Economy & Budget

America’s Top Chefs need top culinary arts programs

As a girl growing up in a small Texas town, it was beyond my wildest dreams to think I'd one-day be competing on Bravo's Top Chef -- a dream that never would have come true if the Education Department's new “Gainful Employment” rule had been in effect when I applied for federal student aid.

The "Gainful Employment" rule, which is expected to be released in early March, was meant to curb the rising amount of student debt in America. It will limit federal aid to students like me who seek to attend career colleges -- such as my alma mater, the Art Institute of Houston.

The purpose of this rule is to limit the amount of financial aid that students at for-profit colleges and universities could receive if the program they are enrolled in doesn’t lead to “gainful employment.” This would apply to institutions that are failing to provide students with the skills necessary to become gainful employed while repaying their student loans.


Congress must reject the welfare/warfare state

During the past few weeks, Congress has been locked in a battle to pass a continuing resolution to fund government operations through September. Both supporters and opponents of the bill, HR 1, claim it is a serious attempt to reduce federal spending. However, an examination of the details of the bill call that claim into question. 

For one thing, the oft-cited assertion that HR 1 reduces spending by $99 billion is misleading. The $99 billion figure merely represents the amount that HR 1 reduces spending from the President’s proposed Fiscal Year 2011 budget - not reductions in actual spending. Trying to claim credit for a reduction in spending based on cuts in proposed spending is like claiming someone is following a diet because he had only five slices of pizza when he intended to have 10 slices!


Importance of the United States Institute of Peace

From a national security standpoint, the recent decision by the House of Representatives to eliminate the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) is not only wrong, but unwise. 

Cutting $42 million – what we spend in 3 hours in Afghanistan – not only eliminates a bipartisan institution, but weakens America's ability to prevent violent conflicts overseas and sends the message to the world that America cares little about peace.

USIP came into being after the Vietnam War sharply divided our nation. It was founded during the Reagan administration in the hopes that America would lead the way in peacemaking and peace-building. 


Gov. Walker's common-sense budget proposal

Wisconsin, and other states facing crippling budget deficits driven by out-of-control government employee costs, have reached a watershed moment.

Either the states will finally rein in the government unions that have driven pension, benefits and salaries through the roof or the states will see their economic prosperity devastated by higher taxes, crippling debt and ever bigger government.

In Wisconsin, Governor Walker has demonstrated resolute political courage by proposing a common-sense budget proposal that will have government employees pay about half of their pension costs (still far below what folks in the private sector pay) and 12% of their health insurance premiums (still well less than the approximately 22% paid by private sector workers).


Cyber sanity

Despite a ballooning federal debt and intense pressures on the federal budget, cyber security has become Washington’s new growth industry. The U.S. government has spent over $600 billion on information technology over the last decade, with a growing amount devoted to cyber security. 

In its new Pentagon budget request, the Obama administration designated $2.3 billion to strengthen Department of Defense cyber security operations, including activities of the Pentagon’s new Cyber Command and half a billion dollars for new cyber technology research. These figures exclude growing spending on “black” cyber security activities, embedded within the approximately $80 billion annual intelligence budget.


House cuts key program to keep nuclear weapons from terrorists

The House of Representatives has made brutal cuts to key national security programs designed to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists. The cuts are outlined in a continuing resolution bill passed by the House on February 19 to fund the federal government from March 4 through the end of FY 2011 on 30 September.  

The Continuing Resolution would cut more than $600 million from President Obama’s request of $2.7 billion to secure and safeguard nuclear weapons and materials across the globe. The programs funded by this request are part of a high priority effort to keep nuclear weapons and materials away from terrorists, and have long enjoyed bipartisan support. The proposed cuts deny the importance of these programs for national security. 


'First to file' is threat to job creation

Isn’t it about time Congress stopped passing laws without knowing what impact passage will have on our economy? Here’s a case in point: the most dramatic of the “patent reform” provisions Congress is now considering, namely, the switch from granting patents to the “first to invent” to the “first to file.”

When a Congressman asked experts during a hearing last week about the impact of “first to file” legislation on the U.S. economy, the sobering answer was “No one knows.”

Here’s what I know: this change will cripple job creation in the United States and lead to even more economic advancement from our overseas competitors.


Gov. Rick Scott exceeds constitutional authority

Update (3:12 PM): Gov. Rick Scott, while in Washington today, met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. During the meeting, Scott asked for additional information on the proposed Florida high speed rail project. LaHood told Sen. Nelson after the meeting he agreed to give the state at least one more week to reconsider. Following is U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s statement: 

"I am grateful the governor has agreed to listen to the facts on how the state will have no financial responsibility in high speed rail. I’m especially grateful to Secretary [ Ray ] LaHood for giving Florida at least one more week before our money goes to another state. Hopefully, this will be enough time for people of good intentions to come together and put Florida’s interests first. There is too much at stake for us not to try everything we can."


The only way to ruin Social Security

Let's start with the obvious. Social Security is a beloved and vital program that needs changes. Politicians are afraid to touch it, and some its staunchest supporters say we don't need to talk about it now because its problems aren't all that serious. The irony is that not talking about Social Security -- and not touching it -- is the riskiest choice of all. 

If you've been following the debate over Social Security, maybe you've seen the year 2037 popping up regularly. That's when the Social Security system empties the assets from its Trust Fund, at least based on current projections. In 2037, Social Security will only be able to pay 78 percent of promised benefits, not the full amount people are expecting ( 


Wyoming Wants Less Interference from Washington

The State of Wyoming contributes much to our country.  We are one of the top energy producing states, and we have a varied portfolio with leading supplies of coal, wind, natural gas, oil and uranium. We are also home to world renowned recreation opportunities. We also produce food for the nation and supply great workers.

We also export intelligent governance. By law and by our inherently frugal character, we are fiscally disciplined when it comes to budgeting. We set aside revenue for economic hard times, and we do not spend all our revenue in economic boom times. We balance our budget. But, with the national economy under a cloud, the cloud moved our way.  We felt the effects of the recent recession in Wyoming.  Unemployment rose, businesses were constrained, and our state, counties and cities cut budgets. As a result, we have made creating jobs and stimulating the economy our top priorities, and the cloud is lifting. 

Employment is up, businesses are doing better, revenue has rebounded. Our state continues to save and enjoy a surplus. We know businesses need predictability and we offer that, but we will not rest on our laurels. We are taking a serious look at our state government operations and regulatory environment in Wyoming. Through actions -- not just words -- we are streamlining agency processes, reviewing existing rules with an eye toward simplifying them, and reducing backlogs of permits for businesses.