Archive for the ‘Congress – Senate’ Category

Trump threatens to make Congress live by the laws they pass ….

July 31, 2017

Starting with Congressional ObamaCare carve-outs.

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It’s no secret that I get annoyed every time Congress passes legislation that provides that it doesn’t apply to them.

See Should lawmakers (and regulators) have to eat their own cooking?

So, I was delighted when President Trump tweeted over the weekend:

“If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly … BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!”

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Here’s the back story …

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How much do Congressmen get paid?

November 24, 2015

With the constant political mess in Congress, I started to wonder (again): why do these guys work so hard to get elected?  Is it worth it?

Since Congress is gridlocked  … and, since the President is end-running  Congress on most matters … the fulfillment can’t be “having an impact”.

So, it must be something else.

Money, maybe?

Raises the question: how much dough gets thrown into the pot?

 

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 Here’s the scoop…

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How much do Congressmen get paid?

September 28, 2015

With the Boehner resignation, I started to wonder (again): why do these guys work so hard to get elected?  Is it worth it?

Since Congress is gridlocked  … and, since the President is end-running  Congress on most matters … the fulfillment can’t be “having an impact”.

So, it must be something else.

Money, maybe?

Raises the question: how much dough gets thrown into the pot?

 

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 Here’s the scoop…

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TPA & TPP for Dummies (like me)

June 19, 2015

As an economist by training and a political junkie by avocation, you’d think that the current hubbub re: TPA & TPP would be immediately clear to me.

Nope.

I’ve listened closely to the politicos (Paul Ryan included) talk about TPA and TPP …  all they’ve done is muddle things.

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After chatting with a pol-in-the-know, I think that I at least understand the questions … and the reasons for the dust-up.

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How much do Congressmen get paid?

September 29, 2014

With the run-up to the midterm elections, I started to wonder (again): why do these guys work so hard to get elected?  Is it worth it?

Since Congress is gridlocked  … and, since the President is end-running  Congress on most matters … th fulfillment can’t be “having an impact”.

So, it must be something else.

Money, maybe?

Raises the question: how much dough gets thrown into the pot?

 

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 Here’s the scoop…

(more…)

Congress cut military pensions … did they cut their own?

December 20, 2013

The flap over the budget deal that cut military pensions – including those for disabled vets — resurrected an old question of mine: I’ve always wondered what retired members of the Congress and Senate got to live on when they retired.

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Here’s the scoop …

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Deja Vu: Anybody remember zero-based budgeting?

October 3, 2013

First, a quick refresher course courtesy of the Government Finance Officers Association (of Canada, that is).

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When using zero-base budgeting (ZBB), a government builds a budget from the ground up, starting from zero.

There has been renewed interest in ZBB in today’s environment of fiscal constraint, not least because the “zero” in zero-base budgeting sends a powerful message that taxes and spending will be held in check.

Zero-base budgeting, also known simply as ZBB, has had a long …  history in the public sector.

Zero-base budgeting first rose to prominence in government in the 1970s when U.S. President Jimmy Carter promised to balance the federal budget in his first term and reform the federal budgeting system using zero-base budgeting, a system he had used while governor of Georgia.

ZBB, as Carter and budget theorists envisioned it, requires expenditure proposals to compete for funding on an equal basis – starting from zero. In theory, the organization’s entire budget needs to be justified and approved, rather than just the incremental change from the prior year.

Today, there is an apparent resurgent interest in ZBB.

GFOA’s survey shows that traditional budgeting methods, namely line-item and incremental budgeting, have declined in use in the last few years, while all forms of budgeting that are thought to be better adapted to cutting back the budget, not just ZBB, have increased Source

OK, they’re talking about Canada, not the U.S.

Still a couple of takeaways:

1. The process – in government, at least – traces back to Jimmy Carter.

2. Many Canadian governments are using ZBB

3. In Canada, the use of ZBB is increasing

Now. here’s what I think is interesting …

 


Although they stumbled into it, the GOP may have landed on a masterful plan.

In effect, the GOP’s piecemeal approach to unraveling the government shutdown is nothing more than real-time ZBB.

Think about it for a second.

A week ago the gambit was to fund everything except ObamaCare.

Non-starter, right?

Now, in concept at least, the piecemealing approach allows everything to be funded … except ObamaCare.

Everything that matters – either really or because of political optics – can be quickly restored with short, separate authorization bills.

Anything that’s questionable stays squashed.

Anything that’s essential gets an appropriation,

Eventually everything that’s essential gets funded.

Gee, that sounds like zero-based budgeting, doesn’t it?

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Congressional brain drain … say, what?

September 24, 2013

I’ve been meaning to write about this for awhile – and since it’s back in the news, I’ll take my shot.

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You’ve probably heard that Congress and Congressional staffs – as part of the ObamaCare law – were required to get their health insurance on the newly forming ObamaCare exchanges and give up some of their generous government subsidies.

More specifically:

The ObamaCare Act applied to Congress the same civil-rights employment and labor laws that lawmakers had required everyday citizens to abide by.

With some lapses, it’s worked well to defuse public outrage about “one law for thee, one law for me” congressional behavior.

In 2009, Senator Chuck Grassley decided that the principle deserved to be embedded in Obamacare, and he was able to insert a provision requiring all members of Congress and their staffs to get insurance through the Obamacare health exchanges.

“The more that Congress experiences the laws it passes, the better,” said Grassley.

Most employment lawyers interpreted that to mean that the taxpayer-funded federal health-insurance subsidies dispensed to those on Congress’s payroll — which now range from $5,000 to $11,000 a year — would have to end.

Source

Makes sense to me – make them eat their own cooking.

But, there’s much more to this story …

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Some highlights (and many lowlights) from last Friday’s trip to Capitol Hill …

February 20, 2012

On Friday, we took an out-of-town friend to see the Capitol complex.

Let me be more specific, last Friday around noon, we took an out-of-town friend to the Capitol Visitors’ Center.

Know where I’m going with this?

According to the Washington Post:

Federal authorities on Friday arrested a 29-year-old Moroccan man in an alleged plot to carry out a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol,.

When arrested a few blocks from the Capitol around lunchtime on Friday, he was carrying what he believed to be a loaded automatic weapon and a suicide vest ready for detonation.

Suffice it to say, our group would have been very disappointed if we had gotten our butts blown off by the wingnut.

Since we didn’t, we’ll call that a highlight.

We got gallery passes to watch both the Senate and the Congress … hoping to catch a break and see them — with our very own eyes — increase the deficit by $180 billion and edge Social Security closer to insolvency.

First stop: House of Representatives.

When we walked in there was a “Member” speaking — no idea who the dude was.

Who was he speaking to, you ask?

Answer: NOBODY !

There was not a single other Member present to listen to to the guy — just a the House clerk, a couple of pages and a couple of court recorders — you know, the jobs that became obsolete about 30 years ago.

When the first guy was done talking, the was replaced at the podium by a “gentleman from Maryland” who must have been at least 120 years old.

He was mumbling so badly that we walked out … heading for the Senate.

When we walked into the Senate, Mike Lee– one of my favorites — was talking.

He was giving a spirited stop-the-spending speech to … NOBODY!

Again, not a single other Senator was hanging around to hear his pitch.

When he finished, Orin Hatch — another of my favorites — strolled in.

He gave a passionate defense of religious rights to … NOBODY.

When he finished, Harry Reed marched in.  We’re still not sure what he was blabbing about … our guest thought it had something to do with stalled appointments.

The best part of the day came when votes were held … with Harry Reed being the only Senator in the room.

First, there were a couple of things passed “without objection”.

Translation: the parliamentarian polled the room “Are there any objections?”

Of course not, you jackass, Harry Reed is the only one in the room…

“Passed without objection.”

The sublime became ridiculous when an actual vote was taken.

Again, Reed’s the only Senator present.

The parliamentarian commanded: “All those agreeing say ‘aye’.”

Reed chirps “aye”.

“All opposed say ‘nay’”

Still nobody else present, you jackass.

“The ayes have it, motion is accepted.”

I thought I was in the Twilight Zone.

I was still hoping that the other 99 Senators would storm in to vote on the payroll tax budget buster.

But, the parliamentarian just shouted: “Adjourned until next Tuesday at noon.”

Bummer.

I’d like to say I feel better about the process having watched it first hand.

I’d like to say that , but I can’t.

What a joke.

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The last debt ceiling vote …

July 20, 2011

Bush was President.

All Dem senators voted against raising the debt ceiling … including Sen. Obama (D-IL)  and Sen. Biden (D-DE).

I guess where you stand depends on where you’re sitting …

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Source: Senate Web Site

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How many lawyers are there in the Senate ?

November 1, 2010

Short answer: too many

Or, as Ron Johnson, the Republican businessman currently running ahead of Wisconsin’s incumbent senator Finegold says:

There are 100 members of the U.S. Senate.

Fifty-seven of them, including Russ Feingold, are lawyers.

That’d be fine if we had a lawsuit to settle, but we have an economy to fix.

There are zero manufacturers and one accountant.

It’s no wonder we’re losing jobs and piling up debt. …

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/opinion/s_706364.html

Great idea: How about extending SarbOx to Congress ?

April 1, 2010

Several companies have announced mega first quarter earnings charges to reflect the impact of ObamaCare. AT&T’s write-off: a staggering $1 billion.

The accounting is relatively straightforward: the companies have a future liability on their balance sheets — benefit payments to retirees for prescription drugs.  That liability was being partially offset by a favorable tax treatment that’s being eliminated by ObamaCare.  So, the liability has to be restated upward by the amount of the lost tax benefits.  That’s done by a non-cash charge to the P&L that must be recognized as soon as it’s evident.

Now, the Feds want the companies’ CEOs testify and provide evidence of the law’s projected impact.

Almost immediately, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman of California and Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, chairman of the Oversight and Investigations panel, announced plans to hold an April 21 hearing on “claims by Caterpillar, Verizon, and Deere that provisions in the new health care reform law could adversely affect their company’s (costs) and ability to provide health insurance to their employees. These assertions appear to conflict with independent analyses, which show that the new law will expand coverage and bring down costs.”
http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2010/03/26/companies-charges-prompt-a-hearing/

One can reasonably expect that the Feds will try to browbeat the companies into making the charges go away (after all, its bad publicity) by recognizing that ObamaCare will substantially bend the health care cost curve downward.

Yeah, right.

Under Sarbanes-Oxley, CEOs have to sign off on the integrity of their company’s financial statements under penalty of fines and jail time.

Now, pardon these CEOs if they conclude — like many other folks — that the administrations’s financial projections re: huge cost savings, premium cuts, deficit reductions, etc., are at best uncertain, or at worst complete BS.

If that’s what they conclude  — and if they sign financial statements that are based on the incredible projections —  and if the pie-in-the-sky ObamaCare projections don’t materialize — then they get carted off to jail under Sarb-Ox. Uh-oh.

Perhaps Reps. Waxman and Stupak should have to sign the companies’ financial statements — under penalty of hard time in jail if the ObamaCare benefits don’t materialize.

Thinking more broadly, why not make all Senators and Congressmen who voted for ObamaCare sign statements that they’ll go to jail if the cost curve isn’t bent down, if the deficit isn’t reduced, and if premiums don’t plummet.  They should be willing since they profess to believe and voted accordingly.

Or, thinking even more broadly, why not make our sleazy reps sign similar statements every time they sign a bill with economic consequences.

If not jail time, at least make them forfeit their lucrative government pensions and retirement businesses.

Why not ?

Must read: "Americans feel increasingly disheartened, and our leaders don’t even notice."

October 30, 2009

Ken’s Take: I’ve said many times before that I love reading Peggy Noonan — even though I don’t always agree with her .  (For my more  liberal friends, keep in mind that she was onboard the Obama train in ’08.)

What she’s always able to do is dive down beneath the superficial and get to the core — the philosophical and emotive stuff that most other analysts miss.  She invariably provokes my thinking … and, she’s a wonderful writer to boot.

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Excerpted from WSJ: We’re Governed by Callous Children, Oct. 29, 2009 

The new economic statistics put growth at a healthy 3.5% for the third quarter. We should be dancing in the streets. No one is, because no one has any faith in these numbers.

Waves of money are sloshing through the system, creating a false rising tide that lifts all boats for the moment. The tide will recede. The boats aren’t rising, they’re bobbing, and will settle.

No one believes the bad time is over. No one thinks we’re entering a new age of abundance. No one thinks it will ever be the same as before 2008.

Economists, statisticians, forecasters and market specialists will argue about what the new numbers mean, but no one believes them, either. Among the things swept away in 2008 was public confidence in the experts.

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The biggest threat to America right now is not government spending, huge deficits, foreign ownership of our debt, world terrorism, two wars, potential epidemics or nuts with nukes.

The biggest long-term threat is that people are becoming and have become disheartened, that this condition is reaching critical mass, and that it afflicts most broadly and deeply those members of the American leadership class who are not in Washington, most especially those in business.

It is a story in two parts. The first: “They do not think they can make it better.”

The most sophisticated Americans, experienced in how the country works on the ground, can’t see a way out.

This is historic. This is something new in modern political history … Americans are starting to think the problems we are facing cannot be solved.

Part of the reason is that the problems—debt, spending, war—seem too big.

But a larger part is that our federal government, from the White House through Congress, and so many state and local governments, seems to be demonstrating every day that they cannot make things better.

They are not offering a new path, they are only offering old paths—spend more, regulate more, tax more in an attempt to make us more healthy locally and nationally. And in the long term everyone—well, not those in government, but most everyone else—seems to know that won’t work.

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And so the disheartenedness … of even those who have something.

This week the New York Post carried a report that 1.5 million people had left high-tax New York state between 2000 and 2008, more than a million of them from even higher-tax New York City. They took their tax dollars with them—in 2006 alone more than $4 billion.

You know what New York, both state and city, will do to make up for the lost money. They’ll raise taxes.

I talked with an executive this week.   He was thoughtful, reflective about the big picture. He talked about all the new proposed regulations on industry. Rep. Barney Frank had just said on some cable show that the Democrats of the White House and Congress “are trying on every front to increase the role of government in the regulatory area.”

The executive said of Washington: “They don’t understand that people can just stop, get out. I have friends and colleagues who’ve said to me ‘I’m done.’ ” He spoke of his own increasing tax burden and said, “They don’t understand that if they start to tax me so that I’m paying 60%, 55%, I’ll stop.”

Government doesn’t understand that business in America is run by people, by human beings.

Mr. Frank must believe America is populated by high-achieving robots who will obey whatever command he and his friends issue.

But of course they’re human, and they can become disheartened. They can pack it in, go elsewhere, quit what used to be called the rat race and might as well be called that again since the government seems to think they’re all rats.

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And here is the second part of the story.

While Americans feel increasingly disheartened, their leaders evince a mindless callousness.

It is a curious thing that those who feel most mistily affectionate toward America, and most protective toward it, are the most aware of its vulnerabilities, the most aware that it can be harmed. They don’t see it as all-powerful, impregnable, unharmable. The loving have a sense of its limits.

When I see those in government, both locally and in Washington, spend and tax and come up each day with new ways to spend and tax—health care, cap and trade, etc.—I think: Why aren’t they worried about the impact of what they’re doing? Why do they think America is so strong it can take endless abuse?

They don’t feel anxious, because they never had anything to be anxious about. They grew up in an America surrounded by phrases—”strongest nation in the world,” “indispensable nation,” “unipolar power,” “highest standard of living”—and they are not bright enough, or serious enough, to imagine that they can damage that, hurt it, even fatally.

We are governed at all levels by America’s luckiest children, sons and daughters of the abundance, and they call themselves optimists but they’re not optimists—they’re unimaginative.

They don’t have faith, they’ve just never been foreclosed on.

They are stupid and they are callous, and they don’t mind it when people become disheartened. They don’t even notice.

Full article:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703363704574503631430926354.html?mod=djemEditorialPage

Throw the bums out … 57% say “get rid of the entire Congress”

September 2, 2009

A recent Rasmussen survey asked likely voters:

“Suppose you could vote this fall on whether to get rid of the entire Congress and start over again.
Would you vote to keep the entire Congress or get rid of the entire Congress? “

The survey said:

25% Keep the entire Congress
57% Get rid of the entire Congress
18% Not sure

70% of independents said they would vote to replace all of the elected politicians in the House and Senate.

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Some drill down diagnostics:

74% trust their own economic judgment more than Congress’.

67% are NOT Confident that Congress knows what its doing on economy

59% think that members of Congress are overpaid

54% do NOT think that members of Congress understand legislation that they vote on

42% think that a group selected from the phone book would do a better job

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Interesting background:

More than 90% of Congress routinely gets reelected every two years.

When the Constitution was written, the nation’s founders expected that there would be a 50% turnover in the House of Representatives every election cycle since that was the experience they witnessed in state legislatures at the time.

For well over 100 years after the Constitution was adopted, the turnover averaged in the 50% range as expected.

In the 20th century, starting with the New Deal era, turnover began to decline.

In 1968, congressional turnover fell to single digits for the first time ever, and it has remained very low ever since.

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Source: Rasmussen, “57% Would Like to Replace Entire Congress”,  August 30, 2009:
http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/august_2009/57_would_like_to_replace_entire_congress

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