James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

More signs of a 2010 Republican surge

Mar 3, 2010 18:04 UTC

Forget the polls. Look at what the lobbyists are doing. Not only are campaign contributions to Republicans on the rise, advocacy firms are looking to hire more GOPers. So says CQ:

With dozens of House Democrats looking vulnerable in November, lobbyists are prepping for narrower Democratic majorities on Capitol Hill next year — or a possible Republican takeover. “Democratic control initially caused a pendulum swing to Democratic-leaning firms,” said Drew Maloney, a Republican, who is managing director of Ogilvy Government Relations. “You’ll see a swing back towards the middle, where firms that have a bipartisan balance of strong players will be well-positioned in the new environment.”

Lobbying shops began adding Democrats to their rosters when the party won the House in 2006. The hiring trend crested two years later, when Barack Obama won the White House and Democrats took a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Since then, tales of hefty six-figure paydays for even junior Democratic aides have wafted throughout the Capitol, enticing many staffers to depart for once-in-a-lifetime salary offers. But with downtown firms now teeming with Democrats — and GOP party leaders betting big on Election Day 2010 — Maloney and other executives are putting Republican resumes on the top of the stack for the first time in four years. Ogilvy recently hired Republicans Justin Daly and John O’Neill to round out the firm’s practice.

Even the Podesta Group and other Democratic-leaning shops are succumbing to the GOP feeding frenzy. Podesta CEO Kimberley Fritts, a Republican, said she has recently hired three Republicans — Steve Northrup, Molly McKew and Robert Taylor — and is looking to perhaps add more.

Balancing the budget

Mar 3, 2010 15:20 UTC

Blue Dog Democrats have introduced an amendment to balance the federal budget by 2020. How that might happen, they don’t say. To get an idea just how tough that would be, look at Republican U.S.Representative Paul Ryan’s Roadmap for America’s Future. It gets the budget in balance without raising taxes by huge entitlement spending cuts. In 2020, his plan would produce deficits of close to 4 percent of GDP — and rising. His first balanced budget doesn’t arrive until 2063.

The 20 Percent Solution

Mar 3, 2010 15:11 UTC

House Republicans Jeb Hensarling and Mike Pence want a constitutional amendment to limit government spending to 20 percent of GDP, its rough historical average. In their Wall Street Journal op-ed, H&P admit, significantly, that America cannot grow its way out of its debt problem:

Can we tax our way out of this problem? No. In order to pay for what we are on track to spend under current law, taxes would have to double. This would crush our economy and condemn future generations to a far lower standard of living. That is not an option. Can we grow our way out? Unfortunately, no. Although pro-growth policies like simplifying the tax code and lowering rates are critical components of any solution, they alone are insufficient. Mr. Walker estimated it would take double-digit economic growth every year for the next 75 years in order to close the fiscal gap.

Me: They don’t say how the government should hit that 20 percent goal, given the expected rise in entitlement spending. But it does provide a marker. They aren’t arguing for small government as much as typical government, at least overall. But hitting that 20 percent would require a radical transformation of US domestic economic policies. Both Social Security and Medicare would be transformed, particularly the latter. Nothing typical about that.


At least it is now possible for politicians to talk about cutting entitlement programs and not get whacked at the polls for it. Pres. Bush did one good thing; he tried to sell changes to Soc. Sec. to the American people. He failed to sell but he didn’t get clobbered at the polls so that is progress.

We’ll see if Republicans can sustain the effort. The leadership distanced itself from Rep. Ryan’s “roadmap” but its still there.

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