Open Letter to Congress: The Promise of the Williamsburg Accord

Dear Congressman,

In the coming months, you will face tremendous pressure to accept a deal to raise our nation’s debt ceiling.  Conservatives around the country will insist the debt ceiling not be raised unless our nation gets on a path to a balanced budget within 10 years and stays balanced.  This is not an arbitrary marker; rather, it is the marker laid out by the entire House Republican Conference in what has become known as the Williamsburg Accord.

Conservatives cannot enter into the debt ceiling debate without understanding the promise of the Williamsburg Accord.

On January 18, four current and former chairmen of the Republican Study Committee announced an agreement to re-sequence the 2013 fiscal fights.  In exchange for holding the line on the sequester and producing a budget that balanced in ten years, conservatives agreed to postpone the debt ceiling debate for several months.  In turn, the debate on the debt ceiling would revolve around enacting the policies that put the federal budget on the path to 10-year balance.

A few days later, Speaker Boehner declared, “It’s time for us to come to a plan that will in fact balance the budget over the next 10 years.”  He said it was the GOP’s “commitment to the American people.”

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Trade Adjustment Assistance: A Leftist Solution That’s No Solution At All

Costly and ineffective are two words that can be used to describe a countless number of government programs.  The federal government’s Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) is no exception.  TAA doesn’t work; it costs taxpayers a lot of money; and it contains within it special treatment for union workers.  Unfortunately, President Obama’s 2009 failed stimulus expanded TAA.

Besides being costly and ineffective, the TAA is unnecessary and unjust.   It is unnecessary because just 1 percent of jobs lost in mass layoffs is caused by overseas relocations or import competition.

Also, the Department of Labor’s Dislocated Workers Program already provides basic services to laid-off workers, and they are not nearly as extravagant as those provided to recipients of TAA.    The government should not single out one group of unemployed people to receive better benefits than the rest of unemployed Americans.

It is unjust for workers who have lost their job due to foreign trade to receive better benefits than a worker who loses a job due to other factors.  As Heritage’s James Sherk explains:

The government should not discriminate between workers who lose their jobs because of trade and workers who lose their jobs for other reasons. The worker who loses his job to a foreign competitor should receive the same treatment as the Blockbuster employee who lost his job to Netflix.

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But Where Have All the Jobs Gone?!

Before you rush to celebrate last month’s unemployment rate that ticked down to 7.6 percent from 7.7 percent, consider what has happened to labor force participation.  The labor force participation rate fell to 63.3 percent, its lowest level since 1979.  In fact, Austan Goolsbee, former chair of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, called the March jobs report a “punch to the gut.”

Of course, the White House is singing the same old tune: it’s the sequester’s fault!  But Heritage Foundation experts predicted this reaction last month when they explained:

Looking ahead, policymakers need not fear slower job growth due to the recent sequestration, which will force the federal government to cut $85 billion in budget authority this year. That will slow the growth of 2013 spending by only about $42 billion.

The federal cuts from sequestration, which will be enacted gradually over the next two years, should not negatively impact private-sector job growth. Economists Alberto Alesina, Carlo Favero, and Francesco Giavazzi have found that spending-based corrections are followed by little decline in gross domestic product (GDP), with recovery following within a year.

The Obama administration wants to replace the sequester with a so-called balanced approach; however, their idea of balanced is more taxes and ultimately more spending.  Increased taxes – like the higher payroll taxes imposed upon us by the fiscal cliff deal – will not contribute to economic improvement. 

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Maple Syrup Money

Conservatives like our maple syrup as much as the next person.  But is it the place of the federal government to hand out federal taxpayer dollars to encourage the development of maple syrup production on privately held land in upstate New York?

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) thinks so.  He has proposed the Maple Tap Act, which he would like to insert into the trillion-dollar farm bill.  Sen. Schumer said:

Despite reports that tapping season has begun, hundreds of millions of untapped trees are just sitting there, full of a lucrative natural resource that could propel New York to the top of the maple industry, as well as provide a huge economic boost and new jobs to maple-rich Clinton County.

The program by which this would be accomplished would be run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which conducted a survey of 10 states last year finding that New York ranked second only to Vermont in maple syrup production.  And the state has 500 entrepreneurs that produce maple syrup.

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Morning Action: Obama Asks Republicans on Second Dinner Date

DINNER DATE.  A week after making clear he was “deeply disappointed” by Republican Senators’ “unjustified filibuster” of Caitlin Halligan, President Barack Obama decided it was time to ask them for another dinner date:

Obama will have his second dinner in as many months with Senate Republicans on April 10, a White House official confirmed. The president dined earlier this month with a group of Republicans at the Jefferson Hotel, part of a charm offensive. 

The new dinner is being coordinated by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). A spokesman for the senator said the president called him in the last two weeks and asked if he would like to help organize a second dinner and Isakson replied he would be happy to. 

The dinner party – no location or guest list has been announced yet – will come during what will otherwise likely be a fiery week for Obama and the Republican opposition. 

The president is set to release his budget that week – a package of new spending programs and tax hikes that the GOP is sure to oppose. He will also be pushing for quick progress on a bill to overhaul immigration laws and to pass legislation to try to reduce gun violence. 

We cannot help but wonder if these Senators will once again express optimism after their dinner date.

AMNESTY, PART 1.  In an effort to appear engaged in a process that he is completely disengaged from, President Obama took to Univision to express optimism on the issue of immigration:

President Obama expects an immigration bill to come before the Senate next month and voiced optimism that a final bill could pass through Congress this summer. 

A bipartisan group of senators, known as the “Gang of Eight,” missed a self-imposed deadline to submit a comprehensive immigration reform bill by the end of March, sparking concern that the group had reach an unsolvable impasse. But Obama said on Wednesday that the group is “actually making progress” and that they are very close to reaching a final agreement on a bill. 

“I’m actually optimistic that when they get back they will introduce a bill,” Obama said during an interview with Univision. “My sense is that they have come close and my expectation is that we’ll actually see a bill on the floor of the Senate next month.”

GUNS.  As momentum wanes on Capitol Hill and public opinion calms, gun-grabbing groups are planning a “National Day to Demand Action.”  At the same time, Obama White House finds itself on the defensive:

One reporter questioned whether the string of speeches, Google hangouts and weekly addresses have had any effect, noting the Senate left provisions out of its gun package that those events were intended to push. 

Earnest pushed back, insisting the White House has made progress. 

“Now, does it mean — I can’t stand here and guarantee that it’s going to pass, but it is a question that 100 senators are going to ask themselves when they wake up in the morning and look themselves in the mirror about whether or not they are going to — about which side they’re going to be on when it comes to voting on a ban on military-style assault weapons,” he said. “And the President will certainly continue to advocate for senators to support that ban.”

Calling a vote “progress” isn’t leadership, it’s just lame Washington-style spin intended to pacify the President’s political base. 

AMNESTY, PART 2.  Not one to be left out of a media cycle, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) once again declared the Senate’s closed-door immigration working group was “close” to a final agreement:

“The bottom line is we’re very close,” Schumer said, striking an optimistic note. “I’d say we’re 90 percent there. We have a few little problems to work on, we’ve been on the phone with our four colleagues all day.” 

Schumer made the comments after he and Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) toured the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Ariz., on Wednesday. The four are all members of the “Gang of Eight” senators who have been drafting a bill to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws. 

The group unveiled its framework in January and has been negotiating the details, with hopes to introduce a bill by the end of April.

Senator McCain felt compelled to add: “Nobody is going to be totally happy with this legislation.”  Apparently, according to McCain, “that’s what makes for good legislation.” 

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