Earl Ofari Hutchinson's take on the politics of the day
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In an exclusive interview on The Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour with host Earl Ofari Hutchinson on KTYM 1460 AM Los Angeles on August 12, Brian Darling, a Senior Fellow in Government Studies at The Heritage Foundation
EOH: Can there be compromise within the Super Committee?
BD: I think we’re going to see lots of politics. Senator Patty Murray, head of the Democratic Senatorial Committee clearly will have an interest in making sure the commission doesn’t produce something that would potentially harm candidates running for office. The Democrats that were appointed from the senate; you have two members of leadership and the Republicans did something very similar, putting in conservatives. I can’t imagine this is going to be a real productive exercise. The president tried to cut a deal with all the issues on the table. They couldn’t. I don’t understand how we would expect a commission to magically hit that sweet spot and find a deal that can pass congress when they couldn’t do it a month ago.
EOH: Compromise and conciliation you say may not be in the cards?
BD: No, because Republicans aren’t going to compromise on the issue of increasing taxes. It would be devastating to the economy. Liberals are not going to compromise on entitlement reform. They have already run campaign ads against Republicans on that issue. We are not going to see compromise and conciliation in those issues. And there really shouldn’t be. Republicans and conservatives should never compromise on increasing taxes. It just doesn’t make any sense. It would be very destructive to the economy. It may close the debt and the deficit, but it’s not going to make our country any better.
EOH: What do you make of the polls that appear to show the public saying we need to raise taxes?
BD: The President’s class warfare appears to be working. Demonizing the rich and saying we need a tax clearly has some people receptive to that message. The bottom line is, I think, conservatives are doing a bad job of communicating to the American people that if you do that, it would be more destructive to the economy. We’re looking at a huge deficit and debt from year to year. Our national debt is at $14.5 trillion; our deficit for this year is $1.6 trillion and next year we’re looking at $1.3 trillion. Raising taxes isn’t going to solve any problems; it’s going to probably turn the economy even more upside down, which may actually cause less money to come into the federal tills. As more people become unemployed and the economy gets worse, there will be less individuals paying into the system and more people unemployed, taking from the system. The problem isn’t the fact that we have this massive debt, it’s that the federal government is too big. It’s doubled in size over the last 10 years, having increased about 33% since President Obama was sworn in. We are having a problem with government getting too big and spending too much, sucking up too many resources. We need to cut government and get rid of programs that are harming our economy and taking away resources that aren’t productive. I think that could be done. We need to look at entitlement reform to fix the programs that are broken and haven’t been reformed in years. We don’t need to raise taxes.
EOH: How do you respond to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security being too dicey politically to touch?
BD: It is always dicey politically. I think the problem is conservatives need to make it clear they’re not looking to cut Medicare, Social Security, or Medicaid; they are looking to reform these programs. If we don’t, they are going to pay out, and we’re going to get in a situation where all these unfunded liabilities will be destructive to our government. We are going down the road of Greece and Portugal where our debt is getting so big it’s exceeding the economic output of the United States for a year. That means government is just flat out too big. People need to look hard at what we need to do in the future, and there will be some tough decisions to make. They have to be made now or else we’re going to continue to steal from future generations by handing off this tab to future generations by all the reckless spending going on in Washington. I think if you poll the American people and ask if the government is spending too much, they are going to say yes. I don’t think the American people support increasing the tax burden on the private economy because they don’t like Washington right now. They don’t trust the federal government to spend it right. They don’t trust politicians.
EOH: Will politics spill over into the 2012 Presidential Elections, and if so, how?
BD: I agree that both parties will stake out their positions in this commission and make it political. When they deadlock, they will take that to the campaign trail and fight it out. Automatic cuts do kick in, but not until January 2013, so it could be a big issue. You’re talking about the possibility of this looming over the heads of congress and becoming an issue on defense and Medicare provider cuts. It could become an issue that would move right through to the presidential elections and senate and house elections. You could see the parties coming together and cutting a deal, unlikely, or they could cut a smaller deal that doesn’t hit that number of $1.5 trillion over 10 years. I would expect politics over substance in this commission.
EOH: Isn’t this feeding into the public’s disappointment on all elected officials?
BD: I think [if they don’t come up with anything] that will lead to a very volatile electoral public in the sense people are going to dislike both parties and not know who to vote for. We could see wild swings in poll numbers leading up to Election Day. The president’s poll numbers are really terrible. If I were working on the Obama campaign team, I would look at the poll numbers and say, “Boy we’re in trouble right now. The best thing we have going for us is that as much as they hate us, they hate the Republicans too.” It’s going to be very difficult to predict, difficult to figure out what issues are going to break through and what issues aren’t. It’s going to be fascinating to watch how this debt commission pans out and how that impacts issues moving forward to the 2012 elections.