Why are these people so proud?
When Patty Murray, senator from Washington State, and Paul Ryan, representative from Wisconsin, announced their preliminary budget package last week, all of Washington cried “Huzzah!” and congratulated itself on being able, finally, to achieve something.
But when we begin to dig a little, and actually read the preliminary (for that’s all it is folks, preliminary) list of changes, reductions, reorganizations, etc., we begin to see that once again the Democrats have played nice and have been rolled by the Republicans.
Just a few thoughts: most of the savings envisioned by Mr. Ryan don’t take place for nearly a dozen years. Which is to say he gets to run the House as it has been run, period. Defense department spending has been increased, rather than reduced. Retired Defense personnel are finding their pensions reduced. Food stamps will be cut anywhere from 40 billion dollars a year to 4.5billion dollars a year, the real figure is unknown. And the much bruited idea that the government has been given a two year pass to do its business by the Republicans is baloney. Mr. Ryan has already said, “We’re not going to want nothing to allow the debt ceiling to rise.” Which is to say he wants to be paid off for his hard, back breaking negotiation with an opposition party that got, count ‘em, one tax increase – on domestic airline tickets.
Those items on which the Democrat s were going to stand firm – extending unemployment benefits, food stamps, a farm bill completely evaporated in the heady atmosphere of two sides actually speaking to one another and isn’t that terrific?
Well, as it turns out, NO, it’s not terrific. The heavy lifting envisioned by the budget committee has been postponed indefinitely. The Republicans came out of this seminar with nearly everything they wanted (apart from the airline tax, but what the hell?) The Democrats came out of the same meetings feeling proud of themselves for having survived the talks, for proving to the nation that Congress could agree to agree. But not to agree on anything meaningful.
We’re sorry to see this wil-o-the-wisp agreement hailed as groundbreaking. It isn’t. We still, in January of next year, have to do another round of budgetary meetings, and in February redo the battle over the debt ceiling. That’s how much kinder and gentler the Republicans are being.
What really gets us is that people who are ordinarily far-sighted and intelligent are hailing the Murray Ryan talks as successful, even to the extent that Rachel Maddow has recently tried to tell us that the Republicans are on the run and have lost nearly everything they’re attempted to do in these past few months. You couldn’t prove that by us. Apart from a rules change in the Senate, the fear of the House Republicans bolloxing up good ideas with bad ones is just as prevalent today as it has been.
We see no reason in the world for the Democrats to hail the new budget to come as important or successful. Talk about smoke and mirrors. We suppose if this is what it takes to energize the troops on the Democratic side, it’s harmless puffery. But what it shows more than anything to us anyway is that the Democrats are as unable to do battle in Congress with any hope of success as the Tea Party is.
Which leads us to another little item, thanks to Huffington Post this week.
Here’s an email sent by Paul Ryan to his troops after the reveal of the budget deal.
“Last week the House passed the Bipartisan Budget Act. It was a firm step forward but our work isn’t over yet. Now the Senate needs to pass the bill, and we need your help. Your support today can help us cross the finish line. For too long, Washington has been lurching from crisis to crisis. The budget agreement will break through the partisan gridlock and bring some stability to Washington. As conservatives, we’ve shown that we can make Washington work – and on our own terms.
“This bill doesn’t go as far as I’d like, but it’s a good start. It reduces the deficit by 23 million dollars. It doesn’t raise taxes . And it cuts spending in a smart way.
“Here’s the point: If we want to fully solve our fiscal challenges, then we’ll need leadership in Washington committed to this goal. And we can do that only with your support.
“Elections have consequences. That’s why we need to get to work – now. Will you please contribute $100, $50, $25 or whatever you can today to help us build conservative majorities in the House and Senate?
“Our budget agreement is a good start but there’s so much more to do. With your support, we can get our nation back on a path to prosperity.”
Now there are couple of things to remember. The details of this budget agreement are so murky that no one, and we mean no one, can even begin to ascertain what will happen in the future, and in this case the future extends to the year 2023. Mr. Ryan’s implication throughout this email is that he is certainly not in any way responsible for partisan gridlock, despite the fact that he has left bargaining tables when bargains were momentarily to be had, he has fought common sense solutions to national problems every day of his new career as resident intellectual in his party, and “Cutting spending in a smart way” means that poor people throughout the nation take it in the neck, again.
And we wonder, although we are not attorneys, about the wisdom of double-dipping here. Mr. Ryan is paid a decent salary of $174 thousand a year. For which he worked with Senator Murray to do, in theory, the nation’s business. Now he wants to be further rewarded for doing what he was supposed to be doing?
For years we’ve admired the Republican conventions, lively, controlled, energetic, entertaining. It seems to us they’re still getting the best results with the least work.
So why are the Democrats so happy?