A Serious Proposal for Restoring Fiscal Sanity

Virginians can rest assured that there are at least two serious budget cutters in Washington, D.C.: Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. Their draft budget-balancing plan issued Wednesday gores so many oxen and butchers so many sacred cows that the Chicago Board of Trade would be well advised to suspend trading on cattle futures.

The co-chairmen’s plan would cut discretionary spending by $100 billion a year and defense spending by another $100 billion. One tax-reform option would eliminate $1.1 trillion in “tax expenditures” — special deductions, credits and exemptions not available to all — in order to raise hundreds of billions in new revenues while also lowering the top tax rates. The duo also tackles long-term entitlement reform and advances proposals for putting Social Security and Medicare on an actuarially sound footing. All told, the plan purports to achieve $3.8 trillion in deficit reduction through 2020, reducing the deficit to 2.2% of the economy by 2015.

As Simpson memorably puts it, invoking his own mammalian metaphor, “We have harpooned every whale in the ocean, and some of the minnows. No one has ever done that before.”
There is no assurance that the full commission will adopt the Bowles-Simpson plan. And even if the commission does sign on, there is no guarantee that Congress will enact any of it. Indeed, within hours of the plan’s release, a parade of politicians and special interests had expressed umbrage ranging in intensity from polite concern to outrage. (The co-chairs “just told working Americans to ‘drop dead,’ said AFL-CIO Chairman Richard Trumka.)

Still, the plan demonstrates the magnitude of change required to restore the United States to a fiscally sustainable path, and it punctures any illusions that budgetary rectitude can be restored without both cutting spending or by raising taxes. The co-chairs’ proposal will trigger the first serious budgetary debate this country has had in decades.

Bowles and Simpson articulate important guiding principles. “America cannot be great if we go broke,” they write. “Our country will not be able to compete without a plan to get this crushing debt burden off our back.”

Americans have spent the past two years making tough choices in their own lives, the co-chairs go on to say, and they expect the political leadership in Washington to do the same. “It is cruelly wrong to make promises we can’t keep. … We need to be willing to tell Americans the truth.”

To avoid disrupting the fragile economic recovery, the draft plan would delay making cuts until Fiscal 2012 and would phase them in gradually. While preserving the safety net for poor Americans, Bowles and Simpson focused on promoting economic growth and bolstering America’s economic competitiveness. Priorities include cutting red tape and inefficient spending that puts a drag on job creation, with the goal of making America “the best place to start and run a business and create jobs.”

Seventy-five percent of the budget gap is closed through spending cuts. The long-term goal is to “end redundant, antiquated, ineffective spending,” and also to improve the productivity of the federal workforce by 3% annually. Chopping the number of federal employees by 10% would save $13.2 billion annually by 2015.

Tax revenues would rise under the plan, but the tax code would be restructured to end economically unproductive credits, exemptions and deductions. Under “the Zero Plan” the top personal income tax rate would be rolled back to 23%, and corporate taxes to 26%. In other words, the plan actually would increase incentives for Americans to work hard and invest their capital productively.

The plan is far from perfect. I am dismayed that budget reform would deploy traditional budget-cutting controls to limit the increase in Medicare costs rather than focus on transforming the health care industry around the principles of productivity and quality. And I’m disappointed that Bowles and Simpson would slash security spending without articulating a scaled-back global strategy aligned with the military’s reduced force structure.

But those criticisms are remediable. What’s important is that Bowles and Simpson have changed the terms of debate in Washington. Whereas the Republican leaders of the House had been talking in terms of $100 billion in budget cuts, plus caps on spending, the benchmark has just shifted to $372 billion in savings by 2015 and $761 billion by 2020. The nation will have a very different discussion than the one that was shaping up a week ago.

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59 responses to “A Serious Proposal for Restoring Fiscal Sanity”

  1. Awesome write-up Mr. Bacon! thank you.

    I am PERSONALLY adversely affected by no fewer than 5 of the proposals and YET I SUPPORT all 50 pages of recommendations because every man, women and child in the US owns about $40K of this debt and we need to stop the partisan bickering .. not.. let's call it what it is – Partisan Wars and get on to doing what is right for the country – and really for us.

    I am …over and over.. constantly amazed how many of the self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives especially including the anti-Obama types who don't know shit from shineola on the specifics of the deficit and debt.

    and yet they are all set to throw out incumbents and vote in new guys – NONE of which except for Paul RYan and Ron Paul who have offered their version of how to balance the budget nor offer an opinion about the Deficit Commission proposal.

    The Dems reaction to it was very predictable – it proves that some of them are the socialists they've been accused of being.

    But what is with the folks on the other side?

    They've spent the last 2 years blowing out their gizzards on the defict/debt (not that half of them actually know the difference)….

    and now other than maybe Grover Norquist do we hear much at all.

    The Silence IS deafening.

    Where is Boehner, McConnell, Cantor?

    These are the same guys that had 8 years to do something about the budget and did nothing and then heaped blame on Obama and blathered on about giving "crushing debt" to our kids and now… ???

    what gives?

  2. James A. Bacon Avatar
    James A. Bacon

    Larry, we shall soon find out whether Republicans were genuine in their concern about deficits and the national debt, or whether they simply used it as a hammer with which to bludgeon Democrats.

    While the sincerity of GOP is open to question, rest assured about one thing: The sincerity of the GOP rank and file, as well as the sincerity of the Tea Partiers who may or may not self-identify as Republicans, is not open to question. They are *very* concerned about deficits and the debt, and they will challenge K-Street Republicans who fail to deliver the goods.

    If that fails, look for a third party challenge.

  3. If the plan increases revenue by closing tax credits but lowers the top rates, how are people any more incentivized to work?

    On average more money is going out of their pocket.

    Anyway, you have got this wrong. If I'm taxed high or low, it does not change my once give much. I still have to eat, and I still want something to show for my labor.

    It is only that the more tax government takes the slower my personal growth happens. Fiscal conservatives always underestimate elasticity.

    Also, if I'm spending part of my day hauling slop then spending tax money for municipal sewer might save me money. There is no point in cutting productive govt spending along with the unproductive spending.

    We need better and less partisan ways to discern the difference.

  4. Hydra – you are FREE to offer your alternative……

    here's an interesting gadget for you and others to try:

    Budget Puzzle: You Fix the Budget

    http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2010/112010/11142010/587986

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    From what I've seen, too many spending "cuts" are really reductions in the rate of growth in spending. That's part of the institutional problem – Washington thinks it owns people's money and, therefore, does not treat it with respect. Reductions in the rate of growth may be appropriate for some governmental programs, but what about simply cutting as many businesses and households have done and continue to do?

    We also need to address the institutional controls that are lacking. Congress "fixed" the tax code in 1986 by eliminating deductions and reducing rates. But one Congress cannot bind another. Deductions and credits filtered back in and rates went up. Why should I trust that this will not happen again?

    There needs to be much more transparency on Washington lobbyists. Everyone, every business and every interest group has the right to lobby. But they don't have the right to lobby in the shadows. With the exception of national security matters, why not require recording of any meeting between a lobbyist and a member of congress and/or staff and post these on the Internet?

    We also need to increase the majority needed to pass budgets or change the tax code. We need a system in which liberals can check conservatives and conservatives can check liberals. We'd have a lot fewer federal programs and a lot less debt. We also likely have major commitments of lives and treasure to military action except with declarations of war.

    I am not yet on board.

    TMT

  6. I have the same misgivings as TMT but using his logic – any/all of us could oppose any/all proposals on that same basis and if we do that.. all we end up doing is nothing.

    I can't abide that.

  7. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views

    It's about time, Jimbo. WHere the hell have you been?

    Peter Galuszka

  8. James A. Bacon Avatar
    James A. Bacon

    I've been waiting for the Washington Times to run the column… but they kept me hanging. So, I decided to publish it online before it got too old and moldy.

  9. I said nothing about the proposals, I was just remarking on some circular logic in the idea that extracting higher revenues would not hurt the economy if lower nominal tax rates resulted from eliminating tax breaks.

    Higher revenues only come from higher actual taxes, whether they are high nominal taxes with lots of exceptions or lower but rigid taxes.

    Republicans are going to try to tell us that eliminating tax breaks is not the same as tax increases.

  10. You're saying the Republicans are not going to mobilize to save tax breaks for their business base?

    ha ha hahahhah bahaahahahah

    count on it guy.

    that's one reason why precious few of them have had jack squat to say about the deficit commission recommendations of which a major portion is getting rid of tax breaks for EVERYONE.

    We are destroying this country by our collective refusal – both Dem and GOP – to admit that we've gone way, way overboard on tax breaks and loopholes.

    We have all these folks yammering on and on about the deficit and the debt and the first time you mention reforming the tax code – they holler like that fellow in Deliverance.

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    A good job by Mr. Bacon! Congratulations.

    On Friday 12 Nov, Wash Post published a very good column by Steven Pearlstein “After years of imbalances, a painful reckoning.”

    On Sunday 14 Nov, the editors came up with a Topic A “What is next for the global economy?”

    They rounded up the usual suspects and came up with five versions of how to get back to ‘growth’ with varying political slants. Not a word about any painful reckoning or about consensus on an AntiPartisan program.

    This just came onto our screen:

    New Economics Institute. It was the E. F. Schumacher Society. Now they have a new mission: finding the middle ground between DeGrowth and growth. They have come to the same conclusions as Prof. Risse about the finite limits of resources, the wealth gap and happiness. See PART FIVE of TRILO-G.

    I asked who is copying whom. He swears he had not heard of Neva R. Goodwin or NEI until today. Great minds…

    Check it out at http://neweconomicsinstitute.org

    Observer

  12. Middle ground between growth an degrowth.

    Like I said, we are not going to disincentive anything.

    Everybody is going to want all that stuff.

    Not everyone can have it.

    Some people will have all that stuff.

    Some people won't.

    And some won't exist or cease to exist.

    Who is going to decide?

    Great minds, duh.

  13. Damn spell checker. Should have said we are not going to disinvent anything. Sorry.

  14. The middle ground between broth and degroeth is that the rich will get richer.

    Here is how degrowth works in Fauquier county : " My plan for your property is to have someone wealthy buy it so they can put it in conservation easement and nothing will ever be built there."

    Fauquier county supervisor.

    It will be more of the same on a larger scale, if the great minds get their way.

    More likely, that wont happen and the middle ground will be growth. Until we suffer the economic and resource equivalent of the black plague.

    It will wipe out a third of the population and the rich will get richer.

    It will be the golden age of humanity. All the survivors will have large private autos, and the rich survivors will have large private helicopters.

  15. True. Republicans (and dems) will try to save tax expenditures for their favorite charities. But some may get canceled, and neither side will concede these are tax increases.

  16. Hmmm…

    At least here on BR there seems to be bi-partisan interest in the deficit reduction committee's recommendations. When Observer and I agree there's something going on.

    As for Hydra's point about raising total tax revenues … he's absolutely right! I expect to pay higher taxes. I just want some level of confidence that the politicians aren't just peeing the money away on one special interest after another. Right now, that's exactly what goes on. Under a simplified tax code the people could track where the money comes from and legislatures would have to pass laws spending money rather than making opaque changes to an overly complex and arcane tax code.

    But Jim Bacon has the best point when he starts talking about the consequences of our government failing to act on these ideas. He touts a third party. I think that's right. And, sadly, I'd give these ideas a snowball's chance in hell of passing the new Congress. As I've said before, both sides are corrupt and totally beholden to special interests.

    Want evidence?

    Here is a list of companies and organization granted waivers from Obamacare by … Obama:

    http://www.hhs.gov/ociio/regulations/approved_applications_for_waiver.html

    Big insurers, big unions, blah, blah, blah …

    Both the Democrats and the Republicans think the same way – paying taxes and complying with new regulations is for "the little people".

  17. I'm prepared to advocate voting ANY politician out of office who does not sign on the balanced budget proposal or one that is equivalent in its end product – a balanced budget.

    to keep things honest here…

    I'm truly sick of the one-shot sound bites on policy issues and the waiver issue cited is yet another one.

    I doubt seriously that anyone really understands the specific nature of the waiver – which if you read the supplied link – will tell you that the govt – in an attempt to NOT have a "one size fits all" policy – has addressed some issues to the benefit of the consumers.

    read this:

    http://www.hhs.gov/ociio/regulations/11-05-2010annual_limits_waiver_bulletin.pdf

    Now.. the flip side of this is that at the same time we play this little sound bite back-biting – we also talk about the inflexible boot of the government to slam down throats a one-size fits all policy.

    I do not think this kind of narrative benefits anyone and all it really demonstrates is that whoever wants to – can roll another grenade into the fray.

    What purpose does this achieve?

    does it add or contribute to the discussion on the merits?

    I don't think so.

    Waivers are not new.

    They are granted all over the place for every conceivable circumstance.

    Obama_Care is not perfect. It has some issues.

    so does Medicare, Tricare, VA care and the SCHIPS for kids as well as MedicAid.

    We have this mindset now days says that PERFECT is INDEED the enemy of GOOD and it's a wonderful political device to attack anything without actually dealing with the merits.

    We have waivers – out the wazoo for virtually everything imaginable.

    The biggest waiver of all in my view is EMTALA which basically says that it's perfectly legal to provide free health care at 4 times the normal rate to those without insurance – and then to bill those who do have insurance.

    Isn't it interesting that the same folks who complain bitterly about Obama_Care have nothing to say about EMTALA?

  18. Anonymous Avatar

    Pass unworkable laws for show and then ignore them or let influential players go. Obamacare and Fairfax County's stream protection policy.

    A few years ago, the Fairfax County BoS adopted very tough stream protection policies that apply to intermittent streams. One of those streams was located on some property upon which a developer wanted to build some upscale houses. The property could be built upon in any event, but if the stream protection policy was applied, fewer houses could be built.

    The builder claimed the stream wasn't. Local citizens produced evidence that the intermittent stream passed the county's test. But the BoS would not address the issue, but permitted staff to grant the approval. Now does anyone think that a small builder wanting to construct one or two houses or a homeowner wanting to expand hes/her home would have obtained the same result? LOL

    This is American government today. Pass laws for show, but exempt those with clout.

    Reform the system before you ask me to pay higher taxes.

    TMT

  19. For every law or regulation – there are examples of waivers or outright neglect of enforcement.

    At the same time we talk about the terrible regulations that hurt business.

    There are examples of both.

    but would anyone say that because the Clean Water Act has notorious examples of "over-regulation" or evasive and waivers that the law should be repealed?

    I don't think so.

    The people who think that laws are too strict or not strict enough engage in advocacy to seek changes responsive to their concerns.

    But to advocate either repeal of gridlock unless we have the perfect balance of regulation is not realistic.

    No one in the entire world do we have perfect laws and regulations.

    To advocate gridlock because we don't have that is – irresponsible in my view.

  20. Each one of us benefits from one or more of the programs addressed in the deficit commission as candidates for reductions.

    Each one of those 50+ programs has been altered over time to provide additional benefits to those that receive them and done without a funding source.

    That's where the 1.3 trillion deficit – and the 13 trillion dollar debt comes from.

    Now – we have people who say they APPROVE of the balanced budget EXCEPT the part that comes out of their hide and that they'll not support it if it increases their taxes.

    This is why I support the 50+ recommendations even though 5 separate recommendations directly and adversely affect my interests.

    In a word – they will cost me money.

    I consider it my share of the deficit and the debt – something I owe back as opposed to "higher taxes.

    These are things I probably should not have gotten in the first place ESPECIALLY if they were not funded by taxes.

    If the standard we set is that we're all not going to agree to pay our share of the debt unless other demands are met – then we are doomed IMHO.

    The best thing in the world for the deficit commission is for it to function like the BRAC commission.

    We accept the entire plan with absolutely no way to influence the individual recommendations..

    I'm for that.

    I'm for ANY PLAN that achieves a balanced budget – and cannot be changed unless the change is a one-for-one value substitution.

    Each one of us has a responsibility here and the country is only going to be as good (or bad) as we are as individuals who will do our part (or not).

  21. Under a simplified tax code the people could track where the money comes from

    ===============================

    Thats why i like the idea of just putting a simplified budget on the back of the tax form. even if it was non-binding legislators would have some explaining to do if they ignore the peoples reccomendations on where their money should go.

    Call me a cynic, but the first thing that will happen when people can track where the money comes from is try to change it.

    If (and surely it will) this does result in higher taxes those that claim the Laffer curve bends at 8% or 15% are going to have a big experiment on their hands, that may prove them wrong.

  22. Airlines get waivers on safety regulations all the time. that's because they can demonstrate that they have procedures and tests in place that are equivalent or better than the regs.

    Pointing to waivers as being necessarily bad is incorrect.

  23. This is American government today. Pass laws for show, but exempt those with clout.

    ================================

    Good story.

    Now, why were the local citizens so interested in this stream? Probably they could care less about the stream, except it gives them an excuse to prevent new neighbors, that is, to control someone elses land without paying for it.

    In Prince Georges County, at least they are honest about being crooked: their laws are (were) up for sale.

    I have proposed a plan whereby the planning board decides how many building permits they can isue without causing a crunch in capital requirements. Then every citizen gets vouchers worth a fraction of a building permit. They can sell their vouchers in the market place to anyone who wants to build, or if they are opposed to building they can sit on their vouchers and accept the loss that comes from not selling.

    Now yu have taken crooked dealings out of the matter by making them public, legal, and subject to taxation.

    Big builders would still have an advantage in that they can pay more, but small local builders woul have more local contacts, and probably more local support in terms of obtaining the needed vouchers per building permit.

    Safety and other codes would still have to be met, but the uncertainty and crooked dealings in the present system would be eliminated.

  24. doing anything at all about building permits is not going to address the simple reality that we spend 1.3 trillion more than we take in – in revenues.

    And if anyone wants to claim we can increase revenues by various reforms – then you provide some credible scoring rather than advocating for your own favorite and unproven interests.

    the last thing in the world we need right now is a bunch of folks running around making the same bogus claims that the Republicans make about tax cuts producing increased revenues but they don't won't performance measures an they won't take responsibility for the deficits that continue despite their "ideas".

  25. Building permits are not going to solve our national revenue problems.

    I only intended that example as an analogy as to how you get cost effective regulation using market forces, and at the saem time balance off various factions to reduce gridlock.

  26. but you can't get there with unsupported ideas and that's the problem.

    You keep saying cost/benefit but you want someone else to do it.

    If you want changes that you say will be beneficial then the onus is on you to provide the performance measures and results and those measures have to be accepted by those you are trying to convince.

    The Republicans want to claim that tax cuts generates revenues over and above what is lost from the cuts but the CBO does not agree so the Republicans just ignore the CBO and continue to claim what they want to believe – even when the evidence is clear that that they do not always work.

    I could even accept the tax cut premise as long as there was agreement that in the out years that continuing deficits would be delt with – instead of ignored.

    I have ZERO confidence in those who have ideological views about taxes but don't want to be bothered with the deficit realities.

    We have a 1.3 trillion deficit and a 13 trillion debt due to that kind of thinking.

  27. You keep saying cost/benefit but you want someone else to do it.

    =================================

    This isn't an untested idea, just not widely used. Using this idea the costs and benefits are evaluated by the market, so you don't need a third party to set the values.

  28. Oh I am all for cost/benefits but I think you cannot use them based on unproven claims and so you have to produce the results and someone else needs to be able to replicate them.

    CBO scores "ideas" like….how much money would Social Security "save" if you bumped the retirement age a year older.

    Te deliver that number. It does not mean they are advocating for or against it – only that that's the numbers that come out.

    That's the way cosr/benefit need to be done – without regard to pro or con – totally dispassionate and totally validateable.

    Where we get into trouble is when someone wants to make a claim – like tax cuts will generate more tax revenue that the lost revenue from the tax cuts but they don't have any way to score it and neither does CBO.

    No proof of any kind is offered – only that when it was done before under Reagan that it "worked" and no explanation as to why it did not work under Bush.

    When the outcome of this leads to a deficit …or a surplus – then we cannot ignore it and pretend otherwise – unless of course we don't care if the deficit gets larger and larger and makes the debt larger and larger.

  29. Anonymous Avatar

    "Now, why were the local citizens so interested in this stream? Probably they could care less about the stream, except it gives them an excuse to prevent new neighbors, that is, to control someone else's land without paying for it.

    Wrong. The neighbors supported the level of development on the land that could be accommodated after protecting the stream as provided in the county ordinance. The objection was to development on land that the county law said could not accommodate development.

    It's not all or nothing. It's development as permitted by law.

    I've seen developers argue that the Beltway should be considered as a street serving a parcel in order to increase yield. But that was too much even for the Connolly regime.

    TMT

  30. Don't kid yourself. The law was written to prevent development, not to protect the stream.

    The stream, or runoff, or garbage, or cars, or kids: anything that leaves the property is now an excuse for someone else to claim a damaging externality.

    You can count on the fact that any new regulation will prevent some new building. It always benefits existing owners who never pay for the benefit received.

  31. When they changed the setback requirement in my brothers town he lost a building lot. He had enough land, but it was an irregular shape. He was able to buy a strip from his neighbor.

    End result: same houses, same land, same runoff (none to speak of). Just a different line on a map in a drawer somewhere.

    And $25k in the neighbors pocket. Was he concerned about run off? Or was he seeking financial advantage for free?

    That setback rule has nothing to do with runoff because it is an area of large lots and sandy soil. It just made a convenient way to screw people who had not built yet.

  32. re: " The law was written to prevent development,"

    are you talking about the State law or Federal Laws concerning regs to prevent degradation of water quality?

    they were written as a stealth approach to property control?

    I highly doubt it guy.

  33. Anonymous Avatar

    We still need some systematic reform that makes it harder for Congress to keep spending. I think it is legitimate for elected officials to have different spending priorities, but there is too much room for mutual backscratching.

    We need a super-majority for federal budgets.

    TMT

  34. re: "super-majority" – I don't disagree but what is a reasonable and doeable goal?

    I see the deficit commission as a starting point – not an ending point but if we won't agree to it as a starting point – I think you have no realistic alternatives at this point.

    If we, as an electorate, said that we will vote out of office ANYONE who does not subscribe to a REAL PLAN to balance the budget – no matter whether they are D or R – it's a start.

    Once we get those who will not commit to a balanced budget out of office and get folks in office that will support – we have then a legitimate opportunity to enact the 3/4 rule.

    right now – you have too many frauds in office who won't support a balanced budget even as they lie out their butts that they want to "cut" and there is no way those kinds of folks will vote for the 3/4 rule.

    Baby steps..

  35. A super majority gives more power to the radical extremes.

  36. " A super majority gives more power to the radical extremes"

    well.. at first I was going to disagree with that idea but now I think I agree with you because 3/4 sets a high bar for change which means 1/4 end up with more opportunity to promote other laws to be passed by simple majority.

    TMT of course was viewing the 3/4 as a protection against the extremes but in doing so such a high bar is set that we'll end up with even more gridlock and empower those who would block legislation via filibuster.

    or.. maybe.. that's exactly what TMT intended….

  37. " A super majority gives more power to the radical extremes"

    well.. at first I was going to disagree with that idea but now I think I agree with you because 3/4 sets a high bar for change which means 1/4 end up with more opportunity to promote other laws to be passed by simple majority.

    TMT of course was viewing the 3/4 as a protection against the extremes but in doing so such a high bar is set that we'll end up with even more gridlock and empower those who would block legislation via filibuster.

    or.. maybe.. that's exactly what TMT intended….

  38. Anonymous Avatar

    Why not 60% or 55%? There is no need to go to 3/4. There needs to be a spot that would force both extremes to give up their favorite spending. Only what could find approve by the vast majority would be funded. We have fewer military bases and the weapons purchased would have broad support. There would be fewer social programs, with more popular ones being funded. The military-industrial complex would be weakened as would the professional caring class.

    TMT

  39. Cloture was introduced in the Senate in 1917. But since it required a 2/3 vote it was seldom able to be invoked and filibustering was common. Democrats were able to change the rule to 60 votes in 1975 when they had a majority in the Senate.

    This made it easier for the majority to invoke cloture and pass bills that otherwise would be blocked or filibusterer by the minority.

    Supermajority rules favor the minority, and are therefore undemocratic.

  40. The 60 vote rule for cloture means you can't get anything to a vote unless you have enough votes (60) to shut of debate. Therefore we effectively already have a 60% rule that applies to budget legislation.

  41. who says that debate can be as long as they want?

    what about allowing a certain amount of time – and then the vote WILL take place?

    If the Virginia legislature had such a rule – I dare say probably 1% of the legislation would pass.

    I don't know where the Senate "rules" came from on filibusters but I bet not from the Constitution and it is instead a "rule" of the Senate.

    Bad rules are bad rules and need to go.

    Imagine if your local BOS operated that way…

    One guy could stop any vote that he did not agree with.

  42. who says that debate can be as long as they want?

    ==================================

    Well, the whole purpose of the senate is to debate. We can't expect the Constitution to spell out EVERYTHING, otherwise it would be the CFR.

    If you don't have a vote to cut off debate, how do you know when you are finished? how would you know what time limit to impose?

    All of this is ridiculous anyway, since the decisions are not made o the senate floor…….

  43. You're done debating when the time runs out just like your 3 minutes in front of the BOS or your letter to the ed.

    You make your best case and then sit the hell down and let someone follow.

    After all have had their say – you take the vote and move on.

    Only in this crazy day and time do we ACCEPT the idea that any jerk in the Senate has the right to gridlock the country.

    too much arrogance – too much loyalty to the political party and a lot of contempt for the voters and citizens.

    The first time I hear Warner or Webb engaging in a filibuster, they've lost my vote.

  44. Anonymous Avatar

    Well, Larry say goodbye to Mark Warner. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/28/gop-chamber-of-commerce_n_741970.html

    I'll bet that, after two years in the Senate, darn few, if any, Senators have not filibustered something.

    TMT

  45. Some things are worth arguing over more than others. How do you know up front what limit to set?

    The cloture rule sets that lmit on an adhoc, level-of-disgust basis. "OK I've had eneough, I'll agree to vote to stop now."

    It is not just any jerk, you need to have at least forty jerks who will not vote to stop argueing yet. It is a little bit of protection the majority gives the minority.

    Besides, there are time rules as well, I just don't know what they are.

    And remember, we didn;t get these rules by accident: there are resons we have these rules.

  46. let me clarify – to PERSONALLY engage in fillibustering.

    What Warner did was engage in a strategy in which fillbuster was an element – but not his.

    It's a subtle point, I'll admit but I consider the principals to be at the root of the problem.

    I could be argued with…..

  47. re: knowing when you are done.

    Just as they do in the House of Representatives – equal time is granted to both sides and they then choose their best speakers and they use their time.

    and when time expires – you either take the vote or you move on to the next item.

    If the Senate rules were in the Constitution – I'd be more respectful but it's clearly a moribund rule of the Senate that basically allows one jerk to gridlock legislation and we have a long history of Senators who have done it from Jesse Helms to Robert Byrd and it's ugly no matter who does it.

    The Senators are supposed to represent the people who voted for them not their own views and yet over and over – the one's who filibuster are usually not covered with glory over standing up for their Constituents but rather trying to force their own views.

    Where do you think the TeaPots got the idea to gridlock govt for the next 2 years ?

    They're just going to block …. not deliver their plan for solutions.. just block others they don't agree with.

    You have all of these JERKS who ran on a more fiscally responsible govt and not one of them has the character to say what they would cut to get to a balanced budget.

    You can't balance the budget by cutting entitlements but don't let that stop these losers from making that claim.

    Then when you ask them for the numbers – they run away and hide.

    In another day and time we'd call them brats and vandals.

  48. Anonymous Avatar

    One can make good arguments in favor of, and in opposition to, the filibuster. I suspect most ordinary people like it when it stops some legislation that they don't like, but hate it when someone else is doing the filibustering.

    I view it as one of the rules that should apply one way or another irrespective of what the political power situation is. One set of rules. If Democrats can filibuster Bush's court appointments, so too can Rebublicans filibuster those of Obama and vice versa. Both parties are hypocritical on this issue, if you ask me.

    TMT

  49. Oh I totally agree. They both do it and they both say they are justified and when the other guys does it – it's wrong.

    I understand the visceral frustration of the Tea Party folks but the problem is they are downright dangerous because they do not care about silly things like how to legislate – they just want what they want – and the "rules" are essentially similar to cage-fight rules – the "original" cage-fight rules before they went wobbly.

    In the case of the Tea Pots broken legs and bloody noses ARE counted as PLUSes.

  50. there's another competing Deficit Plan "out there" today.

    Initially it sounds a bit risky.

    No FICA taxes for a year…

    and the plan in general seeks to "grow" us out of the deficit.

    makes me queasy to think about what happens if the theory doesn't pan out…

    same problem I have with the Republicans tax cuts that "in theory" generate more tax revenues than are lost from taxes.

    didn't seem to work out and the only Plan B seem to be to express disbelief that it did not work or to make excuses but HORRORs don't actually try to deal with the consequential impacts on the deficit.

    … only way I'd support such an approach is a firm agreement that each year – the variance is reconciled…

    .. if the jobs don't get created an the tax revenues don't increase – then you need to make sure the deficit itself does not increase – and in fact, stays on track to reduce.

  51. The rules are the same for both parties.

    The rule is not moribund, it is relatively new, and was modified after the first version didn't work.

  52. Anonymous Avatar

    To several of us (perhaps a majority?) much in this string of comments is pointless.

    The comments are trapped under a number of dangerous assumptions:

    First they are trapped under the false assumption that it makes sense to have only three levels of governance (Agency) that correspond to the late 18th century agrarian society model – municipal, state and federal. New levels of Agency must evolve to reflect economic, social and physical reality.

    Second it is trapped in 14th century idea the highest level of governance has the final say on EVERYTHING. In this context, the only plurality threshold that counts is at the federal level.

    Third it is trapped in the assumption every decision needs to have the same plurality threshold – the same for setting speed limits and for doubling the debt limit.

    Fourth it is trapped in the assumption that once passed every law is good FOREVER. Scaled sunset provisions should apply to all legislation, to all regulation and TO most judicial decisions. “Is this STILL the right thing to be doing??”

    And even these changes will make little difference – in fact they will not happen – until citizens have better information upon which to make decisions in the voting booth and in the marketplace about citizen / Household best interests.

    Professor Risse is working on a note re ‘the new fifth estate’ that may touch on this.

    Observer

  53. Right now – there is a tremendous opportunity for those who would like to affect governance at the local level because localities are required to redistrict by late Spring (in time for the folks who will sign up for the fall elections).

    Virginians have the right to affect the number of BOS in a county… i.e. you can create de-facto "wards"..

    you can creat AT-Large positions.

    and you can choose from a number of different governance options that the state allows.

    So… NO EXCUSES from you folks that want to change governance.

    The opportunity is there – and you can choose to take advantage of it or not – but don't let me hear you complain later on that our structure is wrong and we can't change it.

    get in the game or shuffle off to the sidelines….

    ( that's a CHALLENGE guys).

  54. First they are trapped under the false assumption that it makes sense to have only three levels of governance

    ================================

    Calling a it a false assumption without evidence does not make it one. Multiple levels of governance and more public input will only lead to gridlock in government and LESS ability for th eindividual citizen to be heard where and when it counts.

    Consider the letter in this weeks Fauquier Citizen in which a citizen wrote to complain about the Byzantine and internally controlled planning process that the school board uses to present the image of public input While actually using the process to rubber stamp decisions that had already been made.

  55. that correspond to the late 18th century agrarian society model

    ================================

    In Fauquier, that is pretty much what we have got with tens of thousands of acres trapped in an outmoded, inefficient, and uneconomic agricultural zoning.

  56. trapped in 14th century idea the highest level of governance has the final say on EVERYTHING.

    =================================

    I prefer it that way. My experience is that the federal government has screwed me over far less than my local government. And that is my observation of other peoples dealings with local government as well.

    The locals are amateurs, without the ethical training and ingrained professional experience to provide egalitarian service.

    Consider the situation in Prince Georges County. it is the Federal government that is rescuing citizens from the clutches of their local elected crooks.

  57. Fourth it is trapped in the assumption that once passed every law is good FOREVER. Scaled sunset provisions should apply to all legislation, to all regulation and TO most judicial decisions. “Is this STILL the right thing to be doing??”

    ===================================

    Well, by George.

    For once we agree on something.

  58. re: " … the Byzantine and internally controlled planning process "

    has become common-place for School systems (and other governance) across Va.

    The governance institutions in Va… have open contempt for citizens and the information they should have to hold them accountable.

    They openly sneer about it.

  59. I read recently that the Fairfax County Police Dept and County Attorney take great pride in their track record of fending off FOIA requests…..

    Even requests about closed cases result in responses that it's still a "police matter under review".

    ( Which is a FOIA exemption).

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