Saturday, April 09, 2011

The budget deal

I said that I was going to write about the budget deal, so here it is.

There is obviously a wide range of opinions on this deal. Over a National Review's The Corner blog, the lockstepped Republican followers love it. And hate it. I haven't spent enough time in the lefty blogosphere to know for sure, but I've seen reports of similar phenomena.

My take - it's the Monty Python's Flying Circus budget deal. And not just because of the surrealistic "cutting 1% from the budget that we can only half fund to start with is too hard to do" nature of the debate.

When I was in college, we had a "Monty Python" weekend, back in 1981 or 1982. There were screenings of several films, and the special event was a talk by Python member Graham Chapman. It was ... quite amusing. But the interesting, and relevant, part of the talk was his description about how the name was chosen. In short, there were six of them, plus a couple of hangers-on and/or agents and/or producers looking for a name for this new show, and a bunch of names were thrown out for discussion. As the discussion went on, people moved to their favorites, arguing for them. The name "Monty Python's Flying Circus" was chosen, according to Chapman, because it was "the one that nobody liked." No one got their first choice at the expense of everyone else's first choice.

This budget is like that. Nobody really likes it. Which is good, because there's very little to like about it...

Evidence that the Democrats won:
  • The Republicans didn't get everything that they wanted.
  • Planned Parenthood didn't get defunded, so they'll still be turning tax dollars into Democrat campaign contributions.
  • Obamacare didn't get defunded.
  • The Republicans didn't get their $100 billion in cuts. They didn't get to their $62 billion in cuts.

Evidence that the Republicans won:
  • The Democrats didn't get everything that they wanted.
  • As preposterous as it sounds, given the current economic situation, the Democrats wanted to spend more. They didn't get to.
  • In January, Harry Reid denounced as "draconian" and "extreme" cuts of about $32 billion dollars. Yesterday, he proclaimed cuts of $38.5 billion to be "historic."
  • The DC scholarship program got funded.

Evidence that the American people won:
  • None.

To say that it doesn't go far enough in addressing the problems that we face would imply that it actually starts to address the problems that we face. We've got a fiscal sucking chest wound, and they've found a piece of a little band-aid for it.

But I'm not ready to rant and rave and jump all over Boehner and the house Republicans. The situation is what it is, and the fact remains that the Republicans, as Boehner has said, control "one-half of one-third of the federal government." (Of course, the SCOTUS has nothing to do with the budget debate, so it's really "one-half of one-half" but that's nitpicking.) And it's also a fact that they cannot fix it all today. The problem is too big. The most important things that they can do right now are a) control the problem as much as they can and b) position themselves to be able to fix it in the future. Given the media environment, a shutdown, holding out for a better deal now (albeit one that wouldn't appreciably improve the situation) would probably have decreased the chances of being able to attempt to fix it next year or the year after.

Let's face it - there's going to be no serious attempt to address any of these problems signed into law by this President. It may well be that the best we can hope for over the next two years is to slow the growth of the debt, and make that clear to everyone so that we'll have a new President signing budgets in 2013. Given that fact, I'm not going to get too worked up over this deal.

But it's not a good one. For anyone1.

1 I am glad that the military will continue to get paid...

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