Economy & Budget

Legislative Formulas? (Rep. John Campbell)

In today’s edition of Roll Call, there is a rather telling article regarding earmarks in the Economic Stimulus Package. The article, titled “Artfully Redefining Earmarks,” clearly points out that some members clearly don’t get it, including those close to Speaker Pelosi. House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) is quoted in the article saying: “I know the politics of all this. I just think they’re wrong about it…I love earmarks.”

It should be noted that President-Elect Obama has clearly stated that any stimulus must be earmark free. Therefore senior Democratic Members of the House are crafting “Legislative formulas …to ensure that their districts share in the wealth…,” in clear defiance of the standard bearer of their party.

It is Clyburn’s intent to have these formulas act as trade-offs for members, particularly freshmen, who need political cover in order to support a stimulus package.

As I have said time and time again, Members of Congress are not ATM machines. Fiscal stimulus goes beyond ideological boundaries; and earmarks, or legislative formulas for that matter, have no place in legislation designed at tackling our nation’s economic woes.

Cross posted at

ACORN Helps Lead Action to Pass a Stimulus Package

For three weeks now ACORN members have been aggressively pursuing a campaign to pass a bold, progressive Economic Recovery package in the new Congress. Working closely with allies like US Action, AFSCME, and the larger Americans United for Change coalition, ACORN members are taking a major role in building the coalition to pass this recovery package, and to create the context for it to be both stronger and more directly responsive to the situation facing working families across this country.

Because of reality facing America’s low- and moderate-income communities, ACORN members and their neighborhoods function as the canaries in our nation’s economic coalmine. In many cases, our members are experiencing severe economic dislocation, but, despite their personal hardship, they are organizing for a progressive response to the worsening economic situation facing the entire United States.

Renew the Commitment to America's Infrastructure

With one stroke, a renewed federal commitment to funding the rebuilding America’s infrastructure could help economically and environmentally.  Funding could get the economy moving and help reduce carbon emissions. For example, about 35,000 jobs are created for every $1 billion invested in infrastructure.  And how many emissions could be avoided by not burning the 5.7 billion gallons annually wasted in traffic jams, not to mention energy savings?

But what about the quality of the projects?  Funded infrastructure projects must provide for the greater common good.  Congress cannot approve earmarks or neighborhood special interest projects – swimming pools and tennis courts come to mind.  Projects that benefit all Americans include critical commerce corridors, upgrades to existing highways, ports and water systems.

Up to 3,000 of these much needed projects could start within 60-90 days of funding, and funding is needed immediately.  The U.S. needs to invest upwards of $340 billion in transportation projects, but it only invests $85 billion now.  This shortfall has cost us dearly in global competitiveness and will cost the country more in the future.  We must meet the funding challenge for our infrastructure needs.

Washington will consider major bills in 2009 for reauthorization of airport, highway/transit and water infrastructure (the annual shortfall in funding water infrastructure is “only” $23 billion).  Congress should pass a stimulus package quickly that will provide needed jobs and initiate desperately needed infrastructure upgrades.

The U.S. has an infrastructure crisis.  The time for action by the Congress and the new Administration is now.

Mac's Back to Battle Earmarks

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) join together once again, this time to end earmarks with their Fiscal Discipline, Earmark Reform, and Accountability Act of 2009.


111th Congress' Version of the PAYGO Gimmick (Rep. John Campbell)

I am no fan of the Democrats' pay-as-you go (PAYGO) rule that was put in place at the beginning of the 110th Congress, in fact their rule was nothing more than a cheap gimmick which they ignored on a wide range of bills. When taken together this would amount to an increase in the deficit by more than $420 billion.

Well the 111th Congress will further weaken the PAYGO by:

New Congress Will Be Anything But Open and Transparent (Rep. Michele Bachmann)

In about an hour, the 111th Congress will be sworn into office and the first matter we will take up is consideration of the new House Rules Package. Not only does the new package miss the opportunity to make important improvements to the earmarking and budgeting processes, such as increased transparency, it also essentially shuts off debate and prevents Republicans from proposing policy alternatives to the Democrat majority’s agenda.

No ifs, and, or buts about it - the Democrats are denying debate through gimmicks and legislative maneuvering, suppressing alternative ideas and dissenting views.

The Democrat-controlled Congress is coming off two years of abysmal leadership that denied the opportunity for debate more than any other Congress in our nation's history. Speaker Pelosi promised Americans transparency and open government in the political process, but sadly, we've received just the opposite.  And, somehow, they’ve managed to make it even worse.

Obama's Bipartisan Stimulus

Democrat and Republican leadership are confident that the economic stimulus plan will be a bipartisan effort after their meeting with President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden.


Consider Tax Relief to Improve Economy (Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell)

One example of something I think ought to be considered is tax relief.  Republicans, by and large, think tax relief is a great way to get money to people immediately. One possibility is to take a look at the 25 percent rate currently applied to the middle class and lower it to 15 percent. Concerning money to states, one approach we ought to take a look at is to loan money to states, rather than grant it.  There are some states that are in good shape, so why should we automatically provide funds to states that don't want it?

As far as the yet-to-be-written Trillion Dollar Spending bill is concerned, If we want to do a bill immediately, my recommendation is the omnibus appropriations bill.  This bill is ready to go right now and would spend $400 billion.  It contains the nine appropriation bills from last year that have already been vetted.  It has been looked at by both Democrats and Republicans and could pass, on a largely bipartisan basis, very quickly. Much of that spending is related to the kinds of items that may well end up in the trillion-dollar spending package. So that's a place to start.

I don't think we have to delay the stimulus package for a lengthy period of time, but there are ideas that ought to be considered. If Democrats pursue a fair process and give both sides an opportunity to have input, we can achieve a bipartisan result.

Progress, Not Motion

As I am not yet really back from my vacation, I offer up a some quick thoughts on a subject I promise to explore more in the new year -- the difference between progress and motion.

The analogies we've heard -- a New New Deal, Obama's 100 days, etc, a new FDR -- all hearken back to a period of governance and leadership, that while simplistically similar to what the nation is experiencing today, is not at all the same. I worry that the Democrats and the incoming President are raising expectations too high, and in some ways, missing the zeitgeist of this moment. There is no quick fix to what we are experiencing now, no wave of a Congressional wand. We are not at 25 percent unemployment, and the fighting in Gaza reminds all of us that there are problems that defy easy solution even with the remarkable team Obama has built.