Thursday, March 5, 2015

The House New Dems Have a Plan!

Bully for them!

At first I was bit dismissive, I'll admit. But at least it's something from this do-nothing Congress and worth discussing its points.

Yesterday The Hill ran a Kevin Cirilli article featuring a picture of our four-term representative who is also one of the vice-chairs of the group. Mr. Cirilli wrote: "The New Democrat Coalition, a caucus of moderate House Democrats, unveiled its economic proposal – the first of its kind in its nearly 18-year history." Actually they call it an "agenda", not a plan. But 18 years? What have they been doing all this time?

So we'll have to wait for the plan; notably absent in this agenda are mentions of entitlement and defense spending, the two largest areas in the federal budget. I still have a lot of questions but I hope that the New Democrat Coalition won't stop at this three-page agenda and that there is actually a fleshed-out coherent plan behind it. But in the meantime I thought I'd parse the agenda (in italics below) and offer some ideas on each item.

Grow the Economy in Every Town and City
» MG: Yes – let's not be selective.

I. Fix the Tax Code to Create American Jobs and Help American Businesses Compete
» MG: Yes on fixing the tax code. But the fix should be disinterested in its approach and have a primary goal of minimizing disincentives and externalities. Harmonizing corporate income, personal income, payroll, and other taxes is important to the goal of allowing business to create jobs and encouraging individuals to seek employment.

II. Make it Easier for Anyone to Raise Capital and Become a Small Business Owner
» MG: The goal is to minimize barriers to entry regardless of business size. I'm sensing a bone for the Small Business Administration.

III. Invest in Roads, Rails, Bridges, Broadband and a Power Grid Worthy of the 21st Century
» MG: Focus of interstate and international infrastructure that enhances commerce and trade; let's leave the other stuff in the private sector.

IV. Aggressively Pursue Expanding Export Opportunities So We Can Make it Here and Sell it Everywhere
» MG: Yup. But let's avoid the trap of industry subsidies that imperil trade and impoverish countries that can't afford subsidies (e.g., African farmers).

V. Lead in the Next Great Discoveries: Reauthorize America COMPETES
» MG: If the goal is to sponsor uneconomic research and development, great. But I'm cautious, fearing an industrial policy and favored sectors. BTW – what have we reaped from the $150 billion investment in NASA's International Space Station?

VI. Pass Immigration Reform and Become the Global Magnet for the World’s Top Talent
» MG: Absolutely. People want to learn, work, and live here because America is the best place to do all three. And we need low-skill workers, too.

VII. Harness America’s Energy Boom While Acting as Responsible Stewards of Our Natural Resources
» MG: Yup and yup. Tax carbon and leave something for the kids.

VIII. Promote a Free and Open Internet As A Platform for Global Innovation
» MG: "Free" as in no restraints or no cost? Always the former, never the latter. The best way to get unrestrained, low-cost Internet is to foster competition and allow metering: consumers will get greater choice and content providers will become efficient in bandwidth use.

IX. Protect Our Data Online and Cyber Infrastructure
» MG: Gonna have to hear more but good in principle.

Give Everyone a Shot at The American Dream
» MG: What actually is "The American Dream"? Oh, wait, I think they're gonna tell us.

I. Keep the Dream of Homeownership Alive
» MG: Why? Because it's a great investment whose price never goes down? Uh, yeah. It's a single fixed, illiquid asset that concentrates household wealth rather than diversifies. President Obama had a commonsense thought on the topic. The focus should be on growing the housing stock to offer lower cost alternatives in sought-after locations.

II. Protect a Strong and Stable Retirement for Every American
» MG: Sounds like a pitch for Social Security and defined-benefit pensions. Focus instead on lifelong personal savings with a Social Security safety net.

III. Keeping Health Care Costs Down while Expanding Coverage
» MG: Agree. Keeping costs down will make coverage more affordable to everyone. Getting rid of state-based coverage will help.

IV. Invest in World-Class Schools, Higher Education Anyone Can Afford
» MG: No. Invest in individuals through instruments like Pell Grants and get out of the student loan business. Making schools compete for students makes them affordable.

V. Reward High Performing Teachers and Principals and Hold Our Schools Accountable for Results
» MG: Absolutely, and remove poor performers. Now for the the details ...

VI. Promote Skills Training that Helps Americans Succeed Anywhere, Any Time
» MG: Americans need information on what kind of skills are needed to succeed. The word "promote" smells of subsidy and favoritism.

VII. Expand Childcare Opportunities That Helps Everyone Balance Work and Family
» MG: What barriers are there to the private provision of affordable childcare at every level at government? Let's answer that question before we start paying for expanded "opportunities".

Make Government Work Better for the Middle Class 
» MG: Uh ... why not everyone? I guess the middle-class angle sells better.

I. End Crisis-by-Crisis Governing and Pursue a Long-Term, Pro-Growth Fiscal Reform that Prioritizes Investments in our Future
» MG: C'mon ... where's the fun in that? Seriously though, fiscal reform means defining fiscal policy. Congress has forgotten what fiscal policy means. Here's an old post from me.

II. Prioritize National Security by Giving Government Tools to Spend Less and Buy Smarter on the Goods and Services it Needs
» MG: Vague at best.

III. Leverage the Latest Technologies to Boost Transparency and Accountability by Creating a “Yelp! For Government”
» MG: I wonder which coalition member(s) own(s) Yelp stock ...

IV. Lower Regulatory Obstacles to Innovation and Entrepreneurship
» MG: Yes, but don't lose the bead on potential externalities.

V. Reform Our Broken Campaign Finance System
» MG: This is the "there's too much money in politics" pitch. Ensure transparency first.

VI. Make It Easier for Americans to Vote and Participate in Our Democracy
» MG: Amen. And for individuals without party alliance to run for office.

VII. End Gerrymandering So Voters Choose their Elected Officials; Not the Other Way Around
» MG: Sorry, but I had to laugh at this one because our representative benefited so greatly from gerrymandering in Virginia – going from a 1,000-vote victory in 2010 to an 85,000-vote margin in 2012. But, yes, I wholeheartedly agree.