Republicans in Congress are railing against President Obama’s plan to consider selling the Tennessee Valley Authority, a huge federal power agency.
Obama is pitching the idea of selling TVA as if it were simply a power company serving a small region of the country. He and some of his fellow Democrats contend this is one way to help reduce federal debt by at least $25 billion.
Republicans and Democrats are so fixated on gaining a political advantage in budgeting they seem willing to ignore reason.
The reality is TVA is far more than an electric company today. TVA also provides flood control and river navigation. TVA owns 29 hydropower plants, 11 coal plants and three nuclear plants.
TVA serves many of the same functions in its region as the Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers do in the Pacific Northwest. And like BPA, TVA is not funded by taxpayers, but by operation of the various power sources.
Would folks in Washington, Oregon and Idaho embrace the idea of selling off BPA — giving control of the power lines to a private company or, perhaps, a foreign country?
Absolutely not. But if selling TVA is approved, some will look at BPA for instant cash.
The reason the electric rates in the Northwest are the lowest in the nation is because the power is generated by running water through the dams operated by the Corps, and then transmitted on the BPA lines. The government caps the costs that BPA charges for its power.
It is generally good for consumers and the power supply is secure.
Selling TVA — or BPA — would be a long-term mistake that would lead to higher energy bills. That prospect will not be embraced in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia, the states TVA services.
Another concern with selling off public assets in an effort to trim debt is that when it’s gone, it’s gone — and can’t be sold again. And, sadly, some in Congress would try to grab the cash from the TVA to fund more government programs rather than reduce debt.
Obama’s call for selling the TVA feels like a political gimmick — grasping for a way to avoid cutting spending.
But in the end, that’s the only way debt will be reduced. The government’s expenses must be less than its revenue.