If Not Now, Whom?
As the Federal Government nears a potential shutdown, many members of the media wish to focus on which party will get the blame from the American people. The politicians seem to be all ready to cater to this wish by pointing fingers back and forth across the aisle. Once again, in typical bottom feeder fashion, the disease is overlooked in an attempt to cure the symptoms. Public opinion is important to the politicians, and public attention is the goal of the media, leaving the few of us who care about what is actually happening to dissect the story and work our way to the bottom. The right says the budget should have been passed last year. The left says the Republicans are trying to use the budget to score political points. Which side is right? Both. Here is how President Obama put it today.
"It would be inexcusable of us to not be able to take care of last year's business ... when we are this close, simply because of politics,"
Now let's face it. I am clearly on the right, and I should probably stomp my foot and feign righteous indignation at the Presidents assertion that my side is trying to score political points out of this budget deal. I'll spare you (and myself) the indignity. We are trying to score political points. We are trying to de-fund public broadcasting, planned parenthood, and a host of other left wing pet projects. Yes, that would be a political score for us.
On the other side, yes the budget should have been passed last October. Yet to pretend that the point is that the Democrat controlled House, Senate, and White House were derelict in their duty is to miss the point. The real point is why did they not pass a budget last year. Politico reported on this a year ago and said the following.
Indeed, some Democratic insiders suspect that leaders will skip the budget process altogether this year — a way to avoid the political unpleasantness of voting on spending, deficits and taxes in an election year — or simply go through a few of the motions, without any real effort to complete the work.
Republicans responded then with a letter to then Speaker Pelosi, urging her to put forth a budget proposal. I quote from that letter here.
While we may disagree on a number of issues, one issue we can all agree on is that our nation’s long-term fiscal outlook is unsustainable. The gap between revenues and expenditures, already large by historical standards, is only going to become larger over time. The longer Congress waits to deal with this fiscal imbalance, the more difficult the choices become to solve this problem. The time to start making decisions about our long term deficit is not some time in the distant future, but now.
The purpose of the Congressional budget is to create enforceable parameters within which Congress can consider legislation dealing with spending and revenue. In the absence of a budget, there would be virtually no procedural enforcement mechanism to constrain spending in either the House or the Senate. Especially in an election year, this would be an open invitation for Congress to increase spending to unprecedented levels.
In the current environment, prudent fiscal discipline is more important than ever. As we have seen in countries such as Greece, failure to adopt sensible spending restraint can have catastrophic implications.
Now, let's look at this realistically. At the time Republicans stood to gain big in the House and the Senate in the upcoming elections. Was it playing politics to ask the Democrats to pass a budget before they increased their power? Of course it was. If the Democrats had forced their members to vote through an unpopular budget in October, it would further increase Republican gains in November. The Democrats, well aware of that, decided to focus on "whom" as opposed to "when". Is the headline making sense yet?
This was a calculated political decision by the Democrats to try to protect their ranks, and the budget was thereby passed off to after the elections. Yet they still had a chance to pass this budget after the votes were cast. Having lost part of their majority in the Senate and all of it in the House, they once again sacrificed the budget to their political whims. Knowing that controversial issues that score points with their base (like repealing DADT and passing the DREAM Act) would be hard to have addressed in their newly shaped political future, they focused on these issues rather than the budget in the closing days of their majority session.
Now today, President Obama comes out and accuses the right of playing games and trying to score political points, and I'm supposed to shy away from that charge and give in to his demands? You had better think again. The Democrats already got their political payoff from the games they played with the budget, and now we are supposed to pass on ours?
Mr President, why don't you stop acting like a spoiled child and man up? You got to play your political games with the budget last fall, now it's our turn. If you don't like how your hand played out, that is not mine nor the elected Republicans problem. You can go throw your little temper tantrum in a secluded room of the White House if you like, but when the lights go out you are lying in the bed that you made. Quit crying to the American people like we are some kind of push-over mommy who will make the neighbor kid play nice. It was a bitter pill when we swallowed it, but we did. Now it's your turn. Enjoy!