What Should the Republicans Do Now?


An editorial in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, “A GOP Shutdown Strategy”, offers good advice to the House Republicans for how to proceed in the shutdown stalemate.  “ …the best chance to move Democrats is Louisiana Senator David Vitter’s amendment that would annul the exemption from Obama-Care that the White House carved out for Congressmen and their staff.  These professionals will receive special subsidies unavailable to everybody else on the insurance exchanges, and preserving this deeply unpopular privilege would be a brutal vote for Democrats.”
The House Republican Caucus should attempt to line up 218 votes to attach this provision to a continuing resolution to fund the government for all or part of the new fiscal year at the current level.  If 218 votes to support this approach cannot be found, then the House should pass a clean funding resolution.  Nothing else has a chance of succeeding (the idea of trying to defund Obama-Care for even one year is absurd) and the American people will grow increasingly impatient. 
The bigger issue by far is the need to raise the debt limit by October 17th at the latest.  Here the Republicans have major leverage, namely the sequester, which takes a bigger bite out of discretionary spending each year for nine more years.  The Republican House can give the Democratic Senate a choice:  either agree to a sensible long range plan for spending restraint (including entitlements), or else we’ll agree to raise the debt limit for six months or so, into early 2014, and then revisit the debt limit issue after the 2014 tighter sequester limits take effect. 
This is what I suggest.  Now we’ll wait and see what happens!

Keep Squeezing the Budget!


Monday’s Wall Street Journal has an Op Ed column by Stephen Moore, “The Budget Sequester Is a Success”, which points out that federal spending has actually shrunk from a high of $3.598 trillion in 2011 to $3.537 trillion in 2012 to a projected $3.45 trillion for 2013.  These spending declines are due to the Budget Control Act of 2011 which accompanied the 2011 increase in the debt limit.  The $100 billion per year budget sequester is a part of that agreement.  The current budget standoff between the Senate and the House is simply an attempt by the Democratic majority in the Senate to renegotiate the spending limits agreed to in 2011.
The sequester will continue to constrain discretionary spending but the two thirds of the federal budget devoted to entitlements is growing at a much faster rate than the overall growth of the economy.  The way out of this dilemma should be obvious to any rational, impartial observer.  We need to slow down the growth of entitlements and speed up the growth of the economy.  But this is much easier said than done!
Democrats will apparently not agree to do either of these two things.  Reining in entitlements takes political courage and the Democrats would rather be able to accuse Republicans of cruelty to the poor and the elderly than to actually address this problem in a serious manner.  Growing the economy faster will require appealing to investors and risk takers, with lower tax rates, for example, as well as loosening anti-business regulations.  Measures like these go against liberal ideology.
While we’re waiting for common sense to prevail in Washington, what more can be done to shrink still very large deficit spending?  There are all sorts of wasteful, duplicative and ineffective federal programs out there.  Fiscal conservatives should just keep going after them, one-by-one, and whittling them down.  Millions of voters and taxpayers will be thankful for this.

The New York Times is in Denial


An editorial in yesterday’s New York Times, “Republican No-Shows in the Budget Wars”, ridicules House Republican leadership for having the temerity to propose $4 billion in cuts from this year’s budgets for transportation and housing, and expecting Republican representatives to support such “draconian” cuts.  “But the House’s skittishness at the decidedly unpopular costs of some of the party’s budget strictures presented a revealing tableau of both hypocrisy and weakness: Republicans could not pass their own cramped vision of the future.”
The underlying problem is that the House Budget for discretionary spending for 2014, at $967 billion, is almost $100 billion less than the Senate’s $1058 billion budget.  The House insists on continuing the sequester cuts for the full ten years agreed upon when the sequester mechanism was set up two years ago.  The Senate is ignoring the sequester agreement because it wants to replace it by a combination of milder cuts and tax increases.  The Republicans would prefer to replace the across-the-board sequester cuts by a more rational budget cutting plan but the Democrats are unwilling to negotiate such a plan.
The Democratic Party, and its media supporters such as the New York Times, simply refuses to acknowledge that the United States has a fiscal problem.  $6 trillion in deficit spending in the last five years apparently does not make a serious impression.  The mantra is that we’ll worry about our enormous deficits, and exploding national debt, later, after the economy more fully recovers from the Great Recession.  But after four years of recovery such an argument makes no sense.  There are lots of effective ways to boost the economy but continued artificial stimulus (deficit spending) is not one of them.
Wake up, Keynesians!  We need to turn things around and the sooner the better.  Stop ridiculing the mostly Republican fiscal conservatives who are valiantly striving to accomplish this herculean task under the most trying circumstances.