Ed Kilgore of the Washington Monthly and Bryce Covert of ThinkProgress sum up the budget deal reached by Paul “Lyin'” Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray. In sum, it’s not ALL bad, but there’s a bunch of really bad stuff in it. Here are the parts I find particularly objectionable.
1. “Most importantly, the deal left out an extension of unemployment (UI) benefits for the million or so people who will run out of benefits-and out of luck-at year’s end. Individual pain aside, that will greatly undermine if not completely cancel the stimulative effect of the deal. It will also represent something of an official surrender by the federal government on unemployment…” Horrible, unconscionable, heartless and stupid, all wrapped up into one – the prototypical Teapublican combination. Ugh.
2. “[T]he total of $85 billion in ‘savings’ in the deal comes mainly from significantly higher pension contributions by new federal employees and new fees on commercial air travel.” In other words, make those evil bureaucrats (aka, dedicated civil servants) pay more yet again out of their pockets, while not, let’s say, cutting corporate welfare for fossil fuel companies, or putting a cap on deductions for people making over $500k or whatever, etc. Over the past few years, it seems to me that federal employees have been repeatedly whacked, and for what purpose? In no way, shape, or form are federal salaries what’s driving our deficits (that would be health care costs, for the most part). No, this is all about Republicans wanting to screw a bunch of people they dislike, for no good reason other than vitriol. Pathetic.
3. “[T]he deal doesn’t appear to address the cuts that ravaged many programs this year.” For instance: “Meals on Wheels, Section 8 housing voucher assistance, and homelessness assistance. Some schools had to close and some scientists had to halt their research projects or fire staff.”
4. The deal also doesn’t completely undo the brain-dead “sequester.” And it splits the relief 50/50 between defense and non-defense discretionary spending, which is also wrong (should be closer to 100% non-defense, as the military can definitely be cut somewhat at this point in time).
5. “It raises some revenues as an offset, but none through the tax code.” Again, before we cut unemployment benefits or ding federal employees, let’s cap some of the many deductions millionaires and billionaires receive. Until that’s done, I don’t even want to HEAR about hurting poor people and the middle class.
6. The budget deal “doesn’t address the debt limit, which will have to be raised sometime in late February or March.” Which means we’re back at it again early into the new year. Greeeeaaaat.
So, those are the “mostly bad” parts of this deal. What are the “mixed bag” parts, that might entice Democrats to support this thing? For starters, it avoids another government shutdown, probably for a couple years. As President Obama put it, “because it’s the first budget that leaders of both parties have agreed to in a few years, the American people should not have to endure the pain of another government shutdown for the next two years.”
Second, it does provide SOME relief from the “sequester” to non-defense discretionary programs. As Senator Kaine explained, “the deal goes a long way toward alleviating the most harmful effects of sequestration next year – cuts that have disproportionately impacted federal employees and the defense community – and restoring basic economic certainty to businesses and families across the Commonwealth.”
Third…well, there really isn’t a “third.” That’s basically it: a bunch of bad stuff and REALLY bad stuff, along with a couple of sorta-kinda ok things. The only other positive note I’d add is that this might have realistically represented the best that could be accomplished at this time, given the fact that the House of Representatives has been controlled by extremist right wingers since 2011. The solution: in November 2014, we all need to vote to change the composition of the House. Until that happens, I’m sorry to say, it looks like we’re not going to get any decent legislation coming out of Congress, whether on the budget, immigration, or anything else really. Sigh.