Sunday, November 21, 2010

My First Political Fantasy re 2011

I confess I’ve always been a dreamer, so let’s dream share.

No this isn’t the one where I lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to the end zone in the last minute of play--to a win seventh Super Bowl--when a 300 pound frog, complete with “real” pictures of the “Maestro” in action, enters my huddle and begins pitching lurid tales of Alan Greenspan and Ayn Rand.

Our dream may not be that realistic ("go AG"), but it will be hopeful.

It starts when the political Left stops decrying the flood of new conservative Senators and Representatives to the GOP, worries about the House Democrats homogenization into a more “progressive/liberal” group (because of the losses of the Blue Dog Democrats and others), and shakes its collective head and sighs at the Obama White House’s continued bewilderment and failure to settle on a message let alone policy.

In this whimsy, we hope against hope and eschew the predictions of “two years of partisan gridlock”-- although there are understandable and substantive reasons for those predictions--and instead look at the Nov. 2 congressional election results as a clear message from an unhappy American public that it truly wants “change” (which it thought it was getting with the Obama election in 2008) and is tired of Washington’s posturing, finger pointing, and business as usual.

America uses the new Tea Party pols, in the fantasy, to send a missive to both parties, “Produce for us or lose your jobs.”

Rand Paul

My flight of imagination started gelling when I heard and agreed with something said by newly elected Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who was endorsing federal spending cuts and what that could mean.

Paul said (paraphrasing), “There aren’t enough ‘welfare expenditures’ in the federal budget to cut and balance it, even if you did away with every penny. No, we are going to have to go after lots of other things, including military spending and…..”

Anyone worth their partisan salt knows that neither party has draped itself in glory for the past 10 years, Both D’s and R’s, House and Senate, and the Bush and Obama administrations share in our national budget mess and upside down priorities.

After listening to Paul, I began to wonder if this influx of conservatives—which many of us have derided because of some of the extremists and extremes among that group—could force a major bipartisan reevaluation of government spending and priorities. Would that all be negative?

For instance, could the new Right—intent on deficit reduction--challenge the political underpinning of the two wars we are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, because they want to save some of the hundreds of billions of dollars we are spending there and elsewhere militarily and bring our soldiers home?

That fresh thinking--and resulting cost savings--would be a financial and progressive windfall and all because a bunch of right wingers believe Washington finally has spent too many taxpayer dollars unwisely and that the practice needs to end (an opinion easily reached but not grasped by any previous congressional majority going back a decade).

Goodbye UN?

As part of a quid pro quo, could the GOP Tea Partiers force previously “unthinkable” policy changes like having the United States drop out of the United Nations or at least force the UN to relocate its headquarters elsewhere? We could plant the UN’s “blue and white” center of operations in Haiti, Kosovo, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Kabul, Baghdad, or…..

Just like B'rer Rabbit, when confronted with B’rer Bear’s briar patch recommendation, I thought, “Twist my arm, twist my arm…..where do I sign to expel the UN from our shores?”

Why are we paying the UN hundreds of millions and hosting a bunch of angry foreigners who seem to hate us and delight in pulling Uncle Sam's beard, except when they need help money or medical and food supplies?

Let them headquarter in France, England or Russia. (If tossed from the US, does anyone think the entire UN membership would refuse to talk to one of—if not the—richest and still most militarily powerful count
ries in the world?)

Most of the Tea Party and its sympathizers are Republicans, but I’ve heard enough TP unhappiness with the stodgy GOP to suggest that Republican graybeards can’t take these newbies for granted. I think the new House leadership will have to earn their trust and “walk the walk,” not just spew forth the TP rhetoric.

In my dream--potentially “our” dream--the 112th Congress goes after some political untouchables, like agriculture subsidies, social security and Medicare, legalizing marijuana (saving billions in wasted law enforcement and imprisonment), and wasteful and unnecessary Pentagon spending, just to name a few?

As cynical and hard nosed as I have become, I will give these folks a chance to force some major, highly necessary and desirable changes in how this nation does business, including how it treats “big business.”

Corporate America puts their money where it will do it the most good and always has and always will.

Historically mostly that has meant contributions to the GOP, but with the Obama presidential campaign, a brief shift started and ended abruptly during the past election, when seemingly zillions publicly and secretly—thanks to the Supreme Court—funneled into GOP campaign coffers.

Tax Code Ripe for Pruning?

Repaying big business and other special interests, both parties have overloaded and made more confounding our tax codes. Why not get rid of some of these much valued tax exemptions--most of which represent just past favors handed out to favored industries or interest groups, forgotten and seldom reviewed--in exchange for overall reduction in tax rates for individuals, families, and corporations?

Just because some of these tax bennies have been in our federal tax code for years doesn’t mean they still are justified. (Before my tax lobbyist friends go bananas, cleaning up the code would allow you to bill clients for years to re-insert those goodies. You can work until you are 90, if you desire!!)

The public should think of those tax breaks as the equivalent of annual “earmarks” (special protected congressional spending for favored constituents or groups, which House and Senate Republicans just said they would oppose), but which annually drain Treasury billions.

Not all of those tax fixes are bad,but if rates were cut and the code simplified, the nation could get by, quite easily, without a majority of them. Nobody until now, possibly, has had the incentive to sit down and voice major support to jettison those tax provisions which may no longer truly necessary or politically favored.

Could the newest congressional class, sworn in next January, force both parties to do just that, along with some of the other spending cuts/savings they’ve endorsed specifically or generically?

The President’s “bipartisan” Deficit Commission, headed by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, gives a handy starting blueprint and savings list. Most of the Commission's yet unapproved findings have been leaked to the press, so the choices are out there for public consumption and the fresh advocacy.

Maybe its just the warm feelings of good dreams, but one result of Nov. 2 could be the best chance we’ve had in years to undertake some major budget cutting, with the TP-ers holding the GOP’s feet to the fire while the Democrats—especially those D Senators up for re-election in 2012-- begin to realize that promising everything to everyone is not the recipe for fiscal sanity or even political success.

If John Boehner pulls off reform in some of the above, even I’ll find a way to say nice things about him!

On a personal note, as the holiday season kicks off this week, I want to extend a healthy and happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from me and mine.

And, please try to contribute your time or money to groups helping people who have so little.


Fannie’s all hands meeting last week--timing sucks!--produced major budget and staff cutback bad news, possibly as much 40% to 50% (people and spending) beginning in 2011, along with concomitant cutbacks in outside expenditures.

Irony: After more than 20 years of sponsoring and leading annual “Help the Homeless” campaigns in the DC area, raising millions of dollars, if there is one next year some aid recipients could be recently dumped Fannie Mae workers.

Maloni, 11-21-10


Anonymous said...

I heard rumors about a downsize in the GSEs but 40-50% sounds extreme. Is this over a period of 1 year? Where did you get this information?

Bill Maloni said...

As my mother used to say, "Does Macy's tell Gimbel's?"

(For those of you too young to remember, those were two big New York City department stores, both located on 34th Sreet, which competed heavily against one another.)

The Fannie info came from someone in the meeting, which obviously I wasn't.

While the numbers weren't corroborated--and they could be a bit off--a senior Fannie source verified the "cutbacks" message, as well as the downsizing of contractors and "consultants."