Budget deal takes a lot on faith

The budget deal hashed out by Senator Patty Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan looks a lot like, well, a compromise. The Republicans got something up front - increased military spending - as did the Democrats - a small increase in domestic spending.

But it's the backend of the deal that has many on the right concerned.

New York Times:

The proposal quickly drew fire from conservatives who saw it as a retreat from earlier spending cuts and a betrayal by senior Republicans. Some excoriated Mr. Ryan, the party's vice-presidential nominee in 2012, for rolling back immediate spending cuts in exchange for promised savings that may never materialize.

"We need a government with less debt and an economy with more good paying jobs, and this budget fails to accomplish both goals, making it harder for more Americans to achieve the American dream," Mr. Rubio said. "Instead, this budget continues Washington's irresponsible budgeting decisions by spending more money than the government takes in and placing additional financial burdens on everyday Americans."

The agreement, which would finance the government through Sept. 30, 2015, would eliminate about $63 billion in across-the-board domestic and military cuts. But it would provide $23 billion in deficit reduction by extending a 2 percent cut to Medicare providers through 2023, two years beyond the cuts set by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

For Democrats and their negotiator, Ms. Murray, the deal is a turning point in the spending wars that have dominated the Capitol since Republicans swept to control of the House in 2011.

For Republicans and their negotiator, Mr. Ryan, the deal should mean the political focus can remain on Mr. Obama's health care law and not on another round of budget brinkmanship next month with the government moving to another possible shutdown.

While the agreement had the backing of senior House Republicans, Heritage Action, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation and a group influential with rank-and-file House Republicans, came out against the deal even before it was announced, as did Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group backed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, and Koch Industries, the conservative brothers' energy and paper conglomerate.

"We will hold members accountable, Republican and Democrat, if they go forward and vote to raise spending above sequester levels," said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity. He was referring to automatic, across-the-board spending cuts mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

In essence, we're trusting that Congress will maintain these levels of spending for the next ten years. There is no mechanism to require the cuts. Congress must practice self-discipline.

If that makes you uneasy, it should.

In truth, we've reached the limit of political possibilities when it comes to cutting discretionary spending. It's a drop in the bucket anyway compared to entitlement reform where trillions will be at stake. Adding a net $35 billion is loose change when we're looking at a Medicare program that will be seriously underfunded by 2016 and broke less than a decade later. 

Strategically, it takes the issue of a shutdown off the table, keeping the focus squarely on Obamacare. Democrats may still try to torpedo the deal in order to force the GOP to play the shutdown game, which will push Obamacare off the front pages. But repudiating a deal signed off on by the president would wound Obama greviously, so it's not likely there will be much opposition from members of his own party.

Many on the right will oppose this deal, but conservatives have already won the argument. Federal spending is going to be cut. Not as much as many would like. But the prospect of entitlement reform and tax legislation places the debate squarely in the Republican's corner.

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