills do not suddenly become blank checks handed over to the “people downtown,” (i.e. the White House and her agencies).  If so, the next energy appropriations bill could theoretically become Obama’s Cap and Trade bill.

Earmarks, on the other hand, are the ultimate in blank checks.  Mr. Reid doesn’t want to go to the trouble of getting his pork authorized and approved by spending committees.  Why subject yourself to that when you can just air-drop a little Lake Tahoe restoration (actual Reid earmark) into a spending bill without an up or down vote?

In any event, this debate about earmarks really isn’t about pet projects going away.  It’s about unaccountable pet projects going away.  If Mr. Reid wanted to “congressionally direct” spending toward Lake Tahoe restoration, he ought to give it a shot.  After all, as Majority Leader, the guy still has some clout, yes?

Being a part of a legislative or executive blue-ribbon commission is a thankless and often dreadful job.  By definition, a commission’s recommendations reach a consensus . . . a compromise.  Countless hours of hard work (usually unpaid), collaboration with colleagues on the other side of the political spectrum, a little give here, and a little take there.  And for what?  A report that includes tough love recommendations few politicians are willing to stand behind, a report that interest groups love to ends up being hated by both sides,  political spectrum and is relegated to a future on a shelf collecting dust (or these days, on a hard drive getting a virus).

President Obama’s fiscal commission co-chairmen just pre-released their report.  There has been no vote and rank-and-file members have not yet publicly weighed in.  But co-chairmen Simpson and Bowles unveiled a draft that has both conservatives and liberals uneasy (see part of liberal Paul Krugman’s response in the post below).

What I like most about the draft is the acknowledgment that not only does federal spending need drastic reductions, but that the TAX CODE needs to be reformed.  Yes, the commission scores their tax reforms as a net tax increase (and there are increases we don’t support, like capital gains and dividend taxes), but I tend to think that the reforms don’t have enough dynamic feedback effect included in their score.  If top marginal tax rates on both corporate and personal income were slashed by 26 percent (to a top rate of 26 percent), and were coupled with regulatory restraint by Obama (no more financial system overhauls, health care overhauls and the like), billions of private dollars currently sitting on the sidelines would be freed up.   Confidence would perk up.  That’s what history tells us, anyway.

In addition to a ban on earmarks, the flattening and lowering of the personal income tax system, and the corporate tax cut, the commission also calls for medical malpractice reform.

You now see why liberals hate this thing.

The federal deficit commission pre-released their report yesterday and we will write more about it later, but the NYT’s Paul Krugman doesn’t like what he sees so far.  Krugman has been calling for higher taxes and higher spending to improve the economy and he doesn’t seem to have much room for anyone who disagrees with his analysis – including the commission assembled by Pres. Obama.   The commission did address federal taxation, and contrary to what many people thought (that the commission would only focus on tax increases), they actually proposed some pro-growth reforms to the tax code, which included lower rates on capital investment.  This doesn’t sit well with Krugman.

I mean, what’s this about? There is no — zero — evidence that income taxes at current rates are an important drag on growth.

What’s “an important drag on growth”?  What growth is he talking about, anyway?

As I said, we’ll get into more detail about the commission’s early recommendations, but Krugman’s notion on tax rates reminds me of Bill Gates Sr’s letter to Arthur Laffer where he said, “I would say our country has prospered from using [a progressive tax] system—even at 70% rates to say nothing of 90%.”



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