Is anyone surprised that last Friday’s budget deal to avert a government shutdown (most of the government would have kept going) is being shown to be a sham?
Thirty-eight billion dollars in cuts through the end of the fiscal year? Ha! I knew it would be a fraud, no matter how paltry the amount of so-called cuts would end up being.
House Speaker John Boehner started the budget cut bidding at more than $60 billion. Nonetheless, he and President Obama have made a big deal out of their supposedly big deal. Boehner has released a statement that calls the deal “a positive first step and a credible down payment” on future spending cuts. Obama, who fought spending cuts every step of the way, emerged after the deal was struck to call the cuts “historic.”
I laughed when I heard that because $38 billion would have been nearly meaningless when the federal government is borrowing $200 billion a month – yes, $200 BILLION a month. The fiscal year ends Sept. 30. That’s more than five months from now, or more than $1,000 billion – another way of stating $1 trillion – of borrowing from now. Subtract $38 billion from $1,000 billion and you’ll see why I say $38 billion in spending cuts would have been nearly meaningless.
And now comes the news that I expected. Here’s a portion of Associated Press reporter Andrew Taylor’s article, released today:
“The details of the agreement reached late Friday night just ahead of a deadline for a partial government shutdown reveal a lot of one-time savings and cuts that officially ‘score’ as cuts to pay for spending elsewhere, but often have little to no actual impact on the deficit.
“As a result of the legerdemain, Obama was able to reverse many of the cuts passed by House Republicans in February when the chamber approved a bill slashing this year’s budget by more than $60 billion. In doing so, the White House protected favorites like the Head Start early learning program, while maintaining the maximum Pell grant of $5,550 and funding for Obama’s ‘Race to the Top’ initiative that provides grants to better-performing schools.
“Instead, the cuts that actually will make it into law are far tamer, including cuts to earmarks, unspent census money, leftover federal construction funding, and $2.5 billion from the most recent renewal of highway programs that can’t be spent because of restrictions set by other legislation.”
Ramesh Ponnuru at National Review Online writes, “Is it possible that Republicans have gone from $61 billion in domestic discretionary savings all the way down to $8 billion?”
Yes, Ramesh, it’s possible. And to be expected.
In this blog last November 4, Jim Lakely posted a string of emails that had circulated internally amongst Heartland editors and staffers in reaction to the November 2 general election stomping Republicans gave Democrats. Some of us were excited at the prospect of Republicans having more power. I was not.
I wrote then that I “have serious doubts about the Republicans. I expect them to roll back nothing in any substantive way, or to even try. They’ll make a lot of noise but won’t do much.”
I based that comment on a lifetime of watching Republicans. My father spent more than 30 years in elective office as a Republican. There are 102 counties in Illinois, and the county I grew up in had – and still has — more registered Republicans as a percentage of voters than any other county. I spent many years as a reporter covering the Republicans in that county. For 12 of those years the state’s Republican Party chairman lived about four miles from my house. I went through high school with his daughter.
People on the conservative Right whine about the “Great Society” programs of the 1960s. Those were started under Democrat President Lyndon Johnson. They were barely off the ground before a new president – a Republican named Richard Nixon – came into office.
Though the programs were in their infancy, Nixon did nothing to gut them. Instead he allowed them to expand and started a few of his own, including the ever more-oppressive Environmental Protection Agency. He ended the nation’s last remnant of the gold standard, allowing inflation to soar and making unlimited money printing possible. Then he imposed wage and price controls to try to contain the money mayhem he had let loose. Do these sound like the actions of a man committed to principles of limited government, market freedom, and fiscal responsibility?
A decade later we had a chance to seriously reform or end Social Security. Instead, Republican President Ronald Reagan worked with Republican Senator Bob Dole to “save” it by imposing a huge increase in the payroll tax. This increase was far beyond anything that was needed at the time to pay benefits. We were promised the excess tax payments would be set aside to pay future benefits. Every penny of the excess money has been spent. We were robbed.
After Republican President Reagan came Republican President George Herbert Walker Bush who famously declared, “Read my lips; no new taxes!” Need I say he soon imposed new taxes?
The next Republican president was George W. Bush, son of the first President Bush. For six of his eight years in office, Dubya enjoyed Republican “conservatives” in charge of the House and Senate. What did these “conservatives” in the White House, Congress and Senate do?
Among other things, they gave us two undeclared wars, both of which still rage. They gave us “enhanced interrogation” techniques that would be called torture if they were used against Americans instead of against foreign-born Muslims. They gave us the Patriot Act and Homeland Security Department to read emails, snoop through banking records, sexually assault us at airports, and do nearly anything else they like without the inconvenience of having to show a court probable cause.
They gave us No Child Left Behind, the largest increase in federal involvement in education since the creation of the Department of Education in 1979. They gave us the single largest increase in entitlement programs since the 1960s through their prescription drug benefit for Medicare – one of the Great Society programs Republican conservatives bemoan when they’re not expanding the programs.
Last Thursday I had the honor of joining the great Milt Rosenberg on his Extension 720 WGN Radio program. Milt led two other panelists and me in a discussion of a possible government shutdown and the nation’s fiscal problems. Milt asked if I agreed with another panelist’s description of conservatives. That panelist said they “invariably” believe in limited government. I said I did not agree with that description.
I told Milt and his listeners that the older I get, the more convinced I become that liberals and conservatives “are separate wings of the same bird of prey.”
The apparent sham of this budget deal gives me another reason to stand by those words.