Budget Deja Vu
As the kabuki theater that is the ongoing debt ceiling battle continues, I get a sense of (as Yogi Berra put it) déjà vu all over again. Having lived in the greater Washington D.C. area for 43 years, I have witnessed the oft repeated scenario of budget negotiations -- beginning with Lyndon Johnson all the way through Barack Obama. Invariably the Republicans have assumed the role of the always outfoxed Wiley Coyote or of Linus invariably believing that Lucy will really hold the football this time. It is obvious to all who assumes the role of the Roadrunner and Lucy. I fear today's drama in Washington D.C. will be no different.
Even Ronald Reagan feel prey to this scenario when, in 1983, he agreed to raise taxes in exchange for spending reductions. The agreement was for every dollar of tax increases the Democrats would cut two dollars in spending. The result: taxes went up but spending was never cut.
Today, in addition to using the well-worn bait and switch tactic, Obama and the Democrats are looking to saddle the Republicans with not only being in league with the evil rich (not willing to raise taxes) but the image that they are determined to starve and deny medical care to anyone they possibly can. In the meantime the President and his cohorts are desirous of being able to boast that they cut "future" spending by $2 or $3 Trillion etc etc. as an election ploy while they con the Republicans into raising the debt ceiling enough to get by the next election.
In the arcane world of government budgeting, particularly in the out years, any so called reduction in outlays is totally meaningless as these are just numbers on paper. The reality of those so-called reductions is up to future Congresses unless there is definitive change in the structure of entitlements or elimination of programs today. As it stands neither is going to happen. The Republicans by themselves cannot modify the entitlement program (nor should they try without the cooperation of Obama and the Democrats, but with the right weapon they could eliminate various non-entitlement programs and dramatically reduce the spending of various government agencies.
Anything the Republicans agree to will accrue to the benefit of Obama and the Democrats and allow them to demagogue, lie and obfuscate whatever may have been agreed to.
Rather than continue with this charade, the House Republicans should simply pass a debt ceiling increase large enough to get to August of 2012 -- combined with significant and tangible spending reductions in agency budgets and previously identified wasteful spending for the current and next fiscal year. Thus forcing Obama to agree or be responsible for the fallout if he refuses to sign on. Then have the debt ceiling negotiations during the election season of 2012 forcing Obama's hand and allow the Republican nominee for President to also weigh in on the process.
There are those who will say that this may also be detrimental to the Republicans. However, as this next election will be the most important in many decades the issue of spending, taxes and government intrusion needs to be a part of the election campaign. It will also make certain the Republicans are serious as well. There is no better way to stop this needless performance the American people are subjected to every two years or so and begin bringing the behemoth that is Washington under some control.
Will the Republicans have the courage to move on this track?