Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Federal Budget Deal: When Losing Feels Like Winning

The Gang of Four before the budget talks: not exactly happy campers.

There's a huge sigh of relief to be heard all over Washington DC these days after the umpteenth Gang of Something or Another Super Special Committee crafted a deal to avoid Armageddon yet again. Led by Democratic Senator Patty Murray and Republican Representative Paul Ryan, shock of shocks, this Special Committee to Do Undoable Things actually did something: They crafted a budget agreement -- something not done for too many years to count -- meant to last not one but two years. Huzzah!

So why does that sigh of relief sound more like a giant sucking sound, to borrow from H. Ross Perot, that political giant of yesteryear? It might be because our chattering classes have gotten to the point where a budget deal that has compromise stamped all over it does so because the Democratic Party has so compromised its principles that the Very Serious People of DC bow their heads and somberly intone, "It's the best we could have hoped for in this political climate, given the fact that a 'Grand Bargain' is beyond reach, and they know it." Sheesh.

What does the Democratic Party, so wonderfully on the offensive in early 2013, flush with victory in the 2012 elections, with its mandate and its African-American Kenyan Muslim Socialist safely ensconced in the White House -- for a second term!! -- what does such a triumphant Democratic Party do in late 2013 after crushing the Do-Nothing Mean-Spirited And The Whole Country Knows It Republican Party in the Debt-Limit Debacle just two months ago?? What?

They accept a "deal" that leaves tens of thousands of little kids without Head Start.

They accept a "deal" that leaves a food stamps cut in place at a time when the economy has yet to really turn the corner and real people suffer from real hunger.

They accept a "deal" that leaves the long-term unemployed without the hope of an unemployment-insurance extension, meaning that well over a million Americans will actually hear a giant sucking sound, as their future rapidly recedes from view.

They accept a "deal" with no tax increases because raising "fees" isn't raising taxes even though every American that flies from an American airport will pay those increased fees. (It's a regressive tax, people, hitting the middle class harder than the upper classes.)

They accept a "deal" that is paid for by a serious cut in pay for federal workers, already battered by furloughs and multi-year pay freezes, by forcing new hires to pay 4.4% of their retirement benefits, which is five times more than older workers currently pay.

The Gang of Four celebrates their new budget deal.

What exactly did the Democratic Party win in this budget deal?

It avoided cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

It means no budget fights for two years.

It means nothing has been done to avoid another debt-ceiling fight in two months, but of course, with this new spirit of bipartisanship, we can expect the Tea-Party faction not to drag us through another nasty battle to extract more concessions because of a new mellowness settling over the land, as Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, John Boehner, John Conyers, Steny Hoyer, and Nancy Pelosi fly to Colorado to share a bowl of weed while they hash things out.

Realistically, though, there is opposition already lining up against a debt-ceiling deal. The Pain Caucus, who wanted more suffering built into the budget deal, will put up a struggle against raising the debt ceiling early next year because they weren't allowed to destroy the welfare state that has brought us to the edge of eternal forever communism with soaring deficits as far as somebody's eye can see, plus blisters from bad shoes, oh, and mandatory hickies.

There will also be grumblings on the left about what pain there actually is for the long-term unemployed and the poor destined for more hunger. Don't hold your breath expecting these cuts to be restored.

The long-term unemployed line up to view the remains of their
future on display in the Capitol Rotunda until December 31st.

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