mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Making Congress Do Its Job, Anyway”: It’s Time For Congress To Start Living In The Real World, Either Do Your Job Or Don’t Get Paid

In the wake of county clerk Kim Davis’ refusal to give out marriage licenses to same sex couples a series of internet memes circulated with individuals in jobs that required them to do things they preferred not to do, but did their job anyway. It’s a funny concept, but one that doesn’t apply to Republicans in Congress who repeatedly threaten to shut down the government, failing to do their jobs in order to throw a temper tantrum over the conservative outrage du jour.

It has almost no chance of passing (see, Republicans in Congress) but a bill has been introduced to incentivize Congressmembers to actually govern responsibly:

Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) introduced a bill Friday that would prevent members of Congress from getting paid in the event of a government shutdown.

“It’s time to put an end to government by crisis management,” Nolan said in a statement. “And it’s time for Congress to start living in the real world — where you either do your job — or you don’t get paid. If hundreds of thousands of other federal employees are to go without their salaries — twisting slowly in the wind in a government shutdown — then the Congress should not be paid either.”

Under Nolan’s bill, members of Congress would go unpaid for the duration of the shutdown. He introduced similar legislation during the 16-day government shutdown in 2013 that left 800,000 federal workers furloughed without pay. While his bill never got off the ground, Nolan donated the money he was paid over the shutdown to charities in his district.

If Republicans want to run government like a business, this would be a good way to start. If you don’t do the work you’re supposed to do you don’t get paid. But the GOP only pays lip service to wanting the government to run efficiently.

At some point in the future when Democrats finally retake Congress, this should be one of the first bills they pass. The era of government by crisis hostage taking needs to end.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 20, 2015

September 21, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Government Shut Down, Republicans | , , , , | 2 Comments

“Governing By Blackmail”: The Game Republicans Are Playing Is Not A Political Impasse Or Partisan Gridlock, It’s Pure Extortion

Suppose President Obama announced:

Unless Republicans agree to my proposal for gun control, I will use my authority as commander in chief to scuttle one aircraft carrier a week in the bottom of the ocean.

I invite Republican leaders to come to the White House and negotiate a deal to preserve our military strength. I hope Republicans will work with me to prevent the loss of our carrier fleet.

If the Republicans refuse to negotiate, I will be compelled to begin by scuttling the U.S.S. George Washington in the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench, with 80 aircraft on board.

In that situation, we would all agree that Obama had gone nuts. Whatever his beefs with Republicans, it would be an inexcusable betrayal to try to get his way by destroying our national assets. That would be an abuse of power and the worst kind of blackmail.

And in that kind of situation, I would hope that we as journalists wouldn’t describe the resulting furor as a “political impasse” or “partisan gridlock.” I hope that we wouldn’t settle for quoting politicians on each side as blaming the other. It would be appropriate to point out the obvious: Our president had tumbled over the edge and was endangering the nation.

Today, we have a similar situation, except that it’s a band of extremist House Republicans who are deliberately sabotaging America’s economy and damaging our national security — all in hopes of gaining leverage on unrelated issues.

The shutdown of government by House Republicans has already cost at least $1.2 billion, with the tab increasing by $300 million a day. Some estimates are much higher than that.

The 1995 and 1996 shutdowns cost the country $2.1 billion at today’s value, and the current one is also likely to end up costing billions — a cost imposed on every citizen by House Republicans, even as members of Congress pay themselves.

The government shutdown and risk of default also undermine America’s strength around the world. It’s not just that 72 percent of the intelligence community’s civilian work force has been furloughed. It’s not simply that “the jeopardy to the safety and security of this country will increase” daily, according to James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence.

Nor is it just that the White House telephone number is now answered with a recording that says to call back when government is functioning again. It’s not simply that several countries have issued travel advisories about visiting America. It’s not just that we’re mocked worldwide, with the French newspaper Le Monde writing: “Jefferson, wake up! They’ve gone crazy!”

Rather, it’s that America’s strength and influence derive in part from the success of our political and economic model. When House Republicans shut our government down and leave us teetering on the abyss of default, we are a diminished nation. We have less influence. We have less raw power, as surely as if we had fewer aircraft carriers.

Some Americans think that this crisis reflects typical partisan squabbling. No. Democrats and Republicans have always disagreed, sometimes ferociously, about what economic policy is best, but, in the past, it was not normal for either to sabotage the economy as a negotiating tactic.

In a household, husbands and wives disagree passionately about high-stakes issues like how to raise children. But normal people do not announce that if their spouse does not give in, they will break all the windows in the house.

Hard-line House Republicans seem to think that their ability to inflict pain on 800,000 federal workers by furloughing them without pay gives them bargaining chips. The hard-liners apparently believe that their negotiating position is strengthened when they demonstrate that they can wreck American governance.

The stakes rise as we approach the debt limit and the risk of default — which the Treasury Department notes could have an impact like that of the 2008 financial crisis and “has the potential to be catastrophic.” Astonishingly, Republican hard-liners see that potential catastrophe as a source of bargaining power in a game of extortion: We don’t want anything to happen to this fine American economy as we approach the debt limit, so you’d better meet our demands.

In this situation, it strikes a false note for us as journalists to cover the crisis simply by quoting each side as blaming the other. That’s a false equivalency.

The last time House Republicans played politics with this debt limit, in 2011, Standard & Poor’s downgraded America’s credit rating. In the long run, that may mean higher debt payments and higher taxes.

My opening example of a president scuttling naval ships was ludicrous. No one would do that. But if we default because of extremist House Republicans, the cost could be much greater to our economy and to our national security than the loss of a few aircraft carriers.

 

By: Nicholas D. Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, October 5, 2013

October 7, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Government Shut Down, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“It’s Your Money”: How Private Contractors Like Booz Allen Cost Taxpayers More

When the National Security Administration (NSA) leaker outed himself over the weekend, Edward Snowden revealed that he was most recently an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, a private sector contractor that works with the federal government on a variety of projects, including national security. As the New York Times reported on Monday, the company has grown over the last decade in large part thanks to the expansion of these projects in the post-9/11 era, raking in $1.3 billion, or nearly a quarter of its total revenue, from government intelligence work in the most recent fiscal year.

Other companies like Lockheed Martin and the Computer Sciences Corporation also get paid well by the government for information gathering and analysis like the kind described in Snowden’s leak. The NSA used to work with a handful of firms but now works with hundreds. These companies were brought in during the post-9/11 intelligence boom to keep up with the expansion. But they cost much more than having government employees do the work themselves.

While the total budget for intelligence work is kept secret, as Hayes Brown wrote earlier on ThinkProgress, “For Fiscal Year 2014, the Obama administration requested $48.2 billion for the National Intelligence Program, encompassing ‘six Federal departments, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.’ Of that amount, according to a 2007 article, an amazing 70 percent goes towards private contractors.” That’s a lot of money.

Those high costs may be thanks to the higher cost of paying a contract employee over a federal worker. As Brown wrote:

Many former government employees make the switch into private contracting, which can serve to drive up the amount they wind up costing the American taxpayer. A 2007 report to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence found that the average government employee working as an intelligence analyst cost $126,500, while the same work performed by a contractor would cost the government an average $250,000 including overhead.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence reports that the government pays intelligence contractors 1.66 times what it costs to have the work done by federal employees. Yet it has outsourced 28 percent of the intelligence workforce.

In a testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) similarly reported that outsourcing intelligence functions to private contractors costs taxpayers 83 percent more on average than having a federal employee do the work. While competition between contracts can allow the government to bargain for lower prices, POGO asked, “Is the government actually making contracting decisions based on cost-saving concerns?”

Overall, a 2011 report from POGO found that the federal government pays contractors 1.83 times what it pays federal employees for the same services and more than two times standard pay in the private sector.

Meanwhile, the reliance on these workers for government functions is growing. More than 530,000 defense contracting jobs are in Virginia, where most of the federal level workers are located. The POGO study reports that while the federal workforce has remained flat since 1999, the contractor workforce has shot up from 4.4 million then to 7.6 million in 2007, four times larger than the number of government employees.

 

By: Bryce Covert, Think Progress, June 10, 2013

June 14, 2013 Posted by | National Security | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Sequester Will Help The Economy”: Another Right-Wing Fairy Tale Debunks Itself

Remember all those fearless predictions by the usual grinning idiots on the right about how the sequester was going to work miracles for the economy? Well guess what? That never happened.

I know, I know. I’m trying to recover from the shock.

The sequester took effect on March 1, so we now have three months’ worth of jobs data that have been released in its aftermath. The results have been underwhelming, to say the least. As Brad DeLong observed this week, we are still in a depressed economy. And as Ed noted yesterday, the latest monthly jobs report was thoroughly mediocre.

I particularly wanted to highlight the point the New York Times’ Annie Lowrey made: that the report shows that the sequester is already, specifically beginning to have a negative impact on employment. Yesterday’s report shows that the federal workforce, which has suffered cutbacks due to the sequester, is shrinking at a dramatically accelerated rate:

Federal employment had been on a downward trend since the start of 2011, with the government shedding about 3,000 or 4,000 positions a month through February. Then sequestration hit on March 1. And in the last three months, the federal work force has shrunk by about 45,000 positions, including 14,000 in May alone.

Those newly unemployed federal workers, of course, now have less money to spend, which will also slow down the economy. In addition, the sequester is also causing cuts in programs like unemployment benefits and benefits to low-income people such as aid for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Benefits to the unemployed and low-income folks act not only as a social safety net, but also as stimulus, since poor people and the jobless are likely to spend every penny they’ve got. Now, less of that money will be going into the pockets of those people and thus into the economy at large. That will also hurt the economic recovery, such as it is.

So, for those of you keeping score at home? The right wing/free market fundamentalists/austerity caucus? They are wrong. Again. And once again, they are continuing to drive the economy, and the country, into the ground.

 

By: Kathleen Geier, Washington Monthly Political Animal, June 8, 2013

June 9, 2013 Posted by | Economy, Sequester | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Actually Happens If The U.S. Hits The Federal Debt Ceiling?

Are you just now recovering from the migraine induced by months of partisan feuding over the 2011 federal budget? Looking forward to a lengthy reprieve before Congress tackles next year’s budget? Sorry, but you’re in for a rude awakening. (And you might want to reach for some aspirin.) Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner warned Congress last week that the United States — currently liable for more than $14 trillion of debt — will collide with the federal debt ceiling around May 16. Once the government hits the current limit of $14.3 trillion it will be legally prohibited from incurring any additional debt; problematic since the U.S. only takes in around 60 cents for each dollar it spends.

Congress has raised the debt ceiling 74 times since 1962. Ten of those increases occurred in the past decade. It’s a routine vote. However, the political calculus has shifted in the newly anointed “age of austerity.” House Speaker John Boehner acknowledged that a failure to raise the ceiling could have calamitous implications. However, congressional Republicans appear unlikely to authorize an increase in the debt limit without significant Democratic concessions, setting up yet another high-noon scenario on Capitol Hill. 

This poses the question: What would happen if the U.S. hit the debt ceiling?

In the immediate aftermath of such an event, the Treasury Department can impose “extraordinary actions” to help pay the bills. Those measures include, “suspending investments in a savings plan for federal workers and pulling Treasury securities out of a trust fund for two federal retirement plans. In such cases, the Treasury must make the funds whole again once the ceiling is raised.” However, such stopgap measures would prove ineffective before long, and the government would have to either authorize an increase in the debt limit or cut $738 billion in federal spending in the span of six months, with severe consequences for the economy. Notwithstanding such a massive curtailing of government spending, the U.S. would default on some of its debt obligations. And the implications are frightening

For one, the government would grind to a halt — cutting off military salaries and retirement benefits, along with Social Security and Medicare payments. Worse still, default would also plunge the U.S. back into recession. Interest rates and borrowing costs would surge, while the dollar would plummet. In a worst case scenario, the markets would go into a death spiral as investors distanced themselves from the U.S.

At the very least, defaulting would call into question the true value of U.S. Treasury bonds — heretofore the gold standard of the bond market. Additionally, such an event would damage the country’s credit rating, and significantly hamper its ability to generate revenue necessary to keep government running. A default on government debt obligations could conspire to undermine the United States’ preeminent position in the global economy. Needless to say, all of this would swiftly end the recovery, as Federal Reserve head Ben Bernanke pointed out.

As for the political repercussions, Nate Silver at the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog argues that the failure to raise the debt ceiling would equate to nothing less than political ruin for virtually every elected federal official.

This as close as you can get in American politics to mutually assured destruction. No matter how Machiavellian your outlook, it’s very hard to make the case that any politician with a significant amount of power would become more powerful in the event of a debt default.That in mind, it seems unlikely that the ceiling won’t be raised. It’s just a matter of when, and how, we get there.

By: Peter Finocchiaro, Salon, April 11, 2011

April 12, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, Federal Budget, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideology, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: