Making Hard Budget Choices: Every Little Bit Counts

I was happy to see that presumptive incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner has announced that he plans on continuing to fly commercial when he commutes between Washington, D.C. and his district in Ohio.  His approach is in contrast to that of current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has flown on an Air Force jet on her trips to and from San Francisco and who has a reputation for high living on the taxpayers’ dime.

I recognize that the costs of paying for the congressional travel, to say nothing of the cost of travel of the Speaker of the House specifically, is a proverbial drop in the enormous, full-to-the-rim-and-slopping-over bucket of our federal deficit.  Nevertheless, I applaud Representative Boehner’s decision, and I hope it will presage some much-needed penny-pinching on the part of Congress.  As my grandmother used to say, if we pay attention to the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.

I can only hope that Representative Boehner’s sensitivities are shared by other Members of the incoming Congress.  If they scrimp on their own emoluments, maybe they will hold the rest of the federal government to better account.  In an era where we are racking up ludicrous deficits, any savings — no matter how small — are welcome.

Learning Lessons From President Obama

We’re in a transition period in Ohio, going through the end of the Strickland Administration and preparing for the beginning of the Kasich Administration.

In certain ways, Kasich’s situation is similar to that of President Obama when he took office two years ago.  Like President Obama, Governor Kasich will enjoy large majorities in both houses of the legislature.  Every state-wide office also is in Republican hands.  When he takes office, Governor Kasich therefore will face the same political landscape that President Obama surveyed two years ago — one in which he should be able to accomplish his policy goals with cooperative legislators.

Obviously, as the 2010 election confirmed, the first two years of the Obama Administration did not turn out well for the President or his Democratic allies.  What lessons should Governor Kasich learn from President Obama?

First, focus is important.  The most important issues in Ohio right now are the state budget shortfall and the economy, and it is in those areas that Governor Kasich should concentrate his efforts.  Second, as the “health care reform” legislation process demonstrated on a national stage, it is crucial to avoid actions that are easily depicted as overreaching.  In Ohio, Governor Kasich won by a relatively small margin, and he shouldn’t interpret his victory as a sweeping mandate to overturn every aspect of state government.  Third, humility and discretion go a long way.  I think President Obama has suffered from overexposure.  Governor Kasich would be wise to resist the temptation to regularly appear on national news shows or engage in other high-profile activities.  Voters decided to go with Kasich because they thought he could address Ohio’s budget and jobs issues.  Every minute Governor Kasich spends in a TV studio will be seen is a minute that he isn’t working on those issues.