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After the absurd theater that was the “oh-my-god-the-government-will-shut-down” nonsense of last week, many news sites were picking “winners” and “losers.” Frankly, the loser in all of this is clear–the American People. If it takes this much effort to get Congress to cut a few billion dollars from a 3-plus trillion dollar deficit, what happens going forward, with expected trillion-dollar deficits for the next ten years?
Contrary to the posturing being done by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama, Democrats came out on the losing end of the battle. At least temporarily (since success can be fleeting in politics), many Americans scratched their heads as Democrats dug in and fought against budget cuts that make up less than one percent of the total budget. One looks silly fighting to hold on to every penny when nearly everyone knows that the level of debt we are piling up as a country is unsustainable and a threat to national security.
Wait. I digress. Based on the number of people who actually supported the Dems position in all of this, either “nearly everyone” is far from accurate, or there are a lot of people in denial. They are convinced the way to fix this is to maintain the spending and only increase taxes. But that’s a different story.
Since we’re talking budgets, and in Washington, its always about the baseline, let’s look at the baseline of the budget battle. If Democrats had passed a budget back in 2010, while controlling Congress and the White House, none of this would’ve happened. It was the first time in many years that there was no budget submitted. Even worse, the fact that the Dems punted in June of 2010 in order to go into butt-covering mode for the upcoming elections seems to have been swept under the rug. I’m very surprised some person within the Democrat machine didn’t point out that if they didn’t get it done, it could possibly be out of their hands in 2011.
Meanwhile, the Tea Party, whose focus is and always has been spending cuts (don’t be fooled by accusations to the contrary), powered an election that sent new people to Congress with the mission of reigning in spending. I’ve actually gotten a kick out of watching how people who were quick to defend the ramming through of Obamacare by saying “that’s what we elected them to do” turn around and actually criticize members of Congress for being beholden to the Tea Party! It’s more important to demonize the TP than to recognize that their criticism of spending is legit.
But back to the budget fight. Republicans aren’t without criticism here. This was no time to inject social issues into the fray. A fight over funding for Planned Parenthood had no business occupying time and space in this. Or did it? One analysis of the battle said the Democrats fell for the okey-doke in that regard; that really, defunding Planned Parenthood wasn’t really the big priority that Democrats thought it was, and when they agreed to give up something in return for a dropping of that issue by Republicans, they were suckered. Further, as part of the final agreement, Obama and Reid agreed to allow a debate and vote on defunding PP to be brought up in the Senate. Still, any future fight over defunding Planned Parenthood just because they are an abortion provider is a waste.
There is one upside to the way the deal went down. Democrats hoped to achieve cuts by simply delaying some projects (which did happen) and/or freezing funding for certain programs and refunding them in the next budget. Republicans didn’t play ball. Instead, many programs were terminated in order to get to the nearly $40 billion in cuts. For the other programs with reduced budgets, they have a new baseline to start from in the 2012 budget. In other words, even if there is a programmed funding increase, they will still spend less going forward. This serves to reduce the monsterous deficits already projected for the next 5-10 years out.
So, after all of that, why do I say we all lose? Because this bears repeating: we nearly had a government shutdown over cuts amounting to less than 2% of the overall budget! So much hinged on so little. In order for the country to win, spending has to come down. Is that so hard to understand?