GOP: focus on what’s important, drop the rest

As President Obama refills his administration, it seems that everyone he nominates is “ not acceptable” to someone in the GOP.  Chuck Hagel is not “hawk” enough. John Brennan is too liberal. Jack Lew is too contentious. John Kerry is simply not acceptable, and will ultimately be an embarrassment to the USA (but probably no worse than Barack Obama is at times). But, maybe those are all accurate statements, and grounds for objection.

confused elephantHowever, there are far larger issues on the table. The $16 trillion-dollar debt and the annual trillion-dollar deficits that are becoming increasingly entrenched in our country’s condition are far bigger problems. The failure of Obama’s stimulus plans and the decision that 1.5-2 percent growth and the creation of 100,000 – 150,000 jobs per month is acceptable are simply untenable problems.

The root causes of these problems are far more productive fights to pick with Barack Obama than whether Chuck Hagel (a Republican) is too far left or whether John Brennan (who served under both Bush and Obama) is experienced and ideologically agreeable. Even Jack Lew’s contentious behavior, chronicled in Bob Woodward’s book, is a cross to bear, but at least he has reasonable credentials for the job of Treasury Secretary. And if their ideology is wrong, that is a result of the GOP being unable to get its act together and beat Obama in the recent elections.

How to deal with the upcoming spending resolutions and the debt ceiling are far more important than a series of contentious appointment hearings that are destined to lead nowhere. How to rein in spending is a truly gargantuan problem. Cut too hard, and the economy nose-dives. Cut too little and the effort is wasted. A much better place to start would be to stop base-line budgeting, a horrible practice that institutionalizes increases in spending year after year.

Mitt Romney took a lot of grief about attacking Big Bird and the subsidies to NPR, but he was right. That is typical of unnecessary government funding. Our country has to get rid of such unnecessary spending. Worse than that is the bureaucratic duplication of functions, efforts and departments in D.C. — each one doing almost identical things. This needs to be swept away in massive consolidation efforts.

The “hawks” who fear for our national security in the face of defense spending cuts (which are inevitable) should worry instead about the massive waste, overruns, duplications and redundancies of overlapping military fiefdoms, pork-barrel funding pet projects for weapons and systems that are no longer relevant/necessary, and administrative hordes who hold down high paying desk jobs that do more to inhibit our national security than to protect it.

That’s where to fight. Not over the gross dollars, or over what the money is spent on.There are many retired officers (I know some personally) who would gladly pitch in to help identify and clean out these massive, billion dollar sources of wasted defense spending.
There is no widespread desire to make big cuts in Medicare/Medicaid, no matter how its costs are skyrocketing. The American people know those cuts are necessary, but they just don’t want to give up their goodies. Those problems are demographic realities. Too many aging Americans are living longer than ever, consuming more health care than ever, and there are far too few working age (younger) Americans to pay for it all.

The solution: clean out the Medicare/Medicaid waste and corruption very aggressively, and get the president on board with that kind of effort. Nudge up the means testing (I know, it’s taxing the rich — again!). Get the states to run Medicaid without the federal government’s meddling and conflicting incentives.

Social Security is easier to fix, in spite of the negative demographics working against it. Inch up the retirement age by a year every decade, change the COLA metrics, and (yes, another “tax increase”) inch up the ceiling on contributions to at least keep up with the inflation rate. It will then be OK.

John Mariotti is an experienced author and former senior executive, and is a contributor to The Brenner Brief. Twitter: @johnentgrp

John Mariotti is an experienced author and former senior executive, and is a contributor to The Brenner Brief. Twitter: @johnentgrp

Then go after the lax, ridiculous, and out of control “welfare and quasi-welfare” programs that in the aggregate, now cost over $200 billion each year. Tighten up the definitions of disability that let people collect income for not working but play competitive sports, continue unhealthy lifestyle habits, grow in obesity, and other issues. The disability programs and the qualifiers are downright out of control with ceilings too high, requirements too lax, and interpretations that range from vague to downright silly.

My bottom line is this. It is imperative, during a time when the crises are many and the potential for “victories” over an ideologically opposed president will be few, that the GOP take a pragmatic approach and choose their fights carefully, over the issues that the American people care about.

Number one on that list is debt and deficit spending without end. The American people know that is a bad way to run a country and if this is done well, they might once again align themselves with the GOP.

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  1. Michael Ruffing says:

    Agreed, John. In doing so, make Washington DC the 1%- it’s true, frames the fiscal issue for the “low information” types who only seem moved by envy.

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