Tags: Lofgren | Senate | Lamb | Republican

Musings of Mike Lofgren

By    |   Monday, 24 Feb 2014 11:34 AM

Former congressional staffer Mike Lofgren appeared on C-SPAN's Q&A with Brian Lamb Feb. 3 to talk about his book, The Party's Over: How the Republicans Went Crazy, the Democrats Became Useless and the Middle Class Got Shafted, and also to discuss his review of Robert Gate's book Duty from the standpoint of someone who worked in the area of defense on first the House Budget Committee and later the Senate Budget Committee.

There is much to criticize and much to learn from Lofgren's critique, based on 28 years of service on both sides of the Hill, and he is careful to say that he finally retired, which means that his remarks are free of conflicts of interest. Twenty-eight years is quite a long time to work for Congress, more than twice as long as I worked there, and they came to resemble dog days and dog years.

Lamb is also a former congressional staffer, so this interview is another episode in Lamb's study of Mark Leibovich's "This Town."

Lofgren came to Washington from Akron, Ohio, with Republican leanings, which he abandoned over time, and a strong desire to become involved in policy. I share the experience of going to Washington from a depressed area, but it was certainly an accomplishment for Lofgren to get a job on the Hill without political sponsorship. He landed a job with then-Rep. John Kasich, R-Ohio, then went to work for then-Rep. John Kasich at the House Budget Committee, then later moved to Senate Budget Committee, all along honing his expertise based on the idea that he could provide straight numbers, not partisan ones. (This philosophy is reminiscent of the ethos espoused by Doug Elmendorf as director of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.)

The disenchantment Lofgren expresses with the course of Republican leadership has its roots in the tumultuous House speakership of Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., whom Lofgren blames for "dumbing down" the House by abolishing the Office of Technology Assessment and cutting back the Government Accounting Office, which is the government audit agency that works for Congress. Criticism of Gingrich would be well taken even from partisan Republicans, who saw their gains slip away due to the bizarre behavior of Newt. As for Democrats becoming "useless," perhaps Lofgren was referring to the highly circumscribed role of whichever party is in the minority in the House.

Lofgren's weakest point is his defense of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel against attacks by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for being soft on Iran and North Korea. That's too bad, because at his best, Lofgren is articulate in his description of the current state of affairs in which special interests, such as military contractors and Wall Street bankers, have taken over policy and bent it to suit the merged enterprise of government and corporate interests.

At a couple points, Lamb playfully taunts Lofgren: "Isn't this boring?" "Does this stuff really matter?" This is exactly my viewpoint, as I worked for a member of the Budget Committee but avoided spending any time on these issues because they are a waste of time.

Lofgren confirmed that the process is all about who gets what, how the pie is cut and that the parties who run the process know that the Federal Reserve can fund it regardless of Congress.

(Archived video can be found here.)

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Former congressional staffer Mike Lofgren appeared on C-SPAN's Q&A with Brian Lamb Feb. 3 to talk about his book, The Party's Over: How the Republicans Went Crazy, the Democrats Became Useless and the Middle Class Got Shafted.
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2014-34-24
Monday, 24 Feb 2014 11:34 AM
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