March 13, 2011

Sunday School 3/13/11: Nuclear Reactors and Budget Reactions

Most of the shows had segments on the evolving situation in Japan, with a focus on the nuclear reactors losing power and possibly facing meltdowns, the expanding evacuation zone (now officially twelve or 13 miles but maybe as many as 50 miles according to some reporters there), and what it means for any expansion of nuclear facilities here.
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press.  Asked about whether his cautious support for nuclear power changed, Schumer noted "Well, we're going to have to see what happens here...the bottom line is we do have to free ourselves of independence from foreign oil...Prices are up; our economy is being hurt by it or could be hurt by it (the situation in Libya). So I'm still willing to look at nuclear. As I've always said, it has to be done safely and carefully."
On the budget, Schumer offered that "We should make significant cuts, absolutely, we need to, but we can't cut into our seed corn. We can't cut into the things that help America grow and great jobs like education or cancer research or food safety, things like that." And, in reference to the White House, he noted that "...I talk to the White House every day...we're not always on the same page, but we usually are. And the overall goal, again, cutting waste, using a smart short scalpel but not a meat axe."
Seed corn?  Meat axe?  I'll be looking for these two to make their way into our growing political lexicon.
Others talking about the Japanese nukes were the folks at ABC, on This Week with Christiane Amanpour. Ploughshares Fund expert Joe Cirincione pointed out that "Nuclear reactors are built to withstand crises, and even multiple crises. But it's very hard to build a nuclear facility than can withstand this", pointing to the massive earthquake, the aftershocks, and the tsunami. 
Reporter Jake Tapper noted that "...if this crisis had happened here in the US, the government would be turning to Japan for help. These are the top people in the field" but he also mentioned that in cases like this, sometimes what the government says isn't all that there is to say.  
ABC's Martha Raddatz noted a conversation she had with a “senior administration official (who) said that's one of our major concerns, how this will affect nuclear power in the future. I think there were already demonstrations in Germany. I think you'll see here in the US, we will surely take a look at our nuclear facilities and have Japan as a - as a bad model there in what can happen that you haven't planned for." 
Geographically, I think our situation is different, or at least I hope so – we wouldn’t like consider building reactors on a fault line, or in low-lying coastal areas. I hope.  
The sanity of the morning was surprisingly on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.  Among his guests were Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Mark Warner (D-VA), who discussed their plans to help solve our budget problems.  Here's a sampling:
  • Chambliss: "It's imperative that we put everything on the table for discussion. I don't know where we are going to wind up. We're not there yet. But if you look at the debt commission report, you have to address spending... You've got to address entitlements...And you've got to look at revenue and reform our complicated tax code in a major way. And when you do that, everybody does have that skin in the game and everybody gets their score just a little bit."  
  • Warner: “You've got to put everything out. That means Saxby and I are probably going to take some arrows -- ...because we're taking, willing to take on reforming some of these entitlement issues. But every day that we punt, every day that we don't act, we add $4 billion to our national debt. At some point, we're going to have to pay that back.”
  • Chambliss: "Well, Chris, first of all, what we've got to do is when we see an increase in revenues coming in to Washington, we've got to make sure that Congress doesn't have the ability to spend that, because history dictates to us if we have revenues coming in that are uncontrolled, that's what's going to happen.”  
  • Warner: "We've been saying, listen, we've got to do this. We shouldn't allow this work of the debt commission, the so-called Simpson-Bowles commission to go for naught. We're willing to kind of link arms and we have other colleagues who are working with us. I think you are seeing a whole lot of other members in both parties say we need this long-term solution. “
I share these thoughts, also Warner's, in response to Wallace's question about when they might get some action on their proposals. "If we get into next year, you get into a presidential year and this whole issue would probably be punted until 2013."  
Sadly, that's fair and balanced. We cannot afford to wait.