The Spokesman-Review

Opinion

Declaw the cowardly lyin’

My favorite political joke in recent years wasn’t authored by comedians Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. No, it comes from Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who worked this gem into his majority opinion in the Citizens United case, which released torrents of campaign spending by overturning congressional limits. It goes like this:

“With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”

May political robocalls forever clog his phone.

I keep searching the Internet, but darned if I can discern who financed those deceptive Crossroads GPS robocalls I received night after night. Thanks to Kennedy and company, there is no global positioning satellite that locates the perpetrators. The transparency he alludes to doesn’t exist with groups like this.

Crossroads GPS is the brainchild of Karl Rove, the former aide and campaign manager for President George W. Bush. It is formed as a nonprofit “social welfare” group, thus its contributors do not have to reveal themselves. NBC News reports that the financiers were unnamed hedge fund managers and other Wall Street titans who were motivated by possible plans to tax more of their financial gains. But under the new rules, these captains of commerce need not be captains courageous when “speaking” through their checkbooks.

So unless Congress acts on legislation that requires full disclosure, these financiers can remain behind the curtain in the land of the free and the home of the cowards. It would be nice to know who they are, for the reasons Kennedy outlined.

Plus, we could call them back and let them know how much we appreciate their social welfare work.

Now the hard part. Brian Riedl, budget analyst for the conservative Heritage Foundation, sent this memo to U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi when she ascended to speaker of the House in 2006:

“If PAYGO is your preferred tool to end irresponsible budget policy, then you must pass a statutory PAYGO that covers all mandatory spending and is seriously enforced. Making this your first legislative accomplishment will show the nation that you are serious about reining in the budget. You should then take steps to strengthen controls on total spending and address the tsunami of future entitlement costs.”

I trust this was cc’d to John Boehner, who will probably be the new speaker. Will Republicans impose a more disciplined pay-as-you-go budgeting process? The last time they were in power they dumped it altogether. Boehner has noted that one of the first budget targets will be to roll back federal spending to 2008 levels. U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said the same on the campaign trail. But that won’t be nearly enough to offset legislation that would extend the Bush tax cuts. So what other spending cuts will there be to pay for that?

Will Republicans figure out a way to pay for the prescription drug benefit for seniors? It’s the only new entitlement the country has adopted in decades, and they “paid” for it by charging it to the nation’s credit card. Now they have a second chance to finance it in a responsible manner. I look forward to seeing how they do that.

Then there are the two wars that are still being waged. Those were deemed emergencies under Republican rule and thus not paid for with offsetting cuts or tax hikes. Will they try that trick again?

The interest on the debt from the wars, Medicare Part D and the tax cuts (if extended) will continue to mount unless Congress finds corresponding spending cuts or tax hikes. Or both.

During the campaign, McMorris Rodgers conceded that the last time her party controlled Congress it let the nation down by not imposing budget discipline. Now that the GOP has regained some power, it will be interesting to see how the party redeems itself.

Congratulations on the election victories, but that was the easy part. Good luck with crafting the spending cuts needed to lower the deficit and debt without increasing taxes and keeping the Heritage Foundation, tea partiers and other small-government groups happy. Oh, and at the same time, you need to boost the economy and create jobs.

If this election has any firm message, it’s that you have a grand total of two years to git ’er done.

Going, going, gone. Meg Whitman, who made billions of dollars with eBay, spent $160 million of it on a failed bid to be California’s next governor. Wonder how much that job would go for if it were put up for auction. Though Californians rejected her at the polls, they ought to thank her for stimulating the economy.

Smart Bombs is written by Associate Editor Gary Crooks and appears Sundays on the Opinion page. Crooks can be reached at garyc@spokesman.com or at (509) 459-5026.


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