Ex-presidents could pressure Congress to act

It was encouraging to see 40 U.S. House Republicans joining 60 Democrats last week in urging the deficit-reduction supercommittee to explore new revenue options to help cut $1.5 trillion from future U.S. budget deficits.

There are, however, 535 members of Congress, so we have a long way to go. But it’s a start.

“To succeed, all options for mandatory and discretionary spending and revenues must be on the table,” the group wrote in an open letter to the committee. “Our country needs our honest, bipartisan judgment and our political courage.”

The supercommittee is facing a Nov. 23 deadline and has been deadlocked on the same issues as the Congress at large.

Democrats are reluctant to make entitlement cuts, while Republicans have pledged not to increase taxes for any reason at all.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is poised to make all of these problems even worse by seeking further reductions in Social Security taxes in the name of economic stimulus.

The president is subscribing to the same cut now/pay later philosophy that’s to blame for our current national debt problem.

Obama would cut taxes now and increase them later to make up the shortfall. As we have seen in recent years, that just doesn’t work.

The conservative Washington Post economist and columnist Robert Samuelson recently had an intriguing idea.

His “fantasy” would be to have retired presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush tour the country together as a “two-man truth squad.”

They could tell the country what it needs to hear, that it will take a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases to put a real dent in the U.S. deficit.

This is the same thing Alan Simpson and Erskin Bowles recommended after heading a presidential commission that studied deficit solutions in 2010.

The commission’s co-chairs recommended a host of entitlement cuts, including farm subsidies, Social Security, civilian and military federal pensions and student loan subsidies.

They recommended gradually increasing the payroll tax and the retirement age, while reducing various tax breaks such as the home mortgage interest deduction.

The co-chairs suggested cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 26 percent, while eliminating various loopholes.

Their recommendations were attacked from all sides and then ignored by the president who appointed them.

That opposition is why we are in the fix we’re in today. Members of Congress are afraid of offending the interest groups and corporations that fund their campaigns.

The ex-presidents certainly understand the pressure, and they clearly owe the American people some leadership.

Clinton could have helped solve the entitlements problem when the country was relatively flush in the 1990s. Instead, he did nothing.

Bush could have tackled the deficits in 2001 when the country was projecting budget surpluses. Instead, he chose to cut taxes, fight two wars on borrowed money and give seniors an unpaid-for Medicare drug benefit.

The two men could now educate the American people while putting pressure on Congress to compromise for the sake of our economy and our country.

It would be an act of courage that Americans would long admire.


The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.

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PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Might work if Clinton weren't

Might work if Clinton weren't such a back-stabber.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Ex-presidents could pressure Congress to act

. . They could ? It's an interesting suggestion , Ed Board ?
The wiser , elder Statesmen , so to speak . Jimmy Carter was a better President out of office than in [ think : http://www.habitat.org ) . What are the Bush's up to ? Nothing . Zilch . Zero . 0 . Kerry - Hero . Bush ? 0 . No fishing in N'Orleans this year ex-Presidents Bush . No Katrina . The lesson of that purely Republican debacle was , " No sense of urgency. " Someone was right in stating : Bush Cheney got us in to this mess . Make a mess . Walk away . Wash your hands clean . Mess with Texas someone . Is Enron ® still around ?
Now we can all more clearly view the power of the U S Senate ( vs. the House ) in action , or , inaction [ as the case may be ] . You elect people likes the Hon. Sens. Snowe and Collins for six year terms , correct ? A: Yes . SECSTATE Billery [sic.] retains more power today 11.05.11 than her husaband and possibly more than she did as the good Senator from NY . President Obama clearly does in his ' bully pulpit ' that he did as a Senator from Illinois and even as a Nobel Peace Prize recipient . The President of the Senate , Joe Biden , holds the swing vote in a tie . The VP is always the President of the US Senate 50 - 50 + 1
We hold the power of the vote . If they can not agree and go and shoot themselves in the feet by letting automatic cuts take hold o\a 11/23 so be it . DOD takes up > 60 % of the U . S . Federal Budget any way . War is folly . War eats it young . War never proves who is right , just who is leƒt . The Iraq troops will be home by Christmas . Vote wisely on Tuesday

DC is a town of power, NYC : money
Don't confuse the two
Occupy Wall St.
/s, Dr. Dosh, R P C V , Micro'78 , celebrating 50 years of the U S Peace Corps

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

A little less pineapple juice

A little less pineapple juice in the Kool-Aid, Stevo...

KRIS KUCERA's picture

Those ex-presidents . . .

. . . are the ones who got us where we are today. Clinton and Bush passed the buck for 16 years, and now it's come to full-blown calamity.

Ron's right: Go back to Reagan's tax rates. Remember, taxes were increased 11 times under his administration, and yet Reagan is a god to the GOP. How is that? I'm still waiting for one GOP blogger to address that undeniable fact.

Oh, and take Grover Nordquist stupid, dogmatic anti-tax pledge and burn it. To think he's even against closing tax loopholes -- unconscionable. You simply can't cut taxes even more when you owe 14 trillion frickin' dollars. Duh.

Mark Elliott's picture

Reaganomics Vs. Obamanomics:

Reaganomics Vs. Obamanomics: Facts And Figures, Peter Ferrara

President Reagan campaigned on an explicitly articulated, four-point economic program to reverse this slow motion collapse of the American economy:

1. Cut tax rates to restore incentives for economic growth, which was implemented first with a reduction in the top income tax rate of 70% down to 50%, and then a 25% across-the-board reduction in income tax rates for everyone. The 1986 tax reform then reduced tax rates further, leaving just two rates, 28% and 15%.

2. Spending reductions, including a $31 billion cut in spending in 1981, close to 5% of the federal budget then, or the equivalent of about $175 billion in spending cuts for the year today. In constant dollars, nondefense discretionary spending declined by 14.4% from 1981 to 1982, and by 16.8% from 1981 to 1983. Moreover, in constant dollars, this nondefense discretionary spending never returned to its 1981 level for the rest of Reagan’s two terms! Even with the Reagan defense buildup, which won the Cold War without firing a shot, total federal spending declined from a high of 23.5% of GDP in 1983 to 21.3% in 1988 and 21.2% in 1989. That’s a real reduction in the size of government relative to the economy of 10%.

3. Anti-inflation monetary policy restraining money supply growth compared to demand, to maintain a stronger, more stable dollar value.

4. Deregulation, which saved consumers an estimated $100 billion per year in lower prices. Reagan’s first executive order, in fact, eliminated price controls on oil and natural gas. Production soared, and aided by a strong dollar the price of oil declined by more than 50%.

These economic policies amounted to the most successful economic experiment in world history. The Reagan recovery started in official records in November 1982, and lasted 92 months without a recession until July 1990, when the tax increases of the 1990 budget deal killed it. This set a new record for the longest peacetime expansion ever, the previous high in peacetime being 58 months.

During this seven-year recovery, the economy grew by almost one-third, the equivalent of adding the entire economy of West Germany, the third-largest in the world at the time, to the U.S. economy. In 1984 alone real economic growth boomed by 6.8%, the highest in 50 years. Nearly 20 million new jobs were created during the recovery, increasing U.S. civilian employment by almost 20%. Unemployment fell to 5.3% by 1989.

The shocking rise in inflation during the Nixon and Carter years was reversed. Astoundingly, inflation from 1980 was reduced by more than half by 1982, to 6.2%. It was cut in half again for 1983, to 3.2%, never to be heard from again until recently. The contractionary, tight-money policies needed to kill this inflation inexorably created the steep recession of 1981 to 1982, which is why Reagan did not suffer politically catastrophic blame for that recession.

Real per-capita disposable income increased by 18% from 1982 to 1989, meaning the American standard of living increased by almost 20% in just seven years. The poverty rate declined every year from 1984 to 1989, dropping by one-sixth from its peak. The stock market more than tripled in value from 1980 to 1990, a larger increase than in any previous decade.

In The End of Prosperity, supply side guru Art Laffer and Wall Street Journal chief financial writer Steve Moore point out that this Reagan recovery grew into a 25-year boom, with just slight interruptions by shallow, short recessions in 1990 and 2001. They wrote:

We call this period, 1982-2007, the twenty-five year boom–the greatest period of wealth creation in the history of the planet. In 1980, the net worth–assets minus liabilities–of all U.S. households and business … was $25 trillion in today’s dollars. By 2007, … net worth was just shy of $57 trillion. Adjusting for inflation, more wealth was created in America in the twenty-five year boom than in the previous two hundred years.

What is so striking about Obamanomics is how it so doggedly pursues the opposite of every one of these planks of Reaganomics. Instead of reducing tax rates, President Obama is committed to raising the top tax rates of virtually every major federal tax. As already enacted into current law, in 2013 the top two income tax rates will rise by nearly 20%, counting as well Obama’s proposed deduction phase-outs.

The capital gains tax rate will soar by nearly 60%, counting the new Obamacare taxes going into effect that year. The total tax rate on corporate dividends would increase by nearly three times. The Medicare payroll tax would increase by 62% for the nation’s job creators and investors. The death tax rate would go back up to 55%. In his 2012 budget and his recent national budget speech, President Obama proposes still more tax increases.

Instead of coming into office with spending cuts, President Obama’s first act was a nearly $1 trillion stimulus bill. In his first two years in office he has already increased federal spending by 28%, and his 2012 budget proposes to increase federal spending by another 57% by 2021.

His monetary policy is just the opposite as well. Instead of restraining the money supply to match money demand for a stable dollar, slaying an historic inflation, we have QE1 and QE2 and a steadily collapsing dollar, arguably creating a historic reflation.

And instead of deregulation we have across-the-board re-regulation, from health care to finance to energy, and elsewhere. While Reagan used to say that his energy policy was to “unleash the private sector,” Obama’s energy policy can be described as precisely to leash the private sector in service to Obama’s central planning “green energy” dictates.

As a result, while the Reagan recovery averaged 7.1% economic growth over the first seven quarters, the Obama recovery has produced less than half that at 2.8%, with the last quarter at a dismal 1.8%. After seven quarters of the Reagan recovery, unemployment had fallen 3.3 percentage points from its peak to 7.5%, with only 18% unemployed long-term for 27 weeks or more. After seven quarters of the Obama recovery, unemployment has fallen only 1.3 percentage points from its peak, with a postwar record 45% long-term unemployed.

Previously the average recession since World War II lasted 10 months, with the longest at 16 months. Yet today, 40 months after the last recession started, unemployment is still 8.8%, with America suffering the longest period of unemployment that high since the Great Depression. Based on the historic precedents America should be enjoying the second year of a roaring economic recovery by now, especially since, historically, the worse the downturn, the stronger the recovery. Yet while in the Reagan recovery the economy soared past the previous GDP peak after six months, in the Obama recovery that didn’t happen for three years. Last year the Census Bureau reported that the total number of Americans in poverty was the highest in the 51 years that Census has been recording the data.

Moreover, the Reagan recovery was achieved while taming a historic inflation, for a period that continued for more than 25 years. By contrast, the less-than-half-hearted Obama recovery seems to be recreating inflation, with the latest Producer Price Index data showing double-digit inflation again, and the latest CPI growing already half as much.

These are the reasons why economist John Lott has rightly said, “For the last couple of years, President Obama keeps claiming that the recession was the worst economy since the Great Depression. But this is not correct. This is the worst “recovery” since the Great Depression.”

However, the Reagan Recovery took off once the tax rate cuts were fully phased in. Similarly, the full results of Obamanomics won’t be in until his historic, comprehensive tax rate increases of 2013 become effective. While the Reagan Recovery kicked off a historic 25-year economic boom, will the opposite policies of Obamanomics, once fully phased in, kick off 25 years of economic stagnation, unless reversed?

KRIS KUCERA's picture

Oh . . .

. . . and what about his 11 tax hikes? You seem, in your superfluousness, to have forgotten to address that issue, which again, no right-wing blogger here has EVER done.

Mark Elliott's picture

A hike here, a decrease there

A hike here, a decrease there all in all lead to overall DECREASES. Sometimes it's just a matter of moving it around but at the end of the day, what he did WORKED! What Obama is doing is NOT WORKING! Those are two facts nobody can deny, not even you!

KRIS KUCERA's picture


You sure like exclamation points. Maybe dial them down a bit?

What Obama is doing is not working, I actually agree. But he has a totally dysfunctional Congress, utterly disrupted world markets -- do you honestly thing the European debt crisis hasn't impacted our economy and investments? -- two inherited wars (one of which was a war of choice), an ascendant China manipulating its currency, huge matriculating defecits, and yes, a lack of perceived leadership.

But to say all this mess is his fault is really just insane. He's not to shabby with snuffing out terrorists either.

Like the Taliban needed our help. Cripes, we can't even beat 'em. Heck, Alexander the Great couldn't even conquer Afganistan.

Oh, can you elucidate on Iran-Contra? Or his huge budget deficits that carried over to George H. Bush? Good luck with that.

Mark Elliott's picture

Another funny one!

Another funny one! Conservatives have not been allowed to blame the democrat controlled congress for screwing with he last two years of GW's term (you know, when the economy really started to go to shit!) but they can blame the republican controlled congress for Obama's failure to lead us out of it. Obama may have inherited two wars but he made the choice to keep ALL of GW's command in place (you know, the guys that actually FOUND Bin Laden) and he made the choice NOT to pull out as he PROMISED his supporters he would....not to mention the MANY other campaign promises he made to YOU that he broke.

China has been playing their games and using us for decades under many presidents. That's not going to change for anyone...unless of course we elect someone that will put his foot down but be prepared for public outrage on that one.

Afghanistan will probably never be "won" in a democratic viewpoint because Afghans don't want it! Not from us, not from anyone.

I will never blame Obama for all this mess.....much of it goes back decades, but to tell conservatives that we have have a poor model (Reagan) while you all are kissing the feet of Obama is ridiculously absurd! It doesn't lend credence to anything more you say.

KRIS KUCERA's picture

Reagan had . . .

. . . a Democratically controlled Congress. Just so you know.

Since when have I kissed Obama's feet? Never. I might kiss Heather Graham's feet, though.

Mark Elliott's picture

I am aware of that and i

I am aware of that and i don't have a problem with it, as I don't think any party should have full control. Heather Graham? Hmmm.....you can have her feet, I'll take what's left! <--- surely you agree THAT deserves an exclamation point?!

KRIS KUCERA's picture

My lord . . .

. . . we agree on something! (Mmmmm . . . Heather.) On that note, good day to you.

KRIS KUCERA's picture


Yep, Reagan sure did well by supporting the Taliban against the Russians, and propping up Saddam Hussein and the Contras. And the War on Drugs? How'd that turn out?

Or do you have 15 paragraphs debunking those facts?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Looks like you just got

Looks like you just got whupped, bud.

Mark Elliott's picture

It never ceases to amaze me

It never ceases to amaze me at how you liberals like to start a battle about something specific and when your "facts" are torn apart, you simply try to keep the battle going with other subjects completely unrelated to what you used to start the battle in the first place..........

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

As I've said many times, and

As I've said many times, and it bears repeating here; reasoning with a liberal is like trying to pick up a turd by the clean end.

Mark Elliott's picture

and your very own words: "Or

and your very own words: "Or do you have 15 paragraphs debunking those facts?" confirm I did exactly that!

KRIS KUCERA's picture

Sure you did.

If you believe it, I believe it.

Please explain to me the Reagan Recession. Let me guess -- it was Carter's fault?

Have fun. Stay angry.

Mark Elliott's picture

considering it happened

considering it happened during the first two years (after which the Reagan recovery took hold) and democrats are allowed to blame the last administration for everything that has happened during the first THREE years of the Obama administration, sure I'll use that.

For what it's worth, I'm not angry at Obama as he is doing exactly what I expected him to do. I'm just disappointed at all the people that voted for him for the wrong reasons even after conservatives warned that this is what would happen.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The really scary part, Mark,

The really scary part, Mark, is that the same morons will vote for him again in 2012.

Mark Elliott's picture

At the time, the Taliban was

At the time, the Taliban was the lesser of two evils. Everyone on the free world would agree to that. We were in the cold war against RUSSIA, not Afghanistan!

RONALD RIML's picture


We could go back to the old tax rates under Reagan and be relatively flush......

If they were good enough for the Gipper......


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