What The Media Are Saying
Sen. Coats says Indiana should be model for US
The Associated Press, By Deanna Martin
U.S. Sen. Dan Coats said Indiana has become a fiscal model under the leadership of fellow Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Coats and Daniels met at the Indiana Statehouse on Monday for their first chat since Coats took office, then talked with reporters as they sat in armchairs near the fireplace in the governor's office. Coats said Daniels has taken steps to put Indiana in a much better financial position than most of the states in the country as the recession ravaged state budgets.
Coats said Indiana should be a model as federal leaders look for ways to get the country in better financial condition.
"I'm grateful to the governor for the example that he's set," Coats said. "I'm grateful to the people of Indiana for supporting that."
Daniels said Coats shares his views on getting the federal government to live within its means.
"Coats was cheap before it was cool in terms of taxpayer dollars," Daniels said.
Daniels said the people of Indiana have supported — and demanded — fiscally sound policies. He said that makes him optimistic that the American people will support ways to rein in deficits and reduce the country's ballooning debt.
"What we've done here can be done elsewhere," Daniels said.
Daniels has pushed for state budgets that spend no more than they take in. As state revenues plummeted below expectations in the current budget cycle, Daniels slashed millions of dollars from state agencies, public schools and universities.
Daniels was recently named one of three winners of a new "Fiscy Award" for responsible financial stewardship and fiscal discipline in government. The award is given by a committee that includes officials from the Comeback America Initiative, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and the Concord Coalition.
Daniels has been touted as a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2012. The former federal budget director for President George W. Bush and top White House aide to Ronald Reagan has said for months that he has made no plans to run for president. He has agreed to keep the door open and says he'll announce a decision after the Indiana General Assembly wraps up its legislative session in late April.
Walker: Congress Needs to Get Serious About Fixing Finances
Roll Call, Opinion Editorial By David M. Walker, Founder, President and CEO of the Comeback America Initiative (CAI) and former Comptroller General of the United States
The first FI$CY Awards for leadership in connection with fiscal matters were given out Wednesday evening. FI$CYs are awarded to elected officials who demonstrate the policy leadership and political courage to address the large structural deficits that threaten governments at various levels.
Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) all won FI$CYs. All three were chosen because they led by example in connection with fiscal matters in some important way. For example, Conrad championed the need for the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which he served on; Ryan provided his “Roadmap” on how to address the nation’s large and growing structural deficits; and Daniels demonstrated a way to reduce the size of state government and put its finances in order and still get re-elected by a wide margin.
The plain and simple truth is that America is on a dangerous fiscal path. The federal and most state governments have grown too big, promised too much and waited too long to put their finances in order. We must take steps to begin to address structural deficits at all levels of government. At the same time, we must do so in a way that does not undercut our economic recovery and efforts to create jobs.
Governors will be on the front lines in connection with the structural deficit challenge. They have to deal with constitutional or statutory budget controls, can’t print money and must take concrete fiscal actions to maintain high credit ratings. Their challenges will increase when federal stimulus funds run out later this calendar year. Governors will need to focus primarily on cutting spending along with restructuring government operations and off-balance sheet obligations. Any additional taxes must be reasoned, reasonable and competitive. They will also need to make targeted investments in critical infrastructure and other areas that can help to create a better future and partner with business to renew innovation, including in the manufacturing sector.
As typically is the case, the federal government is a lag indicator in addressing structural challenges. It typically waits until a crisis is at our doorstep before it addresses large, known and growing problems. This unacceptable condition has reached epidemic levels during the past eight years.
Now that the 112th Congress has been sworn in, it’s time to get serious about putting our nation’s finances in order. After all, we now have about $14 trillion in debt that is growing rapidly, and the current debt ceiling limit will be reached by the end of March.
If things weren’t bad enough, one of the last acts of the 111th Congress was to enact a “compromise” that will add almost $900 billion to federal deficits and debt levels over the next two years alone. This was the typical Washington deal that the American people rejected in the recent midterm elections. Namely, you give me my tax cuts and more, and we’ll give you your spending increases and more! We’ll charge it all on the nation’s credit card, borrow it mostly from foreign lenders and worry about our structural deficits later!
The 112th Congress needs to pass a fiscal 2011 budget that takes a tough line on the base level of federal discretionary spending. After all, discretionary spending exploded from fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2010 despite low inflation levels. Washington needs to reimpose tough but realistic statutory budget controls along the lines of those recommended by the Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform, possibly as part of the legislation that will raise the debt ceiling limit.
After taking the above steps, Congress should move to reform Social Security to make it solvent, sustainable, secure and more savings-oriented. It’s true that Social Security is a much smaller problem than Medicare and that, absent from hitting the debt-ceiling limit, it does not face a near-term crisis as was the case in 1983. However, Social Security is now adding to our annual federal deficits and is underfunded by almost $8 trillion in current dollar terms. More importantly, Social Security represents the biggest opportunity to reform a social insurance program in a way that can exceed the expectations of every generation of Americans. It is an opportunity that we should not lose.
Congress should also move to create a Federal Transformation and Accountability Task Force to review and recommend ways to reprioritize and re-engineer the base of federal spending programs, tax policies, organizational concepts and operational practices. Based on my almost 10 years as comptroller general of the United States and head of the Government Accountability Office, it is clear that most the federal government is based on the 1950s. It’s time to make government more future-focused and results-oriented. This will require a special process with capable, credible and nonconflicted individuals with the courage to tell the truth and set the table for tough choices by elected officials.
Yes, we need to engage in comprehensive tax reform and a new round of health care reform. However, these issues will not be ripe before 2013. We should, therefore, take steps both within and outside Washington’s Beltway to prepare the way for tough choices and transformational reforms in these areas.
It’s show-me time in Washington. We need leadership, not laggardship, and results rather than rhetoric in connection with fiscal responsibility. The American people and our foreign lenders are watching.
David M. Walker, founder and CEO of the Comeback America Initiative, is a former comptroller general.
Daniels says Dems can deal with deficits best
Howey Politics Indiana. By Mark Schoeff Jr.
Gov. Mitch Daniels came to Washington on Wednesday to proselytize about the urgent need to cut the federal deficit and debt while suggesting that those of the opposite political faith – Democrats – are more favorably positioned than his party to get the job done.
“You’re better equipped than people who wear my uniform are to lead this drive back to solvency,” Daniels told Democrats in the audience at a dinner at the Newseum, where he was one of three recipients of the inaugural “Fiscy Awards” sponsored by Washington groups devoted to fiscal prudence.
Daniels said that voters give Democrats the benefit of the doubt as the more paternalistic party, which means it has more latitude to make major changes in federal spending. But that requires, in Daniels’ view, the emergence of Democratic leaders who will abandon the party’s tendency to promote government expansion.
Daniels spoke at a venue on Pennsylvania Avenue just blocks from the White House. He suggested that the current occupant, President Barack Obama, could achieve major advances in reducing the nearly $1.3 trillion federal deficit and the federal debt that’s approaching the $14.3 trillion mark that will require congressional action to raise the debt ceiling later this spring.
“It may not be his view of what’s right,” Daniels said in an HPI interview after his remarks. “If he chose to, he’d be the most effective, and I’d lead the cheers.”
As he usually is during visits to Washington, Daniels was coy about whether he wants to run for president himself. “I’m a long way from any such decision,” Daniels said. “I’d like to contribute (to the political discourse). I’m working on the problems of Indiana.”
His success in transforming the state’s budget deficit to a surplus while reducing property taxes is the primary reason he was honored with a Fiscy by the Comeback America Initiative, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, and the Concord Coalition.
“This is a guy who taught us how to run a state,” said Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin and another Fiscy recipient. Ryan was honored for outlining a plan to make structural changes in entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.
The other Fiscy winner, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-North Dakota, also praised Daniels’ leadership of Indiana. “We need more of it in this town,” Conrad said.
But the place where Conrad works, Capitol Hill, is likely to continue to be dysfunctional on fiscal issues. Conrad was part of a national deficit commission in which 11 of 18 members voted to approve in early December on a sweeping overhaul of the federal budget and tax system that would result in a $4 trillion reduction in projected deficits.
It’s unclear, however, whether the new Congress, riven by partisan divisions between a Republican House and Democratic Senate, will adopt any of the commission’s ideas.
While Congress struggles with fiscal matters, Daniels is not inclined to offer his own roadmap.
“Nobody wants to hear a plan from me,” Daniels said. “When I’m asked questions, I give ‘for instances,’ I give examples.”
He said his open to any kind of plan that reduces the deficit. “I’m going with anything that makes the math work,” Daniels said. Those ideas, however, did not percolate during the 2010 election, which was dominated by Tea Party activists advocating fiscal restraint.
The election was “all diagnosis, no prescription,” Daniels said. Tackling Social Security and Medicare is “all work to be done.”
Achieving solvency will occur only with significantly higher economic growth, according to Daniels. It also will require tax reform, but he cautioned against relying solely on increasing taxes for higher income levels, which could undermine the economy.
“I am for a tax system that generates more revenue,” Daniels said. “But we better be very mindful of how we go after it. We’ve shot ourselves in the foot before – and we could do it again.”
Most importantly, political leaders have to level with Americans about the challenge of fiscal rebalancing, Daniels said. It can’t be done simply by banning earmarks or eliminating waste, fraud and abuse, which “trivializes something much, much larger.”
Daniels is optimistic that the country will accept sacrifices needed to achieve solvency.
“I really believe…that our fellow citizens will have the courage to support the necessary actions if we have the courage to propose, advocate and explain them,” Daniels said. “I do believe we’re going to get to the point where the American people will say, ‘If that’s what it takes for my kids to grow up in a more prosperous country, let’s go.’”
House Budget chairman backs embattled CBO head
The Hill, By Erik Wasson
The new House Budget Committee chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), gave a very public endorsement of the embattled head of the Congressional Budget Office during his first major speech as committee head Wednesday night.
The comments about CBO's Douglas Elmendorf prompted Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) to call for the immediate reappointment of Elmendorf, whose term expired Monday and who has been under fire by some Republicans who say he aided Democrats in fudging the budget score of the Obama healthcare reform bill.
Elmendorf, appointed in January 2009 to fill the last two years of a four-year term, is acting director now, and would like a full four-year term. In the past, an acting director seved for as long as a year.
According to CBO, the Speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate jointly appoint the CBO director, after considering recommendations from the two budget committees. By tradition, the House and Senate alternate in selecting the CBO director, and this year Conrad should be able to make the call since the House took the lead in 2009.
The key outstanding question is whether Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) would take the unusual step of blocking the reappointment. His office, and that of Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), declined to comment this week.
On Tuesday at his first pen-and-pad discussion with reporters, Cantor blasted Democrats for budget gimmickry surrounding the healthcare bill, but noted that CBO was only following instructions. A congressional aide emphasized that, contrary to some news reports, Cantor was not attacking CBO.
“You’re doing a great job at CBO, Doug,” Ryan said after receiving the first annual Fiscy Award for his efforts at tackling the national debt. He added that he looked forward to crunching budget numbers with him in the future.
Conrad, who also received a Fiscy Award at the gala dinner, along with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, said he was “delighted to hear the support” expressed by Ryan for Elmendorf.
“That should be mean it is time to reappoint Doug. … It needs to be done, it needs to be a priority,” he said.
Ryan and Conrad used the occasion to pledge to work together to forge a long-term budget deficit reduction plan this year and to plead for bipartisanship on the issue.
“The solution is going to be a bipartisan one. … We need to put demagoguery on the back burner, we need to put the political weaponization of entitlement reform aside,” Ryan said.
“The easiest thing to do in this town is to get behind the partisan barricades and start throwing the bombs,” Conrad said. “The only way we make progress is for Democrats and Republicans to work together.”
Conrad said he was offering his hand to Ryan to work together this year.
He noted, however, that he believes there must be some raising of tax revenue in order to avoid draconian cuts, which is sure to be a matter of debate.
“If he is prepared to compromise, I am certainly prepared to compromise. It must be done,” Conrad said.
Politico’s Morning Money
SPOTTED LAST NIGHT - A Morning Money spy at the "Fiscy" awards dinner at the Newseum in D.C. last night passed on some of the attendees (in addition to the winners we've already mentioned): Former Fed chair Alan Greenspan, former CBO director and John McCain adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin, ABA president Frank Keating, Financial Services Forum President Rob Nichols, CBO Director Doug Elmendorf, Passport Capital CIO John Burbank and Hamilton Place Strategies partners Tony Fratto and Taylor Griffin
CNN: The GOP’s Debt-Tamer
CNN Money, Watch Here:
National Journal N2K budget memo
National Journal N2K budget memo
APOCALYPTIC PLEASANTRIES. After the pomp and circumstance of the first day of the 112th Congress, a slightly less-noticed formal affair last night: the inaugural “Fiscy Awards,” which recognized Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana for their efforts to implement responsible budgets. The awards, given by the heads of the Comeback America Initiative, the Concord Coalition, and the CRFB, were presented at the Newseum in what might have been the most pleasant of all debt discussions to take place in Washington. The three honorees praised each other, punctuating doomsday talk with jokes about being cheap. A panel at the end, though, was sobering: David Walker of the Comeback America Initiative warned that “we’re already worse than Ireland, we’re already worse than Spain, we’re already worse than Portugal, we’re already worse than the United Kingdom, and we’re within three years of being where Greece was.”
Mitch Daniels Makes His 2011 Beltway Debut
In Washington D.C. on Wednesday to collect a new award for fiscal responsibility, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels made the rounds as he ponders a presidential bid.
Daniels was in town to give a speech at the inaugural "Fiscy" awards, which honored him along with Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and North Dakota Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad for demonstrating leadership over fiscal discipline in their government roles. But the Hoosier held several off-the-record political meetings and appeared on MSNBC and CNN in a continuing cat-and-mouse game with the press as he builds his national name recognition in advance of a potential bid.
He began the day with a glowing profile on the front page of the business section of the New York Times about his stewardship of the Indiana economy during his tenure as governor.
Daniels was the subject of several other items on the New York Times' Web site throughout the day, including one post detailing the fiscal problems he may have to address if he does launch a national campaign.
The Times' post suggested that the transition of a budget surplus to a deficit during the first term of George W. Bush's administration when Daniels was budget director deserves some explanation. Answering on CNN Wednesday afternoon, the governor largely blamed the burst of the dotcom bubble. Pushed on the doubling of the debt and the increasing size of government during the six years of both a Republican White House and the GOP Congress, Daniels explained, "Some of my biggest fights were with members of my own party."
Daniels also argued, in a preview of the defense he'd likely have to employ should he run for president, that the Bush administration's budgetary decisions were far better than the ones made during the last two years under Obama. "The numbers show it," he said.
On MSNBC Daniels was drawn into a battle over tax policy and his unwillingness to sign a pledge to oppose any and all tax increases. He pointed out that in Indiana as governor he implemented a rebalancing of taxes that raised the sales tax while reducing property taxes dramatically.
And all of this came just a few days after another reminder that his family is concerned about the media intrusion that comes along with a presidential bid, and his concern for his family -- a detail that led some media outlets to conclude that he doesn't sound all that interested in the White House. The back-and-forth continues to keep the political class buzzing.
During the awards presentation, both Ryan and Conrad heaped praise on Daniels, with Conrad - a Democrat - turning to Daniels and saying, "I admire your leadership. We need more of that in the country, and we certainly need it here in this town."
For his part, Ryan boasted Daniels is a leader who has provided an example of how to get a state into fiscal health. "This is a guy who can show other states what it's going to take," Ryan said.
In his own remarks, Daniels offered hints of what might show up in a Republican presidential primary stump speech - providing some humor in an otherwise dry environment when he began with a series of jokes about his own cheapness.
Speaking about the tax system, Daniels emphasized the importance of economic growth and the need for tax reform, stressing that serious changes will be the only way to fix the nation's economic woes, rather than "quick, easy fixes."
Republican sources in Indiana say Daniels is about 75 percent of the way in for a presidential run. The last 25 percent of his decision will come during the next four months of the Indiana legislative session, when he will try to pass education reform and a budget.
It the meantime, however, Politico reported this morning that Daniels has accepted an in invitation to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 11 - yet another sign he's thinking very seriously about a bid for the White House in 2012.
Conrad to be Honored with Fiscy Award Today
Senate Budget Committee Chairman and North Dakota Democrat Kent Conrad will be honored with a Fiscy Award for his work during the 2010 fiscal year “to promote fiscal discipline.”
Conrad, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels will accept their awards tonight in Washington, D.C.
The men were chosen by an awards committee comprised of members from organizations dedicated to fiscal responsibility.
This is the inaugural year for the nonpartisan award, which is meant to honor three elected officials who demonstrate leadership in promoting fiscal responsibility and government accountability.
Politico's Morning Money
Politico's Morning Money, By Ben White
HAPPENING TONIGHT - The first-annual "Fiscy Awards" for fiscal responsibility, honoring Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D,), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Indiana GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels at 6 p.m. at the Newseum. http://bit.ly/a2s1bc