Newsletter 87 - Fall 2017
•Convention of states
•Politics is a tough racket
•UD may go green
Time flies – There is a natural tendency to procrastinate about addressing difficult problems. Let’s deal with that tomorrow – next month – after the next election. Meanwhile, the problems grow and become increasingly difficult to solve.
Not so very long ago, the national debt was $5 trillion, or about “$19,000 for every man, woman and child in the U.S.” SAFE newsletter, Spring 1996. The debt is now over $20 trillion ($61,000 per person) and rising some $0.5 trillion per year.
Acknowledgement of the fiscal problem would be a start, but real solutions would require timely actions on multiple fronts. It doesn’t seem that such actions are being seriously considered.
Budget projections reflect no credible plans to eliminate deficits. There has been little progress in curbing wasteful spending. The GOP promise to “repeal and replace” GovCare remains unfulfilled. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will clearly not be affordable over the longer term, yet no plans are being developed to dial them back.
Unless corrective action is taken, lenders will eventually lose confidence in the government’s intention to repay the debt. Seniors may hope the resulting fiscal meltdown will come after they are gone, but younger Americans should demand corrective action pronto. America’s Debt Crisis Explained, Michael Tanner (Cato Institute), video (5:05), 2014. .
Lower level governments have made similar mistakes. In 2009, for example, SAFE pointed out two areas in which there were cost cutting opportunities for Delaware – school district consolidation and adjustments to the state’s Medicaid program. Eight years later, both areas are finally being reviewed. Delaware’s plan to slow healthcare cost growth, 9/18/17.
SAFE relevance – There are signs that some people in DC may be visiting SAFE’s website, or at least that our commentary is in synch with the national political conversation. Herewith some examples.
FIRST, the president’s budget proposal and the budget outline developed by the House Budget Committee both projected that it would take ten years to eliminate the current deficit of some $0.5 trillion per year. In contrast, a budget outline developed by the Republican Study Committee in the House concluded that – by dint of more aggressive spending cuts and restructuring of entitlement programs – the budget could be balanced in six years, after which the government would start running a surplus and paying down debt. Although we would like to see the budget balanced even faster, the RSC budget is certainly closer to the mark than the official budgets.
And guess what, the title of the RSC budget for fiscal year 2018 is “Securing America’s Future Economy” – which is almost identical to the name of our little group – and we’re pleased as punch about it! Let’s hear it for the SAFE budget, 8/21/17.
SECOND, the Senate filibuster rule doesn’t promote thoughtful debate, in our view, but to the contrary is primarily serving to block consideration of important legislation. In effect, a 3/5 supermajority is being required for the approval of most legislation, whereas the US Constitution only calls for a super-majority vote in a few special cases (e.g., Senate ratification of treaties or proposed constitutional amendments). Time to bin the filibuster, 4/3/17. http://bit.ly/2nLQBxD
Senate Democrats are dead set against abolishing the filibuster, which would reduce their influence in the legislative process, and many Republicans feel the same way. So long as the Senate filibuster rule remains in effect, there doesn’t seem to be much chance for a solid tax reform bill or for responsible management of the congressional budget system. Oops, that’s not what was supposed to happen, 9/11/17.
The president is on the same page as SAFE, apparently, so perhaps this issue will be resolved to our satisfaction. Trump calls for end of filibuster to get things done “fast and easy,” newsmax.com, 5/30/17.
The U.S. Senate should switch to 51 votes, immediately, and get Healthcare and TAX CUTS approved, fast and easy. Dems would do it, no doubt!
THIRD, we recently reviewed a major speech by the president on tax reform; several of our comments were reflected in his second speech on the subject, which was given only days later. Here’s an example:
#The president, Springfield, MO, 8/30/17 – “[We] want to bring back trillions of dollars in wealth that's parked overseas. Because of our high tax rate and horrible, outdated, bureaucratic rules, large companies that do business overseas will often park their profits offshore to avoid paying a high United States tax if the money is brought back home.”
#SAFE blog entry, 9/4/17 – “What tax law change(s) would be made for future foreign earnings? The answer (a shift to a territorial system for foreign earnings, like most other countries) should probably be stated in the interest of completeness.”
#The president, Bismarck, ND, 9/8/17 – “And finally, we must bring back trillions of dollars in wealth that's parked overseas and just can't come back. *** We’re going to be switching from a worldwide tax system that encourages companies to keep their funds offshore to a territorial system that encourages companies to bring their profits back home to America where that money belongs.”
Public domain -To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To borrow ideas from many is research.
Convention of States – Our nation began as a union of states, with much of the political power reserved to the several states and the people. Ambitious presidents and members of Congress eventually asserted jurisdiction over various matters (education, healthcare, etc.), however, which had initially been seen as state or local in nature.
Moreover, management of federal programs has increasingly been delegated to a hodgepodge of federal agencies, with the result that our daily lives are being controlled in countless ways by officials who we the people don’t elect and can’t fire.
The political class in DC isn’t about to do anything that would reduce its own power, so what can be done to improve matters? One idea that keeps coming up is to convene a “convention of states” under Article V of the Constitution to propose constitutional amendments that would focus the federal government on national issues and shift responsibility for other matters back to the states.
Conservative opinion is split on this idea, but SAFE has concluded – after weighing the pros and cons – that a COS could be worth pursuing. It’s time to reboot the political system, 5/30/16 & 6/6/16.
To get Congress to call for a COS, it would be necessary to persuade the legislatures of at least 34 states (2/3) to join in a common resolution as to the issues to be considered. A Convention of States project headed by Mark Meckler is working to line up support, and at last count had persuaded the legislatures of a dozen states to support its list of issues with active efforts underway in many other states.
There have been two COS project events in Delaware: (1) Regional coordinator Ken Quinn spoke to the Retired Men’s Luncheon Club on 3/17/17; (2) NJ district captains Lee Mack & Bill Truax spoke to the Conservative Caucus of Delaware on 8/1/17.
SAFE is primarily a “think tank” versus an activist group, but we will give further thought to whether the COS project should be supported and if so how to go about it.
Politics is a tough racket - If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. – Harry Truman (attributed)
UD may go green – Delaware is phasing in a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which will call for at least 25% of electric power distributed in the state to be derived from “renewable” resources (including wind, solar, and Bloom Energy fuel cells) by 2025.
Facilities generating power from these sources are more expensive than conventional power plants, and wind and solar facilities operate intermittently so they must be backed up by more reliable power sources. Ergo, the RPS will result in higher prices for electric power.
The prime justification for the RPS is to reduce the burning of fossil fuels, supposedly helping to combat manmade global warming. This doesn’t apply for Bloom Energy fuel cells powered by natural gas, however, which were classed as “renewable” by the General Assembly based on the anticipated creation of “green” jobs in Delaware.
Some devotees of the manmade global warming theory would like to accelerate the RPS. To this end, the University of Delaware Faculty Senate recently adopted a resolution (32 yeas, 10 nays and one abstention) calling for the university to “power its campuses and installations with 100% renewable energy” [wind and solar power, ex power from Bloom Energy fuel cells, and power from other sources if fully covered by renewable energy credits] before January 1, 2020.
The resolution provides for consideration of “fiscal implications” and “economic practicability.” One faculty member suggested, however, that “a possible interpretation is that we’re going to figure out if it makes sense, and, in any event, the university should still go ahead and do it no matter what anyone thinks.” First Faculty Senate meeting addresses . . . renewable energy, Jacob Baumgart, udreview.com, 9/13/17.
Operating a large and dynamic university with 100% wind and solar power would be wildly impractical, so it will never happen, but just imagine the fallout if UD started closing the library at 5:00 PM every night because there wasn’t any juice to keep the lights on.
Red tape – Why do politicians try so hard to get re-elected? They would hate to try to make a living under the laws they've passed.
Video corner: #The Fabulous Fifties, music and images from a bygone era, 4:34; Share the joy of a remarkable golf shot, Justin Spieth, 6/26/17, 1:22.
Transition – With the passage of time, some SAFE members have asked to be dropped from the rolls because they are cutting back on their activities and commitments. Such a decision is often paired with continuing appreciation for the SAFE agenda, as was eloquently expressed in a recent note from long-time member Gregory Fleming.
Thanks deeply for the work you are doing on behalf of all. Bill Morris introduced me to your extraordinary group many years ago – but it is time for me to cheer from the sidelines. Can you believe the debt ceiling is on its way up again! Please keep up the good fight! God speed! Cheers!
Moral: SAFE needs to fill in its ranks by attracting some younger members. Remember that we are fighting to protect the interests of future generations, which have the most to lose if this nation comes a cropper.
Andrew Betley, (302) 239-9679
Dan Kerrick, treasurer, (302) 658-7101
Steve McClain, (302) 998-3910
Jerry Martin, (302) 478-5064
rycK Stout, (302) 478-9495
Bill Whipple, president, (302) 464-2688
For e-mail addresses see: http://bit.ly/2xArV1q
Join us - SAFE is a non-partisan, all-volunteer organization that was founded in 1996. We advocate smaller, more focused, lower cost government, to be achieved by cutting spending, restructuring “entitlements,” simplifying taxes, and rationalizing regulations.
The SAFE agenda is promoted through: (1) Our website, including issue statements, a weekly blog, and a “Delaware Chatter” microblog; (2) Letters to the editor, public events, legislative contacts, etc., which are also posted and/or recapped on the website; (3) This quarterly newsletter, available in print (since 1996) and now electronic editions; and (4) Posts on Twitter and/or Facebook (click icons on the website to access).
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