Cap-to-cap trip yields dysfunction, not dollars

Jeff vonKaenel

We were ready. We had done our homework. Over the last six months, nearly 300 local Sacramento Metro Chamber members prepared hundreds of position papers on flood protection, energy use, agriculture, clean air and numerous other subjects. We made hundreds of appointments with elected officials and staff in Washington, D.C. We were ready to present our ideas and argue for solutions.

But Washington was not ready. We had been warned that, with the deficit problems, it would be hard to ask for funds. And it was. But it was even worse to see the gridlock up close. The Republican House and the Democratic Senate will not or cannot agree on the sun rising in the morning, let alone agree on an effective plan for America.

This is my third Cap-to-Cap trip. Two years ago, months after President Barack Obama took office, I experienced a different Washington. The country was in trouble. The economy, after eight years of the Bush administration, was in total disarray and seemed headed for collapse. But while things were bad, I had hope. I met smart and dedicated government officials, working very hard to put together a plan to prevent the meltdown. And they did. Obama and the Democratic congress prevented a disaster. They took big risks to do it, but they did it.

This year, during the Cap-to-Cap event, I heard the House majority leader announce that before he would vote in favor of extending the federal debt ceiling, he wanted to hack $2 trillion out of the budget. Unfortunately, what was to be cut was unclear.

Later, at the Cap-to-Cap luncheon on Tuesday, keynote speaker Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economic adviser to George W. Bush, complained about the deficit and suggested we wipe out most of the country’s entitlement programs.

What? We had no deficit problem before Bush came into office. Why wasn’t Holtz-Eakin raising these concerns when Bush’s tax cuts threw the country into a massive deficit? And why didn’t he speak out against the Iraq war that cost trillions of dollars, also adding to the deficit? And after years of deregulation, did he even notice that these deregulated financial institutions nearly caused our economy’s complete financial meltdown? Nope, I don’t think so. Instead of addressing these contributors to the deficit, Holtz-Eakin wants to cut corporate taxes, which mainly aid the rich, and eliminate programs that provide support to the poorest among us. This is not a solution to the deficit, it is a redistribution of wealth. After his track record, how can he even call himself an expert?

In the Cap-to-Cap preparation process, a group of chamber of commerce members with widely differing ideologies put aside their differences and worked together to create plans for the common good. I’d like to see our representatives in Washington do the same.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.