12 April 2011

Fudge Budget

I was cautiously optimistic when the 11th hour deal that prevented the governmental shutdown was announced, but I noted that the devil was in the details.  The agreement used the imaginary Obama FY2011 budget as a baseline, so it baked in marked increases in departmental budgets over the past two years.  It promised to cut $38.5 Billion which when paired with the $10 Billion in prior savings looked like it was 60% of what Republicans pledged to cut.

Now that the details of the budgetary deal are more evident, it was clear that the savings from the shutdown settlement were a chimera. It seems that the prior $10 Billion in savings from earlier C.R.s was counted as part of that the “historic” $38 Billion cut.  Republicans gave up cuts at the Agriculture Department, antagonized the social conservative base by de-linking Planned Parenthood cuts from the budget, as well as abandoning cuts of federal spending to the liberally skewed National Public Radio to avoid the governmental shutdown

In the light of day, it seems that account tricks and slights of hand accounted for much of the so called “savings” from the Democrats.  Counting line items like  unspent Census funds as a cut, allowed President Obama to preserve favorite programs like College Pell Grants, “Race for the Top”.  After removing rescissions, cuts to reserve funds and reductions in mandatory spending programs, the National Journal estimates that the budget will only be reduced by $14.8 Billion.

The conservative base might have felt content about changing the direction of the budgetary debate if Speaker John Boehner (R-OH 8th) had actually gotten the cuts that were originally billed, as well as the promised up or down votes on the EPA and Planned Parenthood Federal funding. They would have been resigned that it was the best that they could do and that it set the table for real reductions in the immediate future concerning the Debt Ceiling vote in mid-May and the regular FY 2012 budget that was highlighted by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s  (R-WI 1st) ambitious roadmap.

But the Tea Party and the conservative base feels hoodwinked by the leadership over a fudge budget. The cuts were minuscule to begin with (less than a week’s funding of the budget), but they were a start.  Now the so called cuts seem more like a Congressional accountant’s rounding error.  What sticks in the craw is the way that the leadership lied.  They were trying to make it seem like cuts were more like $78 Billion when in all actuality the deal really only reduced discretionary spending by $15 Billion. In the eight days prior to the latest Credence C.R., the Federal debt jumped $54.8 Billion.

The Budgetary Smoke and Mirrors Agreement reinforces the meme that GOP leadership are Between the Beltways  elitists that go along to get along with Democrats and so as to keep their positions of power.  That sort of political accommodation combined with out of control spending caused the Republicans being thrown out of power in 2006.

Prominent Tea Party Republican sympathizers like Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN 6th) and prominent freshman Rep. Alan West (R-FL 22nd) had already indicated that they could not support the deal in good conscience. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA 7th) expects the budget deal to pass with strong Republican support.  The GOP has a 24 seat advantage in the House. They can probably count on the votes of 15 Conservative Democrats.  So House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA 22nd) needs to retain 39 reluctant Republicans.  But there were 62 Freshman Congressmen who took office after the Teanami.  So passage of the Fudge Budget is not a sure thing.

While the Debt Ceiling debate and the FY 2012 Budget are more fertile ground for fostering fiscal prudence for the federal government.  But if the current House Leadership are seen as pushovers or establishment elitists, those opportunities will be moot and their continued leadership in peril.

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