Monday, April 11, 2011

The 1% Deal

John Boehner is emblematic of Washington's culture.  Yes, the government shutdown averting deal on Friday does represent the "largest spending cut since World War II," but we've also had the largest run-up in spending in the last two years in our nation's history:

Soo, call me crazy, but 1% just seems a little paltry - if it was a sandwich, we got one piece of stale bread.  A celebrating Republican caucus acted like they got the 2 lb. turkey rueben from Noshville.  Besides, when you have the upper hand in a negotiation, why give in?  The upper hand?  Yes.  For Obama, the non-stop campaign has moved to a new level.  He's officially running for re-election, don't you know, and he has to appear "moderate" and "level headed."  He's not that crazy kid that said "we won," to the Republicans a mere two years ago - he's Mister Congenial!  He has a problem and he knows it - Boehner's people should know it too; it looks like this:

You don't get to send your wife and kids to Spain and Rio courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer for another four years with numbers like this.  So he has to claim wins on the moderate side where he can.  I suspect Boehner's biggest fear was that the shutdown, regardless of who caused it, would be blamed on him.  He  is not a fire-breathing revolutionary like Newt was in 1995.  But this is where he is emblematic of Washington: he doesn't trust the people!  The American people look at our first chart above and they worry about their children.  I have been in more than one social discussion with peers who are concerned that they are not going to turn over a country worth keeping to their own children - the upcoming generation will be the first in American history that will not come into its own in a better position than their parents.

Boehner should have realized the panic on the Democrat side - they pulled out all the usual memes about "cat food for Grandma" and "no breast exams for our daughters."  (Planned Parenthood is to breast exams as the U.S. Navy is to resort hotels.) It's a shame, really.  The budget proposal recently presented by Paul Ryan marks such a bold and dramatic departure from business as usual, that you hate to see it go right back to business-as-usual in such a short span of time.

There is a silver lining in this gloomy cloud.  The discussion has shifted away from "how can we increase the budget to provide goodies for my district" to "how much can we cut?"  If they can maintain that philosophic anthem and force the Liberals to walk the plank on every pet project, program, department, agency and sclerotic bureaucracy, much will have been gained.  If every new proposal that comes to the floor of the House has a cost/benefit analysis attached to it...a REAL cost/benefit, not some smarmy feel good "surely you wouldn't want to kill panda bears" nonsense...this might have been worth it.

The good news is that Obama, as early as this Wednesday, may yet give Boehner and the boys another opening.  My guess is that his little "talk" on budget and spending cuts will include the usual line that goes something like "if we have to sacrifice with spending cuts, the least we can do - let me be perfectly clear - is force those who have the most to sacrifice a little too and take away tax cuts for the wealthy."  If our silver-tonged telepromptesident pulls that rabbit out of his hat, it should put some juldee back into the Conservatives' step.  Ryan's proposed 25% caps on corporate and personal taxes are a breath of fresh air and demonstrate that at least one side understands how to create jobs and get the economy moving again.  Let the battle be joined here and let not Conservative hearts be timid.

In the end, this was a step forward, but it was a very tiny, tiny step at a time that we need strides.

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