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Entries in Spending Cuts (4)

Thursday
Feb142013

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter - Stop the Sequester

This is chapter twelve of “The Sky is Falling,” authored by Democrats in the House and Senate who opposed the 2011 Budget Control Act and the threat of the sequester it brought about. They warned that the economy would falter if the sequester came to pass. The Republicans, who hold the majority in the House, warned that the economy would fall if America did not pass a dramatic austerity program.  Their tea party members refused to raise the debt ceiling unless there were what they considered to be appropriate cuts to spending and what Democrats considered to be draconian cuts to spending. As America hung on the verge of default, and the tea party in the Republican Caucus refused to yield, the Democratic majority in the Senate and President Obama agreed to the Budget Control Act.

The deal was that there would be a “supercommittee” that would find the spending cuts, but if they could not compromise, the deep cuts would be spread equally between defense and domestic programs.  Everyone just knew, just was positive, that the unthinkable would never happen, that Republicans would blink on defense and Democrats would blink on drastic cuts to everything else, and that there would be compromise.  But there wasn’t, and now the sky might actually fall right on our nation’s economic recovery.  Last quarter is the first time that the nation’s economy has shrunk in almost 40 months, and the reason is the impending sequester, with its deep and irrational cuts that require lay-offs, slow-downs and freezes. When you demand that the federal government spend at least 9% less across-the-board this year, and you don’t even have specific targets, you will have a lot of unintended and unwelcome consequences, ranging from defense to medical research to education to transportation programs, etc.  Those politicians who kept insisting that the government does not create jobs now have to watch their friends, family, and constituents who work for the government or rely on federal contracts face lay-offs, and they will see companies lose business and profits. The consequences of deep cuts are upon us.

The Defense Department has been sounding the alarm more than other Departments. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has been going before Congress—the very ones who created this mess—and talking about the damage the sequester will do.  In a letter to Senator John McCain, the Ranking Member of the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services, Secretary Panetta wrote, “Such a large cut, applied in this indiscriminate manner, would render most of our ship and construction projects unexecutable—you cannot buy three quarters of a ship or a building—and seriously damage other modernization efforts. We would also be forced to separate many of our civilian personnel involuntarily, and, because the reduction would be imposed so quickly, we would almost certainly have to furlough civilians in order to meet the target.”  Panetta goes on to say that this would “seriously damage readiness.” What he is talking about here is national security and jobs.  Is anyone listening yet?  Everyone knows there are savings to be had in the Department of Defense, but we should target those cuts so we do not jeopardize security or jobs.

While Secretary Panetta is warning the country about our national security, the sequester is threatening other programs and jobs.  The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says in a report that sequestration would be “deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments, and core government functions.”

We need to stop this impending sequestration. We need to find a compromise that allows us to gradually reduce spending, while we find revenue from closing loopholes, reforming the tax code, and going after waste, fraud, and inefficiency.  There are other suggestions as well.  We could add a public plan to the health insurance exchanges. We could require the government to negotiate the price of prescription drugs for Medicare Part D.  We could raise the cap on Social Security.

But there is very little action on Capitol Hill to do just that.  Even if we wanted to discuss it, we cannot, because the House is not actually in Washington, DC very often these days.

Sequester will hurt our economy in New Hampshire.  It will hurt our national economy.  It will lead to lay-offs, and it will create more misery for the middle class and the poor. Congress has spoken.  Now they need to listen.  It is time to stop the sequester and create a viable plan that reduces spending gradually and keeps the economy growing.

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Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter represents New Hampshire’s First District. She previously served the District from 2007-2011, and she was reelected in the November 2012 election. The Congresswoman is again serving on the House Armed Services Committee and the Natural Resources Committee.

Thursday
Aug042011

Peter Bearse - THE DEBT LIMIT, A VOTE TO SEPARATE THE SHEEP FROM THE GOATS

Now we know, at last. The vote to exorcise the media-Halloween specter of “economic Armeggedon” or “Global Meltdown” has been cast. All the hue and cry ended in a whimper. Except for cries of default by “Tea Party” Republicans -- default of courage.
 
The acid test vote on the federal debt limit indicates just how far we’ve got to go -- those of  us who spoke about and supported “real change in the way Washington does “We the People”s business.” The Republican veto-proof majority did well to approve a “Cut, Cap and Balance” [CC&B] approach to the issue. Only nine Republicans, including Michelle Bachmann, defected -- because they thought the CC&B cuts didn’t go far enough! Even with this, backed by support of CC&B by nearly 3/4 of Americans polled, the U.S. Senate voted down the initiative with a thud.# House leadership, however, didn’t have the “stones…testicular fortitude” to then draw a line in the sand and say to the Senate and its President: “Enough is enough; this is our position; DEAL WITH IT!”#
 
Thus, as of Friday, “We the People” were confronted with yet another bill and another House vote. The Boehner bill that finally passed was “Dead on Arrival” in the Senate, to become the subject of a backroom deal cut by the Senate President [still smarting from a Tea Party that had the temerity to challenge his senile eminence in 2010], the U.S. President [Teleprompter Reader-in-Chief] and the Speaker of the House [prime sponsor of the boner bill]. So we could look forward to another piece of major legislation cooked up through “secretive deals, gimmicks and tax increases.”#
 
Opportunities -- for the Tea Party to change the GOP or take it over -- all these were highlighted by the tiring debate, fear mongering and “political posturing” over the debt limit. The ultimate possibility, as advocated by several TP-associated Members of Congress (MoCs) led by Rep. Ron Paul, would have been to refuse to vote to increase the debt limit. This would have provided the kind of real barrier to increased federal spending and debt that most people voted for in 2010.
During his July 19th floor speech, Rep. Paul stated: “If the debt is the problem…how is raising the debt limit the solution”? Our current federal deficit is $1.6 trillion [T]. So, we owe the Federal Reserve $1.6T. This is not real debt subject to default. Let them eat it. Then we can get down to serious business. Default is not a matter of “failing to send out checks.” We’ll do that. Effective default is lose of people’s purchasing power and depreciation of their incomes via higher prices & interest rates (&c). This looms whether or not the current debt limit is increased. 
 
According to the mainstream media, compromise failed; Obama won; the GOP and TP lost. But the real losers are “We the People.” For the public was never well-informed. We got a pile of hype and fear mongering, as noted earlier. This included releases from two leading bond-raters, Moody’s and S&P -- whose misrepresentations helped cause the Great Recession! -- that “default” would spell a down-grade of the U.S. government‘s Triple-A-rated debt. What the agencies really stated was that there was a 50:50 chance that they would downgrade the debt within 90 days even if a “technical default” were avoided, if there was no credible plan to reduce the federal debt over the “long term.”
Opponents of the limit increase had repeatedly stated, and proponents had not denied, that failure to increase it by Aug. 2nd need not lead to a technical default. Why? -- Because the Federal Reserve could rearrange the government’s accounts payable enough so that interest payments on the debt would continue to be made in the short term. The President could instruct the Treasury to pay Social Security recipients on schedule [Aug.3rd]. In the meantime, up to three months, ways could be found so that the federal government would “live within its means” as established by the current, un-raised, debt limit. 
 
Was this scenario feasible? Yes, but here again, the public was ill-informed. On the one hand, media “economics” commentators were talking about anemic GDP and “jobs” reports, how government cutbacks and the threat of “default” were already starting to take the economy back down. On the other, they failed to specify precisely what default meant and what its implications might be, including short-term and long-term impacts on government spending and jobs. MoCs also seemed to be poorly informed except by “BeJesus” reactions to the media and ratings agencies’ fear-mongering.
 
Was the opponents’ scenario also credible? Yes. It is credible as the only position that really comes to grips with the basic problem of national over-spending and huge intergenerational accumulation of unsustainable debt. Over-reliance upon debt had become addictive. Like Nancy Reagan on drugs, somebody had to stand up and insist: “Just say NO!” TP Rep.’s were not altogether “somebody”. With some exceptions, they failed to fulfill a fundamental responsibility  -- to provide full, timely information to their constituents. When push came to shove, many lost the spines shown in their campaign advertising. Had they had forgotten the Biblical question: “Are we like sheep…?”
 
The GOP/TP overlap/on-again/off-again alliance failed again to face down Obama. Although the President bears responsibility for immediate negative impacts of the failure to raise the debt limit,  it is the GOP’s new, spine-less TP members that should pay the piper in 2012. If the TP is to regain its credibility, it should prepare to run candidates in primaries against those who voted for the “boner.” Like someone vs. Guinta in NH CD1. He was not among the 22 who had the courage to vote against the “boner.”
 
PETER BEARSE, Ph.D., International Consulting Economist and author of A NEW AMERICAN REVOLUTION: How “We the People” can truly “take back” our government (forthcoming).
 
Thursday
Mar312011

Keeping Promises

By Jeb Bradley March 30, 2011

Over the past three months members of the New Hampshire Senate have focused on passing legislation that will bring expenditures into line with revenues, reform antiquated programs, enhance public safety, protect both the environment and property rights, and improve the business climate.

Noteworthy legislation includes:

Senate Bill (SB)-183 introduced by Senator Jim Rausch and Senator Nancy Stiles reforms the current education funding formula that pits town against town and has growing unsustainable costs. Senators Rausch and Stiles devised a new formula that assures that every community receives the same level of education funding next year, prevents funding decreases to nearly 125 towns, and blocks the return of donor towns. It will also reduce state expenditures by $140 million by level funding the formula. This critical legislation passed the Senate on a bi-partisan voice vote and enjoys the support of Governor Lynch.

I sponsored SB-3 which addresses the New Hampshire Retirement System’s dangerous unfunded liability of $4.7 billion. It will ensure that the pension system is viable for current and future retirees, while lowering skyrocketing rates that cities and towns (taxpayers) must pay for employees, teachers, police and firefighters. Current retirees will not be affected. Employees close to retirement will in most circumstances only experience increased contribution rates. Some younger employees may have to work one to four years longer and be unable to add items such as unused sick and vacation time to pension calculations. While most employees affected by these changes have concerns and many have expressed those concerns to me personally, everyone realizes the current unfunded liability and corresponding increase in property taxes is unsustainable. No one understands this reality better than struggling taxpayers. SB-3 passed the Senate 19-5.

Senator Chuck Morse sponsored CACR-5 (a Constitutional Amendment) to give New Hampshire governors line-item veto power. New Hampshire is one of a handful of states whose governor does not have the ability to veto extraneous spending. The proposal would include a 2/3rd override provision by the Legislature and could only be used to eliminate spending items – not language in legislation. Given that spending increased 24% over the previous four years, the line-item veto would have proven a useful tool. CACR-5 passed the Senate 19-5, must still be adopted by the House and then approved by 67% of voters in November 2012.

Senator Bob Odell sponsored SB-1 which restores parity between public employees and employers in contract negotiations by repealing the so called “evergreen” law. “Evergreen” allowed step pay increases to continue even after the expiration of a contract. This provided a powerful disincentive against employees negotiating new contracts. Cities and towns can still agree on an “evergreen clause” if local voters approve it. SB-1 passed 19-5 in the Senate, 282-70 in the House, and Governor Lynch allowed it to become law without his signature. It should be noted, amidst all the recent controversy about collective bargaining, the focus of SB-1 is very limited and does not undermine public employee’s rights to organize collectively in a union.

Senate President Peter Bragdon sponsored SB-52 which corrects the ill-fated provisions of SB-500 which allowed early release of violent offenders and took away discretion of the Parole Board by limiting parole violations to no more than a 90 day return to prison.  Bragdon’s legislation gives the Parole Board the ability to block early release and allows the board far greater latitude to return repeat offenders to prison for more than a 90 day “slap on the wrist.” This legislation ends the minimal administrative supervision for high risk sexual predators that have completed their prison terms and replaces it with active supervision. SB-52 passed the Senate on a bi-partisan voice vote.

I sponsored SB-154 to clarify the Shore Land Protection Act. SB-154 maintains important environmental and water quality protections while also respecting the rights of property owners. It is supported by the NH Lakes Association, the Department of Environmental Services, home builders and property rights advocates. It passed the Senate on a bi-partisan voice vote. If enacted into law SB-154 will simplify the permitting process and give a boost to the depressed construction industry in the Lakes Region.

I also sponsored SB-147 which will implement managed care for Medicaid eligible residents. Managed care has been utilized by many states to lower the cost of Medicaid (the largest cost center in NH government) while maintaining quality services. A private entity such as an insurance company competitively bids to serve the Medicaid population and assumes the financial risk. By creating a medical home for patients and better management of chronic conditions, quality care is maintained while costs are curtailed. Governor Lynch has embraced managed care and estimated $33 million in savings in his budget. Savings over time could be far more significant. SB-147 has passed the Senate on a bi-partisan voice vote.

Lastly, I have sponsored SB-125 which would give business owners protection from intrusive Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) audits which often result in assessing the 8.5% Business Profits Tax on much of the compensation a business owner pays him or herself. These audits have increased in scope and frequency, have become an income tax on business owners, and are undermining the ability of NH to attract and retain successful and job producing small business owners. An amendment was added to delay implementation pending resolution of the budget. SB-125 passed the Senate with a bi-partisan 24-0 vote and will, I expect, be supported vigorously in the House.

While Concord headlines often focus on and highlight legislative controversies, the Senate continues to work diligently on the major challenges facing our state, and often in a bi-partisan manner. That is what New Hampshire voters want and expect. It is our job to keep those promises.

 

Friday
Jul302010

Tom Peters "Insanity on Steroids"

July 29th, 2010

Sample from House Budget Hearing
 
Rep Ann Kirpatrick  (Dem) AZ  Told the house that families in her district are forced to live with less every day and they somehow make do. Its time for congress to do the same. She made a motion to amend the appropriations bill by reducing Congressional pay and discretionary spending by 5%. 

Rep John Olver (Dem) MA and others said it was not possible, undoable. Motion failed.

Rep Jim Jordan (R) OH Told the house with a $1.4 Trillion Deficit, $13 Trillion Debt "we need to take steps now to start the process of reducing spending." Made a motion to revert discretionary spending back to 2008 levels.

Rep John Olver (Dem) MA and others said it was not possible, undoable. Motion failed.

Rep Jeff Flake (R) AZ attempted to reach house members by repeating the debt figures and telling the house how they were "so incredibly out of touch with the American families across this country." He made 4 motions to reduce spending on earmarks by $1 million each. For the renovation of a building in Buffalo, NY, for adding more bike paths in Tacoma, WA, for more bike trails in RI and another similar project. \223With our government buried so deep in debt, how can we possibly ask taxpayers to pay for this?\224

Rep John Olver (Dem) MA and others said this was minuscule amounts of money. Cutting these projects will not amount to anything.

Rep Jeff Flake (R) AZ said, If we can't even cut, what you call small amounts, how will we ever deal with the deficit and debt?

Rep John Olver (Dem) MA and others said it was not possible, undoable. Motion failed.

Don't we send addicts to rehab?

Tom Peters:
Ashland, NH