The Budget Compromise: Why I Now Think Republicans Should Vote It Down


I was generally supportive of the GOP’s compromise with the Democrats on the Budget and considered it to be a small win. Granted 38 billion in cuts isn’t a lot when we have a deficit that’s north of 1.5 trillion dollars. Moreover, it’s not the 100 billion they initially promised or even the 61 billion they wanted, but look at whom they’re dealing with — and you have to start somewhere, right?

That being said, when new information comes in that invalidates your initial premise, then it’s time to reevaluate. In this case, here’s the new information: that 38 billion dollars in cuts? It actually only amounts to 353 million in reduced spending. In other words, that “small win” is actually a 100-0 Democrat victory over the hapless Republicans who are still trying to figure out what a football is or why the mean men won’t stop hurting them.

A new budget estimate released Wednesday shows that the spending bill negotiated between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner would produce less than 1 percent of the $38 billion in promised savings by the end of this budget year.

The Congressional Budget Office estimate shows that compared with current spending rates the spending bill due for a House vote Thursday would cut federal outlays from non-war accounts by just $352 million through Sept. 30. About $8 billion in immediate cuts to domestic programs and foreign aid are offset by nearly equal increases in defense spending.

When war funding is factored in the legislation would actually increase total federal outlays by $3.3 billion relative to current levels.

…To a fair degree, the lack of immediate budget-cutting punch is because the budget year is more than half over and that cuts in new spending authority typically are slow to register on deficit tallies. And Republicans promise that when fully implemented and repeated year after year, the cuts in the measure would reduce the deficit by $315 billion over the coming decade.

…At issue is a concept in budgeting that is often difficult to grasp. Appropriations bills like the pending measure give agencies the authority to spend taxpayers’ money. But such authority typically takes months or years to actually leave the federal Treasury, so cuts made in the middle of the budget year often have little immediate impact.

…A separate CBO analysis provided to lawmakers but not released publicly says that $5.7 billion in savings claimed by cutting bonuses to states enrolling more children and reducing the amount of money available to subsidize health care cooperatives authorized under the new health care law won’t produce a dime of actual savings. CBO believes they are simply cuts to spending authority that is unlikely to be used anyway.

But those cuts to mandatory benefit programs, while producing no deficit savings, can be claimed under budget rules to pay for spending increases elsewhere in the legislation. All told, $17.8 billion in such savings is claimed but just a tiny portion of it would actually reduce the deficit.

But CBO does credit a move to eliminate year-round Pell Grants with generating more than $40 billion in deficit reduction over the coming decade from both mandatory and appropriated accounts, though just slightly less than $1 billion this year.

Does this mean it’s ALL smoke and mirrors? No, there are a few cuts in there and over the course of a decade, it should have some impact. However, that’s another common trick in D.C. — sure, we’re not cutting anything right now, but down the line this will make a huge difference. Unfortunately, more often than not, “down the line” never comes. So, the “right now” is one hell of a lot more important than what it’ll do later. That brings us to that 38 billion dollars it’s supposed to be cutting now. Folks, we now know that’s MOSTLY comprised of accounting tricks that do nothing to actually reduce spending.

With that in mind, this is not even a good faith effort to present a fiscally conservative budget by the Republican leadership. To the contrary, it’s more Bush years ballyhoo that features Republicans talking tough about spending, but then doing nothing of significance about it. So, I would urge Republicans in Congress to vote against this compromise, filibuster it in the Senate, and do what they can to get some serious cuts put in place.

PS: National Review agrees. Here’s what the Editors had to say last night.

Boehner’s budget deal is a fake.

We initially supported the deal House Speaker John Boehner cut with the White House to cut $38.5 billion from the rest of the fiscal year 2011 budget. It was only a pittance in the context of all of Washington’s red ink, but it seemed an acceptable start, even if we assumed it would be imperfect in its details. What we didn’t assume was that the agreement would be shot through with gimmicks and one-time savings. What had looked in its broad outlines like a modest success now looks like a sodden disappointment.

…There’s realism and then there’s cynicism. This deal — oversold and dependent on classic Washington budget trickery — comes too close to the latter. John Boehner has repeatedly said he’s going to reject “business as usual,” but that’s what he’s offered his caucus. It’s one thing for Tea Party Republicans to vote for a cut that falls short of what they’d get if the controlled all of Washington; it’s another thing for them, after making so much of bringing transparency and honesty to the Beltway, to vote for a deal sold partly on false pretenses.

As they push a bargain that is still not fully understood, Boehner and the leadership have put their members in an awful fix with another deadline to keep the government open fast approaching. We’d vote “no,” even if we understand the impulse to move on to more important matters and to avoid a leap into the dark that might include a politically damaging shutdown. At the very least, freshmen and other conservatives should be frank about the deal’s shortcomings, refusing to exaggerate its merits as their leadership often has. The episode is strike one against the speakership of John Boehner.

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