I said the other day I’d post a who-speaks-for-ducks item and so here we go. There’s just no getting around it. Because I wouldn’t want to shatter my credibility. I’m a stand-up blogger and this was a direct promise to post an item headlined in such a fashion.
And don’t think I’m stalling here trying to remember what my point was going to be.
Oh right: Fiscal cliff, Grand Bargain, tax hikes, spending cuts. We have to make some tough decisions. And on the spending side, we have to decide if we’re going to hack away at the growth in entitlement spending, or instead find savings through cuts in discretionary spending, which is to say cuts in the things that government actually does, which is to say cuts to such agencies as the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — which is to say ducks.
Who speaks for ducks??
Well, now that I think of it, there’s an obvious answer: Ducks Unlimited.
The fact is, there’s a lobby for everything. There’s a trout lobby! Trout Unlimited, or TU as we call it in my neighborhood.
If you’re a lobbyist in this town, right now is game time. This is the flippin’ Super Bowl. You gotta gear up and get out there in the middle of the scrum. If you don’t protect your measure of gruel you’ll lose it to someone who’s hungrier and meaner. The public-employee unions are revved up, as is AARP and various advocacy groups like Fix the Debt and the National Committee to Protect Social Security and Medicare (which is very upset about the idea of switching to chained CPI as you can imagine).
And you know all those tax “loopholes” that people keep saying they want to close? Every one of them has a constituency, and a lobbying operation, and a person in a swank corner office staring out on K Street. And a membership at Congressional. A corner table at Charlie Palmer’s steakhouse. A Rolodex the size of a Doberman. [Fogey mental note: Do people still have Rolodexes?] [And Dobermans??]
Loopholes and tax breaks are a major industry here in Washington. The big tax fight between the Ds and Rs is over how to raise more tax revenue — by eliminating loopholes and tax breaks, or by raising marginal rates. The Republicans would rather do the latter. But you know the Republicans have friends who create loopholes for a living and hand over pallets of cash for re-election campaigns. The average Republican can say, with a straight face, “Some of my best friends are loopholes.”
There is no solution to the long-term fiscal picture that does not involve some level of pain. Avoidance of pain is the job of the people representing the various interest groups. We know, for example, what AARP thinks about cuts to entitlement programs. It is a measure of the success of that effort that when the time came to create brutal sequestration cuts, entitlements were protected while discretionary programs (ducks, etc.) were splayed on the chopping block.
I do not know how this will play out, but in all likelihood the future will be used again as the great slush fund for the present, and any Grand Bargain will likely involve efforts to hide the pain, obscure it, mask it, distract from it, suppress it, and ultimately lie about it.
Someone will say: “This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you.” And that will be a lie.