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Richard Larsen: Budgetary Theatrics and Posturing

April 21st, 2011 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

There are so many disturbing elements to last week’s last-minute federal budget agreement that it’s truly difficult to know where to begin. Especially when we consider that such budgetary brinkmanship would not have been necessary if Nancy Pelosi’s congress had done what they were supposed to last year: have an operating budget for 2011. But because the political backlash would have been even more devastating at the polls last November, she forsook her responsibilities for perceived political advantage.
Instead, we waited through last-minute theatrics on both sides, and we still got an illogical, break-the-bank kind of budget that we can’t afford, while apprehension continues to increase over the cost and scope of government. The compromise arrived at with two hours to spare before the government “shut down” trimmed a scant $38 billion from a $3.7 trillion budget. A mere 1% cut to the proposed budget was enough of a stumbling block to some congressmen that they nearly let the government shut down.

And yet, playing to the politics of fear in grand theatrical fashion, many in Washington were lamenting in apocalyptic Jeremiads, what a devastating effect such a small reduction would have on the nation. At the center of the budgetary battle was whether the relatively minuscule $75 million appropriated to Planned Parenthood, seen by many as the primary social advocate for abortions, should be halted. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the floor of the Senate told about the health risks to his wife and daughters and nine granddaughters if he agreed to the proposed cuts. Makes one wonder what he thought Planned Parenthood would do for them.

Not to be outdone in the politics of fear, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton called the potential government shutdown “the equivalent of bombing innocent civilians.” The Senate Appropriations Committee chairman, Daniel Inouye, said in a news release that some of the cuts would be “especially painful.” Collectively they were saying the proposed cuts were “draconian.” If they act like this with these minor spending reductions, we know they will never have the political backbone to make the necessary major cuts to ensure fiscal soundness of the republic.

The Democrats were willing to shut down the government over a scant $75 million for their abortion purveyor of choice. Yet the Republicans let them get away with holding the nation hostage based on ideology over a minuscule part of the budget, and not pushing for some serious spending reductions which may actually make a difference in the future solvency of the country. I don’t know what to be more outraged over.

The Democrats obviously have no will or backbone to make serious cuts, and are willing to sacrifice the entire operation of the government over relative pennies in the budget. But the Republicans, proving they are little more than “Democrat-lite” seem to lack the courage to seriously reduce spending as they boasted of the “historic” 1% spending cuts. Truth be told, the actual cuts are much less than 1%. The $38 billion figure was little more than figurative, since the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) has now said that most of the $38 billion was accounting trickery, and that the actual cuts amount to a mere $352 million under 2010 spending levels.

President Obama has called for addressing the spending boondoggle like “adults.” Since much of it is a result of his and his party’s profligacy, that’s tantamount to calling for his replacement next year by a real adult. And based on all the posturing, theatrics, and budgetary trickery that resulted from such a minor figure in last week’s showdown, it appears we don’t have many adults in Washington.

There are a few exceptions, like Congressman Paul Ryan who is developing a long-term budget proposal that will actually reduce the deficit, pay down the federal debt, and increase the solvency of some of the core entitlement entities like Social Security. There is a little glimmer of hope for the nation since the House passed Ryan’s 2012 budget on Friday. If 1% cuts were “draconian” I can only guess the posturing they’ll pull on this one.

Considering the umbrage expressed by the left with George W. Bush’s $267 billion deficit, they should be outraged at Obama’s $1 trillion plus deficit. And Republicans, seemingly content with a 1% budget cut, obviously have no clue either. Our current spending trajectory is simply unsustainable, and portends serious consequences for the steadily declining value of the dollar, the viability of our debt instruments as investments, and our national security. Perhaps our only hope is if all those who voted for the budget resolution last week, and those who voted against it believing the cuts were too much, are replaced with people of common sense and a commitment to live within our means, like all of us real people have to.

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