Business Ethos Blog

2011 Resolutions for Congress – Dr. David Mielke, Dean of the EMU College of Business

 Is it too early to make a New Year’s Resolution?  I suggest that the Senate adopt a New Year’s resolution as soon as possible.  It would be the “Right Thing to do” to resolve that next year, or starting now, that all proposed legislation:

1. Be given sufficient time for discussion, debate and for the general public to become aware and “educated”.

2. Be sure that all legislators have at least read the bill before voting to pass it.

3. Stop tagging on extraneous legislation that is in effect “hidden” because it is added to a significant piece of legislation that will be the focus of the voting.

4. Stop adding “special projects” to in a sense but the votes of certain legislators.

5. Stop earmarks.

We have had numerous examples that could fit under these suggestions over the past year, but we have a current set of examples that we can talk about now.  The Senate majority leader has set an agenda for the Senate to complete before the end of the year.  The list includes:

1. The tax bill including extension of the Bush tax cuts, increasing unemployment benefits for 13 months, a reduction in social security contributions by employees, reductions in the estate tax, continuation of subsidies for ethanol, changes in capital gains taxes, etc.

2. Legislation to end the military’s “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell”.

3. The new Start Arms Treaty with Russia.

4. The immigration “Dream Act”.

5. The $1.1 trillion “omnibus spending bill for 2011.

All of these proposals are in their entirety or have major portions which are not the “Right Thing to do”.

1. The all inclusive tax bill has a number of examples of “add on” legislation which should be proposed separately to be sure there is sufficient time to discuss and debate.  The subsidy for ethanol is one of the worst examples.  Support for this extension has been decreasing and many speculate that unless it was tied to this tax bill, it would never pass.  Is this an example of “buying” votes of key Senators from agricultural states?  Although a reduction in social security tax contributions has been proposed, there has never been a debate about its merits, possible implications for the economy, what if any impact it has on the social security system and the cost.  is this a “hidden” stimulus bill? 

2. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Certainly important legislation that needs consideration, but has the military study on the implications for removing this system been debated?

3. Any nuclear arms treaty deserves careful study and debate.  The administration claims that failure to ratify the treaty in two weeks will offend the Russians—even though the Russians have made no such claim in public.  Does anyone understand the implications of the treaty?  Already one proposal has come forward that the US add a clarification clause to make sure the language makes it clear that the treaty doesn’t cover missile defense plans.

4.  We thought that the State of Michigan legislature was slow to adopt a budget.  Our Congress may be the slowest.  There is still no budget for 2011.  On December 14th a 1,924 page $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2011 was delivered.  Which Senators have actually read the bill?  It is loaded with earmarks.  The usual budget consists of 12 separate spending bills to be individually debated and passed.  There is a rush to pass one giant bill into law when no one is paying attention.  What is contained in the bill?  What special interest spending is tucked into this bill?  There is a simple solution to make sure the budget process is maintained—that is pass a continuing resolution to keep the government running as is until an appropriate debate and hopefully, 12 separate spending bills can be passed.

This rushed, non-transparent, all about the Congressional members brand of legislating is precisely what voters rebelled against in November.  How about instead passing the tax bill (they did, even though imperfect, but bi-partisan), fund the government with a continuation bill, pass my New Year’s resolution and go home for the holidays.