Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Blogs blowup bipartisan Boehner budget

Jerry Stratton, April 14, 2011

Wow. Big blowup in the conservative blogs this week when it turned out the 30-some billion in savings from the latest Boehner-Reid-Obama budget don’t actually happen this fiscal year. They happen in the 2012 fiscal year and later.

If there was a significant amount of money being cut this year, the fact that some of it was also being cut out of later budgets wouldn’t matter so much. The problem is that the only cuts that we can be held to are the ones that happen now, and right now we’re still dealing with little more than rounding errors in the budget. We can’t continue to pay for spending today with non-existent cuts tomorrow. The bipartisan1 House plan cuts 300 million this year out of over a trillion in overspending. The other 30 billion are from “cuts” from subsequent years’ budgets. But, of course, next year’s budget hasn’t been written yet. It’s all up for renegotiation, and even if those cuts stay in, they can still be replaced by new spending.

In their defense, that’s the way Washington thinks; they probably don’t even view the gimmicks as gimmicks. It’s just the way they’ve always done things. And at least the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years are under this Congress’s watch: both of them are in the same term as everyone who just voted for the 2010 budget.

There are good things about the 2011 budget. It uses the 2010 budget as the baseline, apparently, rather than Obama’s profligate proposal for 2011, which means that those 300 million in cuts really are cuts, as opposed to the “less than what we wanted to increase” that so often pass for cuts.

Sister Mary Benedict and Father O’Malley

Do you believe in just passing every expensive program, Father?

For all the faults of the 2011 budget, Obama’s “plan” on Wednesday was far worse. He doesn’t care about the deficit. After submitting a budget proposal last month that made no attempt to cut spending, the President realized that people clearly do want the US to stop going further and further into unsustainable debt. So he promises that if we let him raise taxes2 for the next seven years, he can cut spending in the five after that. It’s hard to imagine a more cynical plan: seven years from now he’ll be out of office and won’t be able to keep those promises. The chances of his successor, after seven more years of profligate spending, saying now is the time to cut, is somewhere between T.J. Kong and Mary Benedict. That is to say, Slim and Nun.

The only plans that really do bring spending under control are plans that stop overspending; borrowing is something that should be reserved for emergencies. What are we going to do when a real emergency hits? We’re already borrowing at emergency levels. The only good plans are Paul Ryan’s and Rand Paul’s. Paul’s is by far the better of the two: it removes redundant government bureaucracies. But for that reason it won’t pass: we’re approaching or have passed the bureaucracy event horizon.

We’re trillions of dollars in debt, and adding more trillions every year. We can’t rely on fake cutting tomorrow. We need real cutting today or we’re going to fail when the next emergency arrives. And the longer we go on, the more likely it will be that the emergency will be a financial one of our making.

Spend now, cut tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes. If we really want to cut spending, we need to change the way things have always been done.

April 15, 2011: The tree of compromise

A little afterthought about the budget compromise. A long time ago, in an ancient century, I wrote a book called The Shopping Cart Graveyard; the kids, a soldier, and a talking bear end up on the Planet of the Politicians, where they learn the importance of compromise and moderation:

“We’re here, kids,” said Raphael. “Welcome to the Planet of the Politicians.”

The planet was covered in lights, flashing like a distant city.

“It is a distant city,” said Raphael.

“The whole fucking planet?” asked Leroy. “Do these guys have a hate thing going against plants?”

“No,” said Raphael. “They love plants. You can’t get elected if you’re not environmentally sensitive. They have laws that protect all of the remaining plant life on the planet.”

“Remaining plant life?” asked Leroy. “Where the hell is it?”

“There isn’t much left,” said Raphael. “Every year the environmentalists compromise with the logging industry and let the industry take 10% of the remaining forest and protect the remaining 90%. It’s a good compromise, because it’s better than 50-50 for the environmentalists. Last year, the logging industry got enough wood out of that 10% to make a toothpick. It went for the equivalent of 30,000 of your dollars on the open market.”

“What do they expect to make this year?”

“A smaller toothpick,” said Raphael.

“Why don’t they refuse to compromise?”

“Extremists are not electable,” Raphael said, and shrugged.

Getting more than the other guy doesn’t always work. It might slow the inevitable, but if you’re about to drive over a cliff, to borrow a metaphor from our president, any compromise between driving over the cliff and stopping is still driving over the cliff. If you don’t want to drive over the cliff, you can’t compromise. You have to stop.

The cry now is that the “real fight” will be over raising the debt ceiling, or over the 2012 fiscal year budget. For politicians, the real fight is always yet to come. They always want to put off the hard choices until tomorrow. Unless we force them to make the hard choice today, they never will make it. And we’ll be plummeting over that cliff.

  1. Whenever I hear the word bipartisan I know there’s a sheep somewhere about to go on the grill.

  2. He considers low taxes to be a form of government spending. No, seriously, he used the term “spending reductions” in his speech to mean more taxes.

  1. <- Forfeitures encourage trafficking
  2. Ryan: End oil subsidies? ->