Economy & Budget

The student between the line items

Today, more than ever, the national debate over the federal budget focuses on the line items; how much funding will go to this instead of that? These numbers are put into a larger fiscal context, like how this program impacts the deficit or what taxpayers will get in return for funding this initiative. Lost in the discourse is the human experience, the people in between the line items that make this country everything it stands for.   

Take me for example. I was a TRIO student and would not be where I am today without the amazing opportunities provided for me by this federal program.


We need a responsible budget, not delay and gamesmanship

What is the big deal about one more Continuing Resolution? Most Americans have no problem with yet another Continuing Resolution, but the military and federal employees have major problems. 

While Democrats in the Senate take their time thinking about their best political response to the House Budget proposal, the Defense Department is stuck in a strategy from 2009. Two months ago, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates met with a bipartisan group of House freshmen and asked us to please finalize a real budget as soon as possible. He explained that new defense projects and strategies cannot begin under a Continuing Resolution, so every weapons system, strategy and plan has been on hold for weeks while the Senate debates its next move.


Clean energy innovation: An investment in the future

Innovation is the engine of our economy - on this much both parties agree. Beginning with research and new inventions and continuing through to commercialization and the creation of new markets, innovation drives economic growth and creates jobs.

With almost eight million jobs lost in this past recession, investment in innovation is more necessary than ever. And as Congress debates the federal budget, it should prioritize investment in one emerging innovation sector of particular economic and strategic importance: Clean energy.


The unintended consequences of Dodd-Frank

When a London museum containing rare teddy bears stepped up security by hiring a Doberman pinscher guard dog, it learned about the law of unintended consequences the hard way. The dog ate the teddy bears – hundreds of them – including one formerly owned by Elvis Presley.  

The law of unintended consequences is a constant threat to businesses, and Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is a perfect example. Section 1504 imposes a requirement on oil and natural gas companies listed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to publicly disclose detailed information about payments made to foreign governments in the course of their overseas operations. This could mean companies would be required to report individual payments on every single well, potentially exposing confidential, proprietary business information to global competitors. 


Social Security’s silent attackers

Without Social Security, nearly half of Americans age 65 and older would live in poverty. And yet, the very foundation of Social Security is under silent attack.

About 160 million Americans contribute to Social Security through payroll taxes. In New York State alone, Social Security provides over $42 billion in benefits each year to one in every six residents – over 3.1 million people. That is equivalent to 4 percent of the state’s annual GDP in Social Security benefits alone.

In the congressional district that I represent, Social Security benefits total $1.68 billion to over 128,000 people. Nearly one in five people – including senior citizens, disabled and children – rely on this vital program.


U.S. financial health dependent on fiscal discipline

When five members of Congress from both parties competed as a group against IBM’s Jeopardy!-playing computer, Watson, on Monday, it was a rare opportunity to engage in some non-partisan fun. But this exhibition match and the official Jeopardy! episodes that pitted Watson against former champions are about much more than a trivia game. 

They demonstrated breakthroughs in technology that make it possible for a machine to compete successfully in a contest that has long been considered a measure of human smarts. Watson’s accomplishments remind us how important innovation is to the economic vitality and global competitiveness of the United States.

Innovation has a tremendous amount of relevance to the debates going on in Congress today. The need to reduce the federal budget deficit is urgent. Fiscal discipline is necessary for the financial health of a country.


Keep Social Security strong

With the debate over federal entitlement programs expected to intensify in the coming weeks, Congress needs to keep in mind how cuts in Social Security would affect American families. Not just a retirement program, Social Security provides essential protections for people of all ages, like Chicago native Beth Finke.

Beth was only 3 when her father died. Without the survivor benefits that her mother received for Beth and her brothers and sisters, making ends meet would have been impossible. Social Security kept her family afloat – and later, a Social Security student benefit made it possible for Beth to go to college.

Beth is paying back now. Even after losing her sight in her 20s, her education enabled her to support herself as an adult. She works and contributes to Social Security with deductions from every paycheck.


Congress should investigate life-cycle budgeting for infrastructure

Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. John Mica (R-FL) recently held field hearings to investigate possible aspects to a new federal infrastructure bill. With the current state of the economy and a new Congress looking for areas to cut, the committee would be wise to examine the use of a simple and common sense approach: life-cycle budgeting.
Life-cycle budgeting is the transparent and common sense method of forecasting and anticipating all costs associated with a project. These include origination costs, construction and labor costs, as well as maintenance costs as far as fifty years into the future.


Time for Democrats to present a serious plan

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor Thursday regarding the need to reduce Washington spending.

 Mr. President, for two years, Washington Democrats have taken fiscal recklessness to new heights. They’ve spent trillions of dollars we don’t have on things we don’t need and can’t afford.

The amount of red ink Democrats plan to rack up this year alone would exceed all the debt run up by the federal government from its inception through 1984. This recklessness is the reason we’ve seen a national uprising against their policies. Americans have demanded that we reverse this recklessness and restore balance.