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Five Reasons Why You Should Worry About The Federal Debt (Forbes.com) February 28, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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Let’s face it:  For most of us, the federal debt is somewhere between a snoozer and an abstraction.  There are plenty more tangible and immediate problems to worry about.  Even if we did get stirred up about it, what can we do?  Isn’t the problem at one end or the other of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC—in Congress or the White House or both?

Rather than seeking to alarm you about how large the national debt is growing—which is an easy case to make—let me instead propose five reasons why you should be worried about the national debt, and why you should insist that our political leaders do something about it or face the worst catastrophe they can imagine—failing to be reelected.

First, your Social Security and Medicare entitlements are at risk if the federal debt continues to grow.  People argue that increased defense spending is to blame for the rise in the national debt, or the recent tax cut.  While both of those are factors, Hoover Institution economist John Cogan, author of a new book about federal entitlements (The High Cost of Good Intentions), notes that essentially all the rise in the federal debt since World War 2 can be laid at the feet of entitlement programs.  Entitlement spending, Cogan argues, has risen from 4% of GDP to 14% and now accounts for nearly two-thirds of all federal spending.  Since it will be almost impossible to cut federal spending and the national debt without touching expensive entitlements, your entitlements—especially if you are younger than the Baby Boomers—are very much at risk.

Second, an economic reckoning will come from the explosive growth in federal spending and debt.  No one really knows how much federal debt is too much.  Unfortunately some kind of major economic correction will be the signal that we have gone too far.  Other countries will quit buying our debt, or will discount it heavily.  The stock and bond markets will lose confidence in our reckless fiscal policy and send prices plunging.  We are creating our own bed of instability when the government spends a lot more than it takes in (nearly $1 trillion this year), and one day the bed will begin to collapse.

Third, spending today and putting it on the tab of the next generation is immoral.   Baby Boomers have already made a huge generational transfer of the costs of college, weighing their children down with decades of student debt.  Now we are also asking them to pay for our Social Security and Medicare benefits, along with the cost of our collapsing infrastructure and our national defense.  Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover of the 1920s understood that public debt was a moral question, but today it’s just a tool of economic policy.  It’s a way to open the faucet and try to get more bounce in the economy.  But the tab goes forward to our children in a way that is simply wrong.

Fourth, the growing debt increases the risk to our national defense.  Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats recently scolded senators in a hearing, sharing his concern that our federal spending “is threatening our ability to properly defend our nation, both in the short term and especially in the long term.”  Our present situation, Coats said, is “unsustainable” and represents a threat to both economic and national security.

Fifth, you should be concerned because the politicians are not.  Donald Trump promised to balance the federal budget in his campaign, and “relatively soon,” but he just keeps proposing more spending and tax cuts.  The Republicans haven’t met a defense budget they couldn’t increase and the Democrats insist on comparable increases in domestic spending.  Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin gave us the understatement of the year when he said government spending is “not an issue we’re focused on right now.”

If you think you’re too young to worry about the federal debt, you’re precisely the one who should be worried.  As President Herbert Hoover wisely said, “Blessed are the young for they shall inherit the national debt.”

To view the column at Forbes.com:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2018/02/28/five-reasons-why-you-should-worry-about-the-federal-debt/#46f48b224932

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“The Lost Art of Political Compromise” (National radio commentary, Salem/Townhall) February 26, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds.
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Among many lost arts in Washington the most problematic is the lost art of compromise.

 The dictionary says compromise includes the root word “com” or together with the word promise:  We make promises by coming together.  America learned this early, with the Constitutional Convention full of compromises.

But now members of Congress vote not to find the best solution for the country but the best platform for their next election.   Democrats threatened to shut the entire government over dreamer immigrants, while Trump was willing to see a shutdown over his wall.  And so it goes, politicians standing firm on one issue or another which they believe will get them reelected, and the whole of the federal government is held hostage.

We need more politicians like Ronald Reagan, who told House Speaker Tip O’Neill, “I will take half a loaf today, but I will come back for the other half tomorrow.”

https://omny.fm/shows/townhall-review-conservative-commentary-on-todays/david-davenport-the-lost-art-of-political-compromi/embed?style=artwork

http://www.townhallreview.com

Millennials Could Change the Political Landscape–If they Vote, SF Chronicle February 23, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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In 2016, a political tsunami crashed on our shores with the outburst of populism and the election of Donald Trump. Now, less than two years later, we should prepare for two more big waves of change: the rise of Millennial voters and the passing from the scene of a generation of political leaders. Together they could produce a major transformation of our political landscape.

What we do know is that the political views of Millennials are very different from those of their Boomer parents. A Pew survey found that older voters are growing more conservative as younger voters become more liberal. According to a World Values Survey, for example, only 30 percent of voters born after 1980 believe it is absolutely essential to live in a democratic country, while 72 percent of Americans born before World War II find it essential. Millennials are broadly insecure and concerned about the future, with a recent poll by the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School showing 67 percent are fearful about America’s future, while 54 percent believe America is on the wrong track.

What we don’t know is whether Millennials are prepared to step up, vote and play an active role in political life. Voter turnout in the 2016 election is a cautionary tale: only half of eligible younger voters voted, compared with about two-thirds of older voters. Millennials are strongly negative about President Trump’s job performance, along with that of Congress, the Republican Party and, to some extent, the Democratic Party as well. An NBC News/Gen Forward poll showed that 71 percent of Millennials feel the political parties do such a bad job that they favor the creation of a third party. Herein lies the concern: Are Millennials so disillusioned about politics that they will not actively engage? “Will they continue to value community service over politics as they do now?”

With this generation’s deep concerns about their own job prospects, student debt, unaffordable housing and expensive health care, their liberalism aims in those directions. While society’s safety nets have been largely constructed with the aged in mind, Millennials will be interested in exploring greater stability for young people and families with children who, as Jacob Hacker, director of the Yale Institute for Social and Policy Studies, points out, “face the greatest risks.” Ironically, this leads them to resonate with two politicians in their 70s: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

In some yet uncertain ways, Millennials may also want to rethink government itself. Technology is their natural domain, and they will want government to be far more responsive. It seems likely that they will ultimately want to see government do more with less, as has been the case with businesses and nonprofits. Professor Dave Andersen, a political scientist at Iowa State University, sums it up this way: “The repeal and replacement of government writ large, I think, is a Millennial value right now.” My own students over the years have even wondered why we have state governments, seeing them increasingly as an unnecessary layer of middle management between the local and federal governments.

I recall a 97-year old man being interviewed, with the questioner reminding him he had seen a lot of change. “Yes,” he answered, “and I was opposed to every one of them.” Change is difficult, but it is likely to be the order of the day as our political landscape opens up to new voters and leaders.

Power to the States (National radio commentary, Salem/Townhall) January 31, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Radio Commentaries.
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One encouraging development is that power is leaving Washington, DC and heading to the states. Policy wonks call it devolution, I call it progress.

After 15 years of federalizing K-12 education, for example, Washington turned its back on No Child Left Behind and passed a bill returning power over schools to the states.  There’s no need for Washington to act, as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says, as a national school board.

There’s discussion in Congress that the states should not only manage the trees, plants and flowers in their territory, but wildlife as well, including endangered species.

Welfare reform may be the next big issue and any solution is likely to create a larger role for states. Only the marijuana laws are moving the other way, toward Washington.

It’s heartening that Washington may finally be reading the Tenth Amendment—that all powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution belong to the states or the people.  Not everything needs to be a federal case.

I’m David Davenport.
https://omny.fm/shows/townhall-review-conservative-commentary-on-todays/david-davenport-power-to-the-states/embed?style=artwork

http://www.townhallreview.com

What Kind of Country Wants Media Stars for President? (National radio commentary, Salem/Townhall) January 29, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Radio Commentaries.
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Social media blew up when it appeared that Oprah Winfrey might run for president.  Think of it:  two billionaire media stars who had never held political office running for president. Only in America.

But the deeper question is why voters are turning in this direction?  Besides their obvious frustration with politicians, voters seem more interested in making statements than actually governing. We don’t know what policies Oprah might follow and, even after a year, Trump’s policy approach is still taking shape.  But they do make a statement.

A related problem is that the presidency is becoming all bully pulpit and no real leadership, all hat and no cattle as they say in Texas.  We want superheroes and action, not mature deliberation.  What passes for action in Washington these days is party-line votes and executive orders, not working through complex issues.

Citizens have duties, too, and we shouldn’t vote just to express frustration, but to guide the policy and governance of the nation.

https://omny.fm/shows/townhall-review-conservative-commentary-on-todays/david-davenport-what-kind-of-country-wants-media-s/embed?style=artwork

http://www.townhallreview.com

Congress and the Lost Art of Compromise (Forbes.com) January 24, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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It is not difficult to identify “lost arts”—things we used to do but do not do any longer—in Washington, DC:  civility, bipartisanship, courage, just to name a few.  But one lost art underlies the others and has led to the inability of Congress to carry out its most basic responsibilities–pass a budget or keep the government open.  The most fundamental lost art of all is the lost art of compromise.

It is ironic that at the same time Congress was conferring its highest civilian honor on former Senator Bob Dole, a principled conservative who nevertheless practiced the art of compromise, we were preparing to shut down the federal government again (the 5th time since 1990) because we do not know how to compromise.  Even the author of “The Art of the Deal,” Donald Trump, apparently does not do deals any more.

But first let’s go back—to the dictionary and American history—before we come back to today.  Compromise includes the root “com” which means together and “promise.”  The idea is that we learn to make promises based upon agreement, or coming together.   Starting at the Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787, our entire government is based on compromise.  We had the Connecticut compromise, for example, which was based on the novel idea that the government could be partly federal and partly state-based.  James Madison, recognized as the author of the Constitution, introduced several ideas that he could not get through the Convention, but which he compromised into something else.

Otto van Bismarck famously said, “Politics is the art of the possible.”  And so compromise seeks the “best possible” solution.  Not a perfect union but, as the preamble to the Constitution states, “a more perfect union.”  It is sometimes said that the enemy of the good is the best, but that is not our problem with compromise today.  No, we are unable to find the “best possible” solution because members of Congress have become almost entirely focused on positioning themselves and their party for the next election.  That has become the enemy of compromise.

So the Democrats would shut down the entire federal government over the Republicans’ failure to properly address DACA and dreamer immigrants.  And Trump would see the government shut down because he is not getting funding for his wall.  And so it goes—politicians stand firm on one relatively small principle, which they believe will get them reelected, and let the whole of the federal government be held hostage to that.  Senators who wanted to find a way out of the impasse had to gather in one tiny office because the whole apparatus of the Senate was lined up against the very idea of compromise.

Like most arts, it will not be easy to find compromise again.  At the most fundamental level, both voters and politicians alike will have to recover a commitment to governing, not just making statements.  Any so-called debate these days could be reduced to one-word positions:  The “Wall,” says Trump; yes but “DACA’ say Democrats.  But who is saying, “keep the government open,” “settle some issues,” “solve some problems?”  Just a few senators hidden away in an office.  We have to stop making statements and digging in on single issues and be committed to running a proper government.

Then we need leaders who will say, as President Ronald Reagan said to House Speaker Tip O’Neill of the other political party:  “I will take half a loaf today but, I will come back for the other half tomorrow.”  Everyone wants the whole loaf or nothing—if I can’t get my way, shut it down.  It seems like something leaders should have learned in kindergarten—you don’t get everything you want.  Yes, a very short-term compromise was finally struck, but it should have been long-term and done by leaders or in committees, not by a small group of self-selected senators crammed into a private office.

I, for one, plan to stop voting for candidates who are more committed to their reelection, their party, and their one-word litmus tests than they are to making the government work.  Does anyone care to join me?

To view the column at Forbes.com:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2018/01/24/congress-and-the-lost-art-of-compromise/#782422f9d597

Previewing Trump’s State of the Union Speech (National radio commentary, Salem/Townhall) January 22, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Radio Commentaries.
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A president’s first state of the union message is an important occasion. But in our era of political theater, there is some danger that this year the sideshow will overshadow the main attraction.

Several Democratic members of Congress say they will boycott the event.  One Congresswoman is encouraging females who do attend to dress in black.

Despite the political challenges, “it’s the economy, stupid.”  If Trump makes this primarily an economic address, he can succeed.  Think about it:  unemployment is down, jobs are up and the stock market is on fire. His big piece of legislation, the tax bill, is projected to lead to even more economic growth. The president has problems elsewhere, but so far so good on the economy and that should be his message.

The Constitution does not actually require this kind of televised state of the union address, though tradition does.  It’s always possible that a nontraditional president like Trump might surprise us and do something completely different.

https://omny.fm/shows/townhall-review-conservative-commentary-on-todays/david-davenport-previewing-trump-s-first-state-of/embed?style=artwork

http://www.townhallreview.com

A Cancer Growing on Congress (National radio commentary, Salem/Townhall) January 10, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Radio Commentaries.
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There is a cancer growing on Congress.  It is the curse of party-line voting.  The biggest legislation of the Trump administration is the tax bill, passed with only Republican votes.  And the biggest of the Obama administration:  Obamacare, again passed on a party-line vote with only Democrats.

Party-line voting has grown dramatically in the last 40 years.  In the 1970s, party unity voting was around 60 percent but today it is 90 percent.  Sadly it has become the new normal.

Such partisanship is cancerous because it cuts out all the people and ideas of one political party. And it leads to rushed votes, without the expected give and take and amendments of a quality legislative process. It also leads to weak laws because what can be passed by one party’s vote can be undone later by the other party’s vote.

This is no way to run a government.  I vote for more collaboration and less hyper-partisanship in 2018.

https://omny.fm/shows/townhall-review-conservative-commentary-on-todays/david-davenport-a-cancer-growing-on-congress/embed?style=artwork

What Kind of Country Wants Oprah vs. The Donald for President? (Forbes.com) January 9, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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As social media blows up over the possibility of Oprah Winfrey running for president in 2020, the words of 1950s presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson come to mind:  “In America anyone can be president.  That’s one of the risks you take.”

Anyone indeed.  Now we face the specter of a billionaire businessman and media star who had never held or run for political office against a billionaire businesswoman and media star who has never held or run for political office.  And people are excited about this.  Of course Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has said he’s interested in running also, so we cannot be certain how this might sort out.

The serious question this poses is what kind of country we have become that such a presidential field seems desirable to voters.  For one thing, we are becoming a country that uses politics and elective office to make statements more than actually govern.  We have no idea what kind of policies Oprah stands for and, even after a year of Trump’s presidency, his policy approach is at best scattered.  Apparently people prefer to “say something” with their vote rather than “do something” about policy and governing.  We have long seen this in California where we adopt ballot propositions that make a statement—such as Proposition 13 about high property taxes—but are deeply flawed as a tool of governing.

A related problem is that we are making the presidency into all bully pulpit and no real leadership, all hat and no cattle as they say in Texas.  When President Theodore Roosevelt spoke of the president having a bully pulpit, he meant a platform from which leadership could be projected and work could get done.  Now, with Trump’s Twitter account and Oprah’s television shows, we want all platform and no agenda.  We want to elect the candidate with the biggest megaphone, not with the most extensive political experience or ideas.  We are becoming, as theologian Elton Trueblood put it, “a cut-flower civilization” with no real roots or beliefs.  We want media stars who speak in sound bites and solve problems in one-hour TV episodes:  “Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s Superman!”  Indeed, Norman Mailer described media-friendly John F. Kennedy’s appeal in an article titled, “Superman Comes to the Supermarket.”  But at least Kennedy had some real political experience and ideas.  Surely we have learned by now that a great speech, like Oprah’s at the Golden Globes, does not make a great president.

I would add that we seem to be a country that is more interested in instant gratification from our leaders than actual deliberation.  The greatest deliberative body in the world, the US Senate, doesn’t really deliberate anymore.  Bills are introduced by one party and they are only brought to a vote when that party has enough votes to pass it.  Much of what passes for action in Washington now is by way of executive orders or agency regulations, not deliberation.  As Franklin Roosevelt said in his first inaugural address as president during the Great Depression, “The American people want action, and action now.”  Well that’s what presidents and Congress are still offering us—partisan action, not bipartisan deliberation.

We must remember that citizens have duties in the electoral process as well as the candidates.  We read that the great populist wave in America is frustrated that the politicians and elites don’t get it.  Well, the citizens need to get it also.  They need to get that elections and governing are about more than just expressing frustration and making statements.  They are about deciding the policy direction the country will follow.  We need to see the pendulum swing from elite-bashing to serious and mature judgments about the kind of candidates, experience and bipartisanship that would actually make America work again.

Maybe author Cormac McCarthy was right that this is “no country for old men.”  But the old ideas from the founders about how government works are not all bad.  They have endured longer than any other government in history in large part because they are good ideas that actually work.  Maybe we should try them.

 

To view the column at Forbes.com:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2018/01/09/what-kind-of-country-wants-oprah-versus-the-donald-for-president/#941a33b70777

The Tax Bill Needs Follow-On Spending Cuts (National radio commentary, Salem/Townhall) January 5, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Radio Commentaries.
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Although a tax cut may have been a nice Christmas gift, it needs some follow-on spending cuts to work.  At best, Republicans have eaten their dessert first, waiting to eat their spending cut vegetables later; at worst, they will have increased the federal deficit by another trillion dollars or more.

 

By most estimates, even stimulating economic growth will not fully pay for the tax cut.  Republicans will now have to undertake the politically courageous step of cutting federal spending.

 

It will be difficult to make spending cuts without touching Medicare or Social Security, which President Trump has said are off limits. Meanwhile there is pressure to undo the sequester, automatic cuts on spending no one liked, but which have at least kept spending growth down.

Ideally, Republicans would have disciplined themselves to do tax and spending cuts at the same time. Tax cuts may come and go, but the federal debt remains forever, it seems. And—without spending cuts—it grows.
https://omny.fm/shows/townhall-review-conservative-commentary-on-todays/david-davenport-the-tax-bill-needs-follow-on-spend/embed?style=artwork