SDI Faculty, led by our resident MIT PhD in Political Science and former US House Candidate, is at your service, in the role of your Legislative Staff. Access To Legislative Staff is available as much as possible via this Briefing Book, Webinars, Formal Briefings and Cloakroom.
The Problem Facing The USA And High School Congress
Presently, the Federal Debt As Share Of GDP (“Debt Load”), is about 75%. Debt Loads on the order of 100% are extremely dangerous and cannot be sustained for very long. According, to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the status quo (federal public policy) is taking us to financial collapse by about 2035!
Members of Congress, the fate of the nation is in your hands! What you are about to embark upon is the actual budgetary crisis of the United States. The CBO has portrayed this crisis in grim quantitative detail and calls upon all Americans to study the situation and take action. What all of us will undertake in the forthcoming High School Congress is in the interest of the United States and a vital public service!
Here is your assignment.
Find some combination of revenue enhancements and budget cuts, year by year, over the next ten years, that will either (a) maintain the current debt load of 75% of GDP or (b) lower the debt load to about 40% of GDP. Toward these ends, respective changes of 3.1% per year or 1.9% per year will be needed.
Here is the corresponding language of the CBO 2017 Long Term Budget Outlook, dated March 30, 2017, Summery, page v.
“How Large Would Changes in Spending or Revenues Need to Be to Reach Certain Goals for Federal Debt? CBO estimated the magnitude of changes that would be needed to achieve a chosen goal for federal debt. For example, if lawmakers wanted to reduce the amount of debt in 2047 to 40 percent of GDP, its average over the past 50 years, they might cut noninterest spending, increase revenues, or take a combination of both approaches to make changes that equal 3.1 percent of GDP each year starting in 2018. That amount would total about $620 billion in 2018. If, instead, policymakers wanted debt in 2047 to equal its current share of GDP (77 percent), the necessary measures would be smaller, totaling 1.9 percent of GDP per year (about $380 billion in 2018). The longer lawmakers waited to act, the larger the necessary policy changes would become.”
Your authority, as congressional lawmakers, can be and can only be expressed vis-à-vis the following variables and these variables are found in the aforementioned CBO Report, “Table 1,” page 2. The Revenues variable divides among various taxes and a source called “other.” “Other” may include tariffs.
The CBO indicates that “discretionary” spending divides essentially equally between defense and non-defense (civilian government). For the purpose of the forthcoming Congress, the following crude approximation will apply. There are four major theaters of operation—Homeland, Europe, Middle East and Far East. An adequate defense obtains in each theater at the cost of 1% of GDP.
How To Approach Your Assignment
The SDI High School Congress is like a gigantic, evolving study group that picks up more and more momentum. Each of you will gather certain information, arguments and solutions in advance of Congress. Each of you will share all this while in Congress via multiple settings–Cloak Room, Committee, Caucus and Full Session. As the Congress proceeds, you will learn from each other and stimulate new perspectives, arguments and solutions. There is also the contribution of the Legislative Staff whether formally, via Briefings and “Public Question Period,” or informally, while answering questions here and there in Caucus, Committee, etc.
What To Do In Advance Of The High School Congress
You should (1) sit in on the Members’ Briefing (Select Committee On Intelligence) that SDI will provide, (2) craft a Bill that obtains the necessary budget delta of either 3.1% or 1.9% of GDP, (3) submit your Bill to the Office of the Speaker of the House (SDI), (4) be cognizant of your Caucus assignment, in the wake of submitting your Bill and (5) craft an opening speech wherein you sponsor and argue in favor of your own bill.
What Your Bill Should Contain
Bill’s Sponsor (Your Name, School)
Bill Summary (1 or 2 lines)
“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the High School Congress of the United States of America in Congress assembled,”
Section 1 … Title
Section 2 … Findings
Section 3 … Effective Date
Furthermore, Action should accomplish three things.
FIRST, assign values to the aforementioned variables of Table 1.
Revenues, 17.8  and ? [2018-2027]
Mandatory 13.0  and ? [2018-2027]
Defense Discretionary 3.15  and ? [2018-2027]
Non-Defense Discretionary 3.15  and ? [2018-2027]
Interest (fixed), namely, 1.4 [in 2017] and 2.2 [in 2018-
SECOND, include defense expenditure commitment per theater of operation. Upper bound of 1/% per theater.
THIRD, briefly specify how the change in variable(s) is to be achieved. (Example: Your Revenue Action is, say, 1% increase, via corporate tax increase.)
What Your Opening Speech Should Contain
Toward the end of sponsoring your own Bill, you are allotted a maximum of 5 minutes of speaking time in the Committee in which you have been assigned. Make the most of it! Marshall your arguments. Anticipate objections.
Be prepared to justify your proposed Actions. Every Action that you propose very probably enjoys political support from sundry groups outside the actual Congress and faces political opposition from other groups outside the actual Congress. Rally support as if an actual Member; changes minds to your way of thinking as if an actual Member.
Your Remarks Thereafter
The time that is allotted to follow-on remarks is at the discretion of the relevant Chair, whether in Committee, Caucus or Full House. Chairs may or may not be filled by Members you elect. (More on chairmanships at the conference.) Co-chairs comprise SDI staff. Ultimate authority rests with the Co-chairs.
Arrive ahead of time!
Bring you laptops!
Admittance to the Conference officially closes at 9:15 am. Entry after that is problematical; it may be denied; no refunds.
9-9:30 am … On-Site Credentialing, Cloakroom Open, Caucuses convene informally.
9:30-10:15 am … On-Site Briefing (Rules of Engagement, The Budget and Policy Situation—Building on the prior Webinar Briefing–, Assessment of Your Submitted Bills and How to Improve Your Bills).
10:15-10:30 am … Caucuses convene. This is your first formal opportunity to lobby among yourselves, to form coalitions and to pose questions to the Legislative Staff.
10:30 am-Noon … Committees in session. Members unload their opening speeches. Follow-on remarks.
Noon-1 pm … Lunch and Cloakroom Open.
1-1:30 pm … Caucuses convene (and may be reorganized, at the discretion of Members of Congress). This is your first opportunity to adjust your Bills and coalitions. Questions may also be posed to the Legislative Staff.
1:30-2:10 pm … Committees in session. Follow-on remarks.
2:10-2:20 pm … Committees in voting mode and markup. Each committee will vote and decide on one or two Bills. (The number and size of committees is a factor in the issuing of Bills to Full Session.) This Bill(s) could be drawn from an intact Bill that was submitted in advance of the Congress or that has been adjusted.
2:20-2:25 pm … Members, while still in their respective Committees, are notified of the decisions of all Committees and of all remaining Bills.
2:25-2:55 pm … Caucuses convene and prepare for the floor fight and deliberations. (Caucuses may also be reorganized.) This is a very good time to allocate speaking time and questioning time among those in your coalition. (It is very good idea to settle upon a division of labor. Some may want to cede time to others. Some may want to pose questions. Others may want to answer them. Don’t forget to anticipate the Amendment Process, see below. Make use of the time to pose more questions to Legislative Staff.
One last point: Members may not both pose questions (in Public or Full-Session Question Periods) and speak in the Final Debate. This last point tends toward a fair distribution of the remaining speaking time.
2:55-3:05 pm … Public Question Period. Members pose questions to Senior Legislative Aid. This simulates the “public airing” of questions and concerns that is frequently done via the media, think tanks and academy.
3:05-3:45 pm … Full-Session Question Period. Members pose questions to each other. Arguments in favor of the remaining Bills may be advanced only in response to questions.
3:45-3:50 pm … Public Reaction. Senior Legislative Aid provides an Assessment of the progress of the Congress and of the remaining Bills. This simulates the “public reaction” to the progress of the Congress, thus far.
3:50-4 pm … Caucuses convene.
4-4:15 pm … Amendment Process. Amendments to remaining Bill may be proposed and are voted up or down on the spot.
4:15-4:20 pm … Gallery opens briefly. Parents are seated, space permitting.
4:15-4:20 pm … Caucuses convene for final time.
4:20-4:50 … Final Debate and Vote.
4:50-5 pm … Memorialization of the Final Bill. (A formal record is made.) Awards Ceremony. (The top two Members of each Committee will be recognized and every Member will receive a certificate.)