Democrats Suspend Democracy to Avoid Obama Jobs Bill
Both the House and Senate are governed by parliamentary rules that allow for some semblance of egalitarian debate, regardless of party control. Over the past few years, we have seen these safeguards eroded, specifically under the Pelosi speakership when minority amendments were prohibited, bills were passed before being fully written and legislation was shunted through the process through "deeming" resolutions rather than with honest debate.
On the other side of the hill, the Senate is normally seen to be above this kind of gerrymandered rulemaking, abiding by a more reverent parliamentary process. Usually, the majority and minority come to an agreement before legislation is brought to the floor that allows the minority an equitable part of the debate and amendment opportunties. Last night, Leader Reid changed all of that.
During debate on a chinese currency bill, Leider Reid had agreed that Republicans would be allowed to offer seven amendments. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell wished to use one of their amendments to require the Senate to take up the President's jobs bill; a command the President has made daily after the release of his plan last month. Leader Reid then unilaterally changed the Senate rules to prevent the amendment, fundamentally altering the Senate's judicious debate procedure.
In effect, the Senate minority is now barred from entering the debate on a bill after cloture. This slap in the face to the democratic process demonstrates just how far Democrats are willing to go to avoid a vote on the President's jobs bill. This further illustrates the toxicity of the administration's failed economic agenda. Even Democrat Senators are unwilling to sign on to the President's massive tax hikes, job-killing regulatory agenda and fake spending restraint.
How far will the President go to continue to push a destructive "jobs" plan that even Democrats won't support? To what lengths will lawmakers go to avoid embarrasing their economically illiterate president?
ATR Urges Lawmakers to Support the Honest Budget Act
Today, Americans for Tax Reform urged Senators to support the Honest Budget Act, unveiled yesterday by Senator Sessions and Senator Snowe. ATR has long highlighted the various ways budget loopholes are exploited to increase spending and grow government - last week we recommended budget reform that could produce hundreds of billions in savings for the "Super Committee." The Honest Budget Act would institute some of these changes, and be a necessary first step in fixing the federal budget process. From ATR's letter of support for the Act:
As the recent federal debt debate highlighted, the budgeting process is in dire need of honesty, transparency, and accountability. This bill prohibits lawmakers from disguising spending increases as spending cuts and encourages members to start producing real savings.
For the past two years, the Democrat-controlled Senate has failed to produce a budget. The Honest Budget Act requires a budget resolution to be passed before appropriations bills can be debated, enforced by a 60-vote threshold.
Lawmakers have also been able to skirt budgetary rules by disguising mundane appropriation requests as “emergency” spending. The Honest Budget Act requires “emergency” designations to be made on the floor by amendment, enforceable by a point of order. This will diminish the exploitation of “emergency” spending, which some estimates show amounted to $1 trillion in the 111th Congress alone.
Click here to read the letter in its entirety.
What do you think? Do you have other suggestions for fixing the broken budget process?
Obama Plan: Real Tax Hikes for Fake Spending Cuts
Announcing how he intends to pay for his Stimulus 2.0 “jobs” plan today, the President was quick to call for a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction. Far from “balanced,” his plan falls entirely on the backs of taxpayers and fails to address the government’s real deficit problem—overspending—by proposing fake or improbable spending cuts.
Spending Cut Gimmicks ($2.5 trillion)
- $1.1 trillion in war “savings” – The President counts money that was never going to be spent on wars that are scheduled to end. This is like claiming the government is still saving money from World War II, Korea and Vietnam simply because we are no longer engaged in them.
- Takes credit for debt deal savings – The President attempts to take credit for the $1 trillion in savings required by the Budget Control Act, which has already been enacted.
- Additional interest savings – President Obama claims $430 billion in deficit reduction from interest savings, pretending that spending can be counted as a deficit reduction if it is fueled by borrowing instead of from soaking taxpayers.
Unlikely Spending Cuts ($580 billion)
Health Savings: The plan claims $320 billion in Medicare and Medicaid savings, 90 percent of which is expected to come from increased payments from providers. As we have seen with the so-called “doc fix,” these kinds of promised savings in federal health care programs never materialize.
- Other health care savings are presumed to come from increased co-pays for beneficiaries, which conveniently don’t take effect until 2017.
- Supposed mandatory savings make up the other “new” savings proposed under the plan. These include increased fees on aviation, program integrity efforts meant to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse and such ephemera as “restoring state fiscal responsibility.”
Senate Appropriators Offer Fake Freeze in Place of Spending Cuts
While Washington remains transfixed on "deficit reduction," the dearth of actual spending reform has caused inspection of the lawmakers who are charged with the task at hand. Appointees of the Joint Committee created by the debt limit deal were quick to start fundraising on their newfound notoriety; prompting vows from other members that they would eschew fundraising efforts until the Committee has completed its work.
This has not stopped other lawmakers from continuing to accept cash from companies with an interest in continued government spending, particularly in the defense budget. In the defense funding fight this year the threat of across-the-board cuts to Pentagon spending has sparked intense lobbying from contractors who have enjoyed profound taxpayer munificence. The specter of deficit reduction, however, has prompted greater scrutiny of how defense pork has contributed to the government’s ballooning overspending problem.
To their credit, some committees have heralded this call to cut waste by refusing to fund outdated and unwanted systems, such as the Joint Strike Fighter alternate engine program. However, stalwart spenders on the Senate Appropriations Committee have balked at efforts to rid the DOD budget of waste. Appropriators, led by Senator Inouye, have restored funding their colleagues in both chambers have eschewed for the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS). Perhaps unsurprisingly, Inouye enjoys profound financial support from the company that produces MEADS. While the Pentagon has repeatedly protested that it neither wants nor needs MEADS, the Chairman continues to defend wasting millions on its procurement, asking taxpayers to pick up the check for his corporate backscratching.
In place of cuts, Inouye and his fellow appropriators are claiming their “freeze” for defense spending constitutes sufficient restraint at a time when all eyes are searching for savings. In reality, this “freeze” means the Pentagon will be spending $6.2 trillion over the next decade-a total distraction from the hidden pork left in the budget. An outlier amongst defense appropriators and authorizers in the House and Senate, the earmarking for MEADS should raise the ire of critics currently transfixed on the Joint Committee members’ benefactors. What’s more, as lawmakers pivot to a CR to fund the government until such differences in appropriations can be hammered out, the MEADS program represents another opportunity to trim waste, especially as Senators clamor for increased FEMA funding that House members have said should be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget.
Obama Jobs Plan: 1) Spend 2) Talk about Spending
Today, the President took to the podium again to tout his supposed jobs plan. This time he appeared with a legislative prop in hand that was, presumably, the bill itself. Despite his command (made at least a dozen times) that Congress pass his bill, it's unclear how lawmakers are supposed to do that without the actual bill. The President has claimed Congress will have the bill this evening. Why wait to make it public if it's already written down?
The President is running the risk of becoming his own parody. If anything, this administration has been a blatant illustration of what doesn't create jobs: 1) government spending 2) talking about government spending. Unfortunately, these are the only job creation tactics we've seen from this President.
- February 17, 2009: Obama signs the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. He claims the trillion dollar spending and debt package will create 3 to 4 million jobs and keep unemployment below 8 percent. Neither of these promises even came even close to be fulfilled.
- August 10, 2010: the House of Representatives is called back from August recess to pass a $26 billion bailout for the states. The President claims this will save 160,000 teaching jobs. This strategy didn't seem to work, since the President made the same claim about his new "jobs" plan today. If at first you don't succeed...
- April 13, 2011: Less than two months after releasing his official budget, President Obama calls for a redux, giving a speech that was to serve, ostensibly, as the Obama Budget 2.0. This new plan invented its own baseline, and can't be scored by an objective source such as CBO since they only score real legislation...not speeches
- September 8, 2011: The President delivers an address to a Joint Session of Congress announcing his jobs plan. The President promises a $500 billion plan, but offers few details and no written text of a plan that sounds remarkably like the first failed "stimulus" plan.
September 12, 2011: The President holds a press conference to announce that he will send his plan to Congress; a goal he apparently didn't think was clear in his appeal to Congress to "pass this bill" 17 times in the address the previous week.
The President also promises in his remarks that he will release a "deficit reduction" plan...next week. Following this trend, that would mean taxpayers have two more speeches to go before there's legislative language of that as well.
Taxpayer Advocates To Appropriators: Cut Waste from Defense Bill
Today, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist was joined by the President of the National Taxpayers Union, Duane Parde, the President of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Thomas Schatz and the President of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, David Williams in urging Senate Appropriators to eliminate waste in their Appropriations bills.
As Congress returns to its normal business after the August recess, the Senate Appropriations Committee has started marking up its FY 2012 spending bills. This week, it will debate the Defense Appropriations bill, legislation that lawmakers are traditionally hesitant to subject to serious scrutiny. ATR, NTU, CCAGW and TPA, representing millions of concerned taxpayers, urged Senate appropriators to reverse this trend and demonstrate restraint in defense spending. From the letter sent today:
We write to urge you to demonstrate strong fiscal restraint in the 2012 Defense Appropriations bill. In the recent debt limit deal, both parties agreed ending government overspending must be the first priority in confronting the nation’s debt crisis. The country cannot afford to continue wasteful spending in its most important endeavor—the nation’s security—when a lean and efficient defense is more necessary than ever.
One particular account of concern is that for the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), an antiquated missile system that has been outpaced by improvements to the Patriot missile defense system. Development for MEADS is governed by a multinational agreement between the United States, Germany and Italy. However, the Pentagon has already admitted it has no intention of procuring the system and both European nations are pursuing other options as well. There is little reason, therefore, to continue to waste taxpayer dollars on developing a system that will never be put to military use.
Ideally, the Senate Defense Appropriations bill would demonstrate the same commitment to prudence as your colleagues’ Authorization bill. The Senate Armed Services Committee rescinded all funding for MEADS in their Authorization bill, signaling an earnest effort to restore restraint to federal budget practices.
Click here for a copy of the letter in its entirety.
Obama's "Jobs" Plan: Just Don't Call It "Stimulus"
Tonight’s address by the President to promote a supposed “jobs” plan, sounded eerily similar to his failed “stimulus” plan, and still is yet to be found anywhere in written form. While the President avoided mentioning his trademark spending plan by name, he continued to promote the same failed policies that have stunted economic growth, no matter what they are named:
- Aid to States—Rather than cut spending during a recession, the “stimulus” bloated state budgets, creating permanent programs financed by temporary funds. With these funds running out, states will be compelled to increase revenues by at least $80 billion to extend “stimulus” promises made, after President Obama has already signed into law $725 billion in permanent tax increases. Congress passed a $26 billion state bailout just one year ago; now the President is promising more spending with strings attached that will come with more federal strings attached.
- Extending Unemployment Compensation—Currently, recipients can receive up to 99 weeks of federal assistance. This explains part of the consistently high unemployment rate; federal payouts are more lucrative than working. Almost half of the unemployed have been jobless for over six months, proving the year-long extension Obama proposed will only prolong the dismal jobs picture.
- “Infrastructure” spending—These “shovel-ready” jobs were supposed to be a large component of economic recovery under the first “stimulus.” If the initial trillion dollar spending and debt plan was supposed to “save or create” 3 to 4 million jobs and keep the unemployment rate below 8 percent, what is almost $200 billion supposed to do after the economy has lost almost 2 million jobs and unemployment remains at 9 percent?
- “Modernizing" Buildings and Schools—With $20 billion spent on “green” jobs initiatives, millions have gone to politically-connected companies that have since gone bankrupt, despite their transfusion of taxpayer cash. Modernizing initiatives are necessarily expensive since they are subject to Davis-Bacon laws that run up the cost of projects by 10 percent and inflate wages by 22 percent. While Obama promised millions in new “green” jobs under the “stimulus” plan, they account for just 2 percent of employment nationwide.
“President Obama never stopped campaigning for president to take the time to actually be president,” Said Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist. “The question President Obama didn’t answer tonight is why he would propose more “stimulus” after almost three years of it has made the economy worse.”
House GOP Rejects Abuse of Emergency Spending Loopholes
Americans for Tax Reform has long argued the federal budgeting process needs to be reformed to get rid of loopholes that allow lawmakers to skirt budgeting rules. The abuse of the “emergency” designation has been widespread – though the country has been embroiled in conflicts in the Middle East for the past decade, spending on the wars continues to be labeled as emergency (it should be noted that the largest supplementals for war spending have happened in years where Congress and/or the White House have been controlled by Democrats).
Similarly, the bank bailouts, failed “stimulus” plan and 2009 omnibus measure full of 9,000 earmarks were all passed as exigent measures, increasing spending by 84 percent from the previous year. The Congressional Research Service estimates that the exploitation of the “emergency” loophole increased deficits by $1 trillion just in the 111th Congress alone.
House Leadership has vowed to change this exploitation of budgeting rules. In the wake of Hurricane Irene, Republican Leader Eric Cantor announced all disaster aid should be offset elsewhere in the bloated federal budget. The White House, which has offered plenty of platitudes on spending restraint without actually practicing it, was quick to deride this effort to rein in ballooning federal outlays.
However, the House has already passed $1 billion in offsets for disaster relief, the President's allies in the Senate have refused to consider the bill. With the latest jobs numbers proving the folly of the President’s “stimulus” program, remaining ARRA funds should be rescinded immediately, and could provide more than enough funds for the President’s estimated cost of relief. Moreover, there is no shortage of potential spending that could be repurposed for disaster relief.
While the debate over federal disaster spending illuminates a larger problem of federal munificence, it does highlight the Administration’s priorities: the President is loath to touch “stimulus” funds or other programs aimed at padding the coffers of political allies at the expense of taxpayers recovering from natural disasters. For a “federal family,” that’s certainly some tough love.
Latest Unemployment Numbers Show Speeches Don't Create Jobs
The Friday before Labor Day the jobs picture in the country continues to be grim: today’s unemployment report shows absolutely zero job growth, with the unemployment rate staying the same as July at 9.1 percent. This is hardly surprising, given the recent budget updates by both the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and the White House Office of Management and Budget.
CBO’s August update to its Budget and Economic outlook painted a dismal picture for the United States economy: it requires optimistic economic growth of 2.3 percent just to get unemployment to 8.5 percent by the last quarter of 2012. The economy would have to gain approximately 135,000 jobs each month until the election just to get unemployment to where "stimulus" was supposed to keep it - 7.9 percent.
By the White House’s own admission in its Mid-Session Review released yesterday, the promised jobs surge under the “stimulus” program will not materialize; the unemployment rate will stay above 9 percent for the rest of the year.
If the stagnant employment numbers didn’t edify the folly of the President’s “stimulus” plan, this week the Mercatus Center released a comprehensive study further proving the shortcomings of the Obama jobs agenda. The study, entitled No Such Thing as Shovel Ready, discusses how the trillion dollar debt and spending package amounted to nothing more than a federal slush fund for White House prerogatives.
Still, the President dithers. Running away from the poor economic forecast to vacation for the weekend at Camp David, the President still refuses to offer tangible plans for job creation. The President, who plans to give a speech on his purported vision for economic recovery next week, needs to move beyond platitudes and commit an actual proposal to paper. Without an actual plan, the only tangible proof of the Obama Jobs Agenda for taxpayers is the abysmal unemployment rate.
Coalition Warns Congress: No Aviation "Fees" In Debt Negotiations
Today, Americans for Tax Reform, joined by a strong coalition of groups representing millions of concerned citizens and taxpayers, urged Members of Congress to reject any effort to increase fees on the aviation industry. As the Joint Committee debt negotiations draw closer, there will be increased pressure on fiscally prudent members to accept revenue measures in exchange for spending reform. Such measures must not include tax hikes or discriminatory fees, which distract from the core of the debt problem - government overspending. From our letter:
We write to strongly condemn the inclusion of any new aviation industry taxes as part of any deficit reduction measure currently being considered by Congress. It has been rumored that Members of both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are contemplating a new flat “user fee” (tax) on all take-offs and landings of general aviation aircraft, and increases in commercial airline ticket taxes – a move which would impose an unfair and destructive tax burden on an important sector of the U.S. economy. It defies reason for Congress to place additional taxes on the general and commercial aviation industry at this particularly vulnerable time.
This new tax would not only hurt general aviation manufacturing, it would also unfairly target small to mid-sized businesses across the country in particular. The ripple effect would wash over numerous communities throughout our nation who rely on this important form of transportation for commerce, goods, medical care, and a host of resources. In fact, 85 percent of all businesses that depend on general aviation are small to mid-sized businesses.
New taxes on commercial aviation are equally unacceptable. Commercial airline tickets are already taxed at a high level, and increasing those taxes will further discourage consumers from purchasing them at a critical time for the industry, which is facing high fuel taxes and a weak economy. Proposals that attempt to hide tax increases by labeling them as “security fees,” “landing fees,” or any new so-called “user fee” will simply be passed on to all passengers, and should be opposed outright.
Signatories include: American Civil Rights Union, American Conservative Union, American Family Business Institute, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, Carleson Center for Public Policy, Center for Fiscal Accountability, Center-Right Coalition of Florida, Citizen Outreach, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Freedom Action, Independent Women’s Voice, Institute for Policy Innovation, Less Government, Management Association for Photogrammetric Surveyors, National Taxpayers Union, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, Taxpayer Protection Alliance
Click here to view the letter.