Similar to the way that the GOP serenaded the Religious Right during the Bush era (only to mock them behind their backs), they seem to be doing this again with their Tea Party constituents. Two scenarios are becoming more likely as more details about the recent ‘slashing’ of the 2011 budget come to light. It seems that 1) the freshmen congressmen were too inexperienced to understand the budget process, and 2) the senior GOP congressional members used some bookkeeping trickery in order to give the appearance of slashing the budget. A report released Wednesday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office suggested that the deal cuts a measly $352 million from spending in the current fiscal year, not $38.5 billion. A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor sums this up nicely:
The House and Senate Thursday passed the spending bill for fiscal year 2011, averting a government shutdown and putting its seal on the deal agreed to by President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, and Senate majority leader Harry Reid last Friday. But no one was running victory laps. Getting to a bipartisan deal to cut $38.5 billion in spending took more than six months and, at the end, weeks of intense staff negotiation. By Thursday afternoon, however, many House Republicans were wondering if it had all been for nothing.
A report released Wednesday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office suggested that the deal cuts a measly $352 million from spending in the current fiscal year, not $38.5 billion. The main reason for the discrepancy, according to the CBO: Many of the cuts involve money that wasn’t going to be spent this year anyway.
In the end, House Republicans needed votes from Democrats to pass the bill, which passed 260 to 167, with 59 GOP conservatives opposing the bill and 81 Democrats supporting it. The Senate bill passed 81 to 19, with 15 Republicans, three Democrats and one Independent voting in opposition.
Some lawmakers balked at a $2.5 billion “cut” from highway funding that is already blocked from being spent, for example. Sen. Tom Coburn (R) of Oklahoma found in the fine print a cut of $4.8 billion in unspent money from a victim’s compensation fund. “That isn’t even government money,” he said, before voting no on the measure.
Speaker Boehner has been forced to hit back at the critics. “There are some who claim the spending cuts in this bill aren’t ‘real,’ that they’re ‘gimmicks.’ I just think it’s total nonsense,” Boehner said before a vote on the bill. “A cut is a cut.” On the floor of the House, he sought to sway skeptical conservatives about the bill’s fiscal impact. “Every dime in this bill that is cut is a dime that Washington will spend if we leave it on the table,” Boehner said. “If you vote ‘no’ on this bill, you’re voting to do exactly that, leaving this money on the table to be spent by unelected bureaucrats.” Boehner said that these changes in so-called “budgetary authority,” when fully implemented and repeated year after year, would reduce the deficit by $315 billion over the coming decade – “the largest non-defense discretionary cut in the history of our country.”
Sounds like someone has pulled a fast one. Given the apparent level of deception this round of ‘deficit slashing’ has entailed, do we really want to trust this group to change the way Medicare and Medicaid work? Millions of disable people and seniors have paid into this system and depend on these programs to maintain their most basic need – their health. While many are ready to run away from one of the most basic pillars of civilization – hopefully the majority of Americans will recognize this blatant power grab by corporations and will demand that these programs be preserved to serve the common good.
If you are truly concerned about our deficits (and this may be hard to swallow for some) you should throw your support behind President Obama’s plan. He is proposing an approach similar to the one used by President Clinton. Given the fact that the Clinton’s approach is the only one in modern history that has produced a surplus, it seems pretty obvious to me that this is the plan to support. The approach being touted by the GOP has not only never worked in practice (but stays true to the fantasy that if you lower taxes, the budget will magically balance itself), it is actually a dangerous example of a failed ideology winning out over simple math. For a party that sells itself on being the party of fiscal discipline – it sure has a lousy record. Which party had the only president in the past half century to create a budget surplus? It sure wasn’t a Republican.