Daily Archives: January 7, 2010

Bringing Down the Deficit: Can We Follow the Marshall Plan Formula? by Gregory Hilton

The U.S. Congress is entering a highly partisan election year and it is not expected to compile an impressive track record in 2010. Deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility will almost certainly be key themes in President Obama’s upcoming State of the Union Address, and my hope is that progress on spending cuts will not be delayed until next year.
The President and GOP leaders will both call attention to the soaring federal budget deficit and the spiraling national debt. As a percentage of gross domestic product, the public debt is dangerously high (84%) and the interest costs are exorbitant. About $3.5 trillion in American debt is held by foreigners and nearly $800 billion of that is held by the People’s Republic of China.
If nothing changes, ten years from now the federal budget will double. Between 1776 and 2008 the US government accumulated roughly $11 trillion in federal debt; the next ten years alone should bring an additional $9 trillion in burdens. Some analysts believe federal debt will reach $50 trillion by 2030.
Several lawmakers are recommending the establishment of a bipartisan commission to provide recommendations which will stabilize the federal debt at no more than 60 percent of GDP by 2018. This is an excellent idea which has been used successfully several times in the past.
The most notable was when a GOP Congress supported a Democratic president by enacting the Marshall Plan and backing the Truman Doctrine, with its pledge of military help to any free people threatened by Communist aggression.
The U.S. spent an unprecedented $13.6 billion in four years on the Marshall Plan. The money was used to underwrite the economic, social and political recovery of war-torn Western Europe. It never would have been enacted without the close working relationship between Truman’s Secretary of State, General George Marshall, and Senator Arthur Vandenberg (R-MI), the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Vandenberg’s bipartisan cooperation led some conservatives to refer to him as “a Benedict Arnold,” and it ruined his chances of winning the 1948 GOP presidential nomination. The Senator could truly say he would rather be right than president. His attitude was “We have won the war. Now let us work together to win the peace.” The Michigan Senator said he was a loyal Republican, but he was also a loyal American. He told his critics bipartisanship “does not involve the remotest surrender of free debate in determining our position. On the contrary, frank cooperation and free debate are indispensable to ultimate unity.”
General Marshall announced the plan during a commencement speech at Harvard University in June of 1947. He said, “I need not tell you, gentlemen, that the world situation is very serious. That must be apparent to all intelligent people.” Then Marshall sketched Europe’s devastation and economic disruption: “The town and city industries are not producing adequate goods to exchange with the food-producing farmer . . . People in the cities are short of food and fuel. . . The division of labor upon which the exchange of products is based is in danger of breaking down.” Europe was shattered, broke and facing economic collapse.
Vandenberg’s proposal was accepted by Truman and a bipartisan 16-person committee was established. It was comprised of leading figures from American life. They worked on outlining a long-term aid program and their recommendations were unanimous.
Vandenberg and the committee insisted that the Marshall Plan be different from any foreign aid program of the past. They wanted it to be administered like a business enterprise, with a clear, discernible strategy and goals. The Truman Administration agreed to the recommendation regarding an administrator of the Marshall Plan. They selected Paul Hoffman, the Republican president of the Studebaker Corporation, who instantly became the centerpiece in the Democratic administration’s foreign policy.
The European Recovery Act was signed on April 3, 1948. Two weeks later the freighter John H. Quick left Galveston, Texas, with 9,000 tons of wheat for France. This was the beginning of the most effective peace-time American foreign policy program in U.S. history. The Marshall Plan worked faster than anyone had thought possible. By 1951, Western Europe’s industrial production had soared by 40%. By 1952 as the funding ended, the economy of every participant nation had surpassed pre-war levels. Over the next two decades, Western Europe enjoyed unprecedented growth and prosperity.

The GOP Website Red State: Is It Too Partisan? By Gregory Hilton

As an active Republican I often visit the most prominent GOP website, Red State, http://www.redstate.com. I am an enthusiastic reader of GOP success stories, but I am often disappointed in the outlook of its hyper-partisan editor, Erick Erickson. Erickson appeared on five national television programs in the past two weeks.
His main message is to condemn the Republican leadership in the House and Senate, as well as any GOP lawmaker who will compromise in an effort to pass legislation. He wants campaign issues, not public policy.
A legislator who compromises is instantly labeled a RINO – a Republican in Name Only. There are times when party unity is essential, and the recent health care debate was one of them. All Republicans were united in their opposition. Also, this often happens on national security issues where Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) is usually the only GOP lawmaker to vote with the Democrats. I do not want to see Republicans cave in to Democratic demands, but I do not want to ignore our nations problems.
There was no spirit of cooperation in the health care debate and now our nation will be stuck with a very bad bill. Democrats made a mistake because the GOP alternative was constructive and would have been effective. My concern is that the Red State strategy will stop lawmakers from negotiating in the future.
John F. Kennedy was referring to the Soviet Union, but his words were wise, “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.” I want the GOP to win by attracting independent voters and adhering to Ronald Reagan’s inclusive “Big Tent” philosophy. I am not in favor of any Republican purity test. The party needs to be focusing on addition to our ranks while Red State is often about subtraction from the GOP base.
The lead article in today’s Red State is “Bob Bennett: An Old Dog With an Old Schtick” by Erickson. The author claims Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) is “the 8th most liberal Republican in the Senate from the most conservative state in the nation. He can and must be beaten. . . if the GOP is ever going to reclaim any credibility with the public they must stand for something other than creeping socialism. Bob Bennett must be defeated.”
Bennett has been in the Senate since 1992 and is best known as an advocate of the flat tax, free trade, and the Patriot Act. He has always been a strong opponent of public health care and has blamed government policies for the high cost of insurance. His cumulative lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union is 84%. His senior colleague, Orrin Hatch, has an 89% lifetime rating.
Erickson, 34, is annoyed because Senator Bennett does not agree with him that “The first duty of the opposition is to oppose.” Bennett believes “We have to be constructive,” and my recent article on the Marshall Plan emphasizes the benefits of working together in a bipartisan manner.
Unfortunately, many lawmakers in both parties no longer share that outlook. The current House and Senate is the most polarized since the Civil War, and far too many lawmakers define success by the failure of the other side. The goal is often obtaining a headline which will be embarrassing to the other side, rather than passing useful legislation.
I sincerely hope the Republican Party will make significant gains this November, but it is more important for our nation to succeed. I am opposed to practically all aspects of President Obama’s domestic agenda, but he is our Commander-in-Chief and he should be treated with respect. I am glad House Republicans are rejecting the Red State formula, and 95% of them are supporting the President’s 35,000 troop surge in Afghanistan.
Once again, I am opposed to Obamacare, but there are many essential health care reforms which have broad bipartisan support. They are being ignored in the current political climate. The cap-and-trade bill is awful, but our energy security needs should not be ignored. There will be no progress this year but I hope next year both parties will work together to advance nuclear power and off shore drilling.
There has been strong partisanship on Capitol Hill since the time of our founding fathers. This is evident in the writings of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. The certainly hated each other in the early 1800s, but they had come together to form the union and were later able to resolve their differences. That rarely happens today.
Former Senator David Pryor (D-AR) held statewide office for 22 years before his 1996 retirement. In a recent interview he discussed the changes he witnessed on Capitol Hill, “It is the lack of civility that worries me. Thirty years ago we never would have thought of going into a state and campaigning against one of our colleagues. We would not do that because we worked in a bipartisan manner. It would be difficult to join someone in the Senate Dining Room after you had just campaigned against them. We were not so partisan back then.”
Pryor also noted the disappearance of “plain old good manners.” Senator Al Franken (D-MN) is typical of the atmosphere today. He recently refused to allow Senator Joseph Lieberman (CT) “a moment” to conclude his remarks. I often see this on C-SPAN where lawmakers will not allow their colleagues to finish sentences. Part of the problem is the news media which encourages lawmakers to cram high voltage criticism into a 30 second sound byte. MSNBC has made attack dogs such as freshman Rep. Allan Grayson (D-FL) into national heroes for their partisan audience.
Every committee on Capitol Hill is divided along party lines. It is now rare for state Congressional Delegations to meet. Few lawmakers sit, plan, and work together for the benefit of their state or the nation. They instead work with their political friends.
The big procedural question for the GOP in January of 2011 will be selecting a proper legislative course. They will have to decide if they want to promote legislation which advances partisan goals or solves problems. My hope is that our lawmakers will focus on solving problems.