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Sender: Michael Briand
Subject: cap and prioritize
Date: Thu, Aug 14, 2014
Msg: 101087

More questions, Rick:

From: Rick Raddatz Sent: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 9:36 AM To: TRANSPARTISAN@LISTS.THATAWAY.ORG Subject: Re: [TRANSPARTISAN] A perennial conundrum

Cap and Prioritize, on the other hand, would ideally be a combination of caps covering all spending, with each budget being capped in a way that respected that budgets purpose. What does "being capped in a way that respects that budget's purpose" mean? Is it the official purpose, as stated for example in the relevant authorizing legislation? Or is it the actual purpose(s) the budget serves? For example, is the purpose of the DoD budget to ensure the security of the United States? Or is it (a) to provide for public investment in technological innovation under the politically popular guise of national defense?; (b) to subsidize national security contractors, and hence indirectly to maintain jobs for their employees?; or (c) to allow members of Congress to portray themselves as "tough on defense"? I ask this question because people have different reasons for supporting the relative priority that attaches currently to the DoD budget. It's an open question whether the federal government ought to allocate 13 percent of the discretionary budget to defense. Who sets this relative priority, and how? Surely no-one wants simply to accept the current division of the budget as a continuing (permanent?) template for national priorities.

And then, on top of the caps, would be the requirement that each budget be prioritized by whomever could do it best. The final prioritized budget would then be published. The pentagon, for example, would prioritize the defense budget, congress would prioritize discretionary spending, and the states would each prioritize their share of social spending. Much as I prefer (at present) letting the DoD prioritize its own budget to having Congress do so, I'm not sure I can trust those good folks, either. Back in the '70s, when I worked on the Hill, the DoD had a rather trogladytic view of what national defense required (lots of big aircraft carriers ("sitting ducks"), for example). Similarly, should Congress--those captives of well-organized and well-financed interests who seek nothing more assiduously than re-election and the benefits that holding office bestows--have the authority to prioritize any component of the budget?

Of all these elements, the most important is the idea of he states prioritizing their share of social spending, because that is what ensures the people who need help the most get the help they need. Whether one lives in California, Texas, or Mississippi, it's not prudent to allow individual states to set their own priorities until politics and policymaking in those states becomes more rational and democratic. Why should we entrust priority-setting to states whose decision-making processes are no better than the one in Washington? What good is 50 experiments if they're 50 bad ones? In principle, I agree with the idea of subsidiarity. But state-level decision-making is not as close to the grassroots as it can or should be. if my community is anything to judge by, even municipal-level decision-making is too adversarial and too dominated by particular interests.

There is an important balance point where if we keep the purchasing power of social spending the same, taxes can constantly shrink even as the effectiveness of social spending constantly improves. Sorry, could you elaborate on this, Rick? How do taxes shrink if spending is the same? Doesn't spending require revenue, and isn't revenue just another name for taxes?



Michael K. Briand, Ph.D. Chico, California (but soon to be Chico, Jefferson!...) 530.345.3709

This, I argue, is the efficient, effective, aggressive pursuit of left-leaning goals within right-leaning limits...and that is why Cap and Prioritize will stick where Gramm-Rudman did not.

Love, Rick Raddatz

On Jul 22, 2014, at 11:03 AM, John Backman wrote:

I must say, the "50 different experiments" line caught my attention. That's an intriguing idea.

On another point--and Rick, please pardon me if you've already addressed this and I just missed it--I read your description of cap-and-prioritize and my mind goes instantly to Gramm-Rudman: a much-touted and even intriguing idea that didn't pan out. How do you see the difference between cap-and-prioritize and Gramm-Rudman?

John Backman

Board member, NCDD (join us at the National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation October 17-19 in metro DC)

Author, Why Can't We Talk? Christian Wisdom on Dialogue as a Habit of the Heart (published by and available from SkyLight Paths Publishing)

From: List for transpartisan leaders and innovators [mailto:TRANSPARTISAN@LISTS.THATAWAY.ORG] On Behalf Of Rick Raddatz Sent: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 11:46 AM To: TRANSPARTISAN@LISTS.THATAWAY.ORG Subject: Re: [TRANSPARTISAN] A perennial conundrum

Social security, Medicaid, Medicare etc are discussed in section 3 of the paper at

The proposal is that all federal social spending is brought back "in" budget and block-granted to the states with the requirement that the states publish prioritized budgets.

This creates 50 different experiments for how best to help people with that money.

- Rick Raddatz,

On Jul 22, 2014, at 9:37 AM, John Eley wrote:

Rick I see no reference in your material concerning social security and Medicare. If you do not cap and prioritize them you leave out an ever increasing part of the budget. Where do entitlements fit in your scheme of things? They are already off line in the budget so do you keep them offline? If so what good does working with other aspects of the budget do? John Eley

On 7/21/14 7:07 PM, Rick Raddatz wrote:


Please check out the essay below the video on and see if that doesn't answer your concern.

- Rick

On Jul 21, 2014, at 5:00 PM, John Eley wrote:

The history of congressional attempts to manage the federal debt on a year to year basis is amble evidence that structural changes have little or no impact on congressional behavior in the absence of a willingness to follow the rules that the structure dictates. See the essay by Robert Samuelson in the Washington Post today for a review of that sad history. I suspect that cap and prioritize is another one of those changes that may work for a short time and then be honored in the breach. It is a noble try. I think that this history suggests than even a constitutional amendment would be circumvented by politicians whose jobs depend on giving the people what they want-not what they need. We should change incentives and the rest will follow.

John Eley

On 7/21/14 1:46 PM, Rick Raddatz wrote:

So you want a structure of government where the structure itself forces those in charge to make wise decisions.

Why isn't cap-and-prioritize the structure you are looking for?

The cap guarantees fiscal sustainability (just like the cap in cap-and-trade guarantees environmental sustainability) and the transparency of prioritized budgets forces what's left of government spending to allocated wisely (just like the trade in cap-and-trade enables society to wisely allocate what resources are left under the cap).

- Rick Raddatz

On Jul 21, 2014, at 8:23 AM, Steven H Johnson wrote:

When I think of the America I'd like to see, I find myself imagining an America whose major laws and institutions are shaped to respect core virtues and promote the national interest and the common good.

When I think of the America we have, I see a political system whose officials are rewarded for their self-righteousness.

Will the self-righteous produce laws that promote the common good? Hmm. Not too likely, it it? This disparity creates a huge clash between the civic culture that modernity requires, and the civic culture that self-righteous partisanship creates.

If there is to be any lasting cure to this tension, I think it will have to arise from within civil society. Those not locked into the self-righteousness of any particular -ism will be better at promoting a culture of virtue and national interest thinking.

And some of the key reforms will have to be driven by independents, those not beholden to the -isms of America's major partisan coalitions.

That's not to say that Americans caught up in the spirit of self-righteousness should not be listened to or engaged in dialogue. But it is to say that dialogues among the self-righteousness won't take us a very long way toward the healing of America. America won't work properly till policies born of self-righteousness have been replaced with policies rooted in virtue and enlightened self-interest.

What do these thoughts say to this process? Perhaps we should add a framing of the "transpartisan" mission as an exploration of the tension between partisan self-righteousness and the realization of America's full potential.

Best to all,

Steve Johnson

Steven Howard Johnson - Civic Futurist


Book in Progress: Thoughtful Patriotism


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