Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Republican misperception of their mandate

House Republicans are in the process of that which they believe is the mandate of their November 2010 victory. That process starts with the 2011 continuing resolution in order to fund the government beyond March 4 when its spending authority expires. Next on the Republican agenda is to put in place a budget resolution for FY 2012 that will reduce the size of government by cutting domestic spending but, on the other hand, increase spending on defense.

Americans want government to tighten their belts, as Main Street must. But responsible people do not want immediate drastic cuts in government spending by doing overnight what should have been their work for decades; certainly not to fulfill their campaign promise to reduce 2011 spending by $100 billion, especially over the eight months or so remaining in this year.

Regardless, House Republicans are proposing cuts in education, health, science, and safety-net programs for the poor. Other than a second look at the recent healthcare legislation to tweak it, and perhaps some cuts in funding scientific research grants, Americans fundamentally don’t want slashes in education and programs for the poor beyond reducing fraud, waste, duplication of services, and inefficiencies in these programs.

Leadership requires leaders to set the best possible example. Good leaders are not those who sit in an office and armchair their decisions, but rather are out front leading the charge. That means Congress themselves need to make sacrifices, just as the folks on Main Street. They need to take salary cuts just like those in the private sector. They need to look at their salaries and benefit package, making cuts there before cutting spending for education, health, and programs for the poor. It sure wouldn’t impair House Speaker John Boehner’s personal finances at a salary of $223,500 a year, or impair House and Senate leadership at salaries of $193,400, and neither would it impair rank-and-file members of the House and Senate at their salaries of $174,000. By the way, in 2009 the median personal wealth of all members of Congress equaled $911,510. It’s fair to say that they along with the wealthiest of Americans have not suffered any consequences of this recession for which each were partially responsible.

Following their win in November, in December of 2010, Republicans forced a compromise with President Obama. In order to continue with an extension of unemployment benefits, and preserve the middle-class tax cuts, the Administration would have to allow the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans legislated during the Bush Administration to continue for two more years and not expire. Included in the compromise was an agreement to levy a 35% tax on the inheritance of estates worth more than $5 million. That’s because on January 1, 2011, estate inheritance taxes would rise to 55% on estates worth $1 million and more.

As proclaimed, Americans have a fundamental mistrust in government. If political leaders really want to restore that trust in their leadership, they would take a salary and benefit hit first before any other budget cuts in domestic spending are even entertained.

The Obama-Boehner compromise is very telling. In essence, it says that the Republican House lead by John Boehner does not give a hoot about those Americans who live on Main Street. Instead of increasing taxes on those who certainly can afford those increases, they chose to reduce government benefits to those who can least afford to lose them. It’s an example of poor leadership, because American political leadership must speak for and carry out legislation that benefits all Americans equally. To do otherwise is not part of what they perceive as their mandate.


Gary Schmitt and Thomas Donnelly, A Limited Government— and a Strong Defense, WeeklyStandard.com

Scott Lilly, Heading for a Deficit Dustup: Are House Republicans Putting Together a Reasonable Approach for Cutting Government Spending?, Center for American Progress

Contact: Dave Levinthal, Congressional Members' Personal Wealth Expands Despite Sour National Economy, OpenSecretsBlog.org

Charles Wallace, Obama Takes Liberal Heat for His Tax-Cut Compromise, DailyFinance.com