STORY #1: The general revenue drain
Manitobans who are reasonably informed about government budgets have come to dread the term “general revenue”; around here, it’s considered a code word for “the money they use to pay bureaucrats.” While I can’t confidently say the same about the U.S. federal budget, I can say two lawmakers, Reps. Janice Hahn (D-CA) and Ted Poe (R-TX), have identified a relevant problem. They’re drafting a bill that would funnel revenue from the Harbor Maintenance Tax into . . . well, harbor maintenance.
How many problems around the country would be solved if these specialized taxes were actually used for their stated purpose? I would like to see legislation that requires this of all federal taxes resembling the Harbor Maintenance Tax, with exceptions for funds unspent by the end of the fiscal year, or extenuating circumstances (recession, national emergency, war). Any industry that depends on seaports suffers from shabby harbors. The economy will benefit from getting them in shape – and this move could reduce some overall budget bloat.
STORY #2: The non-starters
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) really doesn’t thrive on competition all that much. If he did, he might be more open to forming a conference committee on the House and Senate budgets without his proposed “framework.” His requires preconditions that the budget not include tax hikes or debt ceiling increases. Contrast this with Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) proposed framework, buried in this article, which would be “centered on elements of commonality” in President Obama’s budget proposal and his. Hey, it’s better than McConnell’s idea.
Not that Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is an angel when it comes to conferencing; she says Ryan’s proposal for partial Medicare privatization is a “non-starter.” Obama, for his part, isn’t willing to compromise on the debt limit, demanding that Congress develop a grand bargain on the debt and avoid any scrambling to raise the ceiling. Does that mean he’d veto any budget that didn’t meet his criteria of a grand bargain? That would be completely understandable. I just wouldn’t want him to get his hopes up that it’ll only take him one try after about four other tries.
STORY #3: Attempted compromise
Here’s one reason why the topic of compromising on the debt ceiling has come up: The Full Faith and Credit Act, which would allow the government to borrow above the limit should they hit it, but only to pay bondholders and fund Social Security. You know why Obama doesn’t want it; Democrats don’t because, according to them, it leaves federal programs behind, mostly for China. I’m inclined to agree with the GOP on this one. If nothing else, it could demonstrate to the Democrats why ceiling hike after ceiling hike is getting them all nowhere.