Posted: 10:48 am Thursday, May 15th, 2014
By Greg Bluestein, Daniel Malloy and Jim Galloway
Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss published an article in the Stanford Law and Policy Review, entitled “Saving Us From Ourselves: The Pursuit of Fiscal Sanity.”
The article is a detailed history and explanation of his Gang of Six proposal to eliminate a $17 trillion federal debt. Think of it as a letter the next occupant of his Russell building office. “Here’s how things stood when I left. The rest is your fault.” That sort of thing.
The writing is a tad thick, but the outline should be familiar to most of you by now: Following the lead of the Simpson-Bowles commission, Chambliss maintains that the only way to address this critical problem — a national security issue, really – is through a mixture of entitlement cuts and revenue increases. The latter could be achieved through the closing of loopholes, resulting in overall lower tax rates. Specifically:
As I hope I’ve made clear, curing our fiscal ills must begin with our tax code. If it were entirely my choice, I would overhaul our tax system with something similar to the “Fair Tax.” However, like the president’s and Chairman Ryan’s budgets, that kind of overhaul lacks bipartisan support. Regardless, there is consensus that the current code is a mess, complicated by so-called “tax expenditures”: credits and deductions that provide preferential tax treatment to certain groups and individuals. Some of these expenditures were included with the best of intentions, and some still make good policy sense today. However, many of them are dated at best, provide unfair redistributions to favored interests at worst, and still others represent failed attempts to incentivize certain behaviors through our tax code. And all of them cost money.
True reform would eliminate some tax expenditures, but as my good friend Senator Warner has pointed out time and again, “[y]ou can cut everybody’s taxes in half and actually raise more revenues if you’re willing to get rid of all the tax expenditures, tax breaks.” Now, no one is suggesting we remove all expenditures, but the point is illustrative: you don’t have to raise rates to raise revenues. Even if we preserve, in some capacity, expenditures like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), child tax credit, and modified deductions for mortgage interest of first homes, charitable giving, and healthcare, we can lower rates and generate more revenue.
And so it is ironic that the final hours of the GOP race to replace Chambliss should focus on one candidate’s attempt to extend that delicate discussion. From our Tuesday post, here are comments that businessman David Perdue made during a meeting with Macon Telegraph editors:
“Well here’s the reality: If you go into a business, and I keep coming back to my background, it’s how I know how to relate is to refer back to it — I was never able to turn around a company just by cutting spending. You had to figure out a way to get revenue growing. And what I just said, there are five people in the U.S. Senate who understand what I just said. You know revenue is not something they think about.”
Word of Perdue’s comments sparked a blitz of fundraising pitches and pleas for support from his GOP rivals:
From U.S. Rep. Paul Broun: “Based off recent comments, it appears as if David Perdue picked the wrong primary for his first political venture. David Perdue is so moderate he makes Saxby Chambliss look like the head of the Tea Party!”
From U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston: “If we want to get the economy moving again, we need to get Washington to live within its means and get government out of the way of America’s job creators. David Perdue’s tax increases will only hurt our economy.”
From former secretary of state Karen Handel: “Every conservative know that ‘raising revenue’ is code for raising taxes. Nice try.”
Perdue went on Herman Cain’s WSB Radio show to clarify:
“I’ve been preaching for over a year that to solve the debt crisis we have to cut federal spending, and we have to grow the economy. The other day in the editorial-board interview, I said we need to cut taxes so we can grow revenue ‑ without tax increases, I might add.”
Cain, who has endorsed Perdue, on Wednesday posted a defense of the businessman on his website.
GOP rivals have charged that U.S. Senate candidate David Perdue’s verbal miscues — such as his “high school graduate” comment — carry an air of condescension. They could point to a new one.
In an interview with Brian K. Pritchard of FetchYourNews.com during a visit to Ellijay this week, Perdue was asked about a company took stimulus money while he served on its board. After explaining his opposition to the stimulus and the pressure the company was under to take the grants, Perdue added this:
“But let me explain one other detail. Boards establish — and this is the embarrassing thing for people who have never been in the free enterprise system. They just don’t understand how boards and management work. Boards are in there to participate in terms of strategic direction. And we’ve done that. I’ve been on that board a long time. Management executes that and we hold management, their results against those plans. And that’s how this was done.”
U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey’s campaign is keeping the fire burning on its allegations that rival Karen Handel “promoted teenage homosexuality.” But the language is tailored to present the argument not that it’s a bad thing to be pro-gay, just that it’s a bad thing to be a flip-flopper. A press release from yesterday, riffing off of Handel campaign manager Corry Bliss’ response in this space to Gingrey’s ad.
“This is nothing more than an attempt to avoid the fact that Handel voted to support the LGBT community on the taxpayer dime, and to confuse the issue at-hand. Handel’s support for the homosexual community is at odds with the conservative Georgia values she claims to defend, and her [alleged] support for traditional marriage.
“This begs the question: How can Georgians trust a candidate that flip-flops on key principles, and betrays those who’ve had her support for political gain?
“Most troubling, Karen Handel still won’t admit the truth, and continues to wordsmith her way around it. The facts don’t lie. She voted to promote teenage homosexuality with taxpayer dollars.”
The soup pot that is the Democratic race to replace Jason Carter in the state Senate isn’t finished bubbling yet.
We told you earlier of the row that began when Decatur attorney Kyle Williams accused former state representative Elena Parent of consorting with Gov. Nathan Deal when it came to HOPE scholarship legislation in 2011.
Now Parent has made this attempt to link Williams with former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Williams would be the first openly gay member of the state Senate. At issue is an endorsement made by Log Cabin Republicans of Williams’ 2009 candidacy for Decatur city council — a nonpartisan race. Williams accepted the endorsement.
The Williams campaign this morning sends us a statement from a number of gay rights activists that labels the attack “disgraceful.” In part:
To use the bipartisan endorsement of the LGBT community in a non-partisan Decatur city council race from five years ago against Kyle Williams undermines the potential future advancement of several municipal leaders in the LGBT community. We stand behind Kyle Williams and future LGBT leaders 100% and demand that Elena Parent renounce the mailer.
A response that has arrived from the Parent campaign includes this:
“This is not an LGBT issue,” said Karla Drenner, who has endorsed Elena Parent and is the first openly gay state legislator in Georgia. “This is a Democratic Primary and this Republican group spews vitriol at Democrats on a daily basis in its news feed. As recently as Tuesday, they posted an article accusing President Obama of ignoring terrorists. I can assure you Elena would never accept the endorsement of the Georgia Federation of Republican Women or the Concerned Women for America.”
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson got another chance to publicly grill Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee — and current head of the Office of Management and Budget — Sylvia M. Burwell on the Savannah Port on Wednesday.
He revealed that after his first session with Burwell, Office of Management and Budget staff contacted his office and set up a briefing with Isakson and top OMB officials and the head of the Army Corps of Engineers. Isakson said they reached an agreement about what happens next after the Water Resources and Development Act finally passes both chambers — expected next week.
Here’s the video:
Isakson said the parties reached a deal, which he outlined thusly:
“One, we need to pass the WRDA authorization for the 902 for the authorization of SHEP which is in the final conference agreement, I’ve seen that. Second, the Corps has to initiate and begin a partnerhsips agreement negotiation with the port authority in Savannah and with OMB. And third, that the state needs to agree to forward fund initial construction money for which it will receive credit towards its required match during the course of the expansion project. Do I have a correct representation of the steps forward to complete this project?”
Burwell’ confirmed the agreement. Now, before God and CSPAN, everyone is on the same page. The aforementioned WRDA authorization will come next week, we were told this morning.
As many others have noticed, the hearings for the future HHS secretary have been notable for their lack of harsh partisan assaults on the Affordable Care Act by Republicans. After his single question on the Port of Savannah, Isakson asked Burwell about a facet of the ACA that put many independent insurance agents out of business.
“Which is a reason we had to hire navigators to help people find their way through the exchanges,” Isakson said. The Georgia senator asked her to revisit that decision. “It’ll save cost on the government, in terms of not having to have as many navigators, and it will put people back in business, who I think were unintentionally put out of business by the Affordable Care Act,” Isakson said.
It was, for the record, an effort to improve Obamacare rather than a demand for its outright repeal.
You will note that the European High Court has ruled that a person has a “right to be forgotten” and has ordered that Google remove links to archived newspaper pages that contained old information on a Spanish fellow who couldn’t pay his bills.
This is an idea that could catch on in Georgia political circles. This morning, it might apply to Mike Collins, a Republican in the contest to replace Paul Broun. Collins has sent out a mailer that includes this claim:
But one of his rivals, former state lawmaker Donna Sheldon of Dacula, helpfully sent along this YouTube clip from February to jog Collins’ memory:
Savannah surgeon Bob Johnson is lobbing a Federal Election Commission complaint at his chief foe in the First Congressional District GOP primary, state Sen. Buddy Carter of Pooler, conveniently timed for less than a week before the primary.
In the complaint, Johnson accuses Carter of illegally using state Senate campaign funds to pay for U.S. House campaign staff. The accompanying documentation shows three people being paid from both the state Senate campaign and the Congressional campaign after Carter announced his decision to run.
In addition the complaint provides evidence of Carter’s state Senate campaign receiving corporate donations after he announced for Congress, and violated the ban on campaign money transfers from his non-federal account to his federal account.
Walter Jones of Morris News Service has more here. Carter spokesman Jud Seymour sent us this:
“We are confident that the FEC will find that this is nothing more than a frivolous complaint and that we have complied with the letter and the spirit of the law. This is just another wild accusation by Bob Johnson’s campaign, proving that he’s willing to say or do anything to try and get elected.”
Georgia’s growing film industry has become a surprising point of contention in California’s race for governor.
Tim Donnelly, a longshot GOP candidate for California governor, wants moviemakers to ditch Georgia for Hollywood and says our fair state should “stick to growing peaches.” He says so pretty directly in a billboard posted somewhere in these parts. (We’re not sure where, so if anyone knows let us know.)
Donnelly’s plan, by the way, would offer a 30 percent tax credit for films shot and produced in California. He says it was modeled after Georgia’s film tax credit program, which is credited with sparking a boom in the industry here.
About the Authors
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He joined the newspaper in June 2012.
Daniel Malloy is the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington Correspondent, covering the Georgia Congressional delegation and other D.C. goings-on that affect the state since 2011. He's a zealous fan and proud graduate of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.