They’ll have several opportunities in the next few months to show whether they’re on the side of taxpayers, or whether they’re going to return to business-as-usual politics.
● I’d like for them to block any disaster funding for New York, New Jersey, and other states affected by Hurricane Sandy, but I’ll be satisfied if they cut out the billions of extraneous pork that’s been added to the bill.
● Will they insist on some long-overdue process reform as part of an increase in the debt limit? Congressman Brady has a proposal, known as the MAP Act, that imposes a spending cap modeled after the very successful Swiss Debt Brake. That seems like a very reasonable request if Obama wants another increase in borrowing authority.
● The “continuing resolution” expires at the end of March, meaning that the government no longer will have authority to spend money for the non-entitlement portions of the federal government. If they’re serious about fiscal responsibility, lawmakers should insist on genuine spending cuts. And if Obama balks, let him be the one to shut down useless and counterproductive bureaucracies such as the Department of Education and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
This short list contains items that can be achieved if self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives are sincere about saving America from becoming another Greece.
To be sure, nothing on the list addresses the main problem of unsustainable entitlement programs. But there’s no realistic way of getting pro-growth reforms through the Senate or signed by Obama. Heck, if you’re trying to gauge the odds of good entitlement changes in the next four years, all you need to know is that you’re better off betting that I’ll be playing centerfield for the New York Yankees next season.
Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.