Our View: The Smoke and Mirrors Budget

December 13, 2013
Lawmakers who voted for the budget apparently don’t see the irony of touting future reductions in spending while voting to cancel previously promised spending cuts

Lawmakers who voted for the budget apparently don’t see the irony of touting future spending cuts while voting to cancel previously promised ones

Kudos to Republican Representatives Mike Coffman and Cory Gardner for opposing the bipartisan bait-and-switch budget put forward by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) this week.  Unfortunately, the rest of Colorado’s House delegation voted for the smoke-and-mirrors package, which boosts spending now in return for the promise of spending cuts later…maybe.

“If you’re for reducing the budget deficit, then you should be voting for this bill,” argued House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who supported the legislation.  “If you’re for cutting the size of government, you should be supporting this budget.”

Mr. Boehner and others apparently don’t see the irony in touting future spending cuts while voting to cancel previously promised spending cuts – which is exactly what lawmakers did Thursday when they approved Ryan-Murray.

During the Great Debt Ceiling fight of 2011, House leaders caved in to President Obama’s demand to raise the debt limit above $14 trillion (it’s now around $17 trillion for those of you still counting).  Back then, the one relatively minor concession budget hawks managed to secure was the so-called “sequester,” spending reductions of less than $100 billion (in a budget of nearly $4 trillion).

Supporters cheered the agreement as an important step toward curbing runaway spending, but critics complained that the sequestration cuts would never come to pass – destined to be undone by Congress before ever being fully implemented.

On Thursday, those critics were proven right when the House voted to roll back half of the sequester’s modest savings.  The move also lifted caps on discretionary spending above $1 trillion, up from their current level of more than $900 billion.

Predictably, supporters of Ryan-Murray defended their vote for more immediate spending based on the long-term savings called for in the legislation.  But even those savings amount to a paltry $20 billion over ten years – the equivalent of what commentator George Will described as “a rounding error.”  And the bulk of those savings come in future years.  Sound familiar?

It seems that everyone in Washington – Democrat or Republican – talks a good game when it comes to the debt.

President Obama said that our rising debt “is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren,” (that was back when the debt was around $9 trillion).

Rep. Ryan, the author of the budget package that passed Thursday, has spoken eloquently about the “the tidal wave of debt coming in this country,” (that too was a few trillion dollars ago).

Indeed, the national debt seems to have become a little like the weather:  Everybody talks about it, but nobody ever does anything about it.

Perhaps most troubling was the lopsided vote in favor of the measure, which passed 332-94.  It seems there is broad bipartisan support for at least one thing in Congress:  Kicking the can down the road.

Representatives Coffman and Gardner deserve credit for doing more than just talking about runaway spending, and for casting their votes against Congress’ latest budget charade.

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2 Responses to Our View: The Smoke and Mirrors Budget

  1. Tim
    December 16, 2013 at 10:09 am

    Actually, the people who voted to pass the compromise legislation had it right. “Spending” and “budget” are words that are too big to be useful if we wish to reduce the deficit.
    The only way to eliminate the deficit is one brick at a time, the same way we got into this mess. Instead of a spending bill, we need to eliminate agricultural subsidies, such as crop insurance et cetera. We need to eliminate the minting of coins such as pennies and nickels. We need to close a few military bases. We need to close state-side commissaries. We need to shut down Head Start–with the exception of one study, all other studies show that the very powerful effect seen in first grade is totally gone by the end of the third grade. We need to eliminate the strategic helium reserve. We need to shut down the ethanol subsidy. There are others.
    The point is deficits will go away if and only if we eliminate programs. Our current system is like the obese person who resolves to lose fifty pounds but will not cut sweets, potatoes, meat or bread consumption. It ain’t going to happen.


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