March 15, 2006

More Federal Budget Fun

Carroll Andrew Morse

1. As best as I can tell, the new, improved line-item veto (Senator Lincoln Chafee is a co-sponsor) is actually a decent proposal. It is a gimmick, but it's a gimmick that’s being used to close a loophole.

Presently, individual spending earmarks in appropriations bills don’t have to be approved by both houses of Congress. So long as both houses agree upon the total amount of earmarked money being spent, only one house has to specify how an earmark will be used. The “line-item veto” allows the President to ask Congress to reconsider individual budget items, earmarks included. If both houses don’t vote to re-approve an individual item returned to Congress by the President, then the item is removed from the bill it was originally attached to.

It’s not really a “veto”, line-item or otherwise, because if Congress re-approves an item, then the President can’t stop it without vetoing the entire bill it’s attached to.

Incidentally, a similar proposal was introduced in the House of Representatives in 2004. Congressman James Langevin voted for the “line-item veto”, Congressman Patrick Kennedy voted against it.

2. Yesterday, Congress again rejected PAYGO by a 50-50 margin (Senators Jack Reed and Lincoln Chafee both voted to restore PAYGO). This year’s version looks the same as last year’s version, meaning it had no provisions for capping automatic entitlement growth, meaning it was a plan to address growing the national entitlement liability with mandatory tax increases.

3. The House of Representatives' Republican Study Committee has put forth a serious budget-balancing plan called the “Contract With America: Renewed”. The goal of the RSC plan is a balanced budget by 2011. Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation provides a summary…

The RSC proposal would keep tax rates at the current levels that have helped the economy expand. Instead of forcing Americans to send more money to Washington to fund wasteful and outdated programs, the RSC would:
  • Eliminate over 150 programs, such as the Advanced Technology Program, a notorious bit of corporate welfare;
  • Turn back the gas tax and federal highway program to the states; (Currently, states send their gas tax revenues to Washington, which subtracts a hefty administrative fee and then sends the funds back to the states, with many strings attached.)
  • Eliminate all pork projects from the recent highway bill;
  • Pare back a fraction of the 137 percent increase in education spending since 2001 in return for providing states with more freedom to spend federal education dollars how they wish;
  • Convert Medicaid and S-Chip into block grants and provide states with freedom and flexibility to tailor these programs to the needs of their low-income citizens;
  • Pare back Medicare growth by requiring that upper-income recipients pay slightly more for their benefits and by reforming Medicare based on the successful Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and providing seniors with an annual health insurance contribution that they could use to purchase the health care plan of their choice; and
  • Fully budget for the anticipated costs of maintaining troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Contract With America: Renewed is a serious spending reduction plan that recognizes no sacred cows, calling for big spending reductions in programs like the Space Program, USAID, and agricultural and energy subsidies.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

A cursory glance at Laffey's plan shows that the budget can easily be balanced without so much as touching entitlements as long as Congress is willing to completely eliminate corporate welfare - which runs an astonishing $125-300 billion PER YEAR. Unfortunately, this gargantuan item is the ultimate sacred cow among Washington insiders because it serves as the foundation upon which a goodly portion of their special interest support rests. The RSC proposal above attacks only a modest portion of this budget cancer.

In addition - all federal pork needs to be eliminated, as specified in the Laffey plan. That would help by another $27 billion or so. $125-300 billion plus $27 billion represents real money, even by highly larded-up federal government standards.

Posted by: bountyhunter at March 15, 2006 9:59 PM

Sen Chafee keeps trying to say that he is a fiscal conservative by citing his support for PAYGO and the Line Item Veto. This is a sad attempt to convince RI GOPers of two things;

1) That he will stay in the GOP primary, and
2) That he actually understands the economics behind balancing the budget.

Our Senator falls woefully short on both counts. There is no way he can win a GOP primary and he knows it, just check out his Projo op-ed about "Just Trying to Keep the Senate Going" where he speaks directly to liberal Dems about why he voted to stop the filibuster (although he took so long to make up his mind the GOP no longer needed his vote, but we will leave the Senator's relevance as a legislator to another post) or his voluminous comments about trying to bring independents into a GOP primary, or the NRSC saying they don't need Republicans to win a GOP primary, etc., etc., etc. It has become obvious to even the most casual observer that Chafee is prepping for a run as an independent.

Regarding his "fiscally conservative" credentials, anyone with a basic economic course on their resume knows that PAYGO is the way to a recession. PAYGO is nothing more than a thinly veiled cover for raising taxes, just like the supposedly fiscally conservative Concord Coalition is a front for tax and spenders under the lie that they care about the deficit!

Regarding the line-item veto, this is a good idea but it should not be needed. If Congress could end their addiction to Pork, it would not be needed. This is like a drug addict that goes to Betty Ford every once in a while and proclaims to be "clean" but always relapses and needs to check into Betty Ford to bail them out again, and again and again. If Senator Chafee would stop and think about it, he should worry about not voting for things like the Bridge to Nowhere, etc. then he would not need the President to help control his Pork addiction.

One more thing, Chafee loves to tote his US Chamber of Commerce endorsement but did you see the USCOC rankings today, Chafee has the SECOND WORSE GOP ranking. What a joke, what is he going to say now, "well, the COC really likes my style of centrist leadership". Please.

Time to stop the lies senator, time to admit what you are, a tax and spend democrat.

Posted by: Carl Elliott at March 16, 2006 12:16 PM

If the US Chamber of Commerce was truly concerned with supporting economic growth and not treading the toes of the political machine (ie. we must back an incumbent at all costs!), they’d withdraw their endorsement of Chafee immediately and throw their weight behind Laffey.

Isn’t the COC the slightest bit embarrassed that Chafee didn’t receive the 2005 “Spirit of Enterprise” Award? It’s not like this is some selective prize to be had: 308 members of Congress received it. The only qualification was to have backed the Chamber’s preferred position at least 70% of the time---Chafee was 1 of only 2 Republicans to not receive this award. He scored a meager 67%. On a pass/fail basis, this is a FAILING GRADE.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce should be giving Chafee a dunce cap, not an endorsement!

Posted by: ian at March 16, 2006 2:35 PM

It doesn't matter. The line item veto will be overturnned by the supreme court as it has in the past.

Posted by: george at March 17, 2006 9:57 AM