Economy & Budget

Chinese currency - not the bargain we're looking for (Sen. Debbie Stabenow)

For 109 years, people in Muskegon, Michigan have been making paper – until last year. The Sappi Fine Paper North America mill shut down in 2009 and 190 workers lost their jobs. Mark Evans, a Sappi employee, said "The [Asian companies] can sell the paper cheaper than we can make it. This is foreign competition killing the American worker again".

Mark was half-right. It's not competition that is killing the American worker – it's cheating.

Some people argue that it really is just fair competition. If only Americans would accept lower wages, dangerous working conditions, and non-existent environmental standards, maybe Mark's plant could have stayed open. But I don’t call giving massive industrial subsidies, stealing American companies' intellectual property, and manipulating your currency a "comparative advantage". I call it what it is – cheating.


Pay down the debt with earmark ban savings (Rep. Chris Lee)

Last week, Republicans in the House of Representatives took an important step in returning fiscal responsibility back to Congress by self-imposing a one-year moratorium on appropriations earmarks. Republicans supported taking this initiative because we understand that America’s fiscal condition is reaching a crisis point.

However, it is not enough to simply stop seeking earmarks for local priorities only to see those tax dollars spent elsewhere, and that’s why days after House Republicans enacted our earmark moratorium I wrote to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (and was joined by 38 of my Republican colleagues) in asking that: 1) Democrats enact a similar earmark moratorium, and 2) Congress use these savings to pay down our $12.5 trillion national debt. To give some perspective on just how significant of savings this would be, appropriations projects for members of both parties cost nearly $16 billion in fiscal year 2010, according to the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.


Stop the spending (Rep. Michele Bachmann)

More dismal news regarding our country’s fiscal standing was released yesterday by Moody’s Investors Service. As reported by Bloomberg News, the cost of servicing our debt is raising, therefore the United States has been brought “substantially” closer to losing our AAA, or highest level, credit rating.

“Under the ratings company’s so-called baseline scenario, the U.S. will spend more on debt service as a percentage of revenue this year than any other top-rated country except the U.K., and will be the biggest spender from 2011 to 2013.”


The Big Question: Should Republicans back financial reform?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer their insight into the news burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

Sen. Dodd is set to unveil financial regulatory reform today with little or no Republican support. Are Republicans right to back away from this bill?


Punting decisions (Rep. Campbell)

Since taking office, President Obama’s Administration has been singularly obsessed with passing a government takeover of healthcare.  In times like these, one would think that the President and his team would have other buzz words and topics on their mind rather than a wildly unpopular expansion of government.  I can think of several things…to start, how about, jobs, the economy, or the deficit?!

Yesterday, the Treasury Department released its latest budget numbers, and the story is told in a trail of red ink.  In February, the federal government ran a deficit of nearly $221 billion, 14% higher than the previous record set in February of 2009. 

As you might know, the fiscal year of the U.S. Government begins on October 1 and ends on September 30.  Now, 5 months into the new fiscal year, the government’s budget deficit totals nearly $652 billion which is 10.5% higher than this time last year.  This is absolutely beyond sustainability.


Time is of the essence for a balanced budget (Rep. Mike Coffman)

Congress must adopt a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget. Our nation’s economic future may well depend on it. Today our national debt sits at more than $12 trillion. The president’s budget projects more than a $1.6 trillion shortfall this year. When you include all of the unfunded liabilities of paying for future entitlement spending the national debt looks more like $65 trillion. It is also projected that in the next 15 years our national debt will eclipse our gross domestic product, essentially bankrupting our government.

This is a bleak picture to say the least.

While these debt figures can be almost numbing, the bottom line is this: our nation is speeding toward a precipice of complete financial calamity. The only solution is to hold Congress’ feet to the fire and require that they, like every family and nearly every state in the country, have a balanced budget. We can no longer recklessly spend money we don’t have. If lawmakers are serious about fiscal responsibility, a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget should be adopted.


Concerned about stock market abuses? Join the club (Sen. Ted Kaufman)

I have spoken on the Senate floor many times about the importance of transparency in our markets. Without transparency, there is little hope for effective regulation. And without effective regulation, the very credibility of our markets is threatened.

But I am concerned recent changes in our markets have outpaced regulatory understanding and, accordingly, pose a threat to the stability and credibility of our equities markets. Chief among these is high frequency trading.

Over the past few years, the daily volume of stocks trading in microseconds -- the hallmark of high frequency trading -- has exploded from 30 to 70 percent of the U.S. market. Money and talent are surging into a high frequency trading industry that is red hot, expanding daily into other financial markets not just in the United States but in global capital markets as well.


Oh the irony! Oh the incompetence! (Rep. Paul Broun)

On Friday, President Obama appointed the last few members of his “National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform” a.k.a. the debt commission.  I find it ironic that Democrats are so addicted to their big-spending ways that they need other people to force them to stop spending away our children’s future. But let’s not hold our breath waiting on this commission to make an intervention.

I have several concerns with establishing a debt commission, specifically one compromised of outside “experts.” For example, how much will this commission cost? Commonsense tells us that a debt commission should not add one penny to the debt, but the President’s plan allocates money for items such as travel expenditures.  In the past, commissions and “Czars” have been allocated millions of dollars, have accomplished little, and often used the money for “field hearings” in places like Vegas.  So, will the very existence of this debt commission ironically cause more fiscal irresponsibility? 

Second, how much authority does the President believe he can give this commission?  The only way this commission could have any affect on the budget is if Democrats plan to enact its suggestions.  Will we spend money and then not even listen to their recommendation?  If Democrats in Washington are serious about reducing debt—they will stop the big spending now! Instead, they are pushing through another stimulus, introducing budgets with record-high deficits, ramming through a government take-over of health care, and cap and tax. 


Obama's coast guard cuts: a recipe for disaster (Rep. John Mica)

The cuts to the U.S. Coast Guard budget proposed by the Obama Administration are nothing short of a recipe for disaster and could severely undermine the nation’s port and maritime security.

The Coast Guard is our first line of defense against any threats of waterborne terrorism, and the service leads U.S. efforts to stop the flow of illegal drugs and immigrants into the country.  Maritime safety, search and rescue and marine environmental protection are other critical missions performed every day by the capable men and women who serve in the Coast Guard.

It is outrageous that the Administration would propose cutting personnel, equipment and assets so essential to American security and safety. 

This budget would reduce funds for port, waterway and coastal security by more than $100 million.  It would also eliminate five Maritime Safety and Security Teams (MSST): specially trained anti-terrorist teams responsible for providing security at our largest ports.  Included among the cuts would be the MSST station at our nation’s second largest port, the Port of New York/New Jersey.


The Big Question: How can the deficit panel make their work count?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer their insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

What could President Barack Obama's deficit commission do to have a strong effect on policymakers?

(Read today's answers after the jump.)