Tag Archives: entitlement reform

An Optimistic Take on the Election

CEI President and Founder Fred Smith and I have an article in The Daily Caller expressing cautious optimism about yesterday’s election results. Our main points:

-We are (cautiously) optimistic because voters turned out in droves to make a statement against big government, not to endorse GOP policies. But no reforms will happen unless people keep fighting for them.

-Activists have a lesson to learn from the Bush-era anti-war movement. Anti-Iraq War protestors vanished into thin air almost the moment President Obama was elected. They gave up. That’s one reason there are still 50,000 troops in Iraq and America’s presence in Afghanistan has doubled. The next few years will be the true test of the tea party movement. Will it grow complacent in victory?

-GOP politicians have a lesson to learn from their 1994 victory and subsequent fall from grace. The 1994 Republicans gave up as reformers after about six months. Voters kept them around because they did a tolerable job of checking Clintonian excesses. But six years of one-party rule under Bush were more than enough to show that Republicans were far more concerned with staying in power than with shrinking government. Federal spending roughly doubled under Bush, and that was enough to give them the boot.

It will be interesting to see what happens. The 2010 election might be nothing more than a blip on the radar. Or it could be the start of a genuine reform movement that will take on the coming entitlement crisis. We’re hoping for the latter.

How Much Would a Congressional Pay Cut Save?

Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick is proposing a 5 percent pay cut for members of Congress.

“In the face of our ever-deepening federal debt, the federal government must follow their example by finding common-sense solutions to do more with less,” she told The Hill.

A noble sentiment. And one that would save $8700 per member. With 535 members of the House and Senate, the total savings are $4.65 million.

The federal government is on track to spend about $3.8 trillion this year. Trimming $4.65 million means that for every $816,502 the federal government spends, it would save one dollar.

Rep. Kirkpatrick is proposing a 0.00122 percent spending cut. That’s not even a rounding error.

I do not intend to mock Rep. Kirkpatrick. Her spending cut is better than nothing, and I am glad she is proposing it. But placed in proper context, it is very, very small. It is a largely symbolic proposal, and should be treated as such. A 5 percent pay cut for Congress is no austerity measure.

More fundamental solutions would involve fundamental entitlement reform paired with a deregulatory stimulus. Cato’s Chris Edwards has some other spending cut ideas that deserve a serious look. They total $380 billion, or ten percent of federal spending.