President Barack Obama offered his latest proposal for reducing the federal government’s enormous deficit, calling again for a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. This time, though, there was a new wrinkle: The plan included a proposal to make millionaires pay at least as high a tax rate as working- and middle-class Americans. Republicans responded by accusing Obama of waging class warfare, a charge they trot out whenever Obama suggests that the wealthy sacrifice more of their income. But the new proposal, which Obama is calling the “Buffett rule,” is a minor part of the plan, and it would have a negligible effect on the deficit. The more significant point is that days after the top House Republican ruled out tax increases in the next round of deficit reductions, Obama ruled them back in. …
Obama’s proposal has some dubious elements, but he gets the big picture right. The centerpiece of his tax proposal is the same one he’s been advocating for years: ending the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and simplifying the tax code. Winnowing the mass of deductions and loopholes will broaden the tax base, enabling Washington to collect more revenue even if it lowers rates for many businesses and individuals.
The proposed Buffett rule is more a political statement than a deficit-reduction tool, given how little money it may raise. In that sense, it’s like Obama’s oft-repeated call to eliminate tax breaks for corporate jets. But asking higher-income Americans in general to pay more for the sake of deficit reduction is hardly class warfare; they’ve prospered disproportionately over the past decade, thanks in no small part to federal regulatory and fiscal policies that helped them more than any other segment of society. As a result, they’re in a better position than any other group to help close the budget gap.
Obama’s plan may not be the perfect blueprint, but it’s built on the right foundation.
Los Angeles Times (Sept. 20)
Deficit panel transparency key
With much at stake, the bipartisan congressional deficit-reduction committee charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion more in budget savings by November should be operating in the open. It’s not.
Dave Loebsack, Iowa’s 2nd District congressman, wants to change that scenario. He rightly recognizes the intense lobbying the 12 lawmakers are getting from many organizations and industries.
So he’s introduced legislation that would require committee members to disclose all campaign contributions greater than $500 and all meetings with lobbyists within 48 hours of the donation or meeting. Otherwise, the donations wouldn’t have to be disclosed until Jan. 31. And meetings with lobbyists never have to be disclosed — as, sadly, is Congress’s general practice.
Loebsack also wants all committee meetings to be televised and streamed live on a congressional website.
We’re not confident that enough of Loebsack’s colleagues will get behind his proposal, but they should — especially the requirements for lobbyist disclosures. Many Americans see Congress as overly influenced by special interests. Transparency is simply accountability to all of the people lawmakers are supposed to serve.
The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Sept. 20)
Pilot fatigue a danger
It is unconscionable that it’s been more than two and a half years since the tragic crash of Continental Flight 3407 and families are still fighting to push through proposed new rules aimed at preventing pilot fatigue.
Anyone doubting the necessity for tightening airline safety regulations need only look at recent incidents involving Colgan Air, which also operated Flight 3407 for Continental.
A Colgan flight from Houston to Lake Charles, La., landed instead at a private airfield eight miles from Lake Charles. In an eerie coincidence, the plane landed at 10:29 p.m., virtually the same time Flight 3407 crashed in Clarence Center. An investigation will determine whether pilot fatigue or lack of training contributed to the Louisiana incident.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Colgan allowed flight attendants to work on 172 flights in early November 2009 without the proper safety training.
It’s obvious that the sweeping safety rules proposed in the wake of Flight 3407 are necessary to better ensure the safety of the flying public. It is difficult to stomach the thought that dozens of high-paid lobbyists are attempting to weaken or kill those aviation safety rules.
At least 44 airline industry lobbyists have met with Obama administration officials in recent months, according to a story by News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski. In response, the families of Continental Flight 3407 have met with Cabinet-level officials and written a letter to the president.
Let’s hope their message gets through.
The Buffalo (N.Y.) News (Sept. 21)