John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


The Fun in Functional

Posted on March 11, 2013

Last night, as I welcomed a group of executives from the American Public Transportation Association, I said the following:  “Welcome to Washington, where we put the fun in dysfunction.  Well, at least it is fun for us.”

I then pointed out, “most economists think that the best thing you can do for the American people is to come up with a short-term plan to boost economic growth and a long-term plan to deal with our long-term fiscal crisis.  What did the politicians do?  They came up with short-term plan that could stall economic growth and when it came to our long-term fiscal problems, they did nothing, absolutely nothing to reign in entitlement spending.”

If that isn’t dysfunctional, I don’t know what is.

I am glad that President Obama has decided to meet with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.  This is big news to Washington, although most people would have put such meetings as part of any President’s job description.

After all, a big part of the job of President is to work with Congress to change or repeal old laws or create new laws.  That usually means actually talking to members of Congress.

Speaking of Congress, many are now wondering if there will be a grand bargain.  I actually think that because Republicans and the President allowed the sequester to go forward, that a grand bargain is now much more likely than had the cuts been postponed again.

Americans will start to feel these cuts in the next couple of months.  The sequester will first hit the Washington D.C. area, then they will hit places with huge defense contractors and military installations, and from there they will slowly but surely emanate out.

In the world of public transportation, those cuts will have a real impact.  I told the gathered Mass Transit officials that if they don’t take these cuts as an opportunity to communicate directly with their elected representatives, that this would be a missed opportunity.

I also let them know in no uncertain terms that a Grand Bargain that sharply limits the growth of entitlement spending should be a big priority.  After all, entitlements are eating away at the Federal budget, squeezing out investments in discretionary programs like Defense, education, NASA funding, and yes, investment in infrastructure spending.

I am a big believer in infrastructure spending.  I don’t buy the notion that this can be done purely at the state or local level or that it should be done primarily by the private sector.  I believe that their needs to be a public-private partnership, that includes cooperation and funding from the Feds and from the State (and local for that matter).

A private-public partnership insures that the best practices of the private sector combine with a universal service that comes with public sector.

You can’t have a public-private partnership though, if most of the federal budget is being eaten up by spending on entitlement programs. And that is why it would be for the best if we take the fun out of dysfunctional and put it back into a fully functional, competent government, one that comes up with the right plan for the right time and not the wrong plan for the wrong time.