Social Security’s trust fund has 20 years to live, according to the 2013 annual report released this morning by the Social Security Trustees.
In our new idea brief we make the policy and political case that a Social Security fix can only be accomplished through a national commission and that it must happen pre-2016. We also examine effective U.S. commissions and identify the critical lessons for structuring a commission to succeed where Simpson-Bowles fell short.
“If you had told me 10 years ago that one of the few things that could get done in Washington is trade policy, my head would have exploded. But it seems to be the case that trade is actually something we can get done.”
Ed Gerwin, Senior Fellow at Third Way, on the surprising likelihood that major trade legislation could pass through Congress this year.
Follow Ed @EdGerwin for more on trade and global economic policy.
Energy policy is difficult to move, in part because there’s really no such thing as a “must-pass” energy bill. It doesn’t carry the same urgency or institutionalized process as certain annual taxing and spending bills, and it certainly doesn’t generate the same passion in the electorate as health care, immigration, or other social policy priorities. Let’s face it…energy policy is the stowaway, not the train. You can slip a discrete energy policy into a larger vehicle, as we saw with the PTC’s inclusion in the fiscal cliff deal. But building a large, comprehensive energy bill in this political era is basically the equivalent of a dozen stowaways standing by the tracks deciding to tie themselves together. Good luck with that, guys.
Recent movement of hydropower and efficiency bills, along with bipartisan support for master limited partnerships and ARPA-E, has shown us the potential for passing targeted energy legislation in this Congress. Perhaps these particular issues are unique in that they tend to gin up relatively little controversy. But an incremental and targeted approach can be effective with contentious policies as well. Returning to our earlier example, the PTC for wind has become a target of hyper-conservative groups in recent years. Yet a significant block of Republican lawmakers, including tea party favorites like Steve King and freshman class president Kristi Noem supported the extension. To be precise, they actually FOUGHT for it, pressuring their leadership and colleagues to move the provision. Focusing solely on the PTC for wind allowed geography to trump partisanship. This prioritizing of parochial issues over political ideology is a well-known phenomenon in energy policy, and it has often provided opportunities for compromise and progress in Congress. But the influence of the “geography effect” is diminished once the policy in question is merged with others that are of less interest or that present a conflict for lawmakers.
For the House and Senate, the strategy that seems to be showing the most promise is to keep it simple (and practical), stupid. Smart policy initiatives will minimize variables that give lawmakers a reason (or an excuse) to vote against clean energy interests that matter to folks back home. And they will take advantage of unique coalitions that each individual issue can bring to the table based on geography, local economies, etc. Legislators can also encourage the Administration to continue its use of executive orders to increase efficiency and clean energy procurement within federal agencies, and to pursue collaborations with industry to iron-out regulatory hurdles that could slow the adoption of clean technologies.
The bottom line is, there is plenty to be done. It just can’t be done all at once. So pick your spot on the apple and start taking a bite.
The bipartisan Gang of 8 immigration reform bill renews America’s commitment to welcome the world’s huddled masses but also sets new priorities for skills-based immigration, eliminates arbitrary country caps, puts the students we’ve educated to work in our economy, and establishes a sustainable path for the agricultural and guest workers on which our society depends.
Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Peter King (R-NY) have introduced a bipartisan compromise bill on background checks that protects the Second Amendment rights of gun owners while strengthening our ability to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, terrorists, and those who are severely mentally ill.
With so much at stake, we’ve written a quick one-pager to explain why both gun lovers and gun skeptics can support Thompson-King.
A hunter and lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, Democrat Joe Manchin won his Senate seat after airing an ad that showed him firing a rifle and shooting a hole in the cap-and-trade bill backed by President Obama. Now the West Virginia senator is the point man on Capitol Hill for reviving legislation on background checks for gun buyers that lawmakers killed just three weeks ago. With polls showing the public turning on some Republican senators who voted against the popular bill, Manchin’s crusade for a second wave of gun legislation could succeed.
Sen. Joe Manchin is followed by reporters as he walks from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office in early April after a meeting on gun control. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
“This isn’t gun control, this is gun sense,” Manchin said Saturday at a forum in Washington, where he shared the stage with liberal MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. “I’m a gun owner, I come from a gun culture. If I couldn’t bring some credibility to that issue, why am I here?” His goal, he said, is to have another vote in the Senate before the August recess. “We’re going to pass this thing,” he said. “Don’t give up.”
Syria is a test for President Obama and the New America coalition he brought to power. Can the U.S. fulfill its obligation to be “the world’s indispensable nation” while at the same time avoiding the kind of military quagmire that enrages Democrats?
The Obama administration did it once before, in Libya. The U.S. had limited interests in Libya. The Obama administration proved that it could make a limited commitment, using limited resources, for a limited goal. No invasion, no nation-building. Syria, however, is more complicated and more dangerous.
There are two arguments propelling the Obama administration to intervene in Syria. One is political. President Obama has drawn a “red line” in Syria. The government of Syrian President Bashar Assad appears to have crossed it. Obama said last year, “A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”
Now the White House has released a finding by the intelligence community asserting “with varying degrees of confidence” that the Assad government has used chemical weapons “on a small scale.” The Syrian regime has called Obama’s bluff. Now what will we do?
Given the chained CPI is primary a technical adjustment to more accurately measure inflation, support for the change can be found among experts across the political spectrum. Last week and over the weekend, Charles Blahous of the Mercatus Center, Len Burman of the Tax Policy Center and Syracuse University, and David Brown of Third Way all took a look at the case for moving to the chained CPI:
“Two things have been missing in Congress lately: bipartisan compromise on tough issues and political courage. But both of these were on display this morning, as Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey, together with Senators Chuck Schumer and Mark Kirk, have come together on a significant new gun safety bill.
“In the face of blistering opposition from powerful forces and needling skepticism from the political classes, these Senators kept working to find common ground, and they succeeded. The bill they crafted is a compromise, but a smart and meaningful one. It treats all firearms sales from commercial venues like gun showsand the Internet the same as sales from a federally licensed gun store. It closes the loophole in the Brady Law that has served as the lubricant of the illegal gun market and the main supplier of guns to criminals. By choking off this source of firearms, this bill would go a long way toward keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, the mentally ill, and others who shouldn’t have them.
“Senators Manchin and Toomey are proud gun rights stalwarts, and they have written a bill that vigorously protects the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. They tuned out the hysterical warnings of a massive gun confiscation and focused on what matters to gun owners: ensuring that they are able to buy, sell, and possess firearms in ways that are safe and convenient, without the specter of a government gun registry looming. Senators Schumer and Kirk care deeply about gun safety and showed flexibility to ensure that a bill that can save lives can also win votes.
“We have been working on gun safety legislation like this for thirteen years. We are deeply grateful to the sponsors of this bill for their creativity, their resolve, and their willingness to work together. We hope that they will be a model for their colleagues as this bill advances.”
The NRA’s substitute gun trafficking bill would just be one more toothless federal gun law cleverly written to accomplish practically nothing. This memo lays out the two major flaws in their proposal: 1) it would dismantle the straw purchaser provisions at the heart of the legislation passed by the Judiciary Committee; and 2) its standard of proof is so high that it would be impossible to prosecute.
The NRA gambit is simply an attempt to distract the Senate from supporting the much stronger measure approved by Judiciary. The Chairman’s bill would staunch the flow of guns into the illegal market and keep them out of the hands of criminals.