Reporters should ask what gives? Coffman for balanced budget amendment but supports deficit spending to stimulate the economy?
Rep. Mike Coffman is in The Denver Post today telling us again that he led the charge for the Balanced Budget Amendment, which would have, in Coffman’s words, held “Congress’ feet to the fire with a Constitutional amendment requiring that they, like every family and nearly every state in the country, balance their budget.”
Coffman’s proposal specifies an exception. Deficits would be allowed during war or serious military conflict. (Families don’t get such an exception, in case you’re wondering whether your warring family can spend willy nilly.)
But Coffman himself has advocated for another crisis situation during which, he’s said, deficit spending by the feds should be allowed.
On KHOW radio, back in April, 2009, Coffman said he “would certainly support deficit spending,” if it were “truly stimulative” during the dark years of the great recession, 2009 and 2010.
In February, 2009, Coffman was equally clear on KHOW radio that the recession, which was slamming the country, was “so severe” that Coffman supported more deficit spending to stimulate the economy:
Silverman: So what are you suggesting? That we not do it? That we not have the stimulus package? Because Barack Obama said last night, hey, I didn’t come up with this $800 billion figure on my own. This is what the Republicans and the Democrats are talking about. The size of the stimulus package that is necessary given the dire condition that we are in. I like to live within my means. I am not big on borrowing for anything other than to buy a house. Are you saying we shouldn’t borrow money? I am not big on borrowing for anything other than to buy a house. Are you saying we shouldn’t borrow money?
Coffman: I do think that the situation is so severe that it warrants it. And obviously, from my point of view, that the greatest stimulus to the economy is by allowing individuals, small businesses owners, and corporations to keep their money in their pockets. And let the individual spend it versus the government spend it. So they can spend it their way. [BigMedia emphasis]
Here’s what Coffman told Caplis and Silverman April 15, 2009:
Coffman: I think it’s all about today politically and not about tomorrow. And so it’s kind of whatever happens tomorrow happens tomorrow. Let’s see how much influence we can buy or how much political support we can buy today. It’s a sad process. And I certainly support deficit spending, if it’s wise, if it’s truly simulative in this year and next year. I think the problem is that there is no effort in the budget plan that I see to close the deficit. We are going to be running trillion dollar deficits, you know, in the next ten years.
Later, as Coffman amped up his campaign for the Balanced Budget Amendment, KHOW’s Caplis and Silverman should have had Coffman back on their show to find out why an exception for deficit spending, to stimulate the economy during bleak economic downturns, was not included in the Balanced Budget Amendment that Coffman helped craft. (It died in the House in November.)
Reporters are all about consistency, and so they should ask Coffman, who helped form the 70-member House Balanced Budget Amendment Caucus and then chaired it, to explain his view in favor deficit spending “if it’s truly stimulative.”
And while they’re questioning Coffman about fiscal matters, reporters might ask to hear more about his unusual proposal, which he made on KHOW in 2009, to put Marines on U.S. merchant ships that might be threatened by pirates. Coffman claims this will save money, but further questioning about the risks of such a military presence are warranted.
Coffman: We don’t have the naval resources to patrol this area, which is a little over a million square miles. And so we need a fly swatter instead of a sledgehammer. And it would be much more cost effective to put small military detachments on the US-flagged merchant ships in order to deal with the pirates. And it wouldn’t take very many. We did this during World War II. And we can do it now. So we just deal with the problem and we write rules of engagement to where any of these pirate crafts approaching US merchant vessel that demonstrate hostile intent would be taken out.
Coffman could be right about the cost savings from the deployment of Marines, as he’s a budget maven when it comes to military spending, having advocated sensible cuts in the past.
Equally bold, from a political and fiscal perspective, are Coffman’s positions, aired on talk radio, against the Bush prescription drug plan and against using federal money to construct new DPS schools, because the DPS doesn’t “need to build more schools” due to enrollment declines.
There’s clearly public-interest value in airing out views of Congresspeople representing safe seats. But the time and space for political reporting, from serious journalists, is at a premium these days. So the media spotlight naturally should shine most brightly on politicians in competitive districts, especially guys like Coffman, and his likely opponent Joe Miklosi, whose words mean more because more voters with different opinions are listening to them now as they decide who to vote for in November.