Dent: Cut Cap and Balance is the “Intermediate” Approach

Charlie Dent gives us about 10 paragraphs of throat-clearing and 1 paragraph of something that could be interpreted as a policy recommendation. He says it is an “intermediate” approach. Actually it is Cut, Cap and Balance worded in a different way:

Or how about an intermediate approach like this: Immediate spending cuts that exceed the amount needed to raise the debt ceiling through January, a binding commitment to: 1) enact comprehensive tax reform that eliminates tax breaks and loopholes in exchange for lower marginal rates that will spur economic growth and create jobs; 2) long term spending reforms, including caps; and 3) budget enforcement mechanisms.

So right away, Dent wants over a trillion dollars in spending cuts. Ben Bernanke said the Republicans’ plan to cut $61 billion earlier this year would cost “a couple hundred thousand jobs”, and Moody’s said it would cost as many as 700,000 jobs.

So if cutting $60 billion would cost as many as 700,000 jobs, how many jobs will be lost if the Republicans cut $1 trillion before January?

And then it’s the same Cap Cut and Balance plan that House Republicans know is a non-starter in the Senate or the White House. There is no chance of it becoming law. And yet Dent is still goofing around with stuff that can’t pass while this clown show is already hurting our economy.

Where’s GLVCC on the Debt Ceiling?

Why hasn’t the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce issued a statement on the debt ceiling? Why haven’t we seen them calling on Charlie Dent to raise the debt ceiling in a public way? It’s pretty obvious which political party is standing in the way of a deal here, but GLVCC isn’t naming names. Why? Presumably a default of the US government would be a pretty terrible deal for their members.

Charlie Dent Really Does Not Like Controlling Health Care Costs

Like I wrote earlier, if Congress doesn’t vote to do things that increase the deficit, and implements the Affordable Care Act as written, we don’t have a deficit problem. But Congress really really wants to increase the deficit. Here’s Charlie Dent not controlling health care costs:

A bipartisan majority of House lawmakers is pressing Medicare to reverse a proposed cut to hospital payments.

The Medicare agency recently proposed a 3.5 percent cut in payments to hospitals as well as a 2.9 percent adjustment to offset payments that it said are the result of changes in how come claims are filed.

But 219 House members said hospitals can’t afford the cuts, and urged Medicare to reconsider the proposal.

The thing about controlling health care costs is that you have to pay less money, not more. This position is incompatible with Dent’s stated goal of deficit reduction.

And the Most Obnoxious Blog Post Award Goes To…

Which of these comments seems more egregiously incorrect in light of Charlie Dent’s vote for the Republicans’ nutty Cut Cap and Balance bill?

Is it Chris Casey?

Charles W. Dent perfectly defines the average Demographic of the Lehigh Valley Voter. He is fiscally conservative but compassionate about social concerns. In all honesty, he and Senator Bob Casey are damn near identical in basic ideology.

Or is it Bernie O’Hare?

Dent, and Casey statewide, are both unbeatable. They are centrists who veer away from the extremes in their own party.

If the entire Congress were made up of Dent and Casey, there would be no gridlock and we might actually have some bipartisanship instead of extremist rhetoric.

I think Chris takes it away. I like Chris’ blog because his analysis usually tracks closely with his data. But this Bob Casey comment is waaay off the mark. It’s just not supported by their voting records. Bob Casey has been a reliable vote for all of the Democratic majority’s initiatives. He’s voted against a few initiatives in committee that would’ve been bad for the coal industry, but he’s been a reliable liberal on every major initiative.

Charlie Dent, on the other hand, has been a reliable vote opposing the Democratic majority’s initiatives. Dent broke with the Republicans on an unemployment benefits extension bill, he cast a symbolic vote against cutting off Planned Parenthood’s funding before voting for it, and that’s it. I may be forgetting one or two more crossovers of low political consequence, but that’s it. On every major, and most minor, Obama-backed pieces of legislation, Dent has been a predictable opposition vote.

As for Bernie’s remarks, Dent’s vote to end Medicare, his vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with ???, and his vote for the wingnutty Cut Cap and Balance plan shows that the Congressman is embracing the extremes of his party.

I honestly don’t know what Bernie’s theory of politics is supposed to be here. It seems to be that bipartisanship should be a goal in and of itself, and that politicians would cooperate more if we elected ones who used nicer rhetoric. Obviously this completely misunderstands why we have gridlock. I don’t know how you do “centrism” with a Republican Party that is doing this:

As you can see, we had a freak period of low partisanship during the Jim Crow era, and then the Southern conservatives sorted into the Republican Party after the Voting Rights Act. Now we have ideologically-coherent parties and a more polarized, competitive politics. We also have a Republican Party that’s gone completely insane, especially since the Gingrich Congress. Clearly there are structural reasons the parties can’t, and won’t cooperate, and none of this has to do with people not being nice enough to each other.

"Centrist" Charlie Dent Votes for Wild Right-Wing Budget Rules

I’ve been struggling with how to get across exactly how nutty the Balanced Budget Amendment is, but I think Ezra Klein sums it up best:

Perhaps CC&B would be an understandable policy fantasy in normal times. But three years after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression? We’ve been violently reminded that there are times when economies contract, and contract fast. Individuals and businesses stop spending, and states and cities have to cut back sharply. The only way to prevent massive layoffs, the only way to give the unemployed some help and the underpaid some relief, is for the federal government to spend. And yet we want to write into the Constitution a requirement that spending remain at 18 percent of the previous year’s GDP? That is to say, a requirement that the federal government needs to make recessions worse rather than drawing on its unique capacity to make them better? Are we mad?

And Republicans, frankly, know much of this. Ronald Reagan’s entire presidency would’ve been unconstitutional under CC&B. Same for George W. Bush’s. Paul Ryan’s budget wouldn’t pass muster. The only budget that might work for this policy — if you could implement it — would be the proposal produced by the ultra-conservative Republican Study Committee. But that proposal was so extreme and unworkable that a majority of Republicans voted it down. The only reason CC&B is faring any better is that it doesn’t get specific about what it would require. But properly understood, that makes it much worse policy — and that’s before you realize we’re talking about a constitutional amendment, not a simple budget.

Charlie Dent voted against the Republican Study Committee budget when it meant having to leave his fingerprints on specific spending cuts, but this vote is no different, and in many ways it is worse.

Here’s Budget expert Stan Collender on why it is impossible to administer. And here’s Bob Greenstein on how it would make recessions worse:

The “Cut, Cap, and Balance Act” would require cuts totaling $111 billion immediately, in the fiscal year that starts 75 days from now, despite a 9.2 percent unemployment rate. These cuts would equal 0.7 percent of the projected Gross Domestic Product in fiscal year 2012 and would thus cause the loss of roughly 700,000 jobs in the current weak economy, relative to what the number of jobs otherwise would be.

As for the idea that we can cap the government’s budget at 18% of GDP, well, times have changed…

A Contested Primary Will Be Good for LV Democrats

I think Rick Daugherty’s a really nice guy but I don’t think he has much of a shot at knocking off Charlie Dent, all else being equal.

Rick’s Medicare messaging is on point though, and I’m looking forward to him schooling Dent on how disabled children would fare under RyanCare’s Medicaid cuts.  It will also be very useful for Democrats to have a high profile liberal voice who can get quoted in the press whenever he wants, to really police Dent’s votes closely for the rest of this legislative session.

Now, it seems like the DCCC is really trying to get John Callahan to run again, and it’s not clear that they would fund Rick, so I’m very skeptical that he’d prevail in a primary.

That said, I’m glad he’s in because a contested primary is just the thing to organize the LV Democratic Party. The various factions of the party organizations and interest groups haven’t been doing a very good job of coming together as a single group to knock some of these guys off in recent elections.

I’m not qualified to say what’s the right organizing strategy, but alls I know is, in a district that has a D+2 partisan ranking with a Democratic majority or registered voters, it doesn’t make any sense that the US House rep is a Republican, 3 out of 4 state senators are Republicans, and 6 out of 10 state House members are Republicans.

If there’s a Democratic primary, the candidates will have to spend a lot of time talking to all the interest groups and activists on the left and try to organize goals and preferences under some kind of platform that works for everybody.  Raw coalition politics gets the goods.

John Callahan in particular needs to do this, if he plans to get in. His candidacy definitely suffered last time because he never really had to court the activists and interest groups on his team in a way that created real excitement and buy-in for his candidacy. He never had to compete for those loyalties. “Base” tends to be used pejoratively in polite political discussion, but the fact is, the base is your core voters. You can’t take it for granted that they’ll show up, so you need to get them excited.

It was demoralizing watching Callahan wait until the day after the Affordable Care Act passed to endorse it. And it was infuriating watching him reject carbon pricing even though it’s a perfectly mainstream Democratic position, it’s the correct position, and there’s no evidence that it costs candidates any votes to endorse it.

If a Democrat’s going to win, that person is going to have to organize the local activists under one banner and generate some real excitement with the district’s Democratic majority.

Charlie Dent’s Fuel Cell Pork

Other than pure hackery, I don’t know why Bernie keeps covering for Charlie Dent on hydrogen fuel cells. I have explained to him, patiently and gently, that no one believes this technology is going anywhere. Continuing research for it is a huge waste of money. Here’s me in February:

Hydrogen fuel cells are a pipe dream, continuing research on them is a waste of money, and Dent only supports them because they’re a backdoor handout to the natural gas industry.

To throw more money at this dead-end technology, Dent and the Republicans stripped funding from clean energy investments that are actually worthwhile. Here’s Bernie:

Dent, a founder and co-chair of the House Hydrogen Fuel Cell Caucus, rejected President Obama’s proposal to advance other alternative and renewable programs at the expense of hydrogen and fuel cells and worked to ensure more reasonable investment in the promising technology.

Again, the technology is not “promising.” The technology hasn’t looked promising in some time, and the subsidies should have ended long ago. But just like ethanol, there’s a political constituency for keeping the subsidies alive long after they have outlived their usefulness. Now it’s just pork.

LVCI does Bernie’s homework for him and finds:

According to Reuters on June 21st, the latest version of the bill shortchanges President Obama’s..

“innovation and competition stradegies by 40% n favor of an addiction to oil, coal and natural gas.”

“On the energy front, this version of the bill snips $1.9 billion from the White House request for investments in energy efficiency research, renewables such as solar, wind and geothermal, fuel-conserving vehicles, weatherization, biomass and other programs. That’s more than 40 percent below current funding levels.”

“.. the legislation increases funding for DOE’s Fossil Energy Office by $32 million while decreasing designated dollars for Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) by $80 million.

The House later voted to restore $10 million of the $1.9 billion cut to clean energy. This is pathetic. What you have here is an oil-uber-alles energy agenda that’s all about protecting fossil fuel producers from competition. Everything about this bill is a joke. It does nothing to reduce the price difference between clean and dirty energy, and only entrenches our addiction to fossil fuels.

Remember, there is no option to make the United States energy independent through domestic drilling or domestic development of fossil fuel resources. There is no option to reduce energy prices through increased drilling. This is one of the most pernicious Big Lies of American politics.