Levine is a sophomore politics major and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
I completely understand the current frustration with Congress that the American people feel. There is a lot of work that needs to be done in this country, and people are getting impatient. Here are three positive steps Congress can take right now, in a bipartisan effort, to help turn our country around:
Thoroughly Audit the Federal Reserve
This should be one of the easiest bipartisan efforts. I do want to first make it clear that auditing the Federal Reserve is not the same as politicizing monetary policy; not all documents would need to be made public, although some certainly would be. But what an audit would allow Congress to do is analyze, and as I suspect will follow, make public the wrongdoings of the Fed. It really is a win-win situation for America. If the audit proves nothing, then what is hurt? However, as Dr. Arnold King notes in his argument supporting an audit, if there are problems with the Fed then “it is difficult to see why we are better off remaining ignorant of such flaws.”
Just recently, Bloomberg reported that banks worldwide — JPMorgan, CitiGroup and Bank of America among them — earned $13 billion by “taking advantage of below-market rates on emergency U.S. Federal Reserve loans.” This finding is the result of a partial audit, thanks to Ron Paul’s fight against the Fed. But imagine what would come out if we had a full, thorough audit?
End All Corporate Welfare
Once again, I see this step as a serious bipartisan effort, and one that shouldn’t take too much effort especially considering public sentiment on the issue. Each party is going to have to give up a little bit. Republicans have to part ways with welfare to big oil companies, and Democrats have to part with “green” subsidies, among other things. But these are the decisions we need to make. The federal government spends roughly $90 billion on corporate welfare each year when it is defined as any government program that offers aid or unique benefits and compensations to specific companies or industries. That’s $90 billion dollars that we simply do not have.
Even if we did have money to invest, it would not be wise for the federal government to do so. Do we really believe that our politicians are smart enough to know what companies to invest in (or honest enough to do so fairly)? I sure hope we aren’t that delusional. The recent Solyndra scandal — a roughly $530 million bet that the federal government, and ultimately American taxpayers, lost on — should be evidence enough to end corporate welfare (P.S. – Iowa’s coveted ethanol subsidies would have to go, as well).
Of the three proposals here, this will be the toughest to muster bipartisanship on, but for all the wrong reasons. The reason: Davis-Bacon is supported strongly by unions, as it well should be considering the amount they benefit from it. Passed in 1931 and amended in 1935 (reformed in the ‘80s, too), Davis-Bacon essentially guarantees artificially high wages for union workers on federal construction projects. The intent of the bill, though, was as vile as they come: to exclude black workers from these construction projects. Speaking on the floor in support of David-Bacon, Rep. Clayton Allgood complained of “cheap colored labor” that was “in competition with white labor throughout the country.” This is no secret, and because of the malicious intent of the act, there have been numerous attempts to repeal it, yet it survived all of them with union support.
Sadly, Davis-Bacon has accomplished its intention of hurting minority construction workers, as well as raising the cost of construction projects, which yields another reason to repeal it. Just this year, the Washington Post reported that a construction project in downtown Washington D.C. is going to cost an additional $20 million because of Davis-Bacon, something that even the Democratic mayor there is fighting against. The solution is clear: bipartisan repeal.