Economy & Budget

The case for backing U.S. exporters

As Congress returns to Washington, one top priority must be reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im) by passing the Securing American Jobs Through Exports Act of 2011 (H.R. 2072). In fact, Ex-Im’s mission is more compelling today than ever before.
 
The case for Ex-Im starts with American jobs. Boosting exports is one of the most promising avenues to creating jobs for the nearly 14 million Americans who are currently unemployed. The widespread recognition of this fact explains the bipartisan support in Washington for the goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2014.

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Jeopardizing retirement savings

Amid many signs that the economic recovery is languishing, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is stubbornly insisting on a proposed Rule measure that experts say would actually reduce the level of retirement savings in America.

While this 65-page Rule is shrouded in a vague desire to “reform” a well-established set of regulations based on the 35-year-old ERISA statute, the most startling “reform” will be the loss of millions of retirement savings accounts: IRAs and 401(k)s. And worse, most of the remaining accounts would become “do-it yourself investing”, losing access to investment education.
 
At its most basic, the proposed Rule would apply fiduciary standards to IRA and 401(k) providers and employers. This is a noble-sounding goal, but as a practical matter, over 90 percent of IRAs are simply too small to afford investment education in a fiduciary model.

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Reviving manufacturing demands accountability

When GE’s CEO Jeffrey Immelt was appointed to head his administration’s competitiveness council, President Barack Obama said, “We think GE has something to teach businesses all across America.”

Even in the summer heat, that’s a bone-chilling thought to an anxious cross-section of employees from engineers all the way down to the janitorial staffs who still take pride in being part of GE’s X-ray business division in Waukesha, Wis.

GE announced on Aug. 22 that it would close its X-ray division headquarters in Waukesha, Wis. and move to China. Reports are that GE has hired 100 engineers to staff the China office. This is an ironic development since deputy White House press secretary Josh Earnest reported from Martha’s Vinyard that President Obama and Immelt were discussing how to increase the number of engineers who graduate from U.S. colleges and universities.

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Free trade means jobs

One important action Congress should take when it returns in September is to pass a package of free-trade agreements that will generate thousands of jobs in Florida and elsewhere.

The Obama Administration estimates that as many as 250,000 new American jobs could be created, if we adopt pending agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

Unfortunately, these trade deals have been languishing in Congress for years, frozen by gridlock and partisan squabbling.

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Housing refinance proposal unfair to most homeowners

The plan reportedly supported by the Obama administration to force Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to reduce interest rates for millions of homeowners would mean that some homeowners get government help while their more responsible neighbors do not. 

It would in effect be a backdoor stimulus, one involving pushing taxpayer cash out the door without a vote of Congress. And there is little reason to think it would be much more effective than the fiscal stimulus to date. 

The proposal is to strong arm Fannie and Freddie’s independent regulator into allowing the two government-controlled mortgage insurance firms to weaken refinancing guidelines. Millions of homeowners who remain current on their mortgages but do not qualify for a loan under more rigorous post-bubble standards could see their interest rate reduced from, say, 6 percent down to 4 percent.  This amounts to a $366 monthly saving on a $300,000 mortgage.

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Congress should focus on disaster mitigation and private-sector solutions to protect lives and taxpayers

The East Coast earthquake and the impending approach of Hurricane Irene are stark reminders that natural disasters can occur at any time and suggest a thoughtful approach is needed to protect human life, property and the American taxpayer. The time has come for the U.S. Congress to focus on preparing for disasters before they strike and let private sector insurers pick up the tab after catastrophic events for homeowners and businesses so lives and tax dollars can better be saved.

Government funding of immediate needs associated with a disaster are still necessary to protect lives, for evacuation and rebuilding public infrastructure. However, those living in areas susceptible to natural catastrophes currently pay for most rebuilding of homes and private buildings through insurance coverage at rates reflecting their unique exposure to natural events, and this should continue. There are some – including ProtectingAmerica.org – who have called for a costly big-government approach that would require the federal government to pick up billions in these insured losses.

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Let's seize the opportunity to take control of defense spending

For far too long the quality of our national security has been judged by the quantity of Pentagon spending and by the size of our armed forces. 
 
The truth is, the more we spent like this, the more we have wasted and the less we actually thought about the meaning of national security.  This muscular approach is ill suited for the national security challenges facing the United States in the 21st Century.
 
Over the past 10 years, the DOD budget increased from $297 billion to $549 billion, not including the Overseas Contingency Operations, which alone stands at $159 billion for FY11.  Even if we factor in inflation, in an era of constant budget deficits, this rate of spending is unsustainable.
 
Out-of-control defense spending is a major cause for the calamitous state of our overall budget. This threatens the peace and prosperity that responsible national security planning is designed to protect.  We cannot allow the Pentagon to continue to spend exorbitant amounts of money without thought to overall strategy or long-term interests.

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Nothing should be more important than creating jobs in America

Passing the recent deal to raise the debt ceiling stabilizes our economy by renewing confidence in the U.S. government’s ability to meet its obligations.  Part of the deal provided for the establishment of a bipartisan “super committee” to provide recommendations on how to tackle the budget deficit.  The committee of twelve members,  chosen by Democratic and Republican Party leaders from both Congressional houses,  will take on the difficult task of reducing our budget deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years, with a bipartisan solution due before Thanksgiving.

While this committee works against its November 23 deadline, we must keep our nation’s priorities in mind.  We must continue to protect this country. We must not permit the middle-class to shoulder the entire burden of balancing our nation’s budget.  Most Americans agree that any budget deficit reduction plan must include revenue increases; however, any revenue increases must elicit contributions from all Americans regardless of income.  We need to make tough choices, but this cannot be accomplished without shared sacrifice.  This will require lengthy and thorough dialogue between all parties, where will we need to come together and put the good of the American people above all other interests.

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Funding catastrophe recovery following Budget Control Act

The debt ceiling deal, the Budget Control Act of 2011, should please taxpayers in at least one respect – ending the practice of the federal government writing what amounted to blank checks to cover damages in major natural disasters.

The new approach makes financial sense to taxpayers, but it also leaves huge potential liabilities blowing in the wind for those who will be statistically and inevitably in harm’s way of catastrophe. And, with Hurricane Irene bearing down the East Coast and an unpredicted earthquake shaking our nation’s capital on August 23, we are reminded that anyone can be in harm's way.

Over the next 10 years, the Office of Management and Budget projects that future disaster recovery costs requiring federal assistance for relief and reconstruction will total $225 billion. However, the recently enacted cap will limit federal disaster relief expenditures to roughly one-fourth of that amount.

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What is the President's economic recovery plan?

Home sales are at an all time low, but prices for groceries, school supplies and basic necessities like power and gas are going up. Our economy remains extremely fragile, with signs of continued weakness. The economy is not generating enough jobs and unemployment remains above nine percent. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Now, more than ever, the American people need the President to lead.

What is President Obama’s plan for economic recovery? We’re over two and a half years into his presidency, and President Obama has failed to put forward a plan that grows the economy and puts Americans back to work. The President’s policies have only resulted in higher deficits and have failed to create jobs, which is exactly why many are frustrated. Since President Obama took office on January 20, 2009, the national debt has increased by $3.7 trillion. To put that in perspective, it took the U.S. from 1776 until 1992 to accumulate the same amount of debt that President Obama accumulated in two and a half years.

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