The 112th Congress Moves Forward in 2011 | An Independent Voters View
The 112th Congress convened yesterday and is beginning its two-year run with the first ever reading of the US Constitution on the floor of the house today. Some are calling it political theater, and to a degree I would suppose they are correct. But in my view sometimes a bit of theater is a good thing when it serves a good purpose; like reminding folks in power that they are not the be all and end all in the political universe. When it serves as a reminder that there is in fact an idea that is bigger than themselves and that they should and must be humbled by it and recognize the honor of service we the people have afforded them.
Next up on the agenda is the repeal vote of the new healthcare law. More theater if you believe the Dems or a promise kept if you go along with the Repubs. I can go along with the promises kept idea since I think it is disingenuous at best and more likely pure cynicism for the Dems to say this first week of the new congress is not focusing on jobs. They all knew the job situation was critical from day one of the 111th congress and chose not to undertake the necessary work to improve the situation instead passing a healthcare bill, that will ultimately not pass constitutional muster.
They miserably failed to pass budget, and appropriations bills, (which are their constitutional duty and thus an implied promise when they are elected) and left it all for this congress to deal with. Fair enough since the price they paid was made clear in the last election, I can go along with folks that fulfill a pledge, and then move forward.
Since the repeal is not likely to clear the Senate or even if it does, clear the Presidents desk. I say fine get it done and move forward piece by piece. But that is not to say that should be the singular focus in the next few weeks. We pay all of you to walk and chew gum at the same time so use a few leadership skills and delegate within your staffs and lets undertake multiple operations at the same time. Here are a few you might want to get started with.
Current (2011) Appropriations Bills – Cut each of the current 13 appropriations bills by 5%. By the time it’s all passed and put into effect half the budget year will be over and that’s a 200 Billion cut (5% of 4 Trillion). I would not do these cuts line by line at this time I would place that burden on the President and his administration, since they didn’t bother to submit a budget in the first place. Any good civilian manager can deal with a 5% cut without reducing services, make ‘em earn their 100K plus salaries with the hard choices. Just make it clear, that’s all you get there aint no more. Then for the 2012 appropriations bills cut another 10% this time you make the hard calls and tell the administration what you’ll fund line by line.
Debt Ceiling – You’re going to have to up the debt ceiling. Since we are borrowing over 40% of the budget there is no way to make the necessary cuts to eliminate the deficit it’s going to have to be upped a bit I would even suggest upping it to 20Trillion and a lock that it can’t be increased again before say 2020 or until the US GDP exceeds 20 Trillion annually (currently approx 14 trillion). This would boost confidence both at home and overseas that our debt rating is good and we are smart enough to leave some room for unforeseen national emergencies etc. It also sets a tough but reasonable target for future cuts. (I’m not an economics expert so if you are I would be interested in specific comments.)
Entitlements – Let’s get social Security back to its original purpose; making sure widows and orphans are not left out in the cold. Here are a couple things we could do that are reasonable and would have an immediate impact.
- After this years tax holiday, return the tax to its 2010 level.
- Means test Social Security. If your retirement income exceeds 200% of the maximum benefit, you don’t need social security, Phase this in over 3 years.
- Eliminate the wage exclusion of salaries over $106,000.
- Phase in an increase in the social security retirement age to age 70.
- Means Test Medicare, not sure what the process should be here but I am certain a reasonable way to do so can be found.
- Require Medicare recipients to review their medical bills before claims are submitted and have them look for waste and fraud on the bill. Give them a percentage (10%) reward for identified waste and fraud items.
- Dig deep into the costs, I find it hard to believe that costs have a good reason for spiraling up so fast. Especially in hard economic times. Medical costs and the costs of insurance (they are two different but inter-related things), increases need to see the light of day and be explained to the American people.
- The costs of higher education have been riding a Tsunami even longer than medical costs. Why?
- It seems that since now that the Government is the only one in the student loan business, we should have an accounting of why college costs have been rising so far ahead of inflation for all these years. I think shining a light on these costs may well be so instructive that just the hearings may well lead to some reduction in tuition costs everywhere.
- I would like to see this congress hold hearings on the way Federal Salaries are set and how Federal Employee Unions and Federal Management negotiate contracts.
- Look at how the ‘cost curve’ can be bent back a bit, and lets have a public cost benefit analysis on federal jobs, Agency-by-Agency, Department-by-Department.
This would be a reasonable start to the ‘National Adult Discussion’ about how we must live within our means. Each of these areas are the things we talk about at the kitchen table when we have to re-evaluate our spending and make tough choices. Its time for my generation to stop hollering “ME ME ME!” and start asking how are we gonna lead the next generation into prosperity and security. We owe it to them, and this country that has given all of us so many opportunities
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