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Archive for October, 2011

A Formula for Super Committee Success

October 27th, 2011

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This piece was originally published by Politico.

With less than a month before the supercommittee’s deadline, pressure is again building for a grand bargain. President Barack Obama submitted a large plan; House Speaker John Boehner is urging the supercommittee to take up tax reform and various bipartisan coalitions are calling for trillions in deficit reduction.

A $4 trillion grand bargain would be ideal — but we’ve seen this movie before. Here’s how it ends: The clock runs out; a major deal isn’t done; the blame game starts; financial markets dip; and voters lose even more confidence in government. Maybe it’s time to write a new scenario.

So here’s a plan that could snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. It’s a no-gimmicks, bipartisan, 67-line item proposal that can achieve what the supercommittee was statutorily designed to do: come up with $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.

Think of it as sort of an emergency blueprint for the committee to keep under glass — until it becomes clear that a grand bargain is unachievable.

First, take a big-tent, bipartisan approach that brings together ideas from across the ideological spectrum. It can include items from Obama’s proposal; Sen. Tom Coburn’s Back in Black plan, a $9 trillion deficit-reduction plan with spending cuts and revenue raisers; the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform report and proposals from outside, nonpartisan groups. This provides a common foundation for compromise.

Second, allow each side to remain faithful to its core principles — but don’t require them to cross a policy or political Rubicon. The last attempt to reach a grand bargain was ultimately felled as a result of Republicans’ ironclad allegiance to tea party activists and Grover Norquist’s no-tax pledge.

Democrats contributed to the collapse through their resistance to sweeping entitlement reform.

Our plan doesn’t ask either side to cross their major lines in the sand — rather it postpones that grand bargain until after the 2012 election. How? We don’t touch top tax rates, capital gains or make an example of millionaires and billionaires. But we do raise real revenue by scotching tax earmarks for things like timber industry tree planting and NASCAR race tracks and by restraining some tax deductions.

On entitlements, we guard the structure of programs like Medicare and Social Security but generate savings by making small changes in the way they do business.

Third, the plan includes roughly one-third revenue hikes, one-third defense and one-third mandatory cuts — so all parts of government would take their fair share. This also would include enough savings to pay for the president’s jobs proposal — or whatever common-ground package ultimately emerges from Congress. So we’re not just cutting the deficit but helping drive short-term growth.

Finally, our plan is not a political game-changer — by design. Republicans would still be able to claim that they’ve fought the Washington urge to raise taxes, and Democrats would remain dug in as the protectors of programs like Medicare and Social Security. And an agreement of this size would be a victory for the president — but not a large enough triumph to alter the 2012 landscape, which is clearly one of the calculations that Republicans are making.

We’d love to see the supercommittee come together and solve our long-term, structural budget crisis. But bridging a hardened partisan divide in just a month is a bit much to ask any committee — no matter how super.

Committee members and the leadership of both parties must be clear: Failure has consequences, and sequestration should not be the fallback. At a time of unprecedented economic instability and public distrust in government, we can’t afford another display of Washington dysfunction.

The committee needs a real fail-safe contingency plan ready.

Herman Cain and the False Premise of a CEO Presidency

October 25th, 2011

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This piece was originally published in The Washington Post.

Ross Perot. Steve Forbes. Herman Cain.

All three are corporate CEOs who ran for president. They mounted serious campaigns for the highest office in the land with just one prior political race (Cain’s failed 2004 Senate bid) among them.

The premise of each of their campaigns—and of all the other fantasy candidacies ranging from Donald Trump to Lee Iacocca—has been that politicians broke politics, and only a corporate leader has the management skills, financial acumen and decisiveness to right the ship of state.

Their case boils down to a basic leadership proposition that a CEO presidency would be the best model for breaking through beltway gridlock and securing America’s economic future.

But is that true? Read the rest of this entry »

There’s no excuse for losing this one…

October 24th, 2011

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This piece was originally posted on The National Journal.

“Is America losing the clean energy race?” The simple and sad answer is…yes.

The wealthiest, most innovative and capable nation in modern history risks getting beaten to a pulp in the competition for the $2.3 trillion global clean energy market. What’s worse is that it’s our own fault if we lose.

We know what to do to compete. We need to make it easier for emerging companies to have access to capital through an independent Clean Energy bank and reforms in the tax code that free up private capital. We need to fund innovation so that new technologies are invented and built in the United States. We need to create domestic markets for clean energy technologies by driving demand with a national clean energy standard, a feed-in tariff or price on carbon. Republican and Democratic governors, and the governments of China, India and the European Union have put similar policies in place with great success. Read the rest of this entry »

Bin Laden, Qaddafi, Iraq, Oh My!

October 24th, 2011

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This piece was originally posted on the Huffington Post.

Ironically, the end of the war in Iraq was announced the day after the campaign in Libya ended. Iraq and Libya epitomize two radically different approaches for dealing with terrorism: massive intervention and targeted strikes.

The war in Iraq was led by the United States. It lasted nearly nine years and cost the U.S. $1 trillion and over 4,400 American lives. The outcome is still uncertain. The Libyan revolution was led by the Libyan people. The conflict lasted seven months. No U.S. combatants were killed, although several American journalists lost their lives. The cost to the United States was about $1.1 billion, or about a thousand times less than the war in Iraq. The Libyan revolution succeeded. Read the rest of this entry »

Occupy Wall Street Need Goals for Public Support

October 18th, 2011

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This piece was originally published by Politico.

Austerity is so last year.

It was all the rage in 2010 with the rise of the tea party. This year, an inevitable backlash has set in. With the emergence of the Occupy Wall Street protests, we’re seeing a pivot in the opposite direction — toward fairness.

In 2010, the debt crisis terrified governments all over the world. If we don’t start living within our means, government leaders warned, we could all turn into Greece.

In the United States, the tea party movement forced austerity onto the national agenda. Cut government spending! Balance the budget! Or else the tea party will get you. Which is exactly what it did in the 2010 midterm.

The threat of tea party opposition scared the bejesus out of congressional Republicans. In the House of Representatives, the tea party elected a huge class of freshman legislators, who became the Austerity Army. No stimulus spending! No unemployment compensation! No disaster relief unless it’s paid for!

But guess what? Pain is not popular. This year, the economy has taken a turn for the worse. The threat of a double-dip recession is real. And we’re seeing the first stirrings of protest on the left. Read the rest of this entry »

Super Power for the Super Committee

October 13th, 2011

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This piece was originally posted by Kaiser Health News.

To succeed, the so-called ‘super committee’ will need all of its super powers, and then some. To get a deal on reducing the deficit, it must leap across the chasm between the GOP stance of spending-cuts only and Democrats’ insistence that revenue must be part of any deal in a single bound. And, to get it done by Thanksgiving, it will have to move faster than a speeding bullet. However, one issue that’s typically kryptonite in budget talks may provide the committee with a chance to save the day.

The rising cost of health care is squeezing the federal budget, making it a common enemy. For Republicans, spiraling costs have placed them in the increasingly untenable position of proposing steep Medicare cuts in order to avoid tax increases in their budget proposals. Democrats are looking at a budget where health care spending crowds out other progressive priorities such as education, housing and public investments in general. Read the rest of this entry »