Economy & Budget

The Balanced Budget Amendment: three lessons the ERA could teach the GOP

Senate Republicans have offered a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Writing in The Wall Street Journal recently, Republican Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) argued that a constitutional requirement to balance the budget would provide a long-term solution to the nation's debt.

If they are serious about getting it passed, here are some important guidelines they need to follow: (1) Frame it in terms of fundamental American values (2) Get lots of Democrats to sign on (3) Don't let the tea party take hold of the issue.

The ill-fated Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) provides a useful counterpoint. During the 1970s, the ERA fell just three states short of becoming ratified.


Why we need to reform Social Security

I’m holding a series of hearings on Social Security as part of my effort to lead a fact-based conversation about how we can make Social Security safe, secure and sustainable.

Here are the facts. First, according to the experts, in 2036 Social Security revenues will only cover 77 percent of promised benefits. Congress and the president must come together to find common-sense solutions to make Social Security safe, secure and sustainable - and the sooner we do so, the sooner we can protect those who are most vulnerable.


Where is support for the small farmer when it's needed?

Remember the American family farm, in whose name major business interests are continually advocating? Remember how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and business groups like the Cattlemen’s Association oppose the Estate Tax in the name of the family farm, even as they greatly exaggerate the potential impact of the tax on family farm interests?

To judge from events unfolding at a hearing in the House of Representatives this week, big business’ interest in the family farm is entirely opportunistic.

Currently at issue is implementation of a provision of the 2008 Farm Bill that would codify the rights of chicken, pork and beef producers who raise animals under contract to Tyson Foods and other major meatpackers. These rights were recognized as important in a Federal law passed in 1921, but never elaborated until now. 


Congress needs to stay in town to get the job done

During his press conference last Wednesday, in a moment of unvarnished exasperation, President Obama criticized Congress for what he regarded as its lackadaisical and dilatory work habits. Invoking the looming debt ceiling crisis, he said, “We’ve got to get this done. And if by the end of this week, we have not seen substantial progress, then I think members of Congress need to understand we are going to have to start to cancel things and stay here until we get it done.”
Whether he knew it or not, the president was channeling the views of the American people. In a survey recently conducted by No Labels, a national citizens’ movement of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, 83 percent of the respondents thought that Congress should stay in session if it fails to address the fiscal crisis before its scheduled summer breaks.   


Time to cut farm subsidies now

The federal budgetary squeeze on agricultural subsidies offers the President and Congress a beckoning opportunity to seize and shape a grand global bargain on international trade. We could trade new cuts in farm subsidies for new markets to create new jobs in other sectors of trade.

Doing so could end the decade-long deadlock in the Doha Development Round of global trade negotiations. Those negotiations linger on life support, with hundreds of billions of dollars in increased trade annually -- and untold new jobs -- at risk if they fail.

The stubborn refusal of the United States to make additional cuts in our agricultural subsidies is by far the biggest obstacle to a global trade breakthrough. Our trading partners are willing to give us more of what we want than they have offered so far -- but only if we give them more of what they want. What they want most are cuts in the U.S. farm subsidies that keep their highly competitive farm products out of the U.S. market and distort markets worldwide.


An invitation for President Obama

Sen. McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday regarding the debt ceiling increase and renewed his invitation to President Obama to meet with Senate Republicans for deficit-reduction discussions.

Washington is engaged in a debate right now over the kind of country we want to be. The specific issue is this: at some point over the next several weeks, the federal government will no longer be able to borrow the money it needs to cover the cost of promises it’s already made. So the president wants Congress to raise the statutory debt limit set by Congress. He wants us to raise the limit on the national credit card. 

Now, what Republicans have said is that the only way we’ll do it is if Democrats agree to change their ways — so we don’t end up with the kind of situation here that we’re witnessing in Greece. And make no mistake: that’s exactly where we’re headed if we don’t do something significant now.
Democrats have refused. Instead, they’re making what can only be described as a bizarre request under the circumstances. In the middle of what we all agree is a debt crisis, they want to spend even more. They want a second stimulus — more deficit spending.  In the middle of a jobs crisis, they want to raise taxes that we know will kill even more jobs — when even the president has said that raising taxes would leave job creators with less ability to hire.


The moral dimension of the federal budget does not end with protecting the unborn

As the federal budget debate continues in Washington and across the country, we must not lose sight of the moral imperative surrounding our fiscal choices; they will have rippling effects—both positive and negative—for many generations to come.

In a May 18 letter to House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stated very clearly that, “the budget is not just about numbers. It reflects the very values of our nation. As many religious leaders have commented, budgets are moral statements.” 

It is through this moral lens that we must evaluate the proposals offered by our elected officials. There is no question that we need to reduce our deficit and address the miles of red ink that have been growing over years and administrations, but fiscal sustainability cannot come at the expense of the most vulnerable populations in our country.

Nation in fiscal crisis faces only tough choices

Economist Mark Zandi offered a fairly optimistic forecast for the U.S. economy this week, predicting that growth would strengthen to 4 percent by year end. He added, however, that if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling in a timely fashion, his forecast would be “blown out of the water.”

At the Bipartisan Policy Center, we have just released an independent analysis of the “on the ground” facts associated with a failure to raise the debt limit by August 2, the projected date after which the government will be unable to meet all of its spending obligations. We have tried not to understate or overstate the risks. We provide no rhetoric, no political advice and no instructions to participants in the discussion, but rather our analysis.


Partisan politics are delaying job-creating trade pacts

Sen. Hatch delivered the following remarks at an American Enterprise Institute (AEI) event entitled "Are we falling behind on trade?"

For as long as I have had the privilege to serve the people of Utah in the Senate, the American Enterprise Institute has been at the forefront of our nation’s most critical policy debates.

Walter Berns and Robert Goldwin reminded Americans of our indebtedness to the Founding Fathers. Irving Kristol paved the way for intelligent conservative critiques of the Great Society.

And today a new generation of AEI scholars is at the forefront of conservative efforts to reform the tax code, bring sanity to our nation’s health care system, and address the entitlements that are set to bankrupt the country.