Economy & Budget

Washington's fad diet: A reality check from state legislators

As a state legislator, it has never been more frustrating to watch Washington, DC than it is right now. At a time when record numbers of Americans are struggling with hunger and we desperately need economic stimulus, Washington seems to be pursuing the political equivalent of a crash starvation diet. Nowhere is this more evident than in the treatment food stamps are receiving in Congress.

Common sense tells us this is not the time to cut the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), known to most Americans as food stamps. The proposed cuts are job-killers, and working families have rarely needed this program more than right now.


We need a bipartisan budget

This week, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) stated “if the fiscal policies currently in place are continued in the coming years, the revenues collected by the federal government will fall far short of federal spending, putting the budget on an unsustainable path.” This is unacceptable.  With trillion dollar deficits and a skyrocketing debt, now is the time to put people before politics and progress before partisanship. That is why I was proud to co-sponsor the only bipartisan budget that has been voted on in the House of Representatives in decades.


Four words: No budget, No pay

The date:  April 29, 2009. The time:  05:31 p.m. On that day, at that hour, the United States Congress did something it has failed to do ever since – pass a budget.
While countless families and businesses across America have had to make the tough choices to spend within their means, Congress has operated over a thousand days without passing a fiscal blueprint to restore financial sanity to Washington. This blatant neglect of a fundamental duty has led to runaway spending, trillion-dollar deficits, and has contributed to the worst jobs climate since the Great Depression.
Make no mistake, passing a budget is not a choice. The 1974 Congressional Budget Act obligates both chambers to adopt a budget resolution every year by April 15. The House has done its part, passing resolutions the past two years that cut trillions in wasteful spending. Unfortunately, Senate Leader Harry Reid and others in his chamber continue to sit on the sidelines – 1,120 days and counting.


The National Guard: Grounded in America's past, Essential to its future

Challenging budgets and global conflict have become prevalent themes in our national dialogue. Americans expect their government to fulfill its fundamental responsibility of ensuring the nation's security while rightfully demanding a high return on their hard-earned tax dollars. This expectation is critical to the debate over the future of our Armed Forces, and is the reason the National Guard stands at the forefront of that debate as an indispensible, efficient, combat-tested solution both globally and locally.


Americans still relying on the 'Plastic Safety Net'

With anti-regulatory fervor gripping Washington, it’s difficult to imagine both parties working together to enact successful public safeguards that protect Americans. But it wasn’t that long ago that strong, bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate took action to defend consumers against predatory practices in the credit card industry. Three years ago today, President Obama signed the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (Credit CARD Act) into law. Evidence of its effectiveness and success at saving American families money continues to roll in.
Demos’ 2012 national survey of low- and middle-income American households who carried credit card debt for three months or more is an in-depth look at how the recession and its aftermath affected the financiallives of American households – including how the passage of major new consumer credit card protections is helping households pay down balances faster and avoid fees.


Failures in laws, regulation and internal governance

Average Americans and our European cousins are most likely confused by the intense discussions at government, business and media levels about regulations, ethics and especially governance. After 50 years as consultant, author and, more recently, professor of corporate governance, I too, am sometimes confused. Confusion creates uncertainty.

That uncertainty is one of the principal causes of our current economic malaise as to where the regulatory process mandated by the 2010 Dodd Frank legislation will take us.


Capital Gains tax hike will hurt state coffers

The Buffett Rule, a measure to raise income tax rates on individuals and capital gains of top-earning Americans, recently received its first close up in the U.S. Senate and failed. Nevertheless, President Obama, Senate leaders and others have pledged to continue to raise the Buffett Rule again and again this campaign season in the name of tax “fairness.”
Many arguments against the Buffett Rule have been made, but perhaps a very compelling is the unintended consequences this war on savings and investment could have on our economic recovery, particularly in states whose budget receipts are dependent on collection of capital gains taxes.


The GOP's immoral budget

Republicans were quick to cozy up with Catholic bishops in opposition to the Obama Administration's requirement that contraception be covered at no cost under health insurance plans. These days the GOP has its own prickly Catholic problem.

Catholic bishops have sized up the GOP budget proposal – praised by presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney  – and found it morally bankrupt. In a series of stinging letters to the House of Representatives, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops condemned the budget for slashing anti-hunger programs and asking the most vulnerable to bear a disproportionate burden while the richest Americans are given more tax breaks. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a conservative wunderkind and architect of the budget, has claimed these proposals are inspired by the values of his Catholic faith. Bishops and other Catholic leaders are not letting him get away with that fiction.


Wall Street should stop trying to gut financial reform

Recently on Meet the Press, Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, lamented that his company’s then-$2 billion trading loss (which has since swelled to at least $3 billion) would “absolutely” embolden proponents of tighter regulation of Wall Street. I think that Mr. Dimon is most definitely correct; however, unlike Mr. Dimon, I think that emboldening champions of financial reform is actually a good thing.
Mr. Dimon has tried to downplay the scale of the losses; after all, the firm made $19 billion last year. But reassurances notwithstanding, the trading failure clearly has rattled a bank that is considered a financial giant, and made the public question just how much bigger the losses could have been given the lack of adult supervision of our still opaque capital markets. So it’s true that a turn of event like this – particularly when it happens so publicly, at such a critical time, and to such an outspoken critic of financial reform – is the type of scandal that galvanizes public opinion. And it’s that type of pressure that can reignite real momentum for financial reform.


America: We need to nation build at home

A $1.2 trillion investment in rebuilding American roads, bridges, transit and water systems would create 27 million jobs over the next 5 years. In the first year alone, the economy would add 5.2 million new jobs and grow by $400 billion. In the second year unemployment would be reduced to 5.6%. These are among the findings of the New America Foundation report The Way Forward.

Nearly everybody agrees that America’s infrastructure is broken and is in need of immediate repair and replacement. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave America a D grade in infrastructure quality and has estimated that $2.2 trillion is needed to bring our nation’s infrastructure to good repair. The World Economic Forum (WEF) ranks the United States 24th in infrastructure quality.