Loose Canons

Jordan’s Trillions

Obama will compromise only if cornered -- and a rising Ohio congressman's House Republican Study Committee knows it.

By 1.24.11

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The first major speech of President Obama's 2012 reelection campaign will be given tomorrow night before a joint session of Congress.

The White House -- through its media avatars such as the New York Times -- have begun setting the narrative for the campaign. According to the narrative, Obama is the second coming of Bill Clinton, craftily morphing his liberalism into centrism without alienating his liberal base, eager to move the nation forward in compromise with the Republicans returned to power in November.

It is a fiction: Obama is not moderating in any respect, and he won't compromise except to the extent that he will be forced to do so by the Republican House.

As the Times "reported" yesterday, Obama's purported moderation "…means emphasizing job creation, deficit reduction and a willingness to compromise in a new period of divided government. But it also means a willingness to make the case for spending -- or investment, as many in his party would prefer to call it -- in areas like education, transportation and technological innovation when it can be justified as essential to the nation's long-term prosperity."

Barry will be playing a fiscal con game in his State of the Union address. Barry's game isn't a Ponzi scheme: his fiscal con game is the budgetary equivalent of one of those diets that promises you'll lose weight no matter how much you eat. Spend more, he will say, to reduce our deficit.

(If only one of the Republicans were a ventriloquist. He could sit next to Harry Reid or Dick Durbin, shout "You Lie!" at Obama, and make it sound as if it came from Dick or Harry.)

Obama will compromise only when cornered. As part of any deals with the House Republican majority, he will insist on increasing the size and cost of government as much as he is allowed to get away with. To beat this, the Republicans need to have better ideas.

They usually do, but the Obama media don't report them. How many times did the media bemoan Republican "obstructionism" on healthcare, telling American voters that the Republicans had no alternative to it? The simply refused to talk about the conservative healthcare reform bills Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) had introduced because the ideas in those bills were solid and didn't include nationalizing 16% of the nation's economy.

Now, of course, the media won't report -- except to criticize in passing -- the conservative ideas for spending cuts which should be the price extracted from Obama in any legislation to raise the federal debt ceiling: the House Republican Study Committee's forthcoming bill to slash federal spending.

Ohio's Jim Jordan, the new House Republican Study Committee Chairman, isn't yet well known, but he will be soon. A champion wrestler in his high school days, Jordan is one of those quick, wiry guys who has enough energy to propel a medium-sized ship. He sizes up issues and people quickly and -- in what I've seen of him over the past few years -- he's an effective leader. He and his Senate counterpart -- Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) have precisely the right idea at the right time: to cut $2.5 trillion off the federal spending tree over the next ten years. Their proposals, to be introduced this week, don't just freeze spending at an already-too-high level. They take the Federalist approach to get the federal government out of many of the parts of our society in which it just doesn't belong.

A spokesman for Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, called the proposal "radical." Thank heaven it is.

Shortly after the November election, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell told me that we need to have a serious conversation about federalism, and that conservative governors -- himself and Mississippi's Haley Barbour, among others -- were going to work with Congress to devise a way to get the government out of the parts of our economy and our culture in which it has no constitutional mandate to intervene.

That theme is reflected in the RSC and Senate proposals. They would halt any further spending of the "Obama stimulus" money (some $45 billion still in the kitty), eliminate federal control of mortgage guarantors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (saving about $30 billion) cut from the federal budget and eject the government from a host of areas it shouldn't be involved in.

That point is the most important ideologically and the one that will resonate most strongly with American voters.

Many of these terminated programs are totems of Washington liberalism: they are so perfectly unrelated to the constitutional purpose of government that every federal dollar they spend is an affront to every taxpayer. They include, among many others, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the liberal government broadcasting arm, and the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, Amtrak subsidies and the Legal Services Corporation.

But as ideologically important as those cuts are, the big money lies elsewhere. They get to $2.5 trillion by reducing non-defense federal spending to 2006 levels and -- with many more Federalist-type cuts included -- by reducing the federal bureaucratic workforce by 15% and freezing federal workers' pay for five years. They also save $1 billion per year by repealing the Davis-Bacon Act which requires federal building contractors to pay union-set wage levels, hugely increasing the price of construction projects.

Just how radical the proposals are was outlined by Dana Milbank in Saturday's Washington Post. Milbank believes it's just those awful conservatives hitting the liberal eastern elites with some payback. He wrote, "The cuts they did spell out were relatively small -- $330 billion over 10 years -- but their choices left little doubt that they were trying to stir up cultural and political mischief…Those eastern elites, in addition to losing their NPR, PBS and other cultural offerings, would have to part with their Amtrak subsidies and their money to fight beach erosion. Greens would lose funds for the National Organic Certification program."

The liberal elitist Washington Post columnist has come close to the right conclusion missing by one quantum of reasoning. The DeMint-Jordan proposal is not a payback aimed at causing personal pain to liberals. But it is payback of a sort, seeking to roll back a lot of their worst initiatives that placed the government in control of parts of our economy and culture from which it should be banished.

In the next month, the debate over whether to increase the federal debt ceiling will reach a high pitch. Republican leaders on both sides of the Hill should insist that the spending cuts proposed by Jordan and DeMint be included in the legislation.

They should refuse to bite on Obama's phony "moderation" bait, and demand that the Federalist approach that Jordan and DeMint offer be included in any deal. For the Republicans, it's either that or follow the example of young Sasha Obama and start learning to speak Chinese.

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About the Author
Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies. He is coauthor (with Herbert London) of the new book The BDS War Against Israel. You can follow him on Twitter@jedbabbin.