Legislative Lowdown: Time to downsize Big Bird

Brian Darling Liberty Government Affairs
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Yes, America, we have officially entered the silly season of politics when Big Bird becomes a national issue.

With Americans hurting for jobs, gas prices through the roof, and kids having their inheritances squandered by the big-spending policies of the Obama administration, President Obama has chosen to put Big Bird in the center of the debate on the proper role of the federal government. It’s an epic case of one party trying to distract people from the serious economic problems facing average Americans.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) has received approximately $1.7 billion during President Obama’s term. The CPB funds PBS and NPR, in addition to other government-funded speech and entertainment. If the federal government is unwilling to cut children’s entertainment programming, it’s clearly incapable of dealing with the big issues of entitlement reform, balancing the budget and revenue-neutral tax reform.

It may be time to give that big yellow bird his hopping papers. According to Forbes, Big Bird is richer than Mitt Romney. NPR, PBS and the puppets on Sesame Street will do fine in the private sector.

Libya hearing

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee conducted a hearing on Wednesday to receive testimony from State Department officials about the events leading to the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Security lapses led to the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Many are concerned that the Obama administration is trying to avoid responsibility for its intelligence and security failures.

Jim Carafano of The Heritage Foundation argues that “acknowledging that terrorism is alive and well looks bad for the Obama administration’s rhetoric, which has portrayed Obama as having vanquished Osama bin Laden and thus ending the ‘war on terrorism.’ The chaotic handling of the Libya attack points to one of two culprits: incompetence or dishonesty.” The American people deserve answers and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) should be congratulated for having an oversight hearing to get to the bottom of the matter.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has convened an “Accountability Review Board” to report on the security systems and procedures in Libya. A cynic would argue that this is an attempt by the Obama administration to slow-walk an investigation into security mistakes made by the U.S. government at the consulate in Benghazi until after the election.

It seems that when Obama administration officials failed to peg the blame for the attack on a YouTube video, they decided to blame intelligence agencies instead. Hopefully this hearing helped to clarify the security failures in a public setting so the American people can assess whether the administration acted competently in protecting Americans in Libya.

Grand bargain = big disaster

The “Gang of Eight” senators working on a proposal to immediately hike taxes and propose long-term cuts to spending has entered another week. This week the Gang met secretly in Mount Vernon for three days of non-transparent negotiations for a lame-duck deal on taxes and spending. Members of this gang include Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.).

According to The Washington Post, earlier this week “seven of the group’s eight members met with Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, who led the president’s deficit-reduction commission, according to sources familiar with the meeting. (Durbin did not attend the meeting but participated remotely.) The Simpson-Bowles plan inspired the original Gang of Six’s $3.7 trillion deficit-reduction proposal, which combined entitlement and spending cuts with $1 trillion in new tax revenue, assuming the Bush tax cuts for those with incomes more than $250,000 would expire.” The phrase “$1 trillion in new tax revenue” is code for “a $1 trillion tax hike on you, the taxpayer.”

Conservatives are worried that politicians will violate the Americans for Tax Reform Taxpayer Protection Pledge during a lame-duck session of Congress. Reports indicate that they may use the guise of tax reform in a manner that nets the federal government more and more of your money to squander. This idea is expected to get some floor time during the lame-duck session, when many members will be serving after being kicked out of office by the voters. Expect a terrible deal to be cut by both parties if this deal comes to fruition.

Brian Darling is Senior Fellow for Government Studies at The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).