Sunday, June 17, 2007

letter to the editor, responding to Hill's update on PAYGO

I appreciate Baron Hill's frequent efforts to keep his constituents informed of his activity in Congress. But his most recent letter left me confused.

First, Rep. Hill wrote about instituting pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) budgeting-- "a rule requiring that the federal government live within its means"-- in the first few weeks of the 110th Congess. But then he said that he had recently introduced legislation that would reinstitute "statutory PAYGO rules". What's the difference? And does this mean that we won't have a budget deficit next year?

Second, Rep. Hill referred to budget surpluses in the 1990s. But all except one of those were a function of record-keeping shenanigans that moved Social Security from off-budget to on-budget.

Further, he attributed the surpluses to PAYGO rules. But that's quite unlikely. Such "rules" have not been effective in curbing Washington DC's appetite to spend. Does anyone remember the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings "balanced-budget" legislation of the 1980s?

Instead, the top reason for reduced federal deficits in the 1990s (and higher deficits in the 2000s and especially the 1980s) was changes in military spending-- at the height of the Cold War, after the Cold War, and post-9/11.

Third, Rep. Hill referred to the Democratic Blue Dog Coalition as "fiscally conservative". To be accurate, he must have meant that the Dogs are fiscally conservative in comparison to most other Democrats. There have been few fiscally conservative Republicans in Congress over the past decade-- and Democrats are rarely an improvement in that category.

For example, in this year's budget cycle, the Democrats have proposed $23 billion more in spending than the big-spending President George Bush, including an extra $17 billion on the war-funding bill. That works out to an additional $300 from the average family of four in higher taxes now or in the future-- and is hardly the epitome of fiscal conservatism.

With respect to Rep. Hill in particular: he's given D's or F's by the National Taxpayers Union on his votes for government spending; the National Journal rated him at the 36th percentile; and Citizens Against Government Waste gave him a 13% (in the category of "hostile" to taxpayers). In my book, those aren't good grades.

If Rep. Hill is going to title his legislation the "Fiscal Honesty and Accountability Act", he should start with more honesty about his fiscal views. If not, voters should provide the accountability in the next election.

Hill's letter:

my response: