On Wednesday, the Congress welcomes its new members. Many of them are very conservative, Tea Party candidates. With the deals made in the lame-duck session, the fiscal picture is much worse than was just weeks ago on Election Day.
What are the facing and can they fix it? They can make a good start. Make no mistake: It will be the mission of the leadership of the Democrat Party in Congress to get Republicans, and especially, freshman Tea Party Members off course. Democrats will still get face time in the mainstream media. It will be incumbent upon us, the talkers, bloggers, writers and Tea Party citizens, to keep the pressure on.
They, the Democrats, will throw everything but the kitchen sink at the Republican Leaders in the House to get them off the track of repealing ObamaCare, replacing the current tax system with one that will help the economy and, most important, reducing by at least 25% over the next three years the overall size of government. These are the Martha Zoller Tea Party objectives, but they reflect the “neighborhood” these new Members live in.
Tuesday night, Sean Hannity and Frank Luntz got a group of incoming Members of Congress to talk about the task ahead. One of the key questions for this group is, “How will they stick to their principles with everyone gunning for them to fail?” Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.) said, “Most of us who are here, we don’t want a career in politics. We want to come down here now and change the course the country’s on. With that in mind, it’s easier to stick to our principles.”
We also want to know if they consider themselves Republicans first or Conservatives first? The entire group indicated they were Conservatives first. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) said, “It’s extremely important to note something, I consider myself, and I think I can speak for everyone here, I’m an American first. We’ve become way too polarized.” Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) said, “Voters want freedom and liberty and they want government to go away. They’ll be fine, thank you very much.”
It’s heartening to me to see these members from across the country expressing these ideas. New Members from the Northeast, South, West and Midwest are seemingly united in the need to put our fiscal house in order.
It is the most important goal to get the fiscal side of this nation back on track. It’s not just about tax cuts, there has to be a radical reduction in the size of government, and it’s going to hurt. The consequences of the deals made in the lame-duck session were a setback, but the setback is not insurmountable. The Bush tax rates had to be extended, so the deal had to be made. We must never forget this was the old, Democrat-controlled Congress.
All these deficit predictions are really just numbers based on the current law on the books. We can radically change them, but we have to be prepared for the numbers to get worse on paper before they get better in actuality.
Phil Smith from the Concord Coalition commented on the “hundreds of billions” added to the deficit in the lame-duck session. He said, “This confusion exists somewhat because the CBO is required to assemble deficit projections based on current law. Current law, up until a few days ago, provided that those tax cuts would expire. So as ugly as their deficit charts were (and most of mine, since I use a lot of their stuff), they just got even uglier.”
Remember the projections of surpluses in the 1990s? Even the projections in the early 2000s never seemed to come out as projected. When they are good, they seem to get better every quarter. When they are bad, they seem to get worse every quarter. The CBO projects with current law and based on static assumptions. Economic growth alone won’t grow us out of it, we have to reduce the size of government, but economic growth will make the picture better, quicker. The American people need to see things get better, quicker.
It will be important for the new Congress to hit the ground running because the moment of truth on the lame-duck deal and on the 112th Congress will be what it does before it’s time to revisit the expiration dates of the main components of the deal. Ideally, these short-term policies will give Congress and the President time to consider fundamental tax reform along with long-term spending restraint.
“The sooner we can break out of the box from our current patchwork of tax-cut sunsets and tax expenditures and replace these policies with a more efficient, more permanent, and more responsible tax policy, the easier it will be to break out of the short-termism affecting the rest of the nation’s fiscal policy,” Phil Smith said.
The new Congress has its work cut out for it. The Leadership and the new Speaker Boehner will be important, but the tenacity and ultimate success of the freshman Members will determine the success of the Congress. I’m betting on them.