Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The 2012 Budget Debate: Silent Surrender

Can anyone remember the heady days in the run up to the 2010 elections?  Does anyone still remember the promises made about what would happen to the size of government and the profligate level of spending being condoned in Congress if the right people were sent to represent us?  But we were going to show them, weren't we?  We were going to send a bunch REPUBLICANS to the House of Representatives and turn the ship of state around.  Rallying around their party battle cry, we were going to see $100 billion in spending cuts happen in the next budget if the GOP took control.

Well we gave the Grand Old Party their majority, at least in the House of Representatives, and what did we get in 2011 as a result?  Well for starters we got a budget with proposed cuts of only $61 billion instead of the promised $100 billion. We were disappointed of course, but after all even a cut of $61 billion out of an annual budget of over $3.7 trillion was nothing to sniff at.  (Actually it was, but we all choked down the bile, bit our tongues, and put the best face we could on it.)

That of course, was before this budget went to Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid was less than thrilled with the 'draconian cuts' that that Republicans in Congress were proposing.  He refused even to bring a vote to the Senate floor on what was purported to be an annual budget cut of 1.6%, in spite of the fact that it still would have provided more being spent than the government had spent in 2010.  (Some day, someone will have to explain the 'government-speak' that allows government to spend more than in the previous year and even use the word 'cut' in the sentence describing it, but there's no time for that today.)     
In the end, the Senate agreed to allow a vote on a 'cut' of some $38 billion dollars for the 2011 federal budget. (Now we're down to a 1% cut, but $38 is kind of  close to the original $100 billion, right?)  But wait, we're not done yet.  

According to an AP story in the Washington Post at the time, because of how long it took the House and Senate to reach an agreement and because the compromise reached for cuts was only on 'discretionary spending', the amount of the actual spending cut from the budget was in fact $352 million.  For those of you unwilling or unable to do the math for yourselves, this meant that Republican control of the House was able to bring about a total federal budget reduction of .0095%. (Are you impressed yet?)

But that was then and this is now, right?  Surely now that freshmen Republicans earned their spurs and learned a bit more how things are done in Congress, now that Ohio's own John Boehner is a bit more comfortable with his role as Speaker of the House; things would be different and real spending cuts will being made in 2012.  Not so fast, my friends ...

In a story posted in REDSTATE.com today, budget cuts recently proposed in the House by Republicans are in fact being rejected (at least in part) by the Republican majority in that legislative body:

"McClintock (R-CA) – Cuts the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program by $1.45 billion. Rejected 113-275.
Chaffetz (R-UT) – Cuts the Advanced Manufacturing Program by $74 million, to FY 2011 levels. Rejected 140-245.
McClintock (R-CA) – Eliminates nuclear energy research subsidies (saves $514 million). Rejected 106-281.
Chabot (R-OH) – Eliminates funding for the regional commissions, such as the Appalachian Regional Commission (saves $99.3 million). Rejected 141-276.
Blackburn (R-TN) – Cuts 1% across the board (would cut $321 million). Rejected 157-261.
Mulvaney (R-SC) – Brings the bill toward RSC budget levels by cutting a total of $3.1 billion across almost all accounts. Rejected 125-293.
King (R-IA) – Prohibits funding of Davis-Bacon union wage requirements. Rejected 184-235.
Flake (R-AZ) – Across the board spending cut that would keep funding at FY 2012 levels ($87.5 million savings). Rejected 144-274."

While they were at it and during this same legislative period, the House passed H.R 5882 to keep Legislative Branch Appropriations at the same level as in 2011.  So not only has the Republican majority in the House managed to reject spending cuts that have been offered by members of its own party, but it has managed to do so in an election year while drawing little or no media attention to itself.

Why is all of this important?  Because while the federal government hoped, through its last compromise, to avoid taking up the issue of raising the debt ceiling before the 2012 elections; little of that hope now remains.  After raising the debt ceiling of the country by some $2 trillion less than a year ago, this nation seems to have once again reached its legislatively mandated credit limit.  So once more the two legislative Houses will have to take up discussion as to whether we can continue to run up debt like an evil Wall Street brokerage house or irresponsible 'too big to fail' bank without consequences to those watching the nation's purse strings.

In light of the Republican party's ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory the last time this debate took place, one cannot help but wonder if someone in the party's leadership will have the intestinal fortitude to take a stand (other than one imitating Custer's Last One).  One must likewise wonder what the Republican Presidential nominee's position on this debate will be, and whether he will attempt to show leadership, sit on the sidelines, or run for political cover.  Finally, one cannot help but wonder if a party attempting to rally its conservative base to keep control of the House, win control of the Senate, and send its candidate to the White House; can do so if its strategy in the debate continues to be an all but silent surrender.



Anonymous said...

Ah! You now understand how the other side sees it!

Timothy W Higgins said...

Au Contraire ...

I'm afraid that in this, I and a few like thinkers ARE the other side. Those in the two major political parties, supposedly representing different points of view, do the same thing. It doesn't matter whether the Democrats or Republicans are in charge, it's business as usual where government spending and expansion are concerned.

Anyone who wants to kibitz about how fast we're going in the back of the 'Thelma and Louise' convertible can do so if they want, but we're still going over the cliff.