No shutdown, Chambliss and Warner, ‘broke’ D.C. still hiring!

So, in the end, there was no federal government shutdown. As I explained before, I think avoiding a shutdown over a relatively small difference between the cuts Republicans wanted and the ones Democrats were willing to make was the right move. I would have preferred to see all the cuts made, a few billion at a time, over the rest of the fiscal year. But there are bigger fish to fry.

U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Mark Warner, D-Va. were in the AJC’s offices this morning for an editorial-board interview. You may know Chambliss and Warner as the founding members of a “Gang of Six” in the Senate trying to fashion a bipartisan agreement to balance the budget and begin paying down the federal debt. I haven’t re-listened to the tape yet, but here are a few quick takeaways:

  • Both senators think Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity,” released last week is a “serious” attempt at reform with some shortcomings. In particular, both senators think tax reform has to lead to higher revenues, not just the same amount of revenue as before, and that Social Security reform and deeper defense cuts also have to be on the table. But they credited him for going further in reforming Medicare than any plan to date.
  • The senators expect President Barack Obama to engage on the issues of the debt ceiling and longer-term debt solutions now that the fiscal 2011 budget is wrapped up, as the White House indicated over the weekend. They both think Obama’s address on fiscal matters Wednesday will be crucial for the tone it sets about what must be done and that everyone must share in the solution. (My two cents: Hints that Obama’s approach on taxes is to resume his quest to raise taxes on “the rich” make me think he still wants to tell Americans that our debt and deficit are problems for only a small number of us.)
  • The debt ceiling vote will be crucial, and Chambliss and Warner understand they have to present their plan very soon to avoid getting caught up in politics over that vote — although they still won’t commit to a date for presenting the plan, or any details of it.

I’ll get to more from the interview shortly.

In the meantime, Mickey Kaus (now blogging at the Daily Caller), notes one takeaway from the government shutdown showdown:

If you worry that the federal government can’t afford $38 billion in cuts, please read Chris Moody’s article from two weeks ago. There’s a $1.6 trillion deficit but the feds are still hiring. As of March 23 they were hiring someone to run a Facebook page for the Deparment of the Interior (at up to $115,000 a year). They were hiring equal opportunity compliance officers at the Peace Corps and Department of Interior for $150,000 to $180,000 a pop. They were hiring deputy speechwriters for officials at relatively obscure agencies. …P.S.: The point isn’t so much that these federal employees are overpaid, though they are. The point is that if there were any actual sense of a deficit crisis in Washington these are jobs that would not be filled at all. … Well, maybe the Facebook editor. I think that’s a critical investment necessary to win the future, don’t you?

Kaus’ “P.P.S.” is also worth reading.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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26 comments Add your comment

that's goofy

April 11th, 2011
12:54 pm

The President has indicated that cuts to spending and changes to the tax code are needed. Cutting spending alone or raising taxes alone will not get us out of this jam. A little of both is required. Getting rid of loopholes in the tax code would help a lot too – but neither political party wants to step on the toes of their corporate / special interest masters.

that's goofy

April 11th, 2011
12:54 pm

Joe Cool

April 11th, 2011
1:06 pm

Repubs were going to have the govt. shutdown over Planned Parenthood….Really guys. Social issues?


April 11th, 2011
1:08 pm

Bookman also addressed the Chambliss – Warner meeting.

And as I noted on his blog, we were able to be the proud owners of a $14.2 trillion National Debt because we decided to “cut taxes and increase spending”.

And we “enjoyed” 30 years of putting money in our pockets via the tax cuts and having more government services via the increased spending.

And as we should have known, the bill always becomes due. But when one is addicted, one is addicted. Addicts rarely face reality.

The only way to get rid of that $14.2 trillion National Debt is to “cut spending and increase taxes”. We all know that. We will not all admit that.

For both sides the real solution of cutting spending and raising taxes runs into “ideology”. The Democratic types do not want to do a lot of spending cuts and the Republican types to not want to raise any taxes.

So we fiddle.

And the desire to get rid of the National Debt is secondary to the major topic of the day, the 2012 Election, and the ideology of the political bases.

I trust we will all enjoy the next 18 plus months as we “do” the 2012 election.

Jefferson Jackson

April 11th, 2011
1:53 pm

If my wife and I spent money the way the Feds spend money, we’d be……bankrupt. It can happen; just ask a few European countries.

Ben Franklin

April 11th, 2011
2:10 pm

As long as 47% of citizens pay no Federal income tax, enjoy the benefits, even get a check from the government despite paying no federal tax –we will always be in the hole.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

April 11th, 2011
2:41 pm

The problem with the budget is excessive spending, not inadequate revenues. Time to sacrifice some entire commissions and agencies, namely all of them.

The solution is not to cut the military – that is the only part of government doing what governments ought to do.

Of the $3,833,861,000 that the Federal government will spend this year:

National Defense $749,748,000
Social Security $736,284,000
Medicare $497,341,000
Debt Service $499,125,000
All other spending $1351,363,000

By coincidence that “all other spending” is approximately equal to the budget “deficit.”


April 11th, 2011
2:42 pm

What is politically possible and what our country really needs are two different things.


April 11th, 2011
3:08 pm

For those concerned about the deficit, again, if you’re not talking about cutting the cost of health care, then you’re either not serious about balancing the budget or your not well-informed.

And if we cut Medicare benefits without doing anything about the cost of health care, as Paul Ryan proposes, then we’ve just shifted the cost of health care from the government onto business and households–entities with no buying power. The result being that instead of bankrupting government, we just bankrupt more business and households because of medical costs. In addition to being morally repugnant to have a society that allows people to lose their life savings because somebody rear-ended them while sitting at a red light, it’s fiscally counterproductive.

The health care law that passed last year included several measures for reducing the cost of health care, which is why the CBO said that it would reduce projected deficits by a over $1 trillion over the course of 20 years. It was a good start, but there’s more that can be done. With other countries insuring all their citizens at half-the-cost, this shouldn’t be difficult.

Hillbilly Deluxe

April 11th, 2011
3:23 pm

How ’bout we keep the government open and shut down Congress?


April 11th, 2011
3:26 pm

I have been saying for years if you want to get serious about cutting deficits we need to cut military spending. It has become nothing more than a welfare program to build planes and equipment we don’t need to keep jobs in districts and states so congressman and senators can get re-elected. And why do we still have troops in Japan and Germany and Italy? Close those bases and bring the troops home to serve stateside.

Road Scholar

April 11th, 2011
3:31 pm

Kyle , it’s because of the high turnover rate that the Feds are anticipating due to the private sector creating jobs due to the tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy. I mean employment by the private sector is going to go through the roof… oh wait a minute. What jobs have been created by the Bush and Obama tax cuts? None are apparent! And Ga follows suit with the new tax bill…more tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy. Now how do I get that wealthy job? Um Unemployment in Ga is 10.2%

Road Scholar

April 11th, 2011
3:35 pm

Just read Bookman’s column: Tell Canter his pay and benefits as well as the others in Congress is being cancelled. Anybody who gets their pay through collective bargaining (the Congress) does not have the right to do so since they are in government! Just like Wisconsin!


April 11th, 2011
3:37 pm

Anyone that thinks you can solve the financial hole the US is in by spending cuts only must think republicans have some credibility. Last week proves they can’t do what they say they will do. They can’t cut 50 b if their life depended on it, much less solve the problem. When given a balanced budget, they spent more rather than retire debt. No credibility. Taxes will have to go up in order to get out of debt, at that point the interest on the debt would be the only tax cut you could give, face it it cost money to run a country. Blame democrats if you will, but they are part of the equation. Bottom line, what the R’s say does not happen.


April 11th, 2011
4:02 pm

I am a Dem and believe we have contributed mightily to the huge blow-up in the defecit/debt. However, Republicans are about as culpable. Most of these guys – Boehner, Ryan, Cantor contributed to the deficit run up of 2000 – 2006. I really don’t know which side will be proven right, although I am for tax increases, or maybe broadening the tax base IF you can lock in spending cuts as well. My experience tells me that is one side (R or D) is overly enthusiastic about a solution, then that solutions probably screws someone else big time.


April 11th, 2011
4:26 pm

Kelvin – spoken like a true uber-liberal. Sadly, you don’t realize the full scope of what our military does throughout the world, and it ain’t just shooting. While I agree some scaling back is necessary, and in light of the lack of competing superpowers (technolicially speaking), some of the advanced weapons are now quetionably, but when it comes to deterrence, response, etc., paying catch up has distinct consequences. Cut military spending, pull back the troops, yadda yadda yadda. Better start brushing up on your Farsi dude.

Free Radical

April 11th, 2011
4:40 pm

To think that we almost shut down the government over Planned Parenthood and EPA funding. If you want to know why Congress has such a low approval rating it is because both parties alienate 75% of the electorate when they pander so blatantly to special interests. If you need to save money then save money. Why do republicans especially feel that they must fuzz up every issue that the American people back them on with social issues that do not have widespread backing?

Does every politician have such a tin ear that they cannot hear the response from the vast middle, ‘See, republicans don’t really want to cut government spending, just the spending they don’t like.’

Republicans, no one will believe you are serious until you are ready to cut:
Military and defense contracts
Red state farm subsidies (no that is NOT a tax increase)
Social Security, including that reliable Grandma voter
Medicare, including pharmaceutical purchasing and tax benefits
Entitlements, even poor starving single Mom Maria with her newborn
Wall Street tax benefits

And Democrats, you better be prepared to cut everything else.

Is there ANYONE out there that will vote for what is right for the country instead of what they are going to get from it?


April 11th, 2011
4:45 pm

Why exactly is the debt ceiling the crucial vote? If they don’t raise it, they have to either get Bernanke to create more money (causing inflation, higher interest rates & stagflation), default on loans destroying the US’s ability to do anything on a world market or walk up to every department in the government and explain why they will be unfunded for November and December.

Free Radical

April 11th, 2011
5:01 pm

I think the Republicans believe they need an immediate crisis to get attention about the problem but they have no leverage because everyone knows you have to raise the debt ceiling because you can’t stop something with the momentum of the US government in a month.

Unfortunately, here is what will happen.

Lots of wailing and gnashing.
Lots of media coverage about the fight. No coverage about the issue.
Countdown to crisis!! Finger pointing and blame. Last minute vote to raise debt ceiling
Irresponsible media goes away because there is no crisis or food fight
House passes budget
Senate and Obama declare it dead on arrival, offer no alternative, and do not engage in the process
Everyone ignores the issue until early 2012 when we have no budget and have to raise the debt again
Wash, rinse, repeat

How can we possibly break this cycle?

Gravy Train

April 11th, 2011
7:01 pm

The only real solution is a cut in spending and a raise in taxes. I think a federal 1 cent sales tax would work much better than trying to get a fair rate out of tight wads that can afford to buy their own politicians. Another way to raise revenue is to penalize corporations hiding their incomes in foreign banks, and on companies that outsource their production jobs. Also, put a tariff on Chinese goods.

Do the Math

April 11th, 2011
7:05 pm

Increasing taxes and cutting spending alone is not enough. We need to also reduce foreign trade deficit and grow the GDP substantially. Cancel your retirement plans and everyone get to work.

independent thinker

April 11th, 2011
9:08 pm

1. Bring the troops home from all bases overseas unless the host country will share in our costs
2. Increase the cap on social security withdrawals from wages and anyone who earns over $100,000.00 a year after eligibility gets a credit if they do not withdraw benefits
3. cut off all social security disability unless the person is bedridden and can demonstrate they have no assetts;
4. put a cap on medicare benefits based on what is paid in plus 10%
5. eliminate all government jobs that are not essential to defense, security or commerce. Severely limit any jobs related to equal opportunity, foreign aid, public education, EPA, ADA, and other nonproductive priorities designed to appease special interest groups and which place unfunded mandates on states.
6, Have a bipartisan commission determine if any pork is esssential particularly if related to research, highways, parks, local improvements, etc.
7. eliminate all farm subsidies
8. Severely limit all government entitlements to anyone who has more than two children and is not working with foster care for anyone with four or more children and no means of support.
9,Force people on Medicaid or who are not insured or who are illegal aliens who are not totally disabled to get treatment at government subsidized clinic instead of emergency rooms .
9. Restore the Bush tax cuts and have mandatory minimum tax payments for all corporations.
Then everyone will have some skin in the cuts and the deficit will truly start to come down

Moderate Line

April 12th, 2011
6:13 am

In 1981 we had 2109000 federal employees. In 2008 we have 2128000. A growth of less then 1%. The problem for the government is not to many government employees.

Moderate Line

April 12th, 2011
6:13 am


April 12th, 2011
8:56 am

Concerning Social Security, legally, it is not part of the Federal Budget. Implying it is broke is a bold face lie. It was designed to be flexible and changes over the years kept it viable. Rules governing the collections need to be adjusted to account for fewer workers. Consider these changes: include a social security tax on stock transactions in addition to the Federal Tax, Here,social security has been purposely ignored. Also, the rich are not paying their fair share. Lift the current ceiling of ~ $107,000 in earnings to include everyone above that limit to pay a higher and fairer percentage. Restore the personal accounts and do not allow the Feds to borrow from the fund. If the government does not have a viable repayment plan, then borrowed funds from the social security coffers is tanamount to embezzlement or double taxation at the least. Corporations in the past have paid higher portions for social security but their contributions, as a percentage, has decreased considerably over the years. They need to reverse this trend and have corporations pay a moderate increase as in previous years. The corporate portion paid to social security is not an unchangeable sacred cow. Increasing the retirement age is unfair and ill conceived, it discriminates against the lower 50% of social security contributors whose life span has not increased significantly due to poorer health care. Only the he upper 50% of contributors will benefit by living longer. This information came directly from the Social Security folks.

Moderate Line

April 12th, 2011
11:10 am

The federal government spent about $224 billion in 2008 on compensation for about 2 million civilian employees.
If you cut federal compenstation by 10% you would save 22 billion. Federal salaries are about 6% of the budget. USA Today said federal workers are 20% overcompensated. You would cut the budget by 1.2%.

Not exactly a windfall of savings. Compare to the Defense Budget which is 20%, Medicare/Medicaid which 23% and Social Security which is 20%