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Would allowing states to declare bankruptcy help California?

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 1:54 am - December 1, 2010.
Filed under: Big Government Follies,California politics

California is not the only state facing fiscal catastrophe.  Other states are teetering on the edge as well.  Michael Barone looks a the states in “such bad fiscal shape” and find they are in “the parts of America where the public employee unions have been calling the shots, insisting on expanded payrolls, ever higher pay, hugely generous fringe benefits and utterly unsustainable pension promises.”  Given the might of these unions, Democratic politicians (and some Republicans as well) have feared taking them on, lest they lose their support when election time comes ’round.

If Congress would enact a law allowing states to declare bankruptcy as University of Pennsylvania law professor David Skeel, a graduate of the nation’s most collegial top law school, suggests in an article in the Weekly Standard, Barone believes that would give state governments a bargaining chip in negotiations with the now seemingly omnipotent unions:

The threat of bankruptcy would put a powerful weapon in the hands of governors and legislatures: They can tell their unions that they have to accept cuts now or face a much more dire fate in bankruptcy court.

It’s not clear that governors like California’s Jerry Brown, who first authorized public employee unions in the 1970s, or Illinois’ Pat Quinn, will be eager to use such a threat against unions, which have been the Democratic Party’s longtime allies and financiers.

And the answer to that question, whether Democratic governors of states in fiscal crisis, will determine whether or note their jurisdictions will become fiscally solvent.

No Tom DeLays in House GOP leadership

Shortly after last month’s elections when Republicans recaptured Congress, I had planned a post, urging Republicans not to repeat the mistake they made just after the 1994 elections when, in the race for House Majority Whip, they rejected the principled Bob Walker for the opportunistic Tom DeLay.  That one-time Republican leader was back in the news as I prepared to travel to San Francisco to celebrate Thanksgiving with the most important person in the state (my now 2-year-old nephew); the Texan “was convicted [last] Wednesday on charges he illegally funneled corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002“.

While I believe it’s likely the conviction will be overturned on appeal, I did not shed a tear for DeLay.  More than any other Republican leader in the House, he was responsible for abandoning “The Spirit of ’94” and focusing on building a permanent Republican majority, not on conservative principles, but on lobbyist connections (and financing).  Had he not led the Republicans away from the small-government principles which secured their election in 1994, they may well have had a more lasting majority.

For Tom Delay Republicans, politics was about power not principles.  And in a republic, you can’t hold onto power very long unless you stand for something beyond its maintenance.

Fortunately, the incoming majority party’s slate lacked any Tom DeLays, with its leadership representing a diverse array of conservative opinion.  While incoming Speaker John Boehner supported the TARP bailouts, incoming House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling,  in the words of former House Majority Leader Dick Armey,  having “the best voice in opposition” to TARP.

There will be no Tom DeLays in the Republican leadership of the 112th Congress.  And that’s a good thing for the GOP.

FROM THE COMMENTS: DaveP reminds us, “The other thing to remember about Tom DeLay is what an abject failure his ‘K-Street’ program actually turned out to be in practice. Never forget that.” Good point.

Pentagon Report Favors gradual implementation of DADT Repeal

Unlike Bruce Kesler, I lack the time to read the entire Pentagon Study on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Would it that it would come out after I defend my dissertation just over a week from now.  Joined by Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today urged the Senate to repeal the so-called ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law this year“:

Gates said any change causes short-term disruptions, but that the military can handle longer-term impacts. He added that he’s recommending repeal of the law after fully studying the potential impact on military readiness, including the impact on unit cohesion, recruiting and retention, and other issues critical to the performance of the force.

To be sure, some troops in combat units raised concerns, but substantial majorities of servicemembers overall have no issues about serving with gay people, with 69 percent of those who responded to the survey believing “they had already served alongside a gay person.  Of those who believed that, 92 percent said their units were able to work together and 8 percent said the units functioned poorly as a result.

Kesler points out that “the report calls for gradual implementation” which is, as it should be.  Mullen said

. . . he agreed with Gates that “this is a policy change that we can make and we can do it in a relatively low-risk fashion,” given time to prepare forces and leaders for new rules and expectations.

Given this report and the military brass’s commitment to implement repeal, consistent with the legislation before the Senate in this gradual manner, which all the various services to develop a policy for implementing the new policy, it’s imperative that the Senate act swiftly on repeal, so that the military brass can do their job and put that policy in place as quickly as possible.

For an opposing view, check out what this McCain has to say.