Tags: Faint Glimmers of Hope

House Passes Ryan Budget


House Republicans have planted their flag. Now the Senate gets to vote.

Here is what the Senate is voting on: Whether we have a fiscal crisis or we do not. It is that simple.

Tags: Faint Glimmers of Hope

Non-Buyers’ Remorse


As predicted, the recent budget deal and the Ryan plan have the Democrats wishing in the direst way they’d hopped on Simpson-Bowles. But among Democrats, Simpson-Bowles was dead on arrival: There simply is no plan that credibly controls spending that Democrats are inclined to accept. Now that Republicans have proposed something well beyond the Simpson-Bowles framework, Democrats are ready to celebrate a plan that they dismissed out of hand — “simply unacceptable,” the lady called it.

Ryan and the Republicans will accept the strongest deficit deal they can get; Obama and the Democrats will accept the strongest deficit deal they are forced to: That’s the basic dynamic that shapes this debate between now and November 2012. They have no credible budget plan — they didn’t even pass a budget last time around. Welcome to the Party of No, Mr. President; Mrs. Pelosi will show you the secret handshake.

The Democrats want 2012 to be about anything other than deficit-reduction. Expect an onslaught on the social-issues front, from abortion subsidies to gay marriage. Conservatives should not let them change the subject.

Tags: Debt , Deficit , Despair , Faint Glimmers of Hope

Mind the Trillions: Thoughts on the Budget Deal


1. I’m glad a deal was struck. I hate Planned Parenthood — you cannot get to the right of me on abortion — but the way ahead on abortion is not the same as the way ahead on the budget. I am for seizing every marginal gain to be had on this issue, but the funding restrictions were only tinkering around at the edges. You want to win on abortion, you have to win 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Thanks to the usurpation of the Supreme Court — and the American people’s continuous, inexplicable tolerance of that — Congress is not really where the pro-life action is. As it stands, vulnerable Senate Democrats ought to be mercilessly reminded in 2012 that their party leader was willing to shut down the U.S. government in order to protect public subsidies for abortion — something that even many moderate pro-choicers oppose.

2. Yes, the deal could  have been better. And if it had been twice as good as this one — or ten times as good — it still could have been better.

3. But this is not the deal that matters. This is small potatoes compared to getting the Ryan reforms enacted, especially on entitlements. If Republicans had drawn the line in the sand on this deal, they might have saved the country a few billion dollars. If they draw the line on the Ryan program, they might save the country. That is the real fight. Mind the trillions, and the billions will take care of themselves.

Tags: Faint Glimmers of Hope

Ezra Klein on the Balanced Budget Amendment


Ezra Klein writes:

Read that again: Every single Senate Republican has endorsed a constitutional amendment that would’ve made Ronald Reagan’s fiscal policy unconstitutional. That’s how far to the right the modern GOP has swung.

He says that like it’s a bad thing.

But, 18 percent, guys? Even God only asks for ten.

Tags: Faint Glimmers of Hope

18 Democrats Get Religion on HAMP


The House has voted to kill HAMP, a con game being run by mortgage-servicers on American mortgage borrowers with the blessings of the Obama administration. HAMP, as I have argued, isn’t a defective program: It is a scam, a rip-off designed to be a rip-off.

Among those voting to end this fraud were 18 House Democrats including George Miller, a Nancy Pelosi protégé who told the Huffington Post:

What we saw was just a commonality of abuse by servicers, the banks, of our constituents. They were being lied to. Their documents were being lost on a regular basis. Their phone calls were not returned. They were told they’d be handed off to another person, that never took place. They were told they would be eligible in a couple months, that never took place.

This is consistent with the experience of many (too many) HAMP borrowers.

The question is: Why do most Democrats support this rip-off?

The answer is: Because it is backed by one very important Democrat: Barack Obama.

And why does Obama support it?

HAMP doesn’t really stop a lot of foreclosures, but it does slow the process down, and the Obama administration (along with the Committee to Reinflate the Bubble) is desperate to prop up the housing market by any available means, even, apparently, if that means giving an excruciatingly raw deal to a lot of vulnerable homeowners, some of whom were duped into intentionally falling behind on their mortgages in order to qualify for HAMP modifications that never came. Obama’s Treasury Department has said that it cannot even do anything to punish banks that violate HAMP’s rules.

The Obama administration knows that the housing crash isn’t over: Wall Street Journal, 21 March:

Sales of previously occupied homes in the U.S. sank by 9.6% in February and prices fell to the lowest level in nearly nine years, indications that the market remains depressed.

Existing-home sales decreased from a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.88 million, the lowest level since November, the National Association of Realtors said Monday.

The results were worse than forecast. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had expected home sales to decline by 3.9% to an annual rate of 5.15 million.

The results called into question whether the U.S. housing market is recovering or falling further.

Housing prices ultimately are going to find their bottom. The Obama administration does not wish for that to happen at a politically inconvenient time — not with unemployment still high, gasoline prices headed up, and significant inflation in food and energy prices hovering over the economy. But HAMP is an embarrassment: Basically, the banks pretend to put borrowers on the road to a permanent loan modification and then begin conveniently losing paperwork, neglecting to process it in a timely fashion, suddenly discover documentation problems, etc., with the end result that many borrowers end up far worse off than they were before. Many who might have been able to avoid losing their homes will lose them because of the corrupt way in which HAMP has been implemented.

Congress should not only end this program, it should open an investigation into the fraud connected with it. If there is any truth at all to the stories being relayed by HAMP victims, some bankers should go to jail over this.

Tags: Faint Glimmers of Hope



This is an excellent idea. Why is this sort of thing even debated? It should be SOP.

Tags: Faint Glimmers of Hope

Deficit Gangsters


Simpson-Bowles lives!

Sort of.

A “Gang of Six” in the Senate — Republicans Coburn, Crapo, and Chambliss, Democrats Durbin, Warner, and Conrad — is working to create legislation that would put many of the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction proposals into effect. That means raising the Social Security retirement age to 69, reducing Medicare benefits for higher-income oldsters, and raising taxes by getting rid of the mortgage-interest deduction and other special-interest tax breaks.

The Simpson-Bowles plan is by no means perfect — no more perfect than recent Republican efforts to make modest cuts in non-defense discretionary spending, no more perfect than Paul Ryan’s Roadmap. But each of those imperfect options represents a step in the right direction — which is to say, a step toward national solvency.

The tax part of the plan is especially good, in my view, even though it is a net tax increase for the country. The proposal would lower overall income-tax rates in exchange for eliminating a lot of special-interest tax breaks, notably the mortgage-interest deduction. The mortgage-interest deduction is a destructive force on its own, encouraging would-be homeowners to take on larger debts than they should, and to pay more interest than they should, contributing significantly to the inflation of the housing bubble and the subsequent financial crisis. It is difficult to imagine that as many people would have signed up for interest-only mortgages without a tax code that richly subsidizes them. Getting rid of it would be a good idea regardless of revenue considerations or tax-rate considerations; getting rid of it in exchange for lower income-tax rates and $4 trillion off the deficit (I know, I know — there’s a leap of faith in there, but if we’re going to spend $1, we have to tax $1) seems to me a very good deal.

The lower corporate tax is worth having, too.

All that being written, a note: This is not the most inspiring group of senators to be found. I think highly of Senator Coburn but have my reservations about any plan that leans heavily upon Senator Durbin.

In any case, I think the Republicans have already missed an opportunity on this one: An Obama-appointed commission’s bipartisan chairmen produced a program with real cuts and real improvements to the tax code — why not run with that? Why not get what’s worth getting out of Simpson-Bowles and then push for the next round? They are getting a second bite at the apple with the Gang of Six, and they should take it.

—  Kevin D. Williamson is a deputy managing editor of National Review and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism, just published by Regnery. You can buy an autographed copy through National Review Online here.

Tags: Debt , Deficit , Despair , Faint Glimmers of Hope

Excellent News: Paul Ryan Is Serious


Republican budget boss Rep. Paul Ryan drops the bomb, with a plan to reduce non-defense discretionary spending to 2008 levels — this year, not at some distant remove in the theoretical future.

If you haven’t been following the ins and outs of the Republican intramural budget battle, here’s a bit of news for you: This is a compromise, and not one that the deficit hawks really wanted. The original plan was to cut a full $100 billion this year; some Republicans argued instead for a prorated cut that reflects the fact that part of the budget year already has passed, applying the 2008 standard only to the remaining seven months. That’s what we got — a  compromise that hawks ought to be able to live with.

Good stuff, here: $58 billion off the president’s request in non-defense spending, and $16 billion off the military.

Republicans could be out there saying, “Well, let’s wait until we get the Senate back,” or “There’s not much we can do while Obama’s in the White House.” And lots of conservatives would cut them slack if they did. But they aren’t, and that is an excellent sign.

Tags: Debt , Deficits , Despair , Faint Glimmers of Hope

Juggling Sledgehammers


The good news is that Republicans are at least serious about cutting non-defense discretionary spending back to 2008 levels. The better news is that the RSC has a plan to cut them back to 2006 levels after that.

I haven’t seen any evidence that the GOP is serious about tackling the entitlements and defense spending, but they’re talking a good game so far, and they will be wise to avoid an Obamacare-style overreach that backfires on them. That’s the tricky bit:  They have to go relatively slowly, for political reasons, but they do not have forever, for economic reasons. The tools are all blunt-force implements, but the timing has to be exquisitely fine: juggling sledgehammers.

Tags: Debt , Deficits , Despair , Faint Glimmers of Hope

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