Boehner's half-a-loaf deal better than nothing
I've seen a lot of conservatives slamming the Boehner deal. There's also some rather foolish GOP contenders coming out in opposition to score easy political points from the ignorant.
So do I think it is ideal? Of course not.
Do I think it is acceptable? Yes.
Why? Because we're not going to do any better. We don't have the White House. We don't control the Senate. We only have the House, and while the constitution requires that all spending bills must originate there, it's not enough to push through a budget. Any budget would still have to make it past the current White House and Senate roadblocks.
I've heard some say "let's just not raise the debt ceiling". Sorry, that simply is not an option as the United States must honor its obligations.
So, let's look at some numbers. Say we cherry pick the budget and just include those items which are dear to conservative's hearts and/or political suicide to touch like Social Security and Medicare. I'm using the fy 2011 numbers since those have reasonable revenue projections and the 2012 numbers I've seen are rather rosy so I don't buy them. (source http://www.gpoaccess.gov/usbudget/)
This means I propose a budget solely constituting:
Mind you, I'm axing welfare, food stamps, WIC, Unemployment supplements, Department of Education, Foreign Aid, and all of it. Every dime dedicated to anything but the above mentioned stuff gets the axe (this even includes Medicaid which is 'mandatory' and other 'mandatory' programs).
If you add up just the core four items above, what does it come to? $2.311 trillion.
What about the revenues for the year? $2.174 trillion. That's $140 billion short of covering our "core" obligations, and I have taken out anything most conservatives might object to. In reality, I'd just as soon reform Social Security and Medicare, putting us in the black, but I also know any such suggestion is suicide politically and would likely hand the Democrats even more power. And the fact of the matter is that political independents would not be in favor of anything even close to the above deletions from the budget.
So, the question then becomes: Is there any point in trying to make some kind of principled stand to attain perfection when it would likely just put the Democrats back in power next time and dig us into an even deeper debt hole?
Boehner et al have at least managed to change the direction of the discussion. When it was Obama and his cronies controlling the entire debate, the conversation was about how much more we should spend and on what new programs they could fund for their friends. Now the conversation is about what should be cut and what can we actually afford.
I'd call that a victory.
I've recently been reading up on my WW II history(in particular The Second World War, by John Keegan), and I'm not sure how many people are aware of some of the most important things that Churchill accomplished. I would argue that probably his most important accomplishment during the war was preventing the U.S. from rushing into doing stupid things.
When the U.S. got into the war in 1942, the U.S. leadership began to convince themselves (at the behest of Stalin) that a second front in Western Europe had to be opened immediately. In particular George Marshall was pushing to make an invasion that year. Heck, when 1942 slipped by, Marshall became convinced that 1943 was the drop dead year for it.
He was right in a way, but of course not the way he thought. Had the U.S. tried the Normandy invasion in 1943, it would surely have been a "drop dead" year. The invasion would likely have failed miserably. As it worked out, with an additional year of preparation and the development of specialized equipment (not to mention the Red Army grinding down the Wermacht brutally), the Normandy invasion was still touch and go. We didn't yet have air superiority in 1943. Without air superiority on our side in 1944, the German reserves would probably have been able to reach the beaches and clear them of invading forces.
So how did Churchill obtain this key result? He managed to divert the U.S. into other military operations which had much less chance of winning the war, but allowed the U.S. the necessary time to get their act together. He first convinced the Americans to become involved in North Africa in operation Torch. As it was, even though the Americans outnumbered the Afrika Corps, they were thumped badly in their first confrontation. However, as the Germans were at the end of their rope logistically, the Allies were ultimately able to clear them out of North Africa soon thereafter. Then Churchill managed to divert the U.S. again, into Sicily, and then Italy. Neither of these operations had huge effects on the outcome of the war, but by postponing the Normandy operation, they served the Allies in good stead.
These diversions allowed the U.S. troops to see action before it was all on the line at Normandy. Most importantly, Churchill prevented the U.S. from starting the war with an initial and likely brutal defeat in the European theater.
Did Churchill do this because he was prescient? No, he did it because he learned from his own experience. The U.K. had been involved in several unsuccessful operations against the Germans early in the war, and knew exactly how tough the opposition really was. The Americans had no idea what the reality was when they first entered the war.
What does any of this WWII discussion have to do with today's budget battles? Boehner has pulled a Churchill. Boehner has been there and fought the political battles. He knows the consequences of loss, and understands what the opposition is willing to do. Yes, it would be ideologically glorious for the GOP to balance the budget right now. It would also be political suicide. It is better to divert the Tea Party energy and win a minor battle than suffer a massive defeat. This recent minor victory now sets up winning the White House in 2012, which is the key to any solution which fixes the deep hole the Keynesian Democrats managed to dig for America.