One of the big stories of this recession is the massive decline in public-sector employment. In order to weather the economic storm, states and localities have cut jobs for teachers, firefighters, police, and other public servants. As The New York Times reports, this has also trickled down to higher education, where public colleges have cut training for valuable jobs and professions:
Technical, engineering and health care expertise are among the few skills in huge demand even in today’s lackluster job market. They are also, unfortunately, some of the most expensive subjects to teach. As a result, state colleges in Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Colorado, Michigan, Florida and Texas have eliminated entire engineering and computer science departments. […]
This squeeze is one result of the states’ 25-year withdrawal from higher education. During and immediately after the last few recessions, states slashed financing for colleges. Then when the economy recovered, most states never fully restored the money that had been cut. The recent recession has amplified the problem.
You might remember that in 2009, Maine Senator Olympia Snowe pressed for Democrats to reduce the size of the bill by $100 billion as a condition for securing her support. There was no particular reason for shaving that much off of the bill—it was just a nice, round number that she liked. And because she occupied the important pivot point in the Senate, Democrats couldn’t do much to limit her cuts.
The problem, besides the fact that the smaller the stimulus the less effective it would be, is that her cuts came directly from aid for states and localities. Aid that could have saved public jobs as the recession continued, and aid that might have kept colleges from cutting valuable training.
In a lot of ways, this sums up the problem with Snowe’s vaunted moderation—it had no point. It was moderation for the sake of moderation, and more often than not (as with the Bush tax cuts, for example), it resulted in bad policy. Her retirement might be bad for Senate comity, but as far as actual lawmaking is concerned, it strikes me as a good thing.
By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, March 2, 2012
It seems Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) isn’t even trying to make sense any more:
Fiscal shenanigans such as permanent tax increases to pay for one-year temporary measures are precisely the problem that drove our nation into a $15 trillion debt crisis.
Huh? Passing a permanent tax increase to pay for a temporary measure would, logically, decrease debt, not increase it.
And, indeed, if we look back over history, we don’t see “permanent tax increases” as drivers of debt. Tax cuts, on the other hand — like those signed by Ronald Reagan and supported by Olympia Snowe and those signed by George W. Bush and supported by Olympia Snowe — have contributed to increasing deficits and debt. Meanwhile, tax increases — like those signed by Bill Clinton and opposed by Olympia Snowe in 1993 —reduced deficits.
Given Snowe’s ongoing embrace of Tea Party Economics and shunning of basic economic concepts —not to mention her record of supporting measures that increased the deficit and opposing things that cut it — it isn’t surprising that she’d adopt the up-is-down, black-is-white economic fantasy that tax increases cause deficits and tax cuts increase revenue. But it should help put to rest the notion that she’s some kind of “moderate” or “sensible” Republican.
By: Jamison Foser, Media Matters Political Corrections, December 7, 2011
Jon Kyl is different from you and me.
In the days following Hurricane Katrina, the nation was reeling over the death and destruction in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast. But Kyl, now the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, saw opportunity: According to a voice-mail recording left at the time by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Kyl and Sessions were hoping to find a business owner killed in the storm so they could use that in their campaign to repeal the estate tax.
It was vintage Kyl: cold and ruthless.
So when the Arizonan was named as one of six Republicans on the debt supercommittee, Democrats feared the worst — and they got what they feared. It exaggerates little to say that Kyl thwarted agreement almost singlehandedly. While some Republicans on the panel — notably Reps. Dave Camp and Fred Upton — were, with House Speaker John Boehner’s blessing, prepared to strike a deal, Kyl rallied resistance with his usual table-pounding tirades.
The tragedy here is that Kyl, who has announced his retirement at the end of his term, could have risen above political pressures to strike an agreement to right the nation’s finances for a generation. Boehner’s House Republicans, aware that voters will hold them to account for inaction, were willing to deal. But Kyl’s Senate Republicans, hoping voters will evict the Democratic majority in the Senate, had no such incentive.
The sabotage began on the very first day the supercommittee met. While other members from both parties spoke optimistically about the need to put everything on the table, Kyl gave a gloomy opening statement. “I think a dose of realism is called for here,” he said. That same day, he went to a luncheon organized by conservative think tanks and threatened to walk (“I’m off the committee”) if there were further defense cuts.
When Democrats floated their proposal combining tax increases and spending cuts, Kyl rejected it out of hand, citing Republicans’ pledge to activist Grover Norquist not to raise taxes. Kyl’s constant invocation of the Norquist pledge provoked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to snap at Kyl during a private meeting: “What is this, high school?”
Kyl’s defenders say his motives were pure because he had every incentive for the supercommittee to succeed: He never has to face voters again and he desperately wanted to avoid the automatic Pentagon cuts that now loom. But there’s little doubt that he was doing Norquist’s bidding in killing any notion of higher taxes.
Norquist, who worked to defeat a compromise, brags about his control over Kyl. When Kyl made remarks in May that appeared to leave open the possibility of tax increases, Norquist called Kyl and adopted “the tone of a teacher scolding a second grader as he recalled the conversation,” Politico reported. Norquist boasted to the publication that, after he upbraided Kyl, the senator “went down on the floor and he gave a colloquy about how we’re against any tax increases of any sort. Boom!”
While other supercommittee members on both sides searched for a grand bargain, Kyl countered with suggestions that they focus on small items, such as selling off federal property. On Monday, when Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) made his last-ditch effort to salvage a deal, observers knew the effort was going nowhere for one simple reason: Kyl was in the room. He divided his time between the “negotiations” and barbed interviews with TV networks: “Can I make a point? . . . Your job isn’t to convince me. . . . Let me make this point to you. . . . Let me just finish my sentence.”
Kyl had demonstrated his distaste for negotiation before. In June, he joined House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in walking out of budget talks with Vice President Biden. He had also displayed his disdain for fellow Republicans who were willing to negotiate. During the health-care debate, when Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was negotiating with Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, Kyl went on TV and said Grassley “has been given no authority to negotiate anything.” Amid hints that GOP leaders might punish Grassley by denying him the top Republican slot on the Judiciary Committee, Grassley reportedly told colleagues: “Maybe I should just go home and ride my tractor.”
“Walking napalm” is how one Democratic aide involved in the supercommittee described Kyl this week. And if the senator makes some mistakes as he burns down the village — well, that’s just a cost of doing business. Earlier this year, when Kyl was leading an effort to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, he claimed on the Senate floor that abortion is “well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.” The actual number is 3 percent. An aide to Kyl explained: “His remark was not intended to be a factual statement.”
As Kyl leaves the Senate, he will be remembered as a lawmaker who intended to be not factual but destructive.
By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 22, 2011