A New Lowsman

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By Bob Schmidt

Recently, Newport’s own Paul Salata presented the Lowsman Trophy for irrelevance to Cheba Ozougwu, the last man selected in the 2011 NFL Draft. With the NFL contemplating a strike this season, Ozougwu might end up the most irrelevant in the Trophy’s 36-year history (and does that make him the all-time winner or all-time loser?). But as that story unfolds, a few of us are left to ponder whether Salata should have set his sights lower. What if, for example, he decided to present the Lowsman Trophy to a politician?

In that case, I would like to nominate our own 48th District Rep. John Campbell for the honor. That’s in light of his totally confusing stand on raising the debt ceiling. In an e-mail to constituents on June 9, Campbell confidently asserted that “Failure to raise the debt limit will not trigger a default.”

Then, in the same communication, he went on to say, “As attractive as that may sound, the effects would not be benign. We either stop paying for most of the government as we know it, potentially including the courts and the military, or we reduce Social Security and Medicare payments for all enrolled dramatically. That would be a substantial economic shock in itself. We would be truly in a “pay-as-you-go” mode, which the Democrats, at least in theory, love. The Treasury Secretary would have the power to decide what gets paid, what doesn’t and when.”

I don’t know if Campbell truly believes that last part about Democrats in love and the Treasury Secretary becoming a spending Tsar or if he’s just trying to scare us, but, further on, Campbell admits he’s “become somewhat despondent lately.”

OK, that last part was taken slightly out of context, but I can see how Campbell might be conflicted between the attractiveness of brinkmanship on raising the debt ceiling and the not-so-benign (some might say disastrous) consequences of failing to do so.

It’s not as though the other side has failed to offer some compromises for dealing with the deficit. They’ve even put entitlements (Social Security and Medicare) on the table. In the real world, you lose your relevance if you’re not prepared to accept some tradeoffs. Campbell seems willing to go over the brink. Post hoc ergo propter hoc, my nomination of him for the Lowsman Trophy, but he does have time to redeem himself.

The sticking point in all this is, of course, is the battle between spending cuts and revenue enhancement. The backdrop is a weak economy, high unemployment, and the 2012 election. In the Biden negotiations, Democrats conceded the need for spending cuts even though they do nothing for economic growth and job creation. On the revenue side, they seem reduced to holding out for elimination of some questionable subsidies to the oil and ethanol industries and closing other loopholes.

Both sides have room to declare victory in this debate and let the 2012 election decide who’s right. The loser can have next year’s Lowsman.

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