Economy & Budget

Obama’s overreach burdens U.S. recovery

“If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it.  And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”  Barack Obama was just 25 when President Ronald Reagan uttered those memorable words, but he evidently took them literally. President Obama has set a new standard for boundless government hyperactivity: taxing job creators, over-regulating domestic energy, and subsidizing economic failures like Solyndra.

When Democrats controlled Congress, President Obama grew government the old-fashioned way. He raised taxes on tanning beds, medicine and medical devices as a warm up, and then turned to the $500 billion tax hike included in his healthcare bill. These taxes are literally loss leaders compared to his oversized budget plans. With four consecutive years of trillion-dollar deficits, a budget written in red ink for the next decade, and no plan to tame the entitlement juggernaut, the real taxes hikes have yet to arrive.

When his legislative hammerlock was broken, the president moved from taxation to regulation. In Obama’s eyes, Congress has changed from a superhighway to a speed-bump. Take, for example, the new head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Richard Cordray. Lacking the requisite votes in the U.S. Senate, President Obama just decided to appoint Cordray while Congress was still in session, trampling on the Senate’s advise and consent role.

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Big Sugar's Valentine's Day surprise

As couples across Indiana, and across the country, celebrate Valentine’s Day this week by presenting chocolates, candies, and other sweets to their sweethearts, we are reminded once again of the sour affect that the U.S. sugar program has on businesses and consumers.

The federal government’s sugar support program is a complicated system of marketing allotments, price supports, purchase guarantees, quotas, and tariffs. This Depression-era program actually raises the price of sugar paid by U.S. manufacturers and consumers, reducing domestic food production, employment in confectionery businesses, and opportunities for U.S. exports.
 
In sugar land, prices are set by the government, not the market. Each year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture determines “marketing allotments” to assure domestic producers at least 85 percent of the domestic sugar market. The government also limits imports, to help keep prices inflated far above world levels. If U.S. sugar prices fall below the official level, a price-support system of “loans” to processors ensures that 'Big Sugar' gets its federal share. The recipients get their loans in taxpayer dollars, but can repay them in (what else?) sugar.

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A missed opportunity to lead

It’s often said that budgets are a statement of our priorities and values. While this is true, a budget is so much more. Ultimately, a budget should be a demonstration of leadership and illustrate the path that America will be headed down.     

Right now, our nation needs a budget with leadership. We’ve run three successive $1 trillion dollar-plus deficits and a fourth is projected, seen our nation’s debt as a share of the economy rise from 64 percent in 2006 to almost 100 percent today and watched our nation’s credit rating downgraded for the first time in history. Instead of reforming unsustainable programs like Medicare and Social Security, we added a new entitlement program in the form of President Obama’s health care law that will only add to the trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities already facing taxpayers. No nation can prosper carrying the mountain of debt our current fiscal path will have us carry. The status quo has us firmly on a path to decline. 

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Mortgage settlement: One step forward, one step back

With great fanfare, the Obama administration and the state attorneys general recently announced the completion of what’s being touted as the largest consumer financial protection settlement in U.S. history. The country’s top mortgage servicers agreed to provide as much as $25 billion to help some past and current homeowners because banks regularly submitted foreclosure documents that were not properly reviewed or notarized (aka robo-signing).
 
At first blush, the settlement would appear to present an ideal opportunity for the market — paralyzed in part by the uncertainty over potential legal liabilities — to move ahead towards a much-needed housing recovery. In that regard, its completion was way overdue. In fact, by some accounts the statute of limitations on some of the abuses either had already or was about to run out.
 
While some will surely argue that the banks should be squeezed for more, the deal does provide some meaningful assistance for distressed and underwater homeowners. Mortgage servicers also agreed to a new set of standards to govern how they must work with homeowners moving forward who are at risk of foreclosure. It’s hard to take issue with a well-intentioned, bipartisan agreement between the legal authorities and the banks over admittedly shoddy mortgage paperwork.

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It is time for vision again

I can still remember my first meeting in the Science, Space, and Technology Committee.  At the time, I was new to the endeavor (as a freshman member that fact was unavoidable), and I was trying to feel my way through the particularities of the committee. There I was – a long-time teacher and school principal, entering a chamber where over the next two years I would be responsible for contributing to discussions forming our nation’s science and space policy during uncertain economic times.

I felt I had a grasp of the difficulties that lay ahead of not only me, but for the committee as a whole, entering the new fiscal realities of a recession. I feared for the funding of the scientific field – particularly at the government level. It was already apparent prior to my arrival that the United States’ engagement in space was about to shift dramatically, and I could only hope that my experiences exciting schoolchildren about the wonders of science and the discoveries great explorers were enough to prepare me for the challenges in store.

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Our economy deserves dynamic solutions

As a freshman representative I remain hopeful and optimistic. Despite the discord so widely reported over the last year, I went into the president’s State of the Union address hoping that he would step up and propose fresh, new ideas to grow our economy and help our unemployed friends and neighbors find jobs. And I was optimistic that he would put party line politics aside and work to unite us as one people – not divide us for political gain.

Instead, unfortunately, I heard more of the same.

Neither party is without fault. We aren’t in today’s debt and jobs crisis because of one party’s actions. So we must work together to get our fiscal house in order, promote economic growth, and save the American dream for future generations.

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The budget should reflect our values

Many in Congress believe, as I do, that the budget is a statement of national values and should reflect where we stand as a people. Of course, composing a document to encompass the values of our diverse nation can be difficult. We come from different backgrounds and have unique needs and expectations from our government. 

But despite our differences, our truly American values remain as clear today as at our founding. Caring for families, seniors, the poor, sick and disabled. Promoting business and expanding educational opportunities to help our neighbors find work. Maintaining public safety and national security.

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Washington has thrown in the towel

When traveling around the 3rd district of Kansas visiting with constituents, I’m often asked what is most surprising to me as a new member of Congress. With a palate of options from which to choose, the answers vary from the hyper-partisanship clogging up the halls of Congress to the local driving skills in bad weather clogging up the streets of Washington. Whether it’s a gridlock or a snowflake, Washington is stuck.
 
This would all be funny if it wasn’t so serious. Every day we pile a new layer of debt on our next generation. This isn’t your garden variety run of the mill debt. This is serious, crushing suffocation of the next generation. Spend an afternoon watching the debt clock tick closer and closer to bankruptcy and you wonder how it ever could have become this bad.

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Energy and Infrastructure Act: Competitive and fiscally responsible

I hope to see the president end his policy of “tax, borrow, spend” when he introduces his FY 2013 budget. Although it seems unlikely, the president should have listened to the American people when putting together his budget. They understand we cannot continue to max out our credit cards. We cannot continue to mortgage our children’s and grandchildren’s futures. We cannot continue to expect the federal government to solve our problems by simply throwing more money at them.

We passed a budget in the House this year that put our country back on the path to fiscal solvency; unfortunately the Senate did not act on it. I co-sponsored a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, and a majority of the House voted for it but not the required two-thirds. The president also directed a commission on fiscal responsibility to present a plan to reduce our debt and deficits, but he did not listen to their proposals.

There are many ideas for the president to pull from and listen to as he presents his budget for the next fiscal year, but history has shown us those ideas will probably fall on deaf ears.

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Protecting the transportation needs in our communities

With President Obama’s budget scheduled to be released on Monday, I am eager to hear his views of our nation’s priorities. As Congress moves forward with the budget process, it is important to focus on the needs of our communities and constituents. While unemployment has dropped to the lowest rate since 2009, we must create a budget that rides on the coattails of this success by continuing to fuel employment opportunities. There is no better way to create jobs than through infrastructure investment which also improves economic opportunities in surrounding communities.

As a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and a representative from the most densely populated state in the nation, I am most concerned about providing adequate funding for transportation and infrastructure expansion. Transportation affects every facet of everyone’s life, and it is important that our nation improve and strengthen the safety, reliability, and efficiency of our transportation system. Next week, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on H.R. 7, the America Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act. While a multiyear surface transportation authorization bill is sorely needed, H.R. 7 is not the comprehensive solution that our country needs.  H.R. 7 blatantly ignores the transportation needs of Americans by cutting funding and eliminating jobs. Sufficient funding for mass transit, Amtrak, and competitive grants such as the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program are necessary to meet the transportation needs of our constituents.

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