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Lucas, Deutchman on Debt Bill

Posted on Wednesday, August 03, 2011

DeWayne Lucas, associate professor of political science, and Iva Deutchman, professor of political science, were quoted in a Finger Lakes Times article about the debt bill passed this week. The article focused on the votes of local Representatives Richard Hanna, Tom Reed, and Ann Marie Buerkle.

In explaining the bill, the article notes: "If Congress fails to adopt most of the commission's proposals, $1.2 trillion would automatically be cut from agency budgets - half from domestic programs traditionally backed by Democrats, half from defense programs traditionally backed by Republicans."

"So both sides now have an incentive to want to find reasonable cuts," said Lucas.

The article explains, "The bill contains neither the increased revenue that some Democrats pushed for nor the mandatory balanced budget amendment favored by some Republicans. Instead, it calls only for an open vote on the budget amendment and a commission with an open-ended mandate," and quotes Lucas, "I'm not sure if anyone came out ahead on this."

The article cited Deutchman as saying the country was the winner in the deal because it has avoided default.

"It is the quintessential American way of governing, where you say that you want to be paid $10 an hour and I say you should volunteer, and we compromise on $5," she is quoted.

Deutchman also discussed the tea party's role in the debt ceiling debates:

"When you have a political party that looks to me like it it's willing to jeopardize the future of the country, this is a little nerve-wracking," Deutchman said. "Put it this way: The tea party makes me appreciate the good side of conventional politics that you often thought was bad, like the thought that you want to stay elected, you want to stay in office, and that means you play by the rules."

A member of the faculty since 2000, Lucas holds a B.A. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and his M.A. and Ph.D. from State University at Binghamton.

Deutchman, a member of the HWS faculty since 1987, holds a Ph.D. and a master's degree in political science from the University of Pennsylvania, and a bachelor's degree from Hofstra University in political science and economics.

The full article follows.


Finger Lakes Times
House passes debt bill

Jim Miller • August 2, 2011

The debt bill that the House of Representatives passed last night should change the conversation in Washington, Rep. Richard Hanna said yesterday.

"The 80,000-foot plus out of this is, for the first time - I suppose you could even say in history- this government is talking about the fact that it can't afford to do what it's done in the past," he said.

The Barneveld Republican, whose 24th district includes Geneva, voted for the bill, along with Rep. Tom Reed, R-29 of Corning. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, R-25 of Syracuse, voted no.

Buerkle was still making up her mind yesterday afternoon, said spokeswoman Liza Lowery. In a brief statement this morning, Buerkle said the bill had good aspects but created several new problems.

"At the end of the day, I was not satisfied that all my questions and concerns had been answered as to potential negative affect of this bill on the people in my district," she said.

A compromise bill
Crafted at the last minute and criticized by partisans on both sides, the bill raises the debt ceiling enough to fund the government through the next election. It requires $1 trillion in cuts over 10 years and sets up a bipartisan commission to recommend another $1.5 trillion in cuts.

"This act is not perfect," Reed said in a press release. "However, it is a significant step forward toward changing the borrowing and spending culture of Washington. This act finally makes the government accountable to the people. It will force us to cut up the national credit card."

If Congress fails to adopt most of the commission's proposals, $1.2 trillion would automatically be cut from agency budgets - half from domestic programs traditionally backed by Democrats, half from defense programs traditionally backed by Republicans.

"So both sides now have an incentive to want to find reasonable cuts," said DeWayne Lucas, a political science professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva.

The debt debate began months ago as the government approached and eventually exceeded the debt ceiling, the cap Congress puts on how much money America can borrow. If the cap is not raised by day's end, the Obama administration has said the government would have two options. It could either default on the national debt or allow other bills to go unpaid.

The Senate was expected to act on the House bill sometime today, averting the need to make that choice.

The bill contains neither the increased revenue that some Democrats pushed for nor the mandatory balanced budget amendment favored by some Republicans. Instead, it calls only for an open vote on the budget amendment and a commission with an open-ended mandate.

"I'm not sure if anyone came out ahead on this," Lucas said.

Fellow HWS political science professor Iva Deutchman did have a winner in mind, however. The country won because it no longer faces the prospect of default, she said.

"It is the quintessential American way of governing, where you say that you want to be paid $10 an hour and I say you should volunteer, and we compromise on $5," she said.

It may not completely please either side, in other words, but it got the job done.

The bill passed the House 269-161.

"This office and me have been out there for more than two months asking for some kind of thoughtful compromise measure, and this is it," Hanna said in a phone interview before the vote.

Tea party role
Sandy King, organizer of the Finger Lakes Tea Party, counts herself among those not completely pleased.

The government had to raise the ceiling to meet its obligations, she said. But she believes Congress should have cut more spending and even risked going beyond the deadline if it meant getting a better bill.

Many of the tea party affiliated congressmen elected last fall pledged to cut spending and oppose efforts to raise the debt ceiling. Last night, they joined with like-minded Republicans and Democrats worried that too much was being cut in opposing the bill.

To Deutchman, the tea party's no-compromise stance is dangerous because it pushed the nation so close to default.

"When you have a political party that looks to me like it it's willing to jeopardize the future of the country, this is a little nerve-wracking," she said. "Put it this way: The tea party makes me appreciate the good side of conventional politics that you often thought was bad, like the thought that you want to stay elected, you want to stay in office, and that means you play by the rules."

But to King, the tea party deserves credit for its stance, not blame.

Without it, Congress would have simply raised the debt ceiling "and gone on their merry way," she said.

"I think people have got to realize that the tea party is not the enemy here," she said. "You have a whole new group of people down there. They don't like politics, they don't play politics .... They're putting their country first, and they're standing on the fact that we've got to fix this. And the only way we're going to fix this is, we've got to have a balanced budget amendment."

King worries that the House bill won't be enough to prevent the nation's bond rating from being downgraded, increasing the cost of the money it borrows. And she would have preferred more cuts up front.

But for Reed, who addressed the Finger Lakes Tea Party during his campaign, the bill was close enough to the one proposed by House Speaker John Boehner to win his support.

"Bottom line was, I recognized the risks associated with default," he said by phone after last night's vote. "I saw this bill was a legitimate effort at cutting spending and getting our fiscal house in order, so taking everything into consideration, I thought it was the prudent thing to do to support this bill."

 

 


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