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.

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…

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.

Dent Accepted Endorsement From Group Who Want to "Shut Down Public Schools"

Remember the Independence Hall Tea Party PAC? Charlie Dent accepted their endorsement last year, and delivered a bunch of rotten red meat to the base at a rally in Philadelphia last spring.

Here’s Dent doing his wingnut impression:

To give you an idea of how out-there the Independence Hall tea people are, their director just endorsed ending public schooling in America. No I am not exaggerating:

“We think public schools should go away,’’ says Teri Adams, the head of the Independence Hall Tea Party and a leading advocate — both in New Jersey and Pennsylvania — of passage of school voucher bills. The tea party operates in those two states and Delaware. They should “go away,” she says, because “they are hurting our children.’’ [...] Adams says the current voucher program “discriminates” against wealthier students by providing public subsidies only to inner-city children in allegedly failing schools. Her group’s e-mails pushing vouchers caught the attention of James Kovalcin of South Brunswick, a retired public school teacher who asked Adams for clarification. She responded via email: “Our ultimate goal is to shut down public schools and have private schools only, eventually returning responsibility for payment to parents and private charities. It’s going to happen piecemeal and not overnight. It took us years to get into this mess and it’s going to take years to get out of it.”

This sounds an awful lot like Randy Toman’s wild plan to end school taxes entirely.

Does Dent agree that we should “shut down public schools and have private schools only?” On April 18 of last year he publicly trumpeted this group’s endorsement on his YouTube page ahead of his primary race against Mat Benol. That’s not what I’d expect from a politician who’s supposedly “hugging the political center.”

Will Dent’s Debt Ceiling Vote Fetch Him a Primary Challenge?

Charlie Dent says he is a moderate Republican. To raise the debt ceiling, quite a few moderate Republicans will have to join all House Democrats. Charlie Dent will surely be one of those votes.

The Tea People have convinced themselves, incorrectly, that a default would be a good idea, and the debt ceiling should not be raised under any circumstances.

Is this going to be the vote that finally produces a credible Republican primary challenger?

Colby Itkowitz Is Not Using Her Journo Powers

Rich Wilkins and Greg Palmer have you covered with rebuttals to these ridiculous comments from Charlie Dent. I’m more interested in what in the world the Morning Call was thinking letting Colby Itkowitz publish a one-sided item like this.

What you have in Washington right now is a hostage situation. Everybody agrees we need to raise the (statutory!) debt ceiling or the bond markets are going to freak out. There’s nothing to negotiate about because everyone agrees we need to do this. But even though everyone agrees, the Republican Party has decided to take the economy hostage anyway in order to force through an ideological agenda of deep spending cuts and smaller government.

Colby agrees with this. She even calls it a hostage situation in her report.

Now, in a hostage situation, typically the hostage-taker has some specific demands that he wants in exchange for releasing the hostages. It’s certainly not the responsibility of the person being extorted to suggest demands to the hostage-taker. He’s calling the shots! He’s the one with the hostages.

Instead Colby gives hostage-taker Charlie Dent a friendly platform to accuse Barack Obama of not coming up with a list of cuts for Republicans to demand.

While Colby had Dent on the phone, wasn’t the obvious follow-up question “What is your plan for the debt?” or “Under what conditions would you vote to raise the debt ceiling?”

It does not appear that Colby asked Dent to name the specific cuts he wants to see in exchange for his vote.

But knowing what the hostage-takers’ demands are is a critical piece of information for Morning Call readers to know in order to form opinions about who to support in this standoff. Are the House Republicans asking for something crazy? Are they asking for something reasonable? We don’t know, because Colby didn’t ask.

Or maybe she did ask and didn’t report that the Congressman declined to give specifics. But that too would have been a good thing for readers to know. In that case it would have been appropriate to write something like: “I asked Congressman Dent what concessions would win his vote, but he declined to name any specific cuts.”

It isn’t as though Colby has gotten the Congressman on the record any other time regarding what he wants to do about the debt. Indeed, this is a long-standing pattern for Ms. Itkowitz. Her coverage of the Congressman alternates between giving him a friendly platform to launch political attacks, a friendly platform to respond to political attacks, and beat sweeteners.

Greg Palmer is puzzled why Dent keeps getting reelected, but I think it’s reasonably clear: the total lack of critical coverage of the Congressman in the LV’s largest newspaper means voters are only hearing very one-sided Dent-approved stories about what he’s doing in DC.

I’ve emailed Colby to give her an opportunity to respond and explain her process. With her permission I will update this post with her side of the story.