Free Markets, Free People
The DoD is presently working through a half trillion dollars in budget cuts mandated by Barack Obama which is going to see a much weaker military despite what any of the madly spinning politicians claim.
But the real meat axe is hanging just over the horizon in what is known as “sequestration” cuts, i.e. cuts which will be made across the board because the debit committee was unable to reach a deal on the cuts in the budget (by the way, Harry Reid, it’s now been 1001 days since you, Mr. Majority Leader, passed a budget out of the Senate) for the future. That would mean an additional half trillion in cuts to DoD, the result of which, would simply be disastrous to our national security.
Here, in this video, a group of Republican House Armed Services Committee members make a pitch for a common sense solution that would absorb the need for those sequestration cuts. In short, cut the Federal workforce by 10% – but do it over time and strictly through attrition.
Someone, anyone, tell me we couldn’t get along without 10% of the Federal workforce:
But most attempts to limit freedom tend to be like zombies – even dead they tend to end up walking among us again at some future time. But until then, good news:
House and Senate leaders abandoned plans to move on SOPA and PIPA on Friday — the surest sign yet that a wave of online protests have killed the controversial anti-piracy legislation for now and maybe forever.
SOPA sponsor Lamar Smith, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said his committee won’t take up the bill as planned next month — and that he’d have to “wait until there is wider agreement on a solution” before moving forward.
Apparently even within the halls of Congress, where given some of the decisions that are routinely made would make one question the amount of oxygen in the air, they appear to have figured this one out. Oh, and it is an election year. [head slap]
But don’t get too excited … they’ll be back in some form or fashion. Instead of doing the hard work necessary to create law that will protect intellectual property rights while not being overly broad and draconian, these zombies will simply change clothes, get new names and be back in another session.
President Theodore Roosevelt made more than 160 recess appointments during a Senate break of less than a day in 1903. According to the Congressional Research Service (PDF):
[T]he President made recess appointments during a transition between sessions of less than a day in length, where no concurrent resolution regarding the transition between sessions had been adopted. In fact, it appears that little time elapsed between the sessions on this occasion. When the first session of the 58th Congress ended, at noon on December 7, 1903, and the second session began soon thereafter, President Theodore Roosevelt made over 160 recess appointments—mostly of military officers. President Roosevelt treated the period between these sessions as a “constructive recess.”
This particular case, the "recess" was literally seconds long. The Senate was not pleased, and 14 months later issued a report that condemned the President’s actions in that particular case; however (PDF):
The 1905 Senate Judiciary Committee Report was issued fourteen months after this action and, as is indicated by the quotation included above, emphatically rejected Roosevelt’s action. It is important to note, however, that the Report, while expressing disapprobation of the President’s exercise of the recess appointment power in such a manner, could be interpreted as validating the execution of intrasession recess appointments generally. Furthermore, Roosevelt’s actions could be viewed as a practical manifestation of the potential infirmities of the Knox interpretation: that is to say, if a formalistic interpretation of the Clause rests upon a concern that allowing intrasession appointments will foster systematic avoidance of the Senate’s advice and consent function, the fact that a President is able to make such appointments during an instantaneous “constructive recess” of the Senate would appear to belie such a distinction.
Indeed, part of the relevant language of that report states:
It was evidently intended by the framers of the Constitution that [“recess”] should mean something real, not something imaginary; something actual, not something fictitious. They used the word as the mass of mankind then understood it and now understand it. It means, in our judgment, . . . the period of time when the Senate is not sitting in regular or extraordinary session as a branch of Congress, or in extraordinary session for the discharge of executive functions; when its members owe no duty of attendance; when its Chamber is empty; when, because of its absence, it cannot receive communications from the President or participate as a body in making appointments. – Senate Report No. 58–4389, at 2 (1905).
At the very least, a colorable argument can be made that the mere existence of pro-forma sessions held for the specific purpose of disallowing recess appointments, during a time when the Senate is unable to meet to discharge its advice and consent functions, is itself an unconstitutional usurpation of the president’s Constitutional powers. There is nothing in the Constitution to indicate the president’s recess appointment power is any less important than the Senate’s advice and consent power.
President Roosevelt’s “constructive recess”, which took place between 12:00pm and 12:01pm on 7 December, 1903 surely seems a stretch of the idea of what a recess is. But, in the proximate case of President Obama it just as surely a stretch to argue that the Senate was "in session" while it was unable to meet to conduct any business. Indeed, the specific adjournments about which we are concerned here explicitly stated that no business would be conducted.
Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that when the Senate completes its business today, it adjourn and convene for pro forma sessions only, with no business conducted on the following dates and times, and that following each pro forma session the Senate adjourn until the following pro forma session: Tuesday, December 20, at 11 a.m.; Friday, December 23, at 9:30 a.m.; Tuesday, December 27, at 12 p.m.; Friday, December 30, at 11 a.m.; and that the second session of the 112th Congress convene on Tuesday, January 3, at 12 p.m. for a pro forma session only, with no business conducted, and that following the pro forma session the Senate adjourn and convene for pro forma sessions only, with no business conducted on the following dates and times, and that following each pro forma session the Senate adjourn until the following pro forma session: Friday, January 6, at 11 a.m.; Tuesday, January 10, at 11 a.m.; Friday, January 13, at 12 p.m.; Tuesday, January 17, at 10:15 a.m.; Friday, January 20, at 2 p.m.; and that the Senate adjourn on Friday, January 20, until 2 p.m. on Monday, January 23; that following the prayer and pledge, the Journal of proceedings be approved to date, the morning hour be deemed expired, and the time for the two leaders be reserved for their use later in the day; further, that following any leader remarks the Senate be in a period of morning business until 4 p.m., with Senators permitted to speak therein for up to 10 minutes each, and that following morning business, the Senate proceed to executive session under the previous order.
As John Elwood puts it at the libertarian/conservative legal blog "The Volokh Conspiracy":
Concluding that such pro forma sessions (which by design are not for conducting business) interrupt the recess of the Senate and thus prevent recess appointments would present a risk to separation of powers because it would allow the Senate unilaterally to frustrate the President’s exercise of a power granted him by the Constitution, which the Framers considered to be important to keep the government functioning by filling offices. Cf. McAlpin v. Dana, No. 82–582, slip op. at 14 (D.D.C. Oct. 5, 1982) (“[T]here is no reason to believe that the President’s recess appointment power is less important than the Senate’s power to subject nominees to the confirmation process.”).
So, it is far from clear that it was the President, rather than the Senate, who was acting in a manner that violated the Constitutional separation of powers.
Alas, the case of the Cordray nomination still has an unfortunate wrinkle for the president. The specific statutory language of Section 1066 of Dodd-Frank states that the functions of the CFPB cannot be turned over from the Secretary of the Treasury “until the Director of the Bureau is confirmed by the Senate in accordance with Section 1011.” Section 1011, in turn, states: “The Director shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.”
So, while the president arguably has the power to make recess appointments during pro-forma sessions of the Senate, the statutory language of the law provides that the CPFB cannot be created as an independent agency until after its first Director is confirmed by the Senate. In effect, this means that, while the president may make a recess appointment to the CPFB post, the Bureau that post oversees cannot actually be created until the Director is confirmed by the Senate. So, according to the statute, Mr. Cordray is the bureau chief of a non-existent bureau, until he can be confirmed. So, I hope they can find a nice office for him somewhere, with a comfortable napping couch.
This, in turn, brings up the question of whether sections 1066 and 1011 of Dodd-Frank consist of an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers by impeding the president’s power to make recess appointments.
But, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to get into that issue at this point.
What should be clear, though, is that President Obama’s recess appointments are, in fact, arguably legal and constitutional, while the practice of pro forma sessions designed to prevent recess appointments are arguably illegal and unconstitutional.
Moreover, the Congress has a number of options for overturning the appointment of Mr. Cordray. They can refuse to fund the CFPB until he is confirmed. They can impeach him. As a recess appointee, they can reduce his pay to nothing.
The bottom line is that there are substantial tensions to recess appointments, and a historical lack of clarity as to what the scope and limits of recess appointments are. When both houses agree to adjourn and hold themselves in recess, the president’s power to make such appointments is unquestioned. But it is certainly unclear that it is constitutional for the Senate to adjourn sine die for weeks at a time, except for pro forma sessions at which no business is conducted and no quorum is present, in order to specifically impede the president’s recess appointment powers.
Whatever the actual practice has been in terms of when presidents made recess appointments, or whether presidents in the past have accepted the practice of pro forma sessions, or even whether someone argued a different view about such appointments in the past, is entirely irrelevant. It might be instructive to know these things in order to make personal judgments about the character of the respective parties, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with the constitutional issues at hand.
The only relevant questions are, is the Senate in session or is it not? Is the Senate in session when no quorum is present, the members are not available to meet, and no business is conducted for weeks? Is the Senate in session when it is incapable of providing the advice and consent function for weeks? If the answer to those questions is "no", then the Senate is in recess as a practical matter and pro forma "sessions" are nothing more than a sham with but one design: to subvert the Constitution. That is true whether the president is George W. Bush or Barack H. Obama.
Update: Commenter Pogue Mahone notes another Congressional Research Service opinion (PDF) that specifically states the initial appointment of the CFPB director can, in fact, be made via recess appointment:
"P.L. 111-203 § 1011. Although the CFP Act requires the CFPB Director to be confirmed by the Senate, the President could appoint a Director temporarily without Senate confirmation through his constitutionally provided power to make recess appointments. See U.S. Const., art. II, § 2, cl. 3 (“The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.”). A recess-appointed Director likely would be considered to have all of the authorities that would be held by a Senate-confirmed Director.
I have, however, seen other legal analyses that say otherwise. Note the word "likely" in the last sentence, above.
Again, my argument is not that the president can’t appoint the director via recess appointment, but that it can be argued the agency’s powers can’t be transferred to the CFPB until the statutory requirement is satisfied. He can be appointed the director of all he surveys, and still have no legal power, no salary, and no agency until the letter of Dodd-Frank is satisfied. The treasury Department could whip him up some spiffy business card, though. Unless congress defunds that, too. That’s a possibility some legal scholars are arguing, anyway.
I think, however, CRS opinion is correct. The "advice and consent" phrase is pretty pro forma, and reflects the usual nomination/confirmation process, rather than setting up a specific ban on the recess appointment. Certainly, I’d presume the Constitutional recess appointment power would trump the statutory language. It’s amusing to ponder, but it seems pretty clear that a recess appointment to a non-existent position is effectively no appointment at all. Not that there wouldn’t be plenty of lawyers happy to argue otherwise.
Its been something that all recent modern presidents have had to go through – nominees for office have been held up or blocked by the legislative branch in their “advise and consent” role for various reasons. Frankly, I’ve been of the opinion that leaders should be able, within reason obviously, to appoint who they wish to political positions their election entitles them to fill. Elections have consequences.
However that’s not the reality of the situation, is it? Both sides play this game. And believe it or not there are “rules” or precedence which guides even this process.
One of the things that has become crystal clear is that despite all the previous rhetoric from then candidate Obama about the “executive president” and how George W Bush was abusing his power, Obama the president has no qualms about doing what Bush did and more.
Signing statements, something Obama condemned on the way to the White House, are now routine for the Obama administration.
As for these most recent recess appointment? Well, it’s a matter of timing, and again this administration has decided it will simply do what it wishes, regardless of the law:
Obama infuriated Republicans Wednesday by announcing the recess appointment of Richard Cordray to be the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Senate Republicans had blocked Cordray’s nomination for months, so the president bypassed them with a recess appointment during the holiday break.
He followed that up later in the day with recess appointments for three members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), heading off another likely GOP filibuster.
The recess appointments broke with legal precedent, as they while the Senate is holding regular pro forma sessions. Republicans insist the Senate has not been in recess thanks to the seconds-long sessions held every few days, but White House attorneys determined the procedural move is a gimmick that can be ignored by the president.
These are the same White House attorneys who also previously said just the opposite. Jim Treacher brings us up to date:
But the appointments may have been illegal, according to past administration statements. Obama’s own lawyers publicly stated in a 2010 exchange with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts that the president doesn’t consider a congressional recess official — meaning he can’t legally exercise his recess appointment power — until Congress has been gone for three full days. ‘The recess appointment power can work in — in a recess,’ Obama’s Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal said. ‘I think our office has opined the recess has to be longer than three days [to make an appointment].’ The Senate entered a recess on Tuesday, after having held a pro forma session to keep Obama from making any recess appointments. Another was planned for Friday. By making the appointments just one day after the Senate went into a recess, Obama appears to breaking his own administration’s rules and, as scores of Republicans are quick to point out, decades of executive precedent."
And, of course, the usual hypocrisy is afoot:
According to The Hill, Obama’s move breaks from 20 years of precedent while violating a policy established under fellow Democrat and former President Bill Clinton’s administration.
During the Bush administration, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid denounced recess appointments and conducted the same pro forma Senate sessions. It’s unclear what, if anything, Reid will say or do about Obama exhibiting a disregard for his advice.
In an update, Treacher reports:
Reid has backed Obama’s decision to make the recess appoints, contradicting his previous arguments about how recess appointments are “mischievous.” A spokesperson for Reid didn’t immediately return The Daily Caller’s request for comment on whether Reid has a new, enlightened argument or is just playing partisan politics to help Obama.
I’m sure Majority Leader Reid has a splendid explanation for now saying precisely the opposite of what he was saying under a GOP administration while he held the same position.
Nothing like the rule of men instead of the rule of law, no?
It makes life so … interesting, doesn’t it?
As for the Constitution, it is now available in the White House shop in convenient toilet paper rolls.
As Bruce points out below, the failure of the Super Committee should come as no surprise to anyone who was paying attention. Even where committees arrive at an agreed solution, it rarely ever gets implemented. What’s worse, in this case, the Super Committee was operating under the sword of automatic spending cuts to domestic and military programs should it fail to arrive at a consensus — i.e. no side had any incentive to deliver more or less than what would automatically go into place anyway. Of course, Pres. Obama running a re-election campaign based on a “do nothing” Congress certainly didn’t inspire his Democratic brethren on the Super Committee to find common ground either.
But these aren’t the real reasons for the Super Committee failure. Instead, as Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) writes in the Wall Street Journal today, the underlying problem is one of ideological impasse:
Ultimately, the committee did not succeed because we could not bridge the gap between two dramatically competing visions of the role government should play in a free society, the proper purpose and design of the social safety net, and the fundamentals of job creation and economic growth.
For the members of the Super Committee, the choice seemed to be between raising taxes on a small percentage of earners and making no cuts or reforms to the shibboleths of Medicare and Social Security, or reducing taxes and modestly curbing entitlements at some point in the future. In other words, it was a choice between expanding or slightly retarding the growth of government. However, it’s not just the specifics that make compromise difficult, if not impossible. Where one side believes that government is always the answer to what ails us, and the other (at least nominally) operates from the premise that individual effort leads to greater prosperity for all, there is only so much compromise that can be reached between the two. Eventually, government will be either too small or too big for the other side to bear.
This is the crucible in which somehow a compromise was to be reached on federal spending.
As it stands now, government spending is equal to about 35% to 40% of GDP, while our national debt is around 100% of GDP. At the federal level, we are borrowing 40 cents of every dollar that we spend, and entertaining trillion dollar plus deficits year after year for as long as we can reasonably forecast. This is the vision of those who see government as playing the primary role in most every aspect of society since it costs a lot of money to execute that vision. Yet, despite the fact that government has done nothing but grow over the past sixty years, they are convinced that anything smaller than what we currently have will lead to economic and social ruin. To be sure, after finally getting the government foot in the door of universal health care, the liberal base is not about to countenance any willing walk-back on those gains. The Democrats on the Super Committee were well aware of this, and that accepting changes to Medicare and Social Security or any other dearly loved social program would result in a deep backlash from those who believe that all of life is dependent on government.
Opposing that vision are those who think that government should be smaller and less intrusive, especially with respect to our economy. They look at our ever-growing debt and anemic, if not illusory, economic gains and see nothing but trouble down the road we’re traveling. Unfortunately, while total government spending is often publicly recognized as the problem, too many of these visionaries think that simply reducing tax rates will flood the federal coffers and all will be right with world. It’s true that raising taxes in a declining or struggling economy will tend to exacerbate, not alleviate, the problem. But Republicans on the committee also know that their base stand ready to punish any member who suggests raising taxes, now or in the future, regardless of the fact that the spending cuts necessary to get our debt problems under control simply aren’t feasible. And they won’t have much better luck at the ballot box if they even hint at reforming Medicare or Social Security.
Even where they are willing to take that chance, however, the Democrats can’t politically afford to compromise:
The Medicare reforms would make no changes for those in or near retirement. Beginning in 2022, beneficiaries would be guaranteed a choice of Medicare-approved private health coverage options and guaranteed a premium-support payment to help pay for the plan they choose.
Democrats rejected this approach but assured us on numerous occasions they would offer a “structural” or “architectural” Medicare reform plan of their own. While I do not question their good faith effort to do so, they never did.
Republicans on the committee also offered to negotiate a plan based on the bipartisan “Protect Medicare Act” authored by Alice Rivlin, one of President Bill Clinton’s budget directors, and Pete Domenici, a former Republican senator from New Mexico. Rivlin-Domenici offered financial support to seniors to purchase quality, affordable health coverage in Medicare-approved plans. These seniors would be able to choose from a list of Medicare-guaranteed coverage options, similar to the House budget’s approach—except that Rivlin-Domenici would continue to include a traditional Medicare fee-for-service plan among the options.
This approach was also rejected by committee Democrats.
The Congressional Budget Office, the Medicare trustees, and the Government Accountability Office have each repeatedly said that our health-care entitlements are unsustainable. Committee Democrats offered modest adjustments to these programs, but they were far from sufficient to meet the challenge. And even their modest changes were made contingent upon a minimum of $1 trillion in higher taxes—a move sure to stifle job creation during the worst economy in recent memory.
Even if Republicans agreed to every tax increase desired by the president, our national debt would continue to grow uncontrollably. Controlling spending is therefore a crucial challenge. The other is economic growth and job creation, which would produce the necessary revenue to fund our priorities.
Meanwhile, we operate under a tax system that is so heavily skewed towards the highest income producers that our government is dependent on about five percent of the taxpayers for a majority of its revenue, and only a quarter of all tax payers for more than 85% of that revenue. To the Democrats, this is apparently a good start. Republicans, on the other hand, see an unfair system that, if properly reworked, could raise even more revenue. Either way the spending, and thus the government, grows.
The definition of “priorities” is the real sticking point. It means either that everything from price and income support to cradle-to-grave health care is a priority, or that only the basic structural necessities of national defense, courts of law and last-resort safety nets qualify. There has been a great deal of compromise on that definition over the past several decades (albeit, always resulting in an expanding government), but it seems that we’ve finally reached the limit where any further acquiescence by one side results in unbearable loss to the other side. It’s difficult to see how we can successfully move forward as a unified country with such diametrically opposed visions for the role of government. Indeed, maybe we can’t for very much longer.
Question: is anyone – and I mean anyone – somehow surprised that the Supercommittee failed?
Seriously? Is there anyone who actually thought that this collection of ideologically loyal representatives handpicked by leaders on each side was ever going to compromise and try to work something out?
I’m not suggesting that compromise was the right or best thing to do – I’m simply asking a question about the make up of the committee and how anyone who knows anything about how Washington DC works could have or would have expected success.
And, as Michael said in the podcast, there was no incentive for them to succeed. There was every incentive to do exactly what happened, fail to reach any sort of consensus.
So, as Jim Geraghty quips in today’s Morning Jolt, they now get back to what they do best:
After the Supercommittee, Congress returns to its core competency: finger-pointing
And we will certainly see much of that in the next few weeks. Already some in the media are trying to spin it a certain way.
The imminent failure of the congressional deficit “supercommittee,” which had a chance to settle the nation’s tax policy for the next decade, would thrust the much-contested Bush tax cuts into the forefront of next year’s presidential campaign.
Why do I consider that “spin”? Because the “much-contested Bush tax cuts” are simply the current tax rate, nothing more. Tax rates have changed over the many years of income taxation and never has one rate, which has been in effect for years, been referred too as a “tax cut”. They certainly didn’t refer to tax increases under Bill Clinton as the “much-contested Clinton tax increases” did they?
No, they were simply the new tax rates.
So as with many things, the media has bought into the description that one side has put out there to keep attention focused in a negative way on the so-called “rich”. Rarely do they point out the amount of the total taxes these “rich” pay when they parrot the politicians call for the rich to pay their “fair share”. Nor do they bother to point out that even if the “rich” pay 100% of their earnings in taxes it won’t solve the deficit problem.
Presented as the unchallenged panacea to all that is wrong is this tax increase.
Note what isn’t mentioned. Spending. In fact, we’ve quietly slipped past $15 trillion cumulative national debt in the last week. That means that in less than a year, another trillion in spending borrowed money has occurred. We’ve now managed to run up a debt equal to 100% of our nation’s GDP.
That should be what we’re talking about in the 2012 presidential campaign. How we managed in 3 short years to push the debt from $9 trillion to $15 trillion. It certainly wasn’t the “rich” who did that, nor would increasing taxes on them have stopped it.
While at some point revenue increases may end up being something the Congress will discuss, the problem to this point remains the fact that Congress has done absolutely nothing to stem the red ink that keeps running our national debt through the roof.
And the sequestration cuts supposedly triggered by the failure of the Supercommittee take place when? 2013 of course. After the election and when a new Congress, which can’t be held to the cuts made by a former Congress, comes into existence.
In reality, this is nothing more than a new fangled way for our politicians to kick the can down the road while they squabble about something which really has no bearing and would have little effect on the primary problem: out-of-control spending.
While the administration regularly takes Wall Street to task for what it calls excessive bonuses, especially to companies bailed out by taxpayer money, it has been relatively silent about the bonuses approved by its own Federal Housing Finance Agency for two quasi-government companies at the center of the housing market meltdown:
The Federal Housing Finance Agency, the government regulator for Fannie and Freddie, approved $12.79 million in bonus pay after 10 executives from the two government-sponsored corporations last year met modest performance targets tied to modifying mortgages in jeopardy of foreclosure.
Remember AIG and the huge uproar over the bonuses they were contractually bound to pay soon after the bailout? Well these bonuses weren’t wrapped up in any contractual binding. These have been approved since that time. And to top it off, on average, they’re larger bonuses than AIG paid.
You’d think the FHFA would have a clue, wouldn’t you? You’d think they’d understand the “optics” of this sort of a payout of taxpayer money, not to mention that the government is supposedly trying to cut spending.
But obviously they don’t understand that.
Thankfully the Congress has thus far reacted to the situation in a swift and positive manner (for once):
The House Financial Services Committee, responding to lawmaker anger over compensation at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, approved a measure that would suspend the compensation packages for executive officers at the companies. The bill also would require employees of the two firms to be moved onto a pay scale that lines up with federal financial regulators including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
“Awarding lavish pay packages to the heads of these companies that have accepted $170 billion in taxpayer cash can’t be defended,” Representative Spencer Bachus of Alabama, the panel’s chairman and sponsor of the bill, said today.
We will see if they carry it on through and actually get something passed, but even Barney Frank, who initially opposed the bill is now supporting it. And when Freddie and Fannie have lost Barney, they’re in trouble:
Representative Barney Frank, the top Democrat on the Republican-controlled panel who initially opposed the measure, voted for the bill because of what he described as “insensitivity” by the companies in continuing to award bonuses.
“I had hoped that they would use restraint on their own because I think it’s better that we not intervene,” Frank, of Massachusetts, said today. “But they did not.”
Again, the “insensitivity” wasn’t something the companies did, although they likely requested the bonuses. It was the FHFA, a governmental agency, which approved the bonuses. It is business as usual among the bureaucrats who are obviously “insensitive” to the situation and continue to lavish taxpayers money where ever they decide it is deserved. If you want a clue as to why the federal government’s spending remains out of control, this is a good example.
Bureaucracies are forever it seems and they become the unaccountable drivers of government action. It is there which, if any meaningful reform is ever to be undertaken with shrinking the size and cost of government is to be done, where reformers must start.
As the Supercommittee’s deadline quickly approaches and their ability to reach an agreement diminishes, a new Battleground poll reveals the public’s strong opposition to more defense cuts. Already under the gun to make $450 billion in cuts, the failure of the Supercommittee to reach agreement would mean additional across the board cuts in all areas of the Department of Defense.
When asked for their opinion about further cuts, 82% were strongly or somewhat opposed to those cuts (59% strongly opposed).
There is, it appears, a dawning realization that we as a country are again about to put ourselves in serious trouble if we don’t maintain our military edge that has served us so well since WWII.
Recently, in a reply to an inquiry into the effects of the across the board cuts that will be mandated by a Supercommittee failure, Senators McCain and Graham asked Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to detail them. In his reply he noted some very disturbing results of further cuts. The mandated cuts would amount to about an additional 20%. According to Secretary Panetta, that sort of reduction would mean major weapons systems, designed to ensure our national security for decades to come, would have to be cut:
• Reductions at this level would lead to:
o The smallest ground force since 1940.
o A fleet of fewer than 230 ships, the smallest level since 1915.
o The smallest tactical fighter force in the history of the Air Force.
All exceedingly dangerous developments. All developments which would limit our ability to respond to a national security crisis and certainly effect our ability to deal with more than one. Reducing our levels to those cited by Panetta would be extraordinarily short-sighted.
For instance, reducing our tactical Air Force to record levels puts one of our major force projection (along with the Navy) means in a position of not being able to fulfill that role. Today the tactical airframes our pilots fly are decades old and worn out. They’ve reached the end of their service life. It is critical that the next generation of fighters continue to be developed and fielded. In a letter to Rep. Randy Forbes, 7 retired Air Force generals of the Air Force Association outline the risk:
The Air Force now finds itself in a situation where another acquisition deferment will lead to the eventual cessation of key missions. Accordingly, while the recapitalization list is generally considered in terms of systems, it really comes down to a question of what capabilities the nation wants to preserve. Does the United States want to retain the capacity to engage in missions like stemming nuclear proliferation, managing the rise of near-peer competitors, and defending the homeland?
Leaders need to fully consider the ramifications of the decisions they make today as they seek to guide our nation through this difficult period. Just as our legacy fleet has enabled national policy objectives over the past several decades, our future investments will govern the options available to leaders into the 2030s and 2040s. Investing in capable systems will make the difference between success and failure in future wars and between life and death for those who answer the call to serve our nation. When viewed in those terms, failing to adequately invest in the Air Force would be the decision that proves "too expensive" for our nation.
Those two paragraphs outline the criticality of the need for continuing to fund the weapons systems of the future. We may be able to get away with not doing so right now, but we guarantee that our options will be severely limited and our national security capabilities degraded significantly 20 to 30 years down the road if we do so today.
And there’s another reason to resist the temptation to make further cuts at DoD that is particularly significant at this time. Professor Stephan Fuller of George Mason University testified before the House Armed Services Committee that the cancellation of weapons systems would have a profound negative effect on both the economy and unemployment such as:
– A loss of 1,006,315 jobs (124,428 direct, 881,887 indirect)
– Raise the unemployment rate by .6% (9% to 9.6%)
– Drop GDP growth by $86.46 billion (25% of the projected growth in 2013)
No one is arguing that DoD is or should be a jobs program. But it is obvious the impact would be severe not only among DoD prime contractors but even more so downstream. Ironically, one of the reasons our politicians justified their bailout of the auto industry was downstream job losses in a time of economic turmoil. That turmoil still exists today.
If the cited poll is any indicator, the public has come to realize the dangerous waters we’re navigating with these possible cuts. They’re realizing that what guarantees our peace is our strength and our strength is maintained by keeping the technological edge over potential enemies and developing weapons systems to deploy that technology. Without that ability to guarantee our national security, all the other things we treasure are jeopardized. Additionally, our military demise will only encourage the bad actors in the world to increase activities which are detrimental to both peace and our national security.
While it is certainly a time to look for all legitimate means and methods to cut government spending, sequestration as demanded by the Supercommittee’s failure to reach agreement isn’t one of them. Mindless cuts into that which guarantees our safety today and in the future will come back to haunt us if we allow them.
If you’ve ever wanted a good argument against seniority as a good way to pick leaders, Harry Reid is your poster boy. The Nevada Democratic Senator and House Majority leader manages to make himself look stupid on any number of occasions during a legislative year. His latest:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday indicated Congress needs to worry about government jobs more than private-sector jobs, and that this is why Senate Democrats are pushing a bill aimed at shoring up teachers and first-responders.
“It’s very clear that private-sector jobs have been doing just fine; it’s the public-sector jobs where we’ve lost huge numbers, and that’s what this legislation is all about,” Reid said on the Senate floor.
Really? That’s the sector “government” needs to worry about more because “private-sector jobs have been doing just fine?” Where in the world, other than the Senate cloak room, has this man been?
What this is, and anyone who can’t figure this out doesn’t deserve to be in a political discussion, is just another version of cronyism. Teachers unions and government unions are where you find the Democrat base. This is throwing taxpayer money to that base in order to shore it up for the upcoming election. Nothing more.
He has access to your tax dollars and spending them in this way benefits his party. Screw the country, he has an election to win. Of course he’s also the Senate leader who hasn’t offered a budget in over 900 days. That’s dereliction of duty.
Reid reiterated his emphasis on creating government jobs by saying Democrats are looking to “put hundreds of thousands of people back to work teaching children, have more police patrolling our streets, firefighters fighting our fires, doing the rescue work that they do so well … that’s our priority.” He said Republicans are calling the bill a “failure” because they are “using a different benchmark for success than we are.”
Yeah, they’re using the private sector where jobs generate revenue for taxes to pay for all the nonsense Reid spouts.
Government workers are not producers in the sense of the production we need to get the economy going. But they are voters. This is an attempt to keep them in the Democratic corral long enough to get Democrats re-elected. Then Harry probably won’t care very much again.
Remember, when Obama was calling for his jobs bill to be given priority, Harry Reid was on the Senate floor expounding on the virtue of … bike paths (and, naturally, calling for government to pay for them).
Ever get the idea that we’re all now serfs on a huge plantation paying for the whims of our “leaders”.
I guess I just don’t get this, given our fiscal shape. Yesterday the GOP House passed a continuing resolution to fund the government until November (since we haven’t had a budget passed in the House for almost 3 years). In it is a provision that pays for disaster relief by cutting spending elsewhere. In other words, it tries to balance new spending on one side, even if the spending is on disaster relief, by cutting planned spending on the other side. It is called prioritizing. We all do it. If the car breaks and it is going to cost $1,500 we may shave $1,500 dollars worth of vacation off of the planed vacation. Household economics. The car is a greater priority than a full 2 weeks of vacation.
However, when it comes to the government it seems that normal everyday concepts like living within your means somehow becomes a “dangerous precedent”. Really? Here’s TPM’s take:
But the bill received almost no Democratic support and faces an uncertain future in the U.S. Senate because Republicans have used the funding bill as a vehicle for disaster relief money, and insisted it be paid for by slashing funds for jobs programs Democrats support. Dems say the GOP legislation provides insufficient aid, and sets a dangerous precedent by requiring those funds to be offset with partisan budget cuts.
Yes indeed … removing the lefty modifiers to get to the real heart of the point, you are left wondering “why is this a bad thing”
“Dems say the GOP legislation provides … aid, and sets a … precedent by requiring those funds to be offset with … budget cuts”.
Uh, yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Please, set the precedent, by all means. That’s how all the rest of us do our business daily for heaven sake.
Oh, and it is precisely the message the GOP candidates who won in the 2010 landslide were charged with doing. Never mind the partisan nonsense from the Dems – insufficient aid is a matter of opinion obviously, the precedent is dangerous only because it requires disciplined spending offset by like cuts elsewhere and “partisan” budget cuts are only partisan to the side who’s ox is being gored.
The fact remains that this is how the House needs to routinely do business. When something comes along that takes priority over something else for which spending was planned, the plan is changed. The answer is rarely “go borrow money and do both”.
When it is, you end up in $14 trillion dollar debt. I still don’t understand what it is about that concept that Democrats just can’t seem to grasp.
"It would be my hope that there would be some split the difference, the Republicans would come out and say we’re not going to go as high as you wanted…and we will have no offset. That I think would be a reasonable place to be," Pelosi said.
Yeah, that’s business as usual. That’s why we’re in debt up to our necks. No. No thank you, Ms. Pelosi. From a thousand little compromises like that grows economy crushing debt. We’re there. We’ve proven that. No more. That is no longer (not that it ever was) a “reasonable place to be”. And it isn’t “radical” or “extreme” to point it out or ask that offsets be a part of any spending plan.