Economy & Budget

Follow the lead of the American people

The president delivered his 2012 Budget proposal to Congress on Monday, February 14th, and its contents highlight the ongoing disconnect between the president’s rhetoric and his willingness to actually make tough decisions to put our country on a sustainable fiscal course. The Economic Report of the President is due shortly, and, unfortunately, I don’t expect it to be any more promising.

Mr. President: If you are looking for inspiration about how to face our country’s fiscal challenges, look no further than American families.

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The debt ceiling game

The latest installment in a decades-long series of showdowns on Capitol Hill over raising the statutory debt ceiling is imminent. The ceiling has been raised ten times in just the last nine years to make room for almost $8 trillion in additional debt. But the stakes are much higher this time around, as the electorate is showing increasing awareness of the danger of having allowed Uncle Sam to abuse his credit card. 

The Republicans’ reclamation of the House in November, due in part to a promise to address the government’s runaway debt, immediately set up a confrontation with the Obama administration over the need to raise the ceiling above $14.3 trillion at some point in the spring.

When Republicans balked at the prospect of raising the debt ceiling without also reining in spending, the White House wasted little time in warning that GOP intransigence could usher in the apocalypse.

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Reaching educational goals means evaluating every cut

The underlying tension to maintain government-funded programs on the one hand and to reduce the national deficit on the other is evident throughout the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2012 (FY 2012) budget proposal for all government agencies. While many government agencies witnessed overall cuts, the Department of Education’s budget proposes a $2 billion increase over the fiscal year 2011 (FY 2011) proposal.

In the recent State of the Union address, the president outlined his vision for “winning the future” and to fully achieve this goal, investments in education are critical. Even with the budget’s overall increase, the Obama administration has determined that some cuts are needed, primarily to sustain the maximum Pell Grant at $5,550. Preserving the Pell Grant program reflects our nation’s long-standing commitment to educational opportunity for low-income students.

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The President's bloated budget

Noted nineteenth-century economist Frédéric Bastiat once wrote that “people are beginning to realize that the apparatus of government is costly. But what they do not know is that the burden falls inevitably on them.” With the introduction of the President’s enormous $3.7 trillion FY2012 Budget on Monday, I believe people are finally realizing that the burden does, in fact, fall on them and on future generations to come.

The federal budget is an important economic and moral choice. We must decide if we want to place even more of our money under the control of politicians and bureaucrats, or if we wish to leave more resources with families and businesses that grow the private sector. The president has chosen to continue placing his trust in big government. I am placing my trust in families, small businesses and job creators.

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Putting consumers first this Congress

When President Obama last month called for government-wide regulatory reform, he recognized that many federal rules, no matter how well-intentioned, cost far more than they benefit. Some can be downright harmful. One measure ripe for regulatory review is the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). The law will be the focus of hearings this week before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
 
CPSIA greatly expanded the scope of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in an effort to improve the safety of children’s products. The law does some good things, but it also needlessly burdens many small businesses, raises costs for consumers, and in some instances is introducing new risks to children. In other words, it is precisely the kind of rule-making President Obama should want reformed.

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Countering America’s regulatory burden: Congress sees jobs as topmost priority

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, recently held a hearing on “Regulatory Impediments to Job Creation.” Entrepreneurs and business leaders reported on how specific regulations are hurting their competitiveness and growth. They made clear that countless federal rules and policies that have advanced over the past two years or more, on top of existing regulatory burden, remain a deterrent to hiring and investment.

The hearing followed outreach by Chairman Issa where he asked business leaders and job creators to specify what regulations or initiatives are hampering job creation. Our organization, the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, provided input and participated in the February 10 hearing.

Soon after, the House passed H.R. 72, which directs certain committees to review existing, pending, and proposed regulations that are impeding job growth. In line with Chairman Issa’s approach, members of Congress would be charged with making job creation a topmost priority and recommending actions to relieve business owners of unneeded costs and uncertainty.

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Counter point: Robert Poole's analysis is off course

Robert Poole’s assertion in his recent column ("Rethinking the FAA budget," 2/7/11) that the General Fund contribution to the FAA should be lessened or eliminated is unfortunately way off base.

First, there is a long precedent of using General Fund contributions from the U.S. Treasury to help fund the Federal Aviation Administration because our nation's system of airports is a national priority and a benefit for all Americans. In spite of Poole’s alarmist rhetoric, as recently as 2003, the General Fund contribution to help fund the FAA was at 25%.  While it’s true that the Trust Fund expenditures increased beyond that level in 2010, undoubtedly due to the economic downturn, that contribution was at a much greater level decades ago.

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Refugees International alarmed at funding cuts

Refugees International is alarmed by the proposed funding cuts to lifesaving aid for victims of war, persecution and natural disasters proposed by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives on Friday. The Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Resolution would cut refugee aid through the Migration and Refugee Assistance account by more than 40 percent.

It would cut the International Disaster Assistance account by 50 percent. Cutting foreign aid to the world’s most vulnerable people represents a massive retreat of U.S. leadership and influence around the world and would contribute to further instability in volatile countries. Refugees International calls on Republicans and Democrats alike to work together to remedy the shortsighted funding gap, which will only hurt our long-term budget outlook.

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The path to a more efficient Pentagon

More than half of the Pentagon budget is spent on people - pay, health and pension benefits, housing, and a wide array of family support programs from commissaries to day care to hobby shops. There is broad acknowledgement that people are our most potent weapon, so it should come at no surprise that defense is labor intensive.

But, as with weapons systems, we must apply strong efficiency and effectiveness standards to people programs, ensuring that the Pentagon manages recruiting and retention to get the most capable force for the money.

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We need tough choices in tough times

This week I had the opportunity to listen to the new director of Office of Management and Budget, Jacob Lew, lay out the framework for President Obama’s budget. Much of the deficit cutting rhetoric in the days leading up to the budget release built a tenor of expectation which was quickly dashed as I heard the President’s budget spokesman utter the phrases, “sustainable deficit” and “primary balance.”

A new nomenclature has again been invented by the president. The goal of the president’s budget is a “primary balance” and not an actual balance. The goal of the budget is not debt reduction, but reaching an invented “sustainable deficit” defined as deficit spending each year equal to 3% of GDP. I do not recall hearing anyone in my district asking me to help get the nation to “primary balance” or to work toward “sustainable deficit” spending. This nation wants to get back to an actual balance and debt elimination.

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