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Friday, August 12, 2011

My Take on the "Super-Committee" Membership

In what would have been the big news of the day had nothing else happened, House Minority Leader and ex-Mafia queen Nancy Pelosi announced her appointments yesterday to the super committee that will be tasked with ... you know what? I'm so sick of talking about this, but I promised to critique the committee's prospective membership once all twelve members had been named, so let's get this over with.


Since this is supposed to be a panel on deficit reduction, it's only fair that we look at its prospective members' records on the deficit, and I think Sens. Baucus, Kerry and Murray have proven they could care less about deficit reduction. For the most part, they all supported the largest contributors to our deficit/debt. All three voted for Obamacare, the "stimulus" of '09, the War in Afghanistan and the tax compromise of 2010. Sens. Kerry and Baucus both voted for the War in Iraq. All three opposed Cut, Cap & Balance and The Path to Prosperity. In short, Reid's choices for this committee betray either a lack of seriousness on his part to deal with the deficit or a cynical attempt to stymie any meaningful efforts toward debt reduction. Perhaps both.


While I was surprised/dissapointed that Paul Ryan won't be on the commission, I think Speaker Boehner made at least two good choices for the committee: Dave Camp chairs the House Ways & Means Committee and has a vast knowledge of our frustratingly complex tax code. Jeb Hensarling was making small efforts at deficit reduction back when Republicans were spending money like it grew on trees. Both men were members of the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission and voted against that panel's final recommendations. I have to admit, I don't know much about Fred Upton. I was curious as to why he was named Chairman of United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce, considering that he has no background in either field. What you really should know about Upton is that he is a protégé of David Stockman, the former Michigan congressman and OMB Director who, during his time in the Reagan administration, advocated a large federal tax hike to reduce the mounting budget deficit. He resigned in 1985, the year before the deficit peaked and Reagan signed the Tax Reform Act of 1986 into law, which cut the top individual income tax rate from 50% to 28% and eliminated a lot of costly deductions and tax credits. Over the next three years, tax receipts climbed 29%, and the deficit was reduced by 31%. Regrettably, Stockman apparently hasn’t given up his penchant for higher taxes. I can’t say that Upton shares his former boss’s policy views, but it’s certainly worth mentioning here.


Maybe I shouldn't call Jon Kyl a "policy wonk," but it certainly fits Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Rob Portman (R-OH), both of whom were just elected to the Senate last year. The latter served as U.S. Trade Representative and then as OMB director during President George W. Bush's second term. During his time at OMB, the federal budget deficit fell by 35% in just one year. Toomey is a brilliant man, though I'm not thrilled with his record as president of the Club for Growth, the fiscally conservative 527 group that often does more harm than good by interfering in Republican primaries and damaging the eventual winner.


In picking Reps. Jim Clyburn, Chris Van Hollen and Xavier Becerra (CA) for the joint committe, the ex-Speaker was clearly rewarding some of her most loyal toadies. Clyburn was House Majority Whip, the person tasked with shoring up votes for controversial pieces of legislation, when Democrats were in charge from 2007 to 2011. After the American people made their voices heard in 2010, the Democrats created the new post of "Assistant Democratic Leader" so that they could avoid having to demote Clyburn, the highest-ranking black member of Congress, from a leadership post. Van Hollen, a tenacious pol with a history of saying stupid things, chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2007 to 2011. Becerra, a former chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, is currently Vice-Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.

I'd like to add to this column, but I'm very tired. Perhaps I'll write more later. Good night, y'all.

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