SOTU…Belated

I didn’t have many thoughts on the President’s State of the Union address because I expected every bit of it.  I knew that he would ignore the American peoples desire for budget cuts and smaller government and continue to push his agenda of squeezing every nickel and dime out of jobless and broke Americans.  Bullet trains, Internet take overs, and solar shingles will save the day – our “Sputnik moment” apparently.

Being less surprised at the SOTU only increased my surprise of the Republican response that endorsed both entitlements and personal responsibility at the same time.  Quite an interesting thing to say the least.

In glorious self endorsement, I comment on the Republican response in my first post on Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment here.

Now if we Could Just Combine Them…

Financially, The United States of America is heading the way of Greece, Britain and France. Rebellion and fiscal implosion are possible (likely?), and a dedicated third party is almost definite, if we don’t balance the budget by 2013. Unfortunately, few Members of Congress are willing to take the political risks necessary to balance the budget at all, never mind by 2013.

Fortunately, at least some Republicans are willing to take a stab at eventual balance of the budget. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has his Roadmap, but I do not consider it all that serious since it adds debt for over 50 years before balancing the budget. We can’t afford that. What we can perhaps afford is the Ryan-Rivlin proposal which, as Veronique de Rugy shows here, significantly diminishes the cost of health care over the next 40 years and saves hundreds of billions annually while doing so.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to worry about the long-term debt if we can’t get past the short-term. This is where the decent, though not nearly expansive enough, Spending Reduction Act kicks in. Proposed this week in The Washington Examiner by Senator Jim Demint (R-SC), the House’s Republican Study Committee (RSC) Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) and the RSC’s Budget and Spending Taskforce leader Scott Garrett (R-NJ), it aims to cut $2.5 trillion in discretionary spending over the next decade.

However, no plan to balance the budget is complete without looking at national defense and budgetary fraud, and this is where Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) enters the field of play. First with his various attempts to combat $100 billion in Medicare and Medicaid fraud (see one example from the last Congress here), and secondly with his detailed memorandum last year, Coburn is a one-man wrecking machine in the Senate.

If even half of the potential savings in these efforts are realized, the federal budget would drop by over $200 billion right away. Add in the medium-term and long-term impacts of defense and health reforms and we might actually have a balanced budget before Indiana governor Mitch Daniels hits his second term. (Of course, with Chris Christie as his vice president, maybe it will happen even faster. One can only hope.)

Interview With Seton Motley: President of “Less Government”

Dustin Siggins: If Republicans take back the House, how effective will they be in restraining/overturning Obama’s policies?

Seton Motley: They can’t overturn, but they can defund and defang what’s been passed.

DS: Do you think Republicans who target the community center/mosque are making a mistake?

SM: Any issue where it’s 70-30 on your side, it’s not a mistake to make that argument. An indicator of that is when the left says it’s a distraction…it’s damaging the left, and they want you to stop doing it.

DS: Mitt Romney has avoided the debate, and wrote in the Boston Globe about the economy…

SM: It’s not like the mosque is going to be talked about to the exclusion of the economy. That’s absurd. What’s going to happen is that it’s another in a long series of issues where the left is flying directly in the face of the American people. The political tone-deafness of President Obama to be silent for weeks, to the point where the lines are clearly demarcated for where the American people stand on it, and then he comes out on the opposite side of it. In that way, it’s no different than the myriad spending bills; health care; and the stimulus, where they know where Americans stand but they do the opposite.

The fact that Obama waited weeks, then came out against the American people, leads one to think that he might not pay any attention to what the American people say.

The American people have made it clear they support extending the Bush tax cuts, and Democrats aren’t going to do that. Peter Roff did write in U.S. News that the “October Surprise” may be Democrats extending some of the cuts to attempt to minimize the damage that will be done to the Democratic Party in November.

DS: How can Republicans show they are serious about spending right away, after November, especially since the deficit impact of extending the Bush tax cuts can be mitigated through simple spending cuts.

SM: Paul Ryan (Representative from Wisconsin) has come up with a plan. The cry of “Party of No” is a joke; when Republicans have so few votes in Congress, that is basically all they can do is say No. BUT, that claim about being the “Party of No” is inaccurate, since Republicans like Paul Ryan have detailed plans to address the spending problem in Washington.

An Indication of Seriousness, or More D.C. Manipulation?

H/T to Hot Air for linking to the deficit reduction plan by Republicans on the House Budget Committee. The plan would, according to Republican estimates, cut $1.3 trillion over ten years.

This is nowhere close to enough to even be a solid dent in the national debt (it averages out to $130 billion in annual savings- which is less than 1/10 of the deficit for this year alone), but at least it’s a start. The plan also, as Ed Morrissey pointed out, takes care of some of the major issues with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which are sucking tens of billions of dollars annually from the American taxpayer, and continue to be damaging to the economy and the possibility of an economic recovery.

Of course, Social Security, Medicare, defense cuts, Medicaid and subsidies to private companies (outside of TARP and the stimulus) are not addressed. This is disappointing, and may show a lack of reform seriousness on the part of Republicans. However, this plan is a start. Considering that House Democrats can’t even pass a budget, this is a great public relations step for Republicans, and a small bit of hope for those of us who want to see a functioning America 10 years.

The Republican press release can be seen here, and the specific cuts are outlined below, as posted by Morrissey:

  • Cancel Unused TARP Funds. Prohibit the Treasury Secretary from entering into new commitments under the Troubled Asset Relief Program [TARP]. Ending TARP would prevent up to $396 billion in additional disbursements; CBO estimates savings of $16 billion. H.R. 3140 introduced by Rep. Tom Price of Georgia.
  • Cancel Unspent ‘Stimulus’ Funds. Rescind all unobligated budget authority authorized under the “stimulus” bill and dedicate to deficit reduction. Saves up to $266 billion. H.R. 3140 introduced by Rep. Tom Price of Georgia.
  • Cut and Cap Discretionary Spending. Return non-defense discretionary spending to pre-Obama (fiscal year 2008) baseline levels. Saves up to $925 billion. Legislation introduced by Reps. Ryan and Hensarling (H.R. 3964) and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio (H.R 3298) include caps on discretionary spending.
  • Reduce Government Employment. Hire one person for every two who leaves civilian government service until the workforce is reduced to pre-Obama levels (exempting the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs). Saves an estimated $35 billion. H.R. 5348 introduced by Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming.
  • Freeze Government Pay. Freeze Federal civilian pay for 1 year. Saves an estimated $30 billion.
  • Adopt the Legislative Line-Item Veto. Enact a constitutional line-item veto law. The President’s FY 2011 budget included terminations, reductions, and savings that would achieve $23 billion in one year. While Congress may not accept all these savings, the Line Item Veto can help reduce spending. H.R. 1294 introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
  • Reform and Bring Transparency to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Reform these companies by ending conservatorship, shrinking their portfolios, establishing minimum capital standards, reducing conforming loan limits, and bringing transparency to taxpayer exposure. According to CBO, the cost to taxpayers of putting government in control of Fannie and Freddie is $373 billion through 2020. Saves an estimated $30 billion. H.R. 4889 introduced by Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas. H.R. 4653 introduced by Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey.
  • Create a Sunset Commission. Establish a commission to conduct systematic reviews of Federal programs and agencies, and make recommendations for those that should be terminated; and provide for automatic sunset of programs unless expressly reauthorized by the Congress. H.R. 393 introduced by Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas.

Tax Debate! Tax Debate!

The Party of ?No, But Here?s A Better Idea?

Since the election of President Obama, the Democrats have been very effective at portraying the Republican Party as the ?Party of No.? Depending on your political persuasion, this could be completely true, completely false or somewhere in the middle.

In the last couple of weeks, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been hammered by Erick Erickson of RedState and Michelle Malkin for not fighting to the very finish on the recent Senate passage of a health care reform bill. On the one hand, these criticisms are of delaying tactics would only have slowed the vote by twelve hours, which would have done nothing in the halls of Congress but would have, as Ed Morrissey points out, given the media less time to cover the vote?s aftermath. On the other hand, if the Republican leadership had held firm on the many opportunities they had to slow things down, for example by following Senator Judd Gregg?s (R-NH) advice, and Senator Tom Coburn?s (R-OK) wish to read every part of the Senate bill, among other tactics to slow the bill, senators would have had to go home for Christmas a) without a bill, and b) to face their constituents, the majority of whom dislike the Democratic versions of health care reform and whom are increasingly against them as time goes on.

Senators Gregg, Coburn and Jim DeMint (R-SC), among many others, have been vilified for their articulate and unyielding opposition to health care reform and other Democratic measures. However, they are also the poster children for what Republicans should be about- namely, being the party of ?No, But Here?s A Better Idea.? All of these senators, along with other Republicans, have jammed the Democrats but also offered their own solutions to the various issues facing America. They have also worked with Democrats in a bipartisan fashion on a case-by-case basis.

When it comes to dispelling the myth that Republicans have been, and are being, merely obstructionists, let’s start with Senator Judd Gregg. On the one hand, Gregg voted for Secretary Geithner?s nomination, nearly accepted a position as President Obama?s Commerce Secretary, offered support for the bipartisan Wyden-Bennett bill and has worked with Democrat Kent Conrad (D-ND) on a debt commission. On the other, Gregg has hammered Obama on debt, passed around a virtual handbook for Republican obstructionism and taken the lead on opposing Democratic reconciliation. Additionally, however, Gregg has offered his own bill as an alternative to the Democratic proposals.

Senator DeMint is probably most famous for his Waterloo statement and his numerous delaying tactics on health care reform (see here and here for examples). However, he has also worked with self-declared socialist Independent Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on halting the Bernanke nomination and bringing transparency to the Federal Reserve. As a representative of the Party of ?No, but here?s a better idea,? he too has put forth a health care alternative to the Democratic proposals.

Lastly, we have Senator Coburn. Coburn has slid in two gun amendments this year to two Democrat-supported bills, halting the DC voting bill in its tracks. He has also held up funding for veterans because he wanted to use unused stimulus funds for the benefits and loudly opposed the stimulus package. He also forced a reading of Senator Sanders? single-payer amendment to the Democratic bill. However, at the same time, he has maintained a friendship with President Obama, pushed a transparency bill with then-Senator Obama (D-IL) into law in 2006 and sponsored a Republican alternative to the Democratic health care bills on, of all places, Huffington Post. In fact, he wrote on Huffington Post not once but twice. This is a guy who clearly wants his message to get out to all Americans, not just his constituents or fellow conservatives.

Other ?No but here?s a better idea? Republicans include Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), the numerous Republican co-sponsors of the Wyden-Bennett bill and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

The fact is that Republicans are trying to stop a very bad makeover of a massive portion of America in ways that swing from bad policy to unethical to unconstitutional. For an example of the latter, with respect to David Frum?s recent piece supporting the individual mandate?s constitutionality, he is wrong- an individual mandate is clearly unconstitutional. Other bad components include the Senate bill’s abortion funding, the House bill’s public option and the lack of legitimate tort reform in either bill.

Personally, I think Republicans should have fought tooth-and-nail for a post-Christmas vote on the Democratic health care reform bill in the Senate. They should have offered amendments, yes, as Frum has said- but they have a responsibility to stop the bill first and foremost. That is what the minority is supposed to do with a bill as bad as this one, with as little power as Republicans and conservatives have right now- stop the legislation cold and start over with a bill that includes conservative and free market principles and ideas. Some Republicans are just being the Party of No, but sometimes saying?saying?’no’ is necessary, despite what some Democrats may say.