“The GOP’s Favorite Government Jobs”: Republicans Didn’t Realize Government Budget Cuts Result In Layoffs
Politico’s Austin Wright has a crazy little story about a spat between congressional Republicans and the Labor Department that hinges on the possibility of mass defense contractor layoffs.
The fight is over whether defense contractors are required to send out notices warning their workers of layoffs that would kick in as a result of the large defense spending cuts due Jan. 1 — aka”sequestration.”
Republicans say yes, citing the WARN Act, which requires large employers to give 60 days’ notice of possible layoffs. The GOP has been chortling in glee at the prospect of such notices going out to every single employee of the largest defense contractors, because the 60-day countdown just happens to arrive four days before Election Day. Because, you know, layoffs are bad, even if they mean Big Government is shrinking.
But the Labor Department says no! Labor’s main argument is based on the reasoning that sequestration is not inevitable — Democrats and Republicans still have time to come to a budget deal that would avoid sharp defense cuts. (Indeed the whole point of sequestration was that the prospect of such cuts was supposedly so drastic that it would force a compromise.)
According to Politico’s Wright, congressional Republicans consider the Labor Department’s decision a “political stunt.” That accusation has a high likelihood of being true, but it seems just a little bit hypocritical coming from Republicans who are hoping that layoff notices timed to be delivered just before Election Day will help their own electoral chances.
And that’s hardly the tip of the hypocrisy iceberg. Buried beneath the surface of this latest example of Washington dysfunction is a basic truth: Government budget cuts result in layoffs. That’s not good during a period of very slow economic growth. And yet, Republicans seem to have little problem when the newly unemployed are teachers or firefighters. But when defense’s ox is getting gored, then it becomes a big deal, and then the layoffs are presumed to be Obama’s fault and thus embarrassing to the White House.
By: Andrew Leonard, Salon, August 6, 2012
The health care community is discovering to its shock and dismay that it’s not simply traditional Republican conservatives who have taken control of the House of Representatives, it’s a new group of cynics.
Conservatives, like liberals, have a more-or-less coherent set of ideas. They use political power to push preferred policies, whether related to health care, housing or a hundred other possible issues. William F. Buckley Jr., one of the fathers of modern American conservatism, “had a way of … making conservatism a holistic view of life not narrowed to the playing fields of ideology alone,” as one admirer put it.
Although cynics may claim conservative credentials, their view of government is really nothing more than a quarrel about its cost. It brings to mind Oscar Wilde’s immortal phrase, “The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
The contrast between the two viewpoints was on stark display at two recent marquée meetings, AcademyHealth’s yearly policy conference and the sprawling Health Information and Management Systems Society — HIMSS – Health IT Conference and Exhibition.
AcademyHealth’s “Running of the Wonks” (my term, not theirs) is a magnet for researchers and policy mavens who are inured by long experience to most political rhetoric. Yet at the general session featuring a bipartisan dialogue among congressional staffers, the harsh rhetoric from the GOP participants stunned the crowd. The new federal health law, it seemed, was evil incarnate, and the rhetoric of “repeal and replace” was wielded with a fundamentalist zeal.
“The bureaucracies that administer ObamaCare” must be cut, declared one aide to a powerful congressional leader, setting the tone. And in case anyone didn’t get the point, the word “ObamaCare” was deliberately repeated every few syllables in a tone of disdain combined with wonder at how such a monstrosity had ever come to be. (AcademyHealth meeting rules said the staffers could not be quoted by name.)
The audience of wonks quailed, then quietly queued up for the question-and-answer period. They knew, after all, that the health law’s fine print incorporates a generous helping of initiatives championed by both conservatives, and those on the left. Besides, these were staffers speaking, not politicians playing to the press. Surely, gentle reason would triumph. Alas, it was not to be.
The Prevention and Public Health Fund? “You mean, the prevention health slush fund, as we like to refer to it?” replied a GOP staffer.
The Innovation Center at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services? “An innovation center at CMS is an oxymoron,” responded a Republican aide, before adding a personal barb aimed at the attendees: “Though it’s great for PhDs who come to Washington on the government tab.”
There was also no reason the government should pay for “so-called comparative effectiveness research,” another said.
“Everything’s on the chopping block,” said yet another.
Everything? At HIMSS, where GOP staffers also spoke, attendees were chagrined to learn that “everything” applied to them, too. The subsidies for health information technology that were part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act were targeted in legislation introduced in late January by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the Republican Study Group. His bill would repeal this funding and eliminate all remaining stimulus spending, including about $45 billion in unspent health IT funds.
Those focused on the substance of health policy might be forgiven for feeling blindsided. After all, the McCain-Palin health policy platform in the 2008 presidential election called for coordinated care, greater use of health information technology and a focus on Medicare payment for value, not volume. Once-and-future Republican presidential candidates such as former governors Mike Huckabee (Ark.), Mitt Romney (Mass.) and Tim Pawlenty (Minn.), as well as ex-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, have long promoted disease prevention, a more innovative federal government and increased use of information technology. Indeed, federal health IT “meaningful use” requirements can even be seen as a direct consequence of Gingrich’s popularization of the phrase, “Paper kills.”
Ah, but that was back before the Republican cynics swept into power. It was back before traditional GOP conservatives — worried that any suggestions outside a single-minded focus on slashing spending would be seen as disloyal — eschewed ideas in favor of ideological declarations.
This column was filed just days after a two-week compromise was signed into law to avoid a federal government shutdown. It allowed funding for health reform to continue, but instituted other budget cuts. Obviously, the cynics yielded a bit, at least for the moment, to the conservatives, and the liberals and centrists have given ground to both.
Still, one wonders what the urbane Buckley would think of a movement that seems intent on ignoring the real-world context of its actions. Buckley launched his lifetime crusade against liberalism with God and Man at Yale, a book that took aim at the academics who’d taught him as an Ivy League undergraduate. Alas, the GOP cynics are cocooned instead in an underground bunker of their own design, as impervious to realities they’d prefer to ignore as the ivory tower academics they’ve come to scorn.
By: Michael Millenson, The Health Care Blog, March 9, 2011. Post Originally appeared in Kaiser Health News.
Congratulations to whoever had “less than two months” in the “conservative overreach” betting pool. There was never a question about whether the Republican Party, awarded huge political gains last year by voters, would let ideology outstrip political reality. The issue was when. And the new faces of conservative overreach have been preening recently.
Here is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who sparked an old-fashioned national labor controversy by trying to break his state’s public unions. His assertion that he’s merely trying to achieve fiscal responsibility is belied by the fact that while rolling back government workers’ collective bargaining rights itself saves no money, the tax cut he pushed through upon taking office costs an amount strikingly similar to this year’s budget gap; and the fact that when the unions offered to accede to his budget demands in exchange for keeping their bargaining rights, the governor wouldn’t accept that “yes” for an answer.
Indeed, while he has tried to imbue his power grab with the voters’ imprimatur by claiming that union-busting was part of his campaign agenda (it was not), Walker, speaking with a liberal blogger pretending to be billionaire supporter David Koch, described the actual unveiling of the policy as akin to dropping a “bomb.” In that same call, he added a phrase to the lexicon of overreach. “This is our moment,” he told faux-Koch, “this is our time to change the course of history.”
Away from Wisconsin, members of the Tea Party Patriots, meeting in Phoenix recently, gave that sentiment more guttural voice. When Texas GOP Rep. Joe Barton tried to brag that the $61 billion in spending cuts the House recently passed were the “largest . . . in the history of America,” they booed him, shouting “More, more!” One Tea Partyer told the Associated Press that she and her fellow activists were displeased with the House GOP for failing to follow through on their campaign pledge to slice $100 billion from government outlays this year: “Have we seen that? No. But we’ve heard excuses.” Another warned, “If they don’t [live up to their promises], we’re going to pull up another candidate to run against them.” Why shouldn’t they? This is their moment.
That even the conservative House Republicans are unable to conjure more than $61 billion shows both the hollowness of their $100 billion campaign pledge and the governing corner into which they have painted themselves. And, the Tea Party activists will no doubt be pained to learn, negotiations with the White House and Senate Democrats won’t get them any closer.
Not for lack of trying, to be sure. Congressional Republicans have demonstrated an unstinting commitment to an economic philosophy that can best be described as cutting for cutting’s sake. It’s certainly not for the sake of fiscal responsibility. The same party that brought you the Reagan budget deficits and Bush budget deficits certainly speaks the language of fiscal responsibility. But Republicans concern themselves only with the spending side of the ledger, perhaps forgetting that deficits come not from spending in isolation but when spending and revenue are out of balance.
So they piously speak of dealing with the deficit with their $61 billion in proposed cuts (or even the $100 billion Tea Party standard) while trying to repeal President Obama’s healthcare reform law, a move that would add more than $200 billion to the deficit over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. And all of those numbers are dwarfed by the $4 trillion hole they would blow over 10 years if they successfully managed to make the Bush tax cuts permanent.
And they’re not focused, campaign rhetoric aside, on jobs. A recent Goldman Sachs report estimated that the $61 billion in spending cuts that the House GOP passed would reduce economic growth by 1.5 to 2 percentage points. This would not help spur job growth. Moody’s analyst Mark Zandi (who has advised both parties) weighed in last week with an estimate that the Republican spending cuts “would mean some 400,000 fewer jobs created by the end of 2011 and 700,000 fewer jobs by the end of 2012.” And last Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke put that number at “a couple of hundred thousand jobs,” adding, “It’s not trivial.”
In other words, the Republicans’ spending cuts legislation is the very definition of, to borrow their phrase, a job-killing bill. And the Tea Party gang doesn’t think it goes far enough. Is the GOP really willing to sacrifice economic growth at the altar of their cutting obsession? Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, the George W. Bush budget director-turned-spending hawk, was asked on NPR whether budget cuts are worth it if they cost a lot of jobs. “The answer is yes,” he said.
This view bespeaks the kind of market fundamentalism the Tea Party GOP has embraced. It involves a blind faith in the free market: cut taxes, gut regulations, cut spending, gut labor unions. The market is always right. And if that means the loss of a few hundred thousand jobs, then, in the instantly immortal words of House Speaker John Boehner, “So be it.”
But the GOP has gotten so lost in its own philosophy that they have made the mistake of believing their own rhetoric about the United States being ideologically conservative. It is surely true that the electorate prefers a government that is in some senses limited; but so too do they want the free market limited, its rough edges softened.
It may be, in Governor Walker’s words, their moment. But overreaching conservatives will learn that the more tightly they embrace it, the more quickly it will pass. In self-consciously trying to change history, they will become it.
By: Robert Schlesinger, U.S. News and World Report, March 11, 2011
Richard Nixon espoused what he called “the madman theory.” It’s a negotiating approach that induces the other side to believe you are capable of dangerously irrational actions and leads it to back down to avoid the wreckage your rage might let loose.
House Republicans are pursuing their own madman theory in budget negotiations, with a clever twist: Speaker John Boehner is casting himself as the reasonable man fully prepared to reach a deal to avoid a government shutdown. But he also has to satisfy a band of “wild-eyed bomb-throwing freshmen,” as he characterized new House members in a Wall Street Journal interview last week by way of comparing them fondly to his younger self.
Thus are negotiators for President Obama and Senate Democrats forced to deal not only with Republican leaders in the room but also with a menacing specter outside its confines. As “responsible” public officials, Democrats are asked to make additional concessions just to keep the bomb-throwers at bay.
This is the perverse genius of what the House Republicans are up to: Nobody really thinks that anything like their $57 billion in remaining proposed budget cuts can pass. It’s unlikely that all of their own members are confident about all of the cuts they have voted for. But by taking such a large collection of programs hostage, the GOP can be quite certain to win many more fights than it would if each reduction were considered separately.
Begin with the outrageous $1.1 billion, 15 percent cut from Head Start, a program that offers preschool education to roughly 965,000 poor children. According to the Center for Law and Social Policy, this would knock 218,000 kids out of Head Start and force 16,000 classrooms to close.
That is an excellent way to lose the future, as Obama ought to be saying. What could be a better use of public money than helping our poorest children early in life so they might achieve more in school, and later?
And for those who say that Head Start is not as good as it should be, the administration announced plans in September to require lower-performing Head Start programs to compete against other entities for continued funding. Isn’t this the sort of competition conservatives say they’re for?
Given what science has shown about the importance of a child’s first years, we need better and broader early childhood programs. Slashing them can only cause harm – to parents, to children and to the country.
Then there are the cuts at the other end of the education continuum. The House budget would reduce the maximum Pell Grant, which helps needy kids go to college, by $845, from $5,550 available now. According to Mark Kantrowitz, who publishes the FinAid Web site that gives financial-aid advice, 1.7 million low-income students would lose eligibility for Pell Grants, almost a fifth of current recipients. Is that what Americans voted for last November?
But here is where the Republicans’ strategy works so brilliantly. Let’s assume that neither the administration nor Senate Democrats – even the most timid among them – can allow the Head Start or Pell Grant cuts to go through. That still leaves a lot of other truly worthy programs to be defended. By heaping cut upon cut, Republicans get advocates of each particular cause fighting among themselves.
And with so many reductions on the table, voters who would actually oppose most of them if they knew the details don’t get to hear much about any individual item because the media concentrate almost entirely on the partisan drama of the shutdown fight, not the particulars.
You can also imagine the argument from those Democrats petrified of their own shadows. “Well,” say the scaredy-cats, “we have to save Pell Grants and Head Start, so why don’t we give House Republicans what they want on the National Endowment for the Arts – or their cuts in foreign aid, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, medical research, the Women Infants and Children program, meals-on-wheels or mine safety inspections? I mean, we have to give them something, or those crazies will shut down the government, and we might get blamed.”
Boehner can just sit back and smile benignly as Democrats battle over which concessions they should give him. When the negotiating gets tough, he can sadly warn that his freshmen need more because he can’t guarantee what they’ll do. The perpetually tanned one is a shrewd dude. Democrats who underestimate him will be playing into his hands.
By: E. J. Dionne, Op-Ed Columnist, The Washington Post, March 7, 2011