TENNESSEE VALLEY (WHNT) - President Barack Obama's budget suggests the possibility of selling part or all of the Tennessee Valley Authority.
It is part of what the budget, on page 51, refers to as a strategic review of TVA.
The budget indicates TVA's anticipated capital needs may exceed its cap of $30 billon dollars.
The budget says reducing or eliminating the government's role in programs that no longer require federal participation can help put the nation on a sustainable fiscal path.
WHNT News 19 Political Analyst Jess Brown says, "It's a case study for an interesting philosophical debate."
When it comes to the Tennessee Valley Authority, conservative lawmakers may find an unlikely ally in the philosophical debate: President Obama.
Brown says the president may be lining up with a popular Republican idea - battling socialism.
"I find it interesting that this Democratic president, President Obama, is suggesting by his language in his budget proposal that he would privatize what would have been viewed by Franklin Roosevelt Democrats as a badge of honor," said Brown.
And when it comes to FDR, badges of honor tend to be tinted with socialism.
TVA is the nation's largest publicly owned power company - which means it is owned by the federal government.
"It was clearly an element of socialism," Brown explains. "It was putting the government directly into the economic development, the regional development electricity producing business."
It seems natural that conservative lawmakers would rally around the idea of selling the company off, introducing private industry.
But Brown thinks the primarily conservative lawmakers in TVA areas might not be so quick to dismantle socialism in their home districts.
After all, as TVA notes on their website, they provide much cheaper power to customers than many private companies.
On the subject of TVA being dismantled, Brown said, "I think we're headed for utility rate increases that we have not experienced in my lifetime in north Alabama."
Brown says lawmakers like Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) or even Representative Mo Brooks (R-5th) right here in Alabama might have a hard time telling their constituents their power bills will jump dramatically.
So, the idea of battling socialism might come into conflict with the reality of higher power bills.
Congressman Brooks answered our request for a statement on the proposal.
He's been an ardent critic of what he calls socialist policies, but in this case, he's only willing to consider moving away from public ownership of TVA in certain areas and only if the president can lower power costs in the process.
Congressman Brooks’ response to President Obama’s Budget proposal is as follows:
“Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution grants the federal government control over America’s navigable waterways. The TVA’s principal function is to own and operate locks and dams to both protect Tennessee Valley citizens from floods and ensure that the Tennessee River is navigable for commercial and recreational boat traffic. I know of no circumstance that justifies President Obama forcing the TVA to abandon its flood control and navigable waterway roles that it has performed so admirably for more than seven decades.
“President Obama claims he is considering the sale of TVA to “help put the Nation on a sustainable fiscal path.” President Obama’s claim is unsupportable and inexplicable for three reasons. First, the TVA is self-sufficient. The TVA receives no federal taxpayer subsidy. The federal government is not responsible for TVA’s capital debt. Hence, the TVA does not contribute one dime to America’s out-of-control deficits or troubling accumulated debt. Second, there is no indication that the TVA’s non-waterway assets, after deduction for capital cost and debt burden, can be sold for a profit. Further, any profit, if any, would be so small as to have no noticeable effect on America’s deficits or debt. Third, if President Obama is truly concerned about and motivated by America’s “sustainable fiscal path”, the President would be proposing substantial cuts to foreign aid, entitlements, welfare give-away and other programs that drive America’s deficits and threaten America with a debilitating insolvency and bankruptcy. The absence of substantive spending cuts in President Obama’s Budget suggest the President either has not done his homework or is motivated by something unrelated to America’s “sustainable fiscal path”.
“Notwithstanding that the President’s proposal to consider selling TVA comes from left field, and apparently with little or no prior consultation with Congress, I am willing to consider the President’s proposal to sell TVA assets that are unrelated to TVA’s locks, dams, flood control responsibilities and navigable waterway duties provided the President can make that case to Tennessee Valley citizens that doing so will lower the costs of electricity to TVA consumers and is in America’s interests. Quite frankly, I am skeptical the President can make that case."