By Dan Holler
Legislative Lowdown: Continuous Gimmickry
As Americans become increasingly skeptical of government, those in power are looking for new ways to describe the same failing policies that are making them unpopular. Repackaging may work for cereals or Hollywood stars, but informed citizens won’t be fooled by such gimmickry when it comes to government spending, taxes, health care and energy policy.
Big Government Stimulus, Again
Last week, President Obama touted the results of his now $862 billion stimulus. He used the failed program’s one-year anniversary to belittle those who opposed it and, at the same time, call for another round of stimulus spending. Despite numerous signs to the contrary, and increasing public anxiety over our nation’s exploding debt, the president and his allies in Congress want to keep spending until they get it right.
This week, the Senate will take up the House-passed $154 billion stimulus, which will serve as a vehicle for a stimulus plan drafted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). That $15 billion package has generated bipartisan criticism, in part because Reid spurned a bipartisan, though not exactly conservative, stimulus plan crafted by Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Interestingly, Reid initially supported the deal, prompting Grassley to say, “Senator Reid decided that it was more important to play political games than actually saving and creating jobs in the private sector.”
If the first stimulus was so successful, why is another stimulus necessary so quickly? And if the first stimulus failed, why would a smaller version of the same failed policies succeed this time?
Of course, any stimulus that relies on government spending and intervention will fail. Instead, Congress should focus on creating a business and investment environment that isn’t burdened by excessive regulation and the looming threats of energy taxes, reckless spending, tax increases and a massive restructuring of our health care system. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) has laid out a plan that would do just that.
Health Care Summit
On Thursday, Congressional Republicans will join the president and fellow Democrats for a much-touted “bipartisan” summit on health care. Even though voters oppose Obamacare, the president has shown no indication he wants to start over and take a more conservative approach. Instead, Obama’s likely to use the media event as an opportunity to highlight “conservative” ideas buried in the House- and Senate-passed bills. Unfortunately, most of those ideas — interstate commerce, tax credit, co-ops, etc. — are conservative in name only. Rhetoric may work on the campaign trail, but details matter when it comes to policy. Unfortunately, Obamacare is dead wrong on the policy details.
Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said last week, “The House and the Senate have been very close to completing an agreement, but the president wanted to take this opportunity to circle back with our Republican colleagues and give them one more chance.” One more chance to do what? Support a proposal that 60 percent of Americans tell pollsters should be scrapped completely? The president will give conservatives a false choice. Responsible policymakers are unlikely to fall for it.
A New Assault on the American Economy
Cap-and-trade appears dead. The Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to impose a hidden energy tax is being met with fierce resistance. And the “settled science” of global warming is now being questioned because of Climategate. However, Americans are about to be introduced to a new term of global warming art: CLEAN ENERGY STANDARD. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is floating a proposal that would mandate a certain percentage of our nation’s energy come from “clean energy.” While there’s nothing inherently wrong with clean energy, mandating the use of any type of energy is bad public policy.
Included in Graham’s definition of “clean energy” is new nuclear power. President Obama is making a similar calculation. He’s offered loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants, hoping that will convince skeptical lawmakers to join his climate-change crusade.
Yet while they’re touting nuclear power as a solution, neither Graham nor Obama has addressed the key hurdles facing the industry. In fact, the President wants to defund Yucca Mountain, which is supposed to be a permanent storage area for nuclear waste. Equally as important (if nuclear is to succeed in a free-market) is the need to make the regulatory process more efficient. Of course, a mandate to use certain types of energy is very different from the free market. A clean energy standard is just another gimmick to increase the price of energy sources that emit carbon dioxide.
America needs an effective energy policy. According to the Congressional Research Service, “the United States remains among the top nations in proved reserves of all fossil fuels taken together.” In other words, our country has tremendous sources of domestic energy available. If policymakers are interested in creating jobs, they should make those resources accessible. Once again, conservatives have answers. The “No Cost Stimulus” introduced by Senator David Vitter (R-LA) and Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT) would open up domestic exploration, cut the red tape and create jobs that don’t need to be subsidized by taxpayers.