Value in Spending vs Parity in Spending

The House and Senate leadership met Wednesday in Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R, WI) office, along with White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, to see if there’s any possibility of the Progressive-Democrats working with Republicans to get Federal spending under control.  It seems not.

Both parties claim to want to increase our ability to defend ourselves and our friends and allies, and so both claim to want to increase defense spending.  Only one of the two seems serious, however.  House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D, CA):

Trade Reciprocity

When the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US refused to approve a deal between the People’s Republic of China’s Ant Financial Services Group and MoneyGram International Inc, wherein the former would acquire the latter, Anjani Trivedi in a Wall Street Journal article lamented the demise of “deal making” between American companies and PRC companies.

Beijing has softened its attitude somewhat recently, relaxing its foreign-investment policies to lure more capital into specific sectors, including financial services. With the CFIUS decision on Ant and MoneyGram, it’s clear such moves aren’t going to be met with much reciprocity.

And

Uninformed

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is upset because his enormously high taxes are going to be exposed in all their fiscally painful glory by the just-passed tax reform bill.

We’re going to propose a restructuring of our tax code. I’m not even sure what they [Republicans] did is legally constitutional and that’s something we’re looking at now.  You can change the tax code. You can’t penalize my state because of its political affiliation. There’s never been a double taxation before in the history of the nation.

A Thought on Student Loans

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is taking steps to redress the Obama administration travesty of a student loan program, but these can only be interim steps and by themselves are entirely insufficient.

Unfortunately, the student loan programs are entirely dysfunctional and want complete revamping. My high-level suggestions:

  1. student loan discharge only via bankruptcy, no special treatment of these loans
  2. let schools and students write their own loan agreements, including interest rates and payback provisions, without Government interference
  3. hold those schools and students to those agreements
  4. if Government guarantees any student loans, do so IAW the following:

The Veteran’s Choice Program

This is a program that would give veterans the option of going to a private sector doctor in lieu of playing the delay wait game at a Veterans Administration facility, after the veteran has jumped through the requisite VA hoops.  After a political tussle in Congress over increasing/renewing its funding, some additional money was provided.  That additional funding was necessitated because

its popularity depleted the allocated funds more quickly than anticipated. Patient visits through the program increased more than 30% in the first quarter of fiscal year 2017, according to the VA.

“Insurance” Costs

My Medicare-aged wife broke her wrist, which necessitated surgery, and our health plan provider sent us an accounting of the costs involved.  Following are the high points of those costs.  It’s necessary to emphasize that the surgery is relatively routine following a wrist “fracture,” since the wrist is little different from a sack of pig’s knuckles, and where the arm bones, the ulna and radius join the wrist is more of an abutment than a joining.  The “fracture” was more of a slight jumbling of those pig’s knuckles and small breaks of the ends of the ulna and radius; the surgery was to rearrange the knuckles and repair the fractures with a plate and some bolts.  Really quite routine and minor (save the post-op pain and the long recovery time and discomfort); that emphasizes the nature of the costs.

The Cynicism of the Left

And it’s especially stark in the season.  The Wall Street Journal has taken note of the “charities” of the Left and their negative attitude toward the just enacted tax reform.

“The tax code is now poised to de-incentivize the heart of civic action in America,” Dan Cardinali, president of Independent Sector, a left-leaning lobby for philanthropic outfits, told the Washington Post. “It’s deeply disturbing.”

Cardinali is projecting. Most of us donate time and/or money because it’s the right thing to do and because it’s part of our Judeo-Christian obligation to help the least among us, not because we expect some sort of reward for doing so.

Deficits as Cudgel?

Gerald Seib says that’s what the Progressive-Democrats in Congress fear the Republicans will use them for.

Democrats worry that Republicans will simply use the rising deficits they are creating as an excuse to cut government spending on domestic programs important to Democrats—in the vernacular, that the tax bill will “starve the beast” of the federal government of the money it needs to keep spending at current levels.

I certainly hope those deficits will be used as the reason for cutting government spending.  The Federal government spends way too much of our money, and it does so without regard for whose money it is and without regard for the amount of revenue that taxes bring in—deficit spending is enthusiastically pursued regardless of tax rates or revenues.

The Disappointing Joe Manchin

Senator Joe Manchin (D, WV) seemed, initially, like a center-left Democrat and a man who was capable of bipartisan work when he came on the scene a few short years ago.  Recall, for instance, his firm support of our 2nd Amendment and his opposition to much of Obamacare and to then-President Barack Obama’s (D) war on coal.

Now, though, he’s a proud member of the Progressive-Democratic Party’s caucus in the Senate, and the conflict between his claimed values and his voting against the just passed tax reform bill is showing.

Ex-Im Bank Nominee Confirmation

The Senate Banking Committee rejected Scott Garrett, President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Export-Import Bank.  The Wall Street Journal is casting that as “a win for crony capitalism” on the grounds that as a New Jersey Congressman, Garrett had twice voted against renewing the Ex-Im charter.

It’s not the end of the world, though; far from it. Confirming the nomination of a guy who doesn’t like the Ex-Im would have been better, but absent a quorum, which this refusal to confirm extends, the bank is unable to approve financing arrangements over $10 million.  This not a bad outcome; Ex-Im is well hamstrung, and that’s a good interim condition.