Blogs » Politcs Plus » The devil is in the details



We are in phase one of three congressional battles that are looming this year. Phase one is to fund the government of the next six months, phase two will be the 2012 budget, and the most important one will be the authorization to raise the debt ceiling.

The republicans have already won phase one because house leadership initially wanted about $31 billion cuts in discretionary spending and the democrats have already agreed to $33 billion but then the tea party stepped in and wanted to double down the proposal, so now the republican proposal is $61 billion in cuts, which include defunding Planned Parenthood and NPR and some other ideological riders. The house GOP wants credit for passing couple budget proposals while the senate democrats have not passed one. The house GOP has an overwhelming majority, so it only takes about 15 minutes pass a bill that is dead on arrival when it reaches the senate. An agreement has to come before Friday midnight or the government has to shutdown. This morning I heard Mike Pence (R-ID) say that defunding Planned Parenthood is not negotiable, so apparently he will allow the government to shut down on an illogical principle. That's not too smart because even if the two parties agree; the president will veto the bill and the republicans don't have enough numbers to override a veto. The best thing to do; take the $33 billion in cuts for the remainder of the year and run for reelection on your principles. If enough people agree, and there's a chance to take over the senate, maintain the house, and win the presidency. When a party does all that ;they have a mandate.

Tomorrow, House Representative Paul Ryan will unveil his 2012 budget proposal which he says will cut more than $ 4 trillion (I've seen some reports that say its $6 trillion) over the next decade. This morning, I heard Joe Scarborough insist that Paul Ryan be commended because his proposals are bold, and at least he has a plan. I commend him for having a plan, but it's a typical conservative boilerplate; one without tax increases. Paul Ryan's plan does not go after the loopholes the corporations take advantage of. It doesn't even take away the tax credits to big oil. The Ryan plan will essentially end Medicare for those currently under, the age of 55. It has been a republican dream to privatize Medicare and Social Security for as long as I can remember. The Ryan plan would also convert Medicaid, the health program for the poor, into block grants for the states. Look at the state budgets across the nation; Medicaid takes the brunt of the cuts. This morning Mr. Ryan said that his plan will include defense cuts but he hasn't mentioned any substantial cuts in defense spending and he doesn't tackle Social Security. Paul Ryan said that Social Security doesn't increase the debt all that much, so it could be done separately in a bipartisan way. I agree with that assessment.

The alternative to the Ryan 2012 budget proposal is the president's bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Reform (Bowles-Simpson) which does not privatize Medicare and is more of a shared sacrifice across the board that lowers the corporate rates but eliminates the loopholes at the same time. To be fair, the democrats and the president have not fully endorsed Bowles-Simpson. Then there is that "Gang of Six", six democrats and six republicans ,who had yet another way to balance the budget in 2012.

I don't think we'll get very far with any 2012 budget proposal, and it will become a campaign issue because the president has vowed to repeal the Bush tax cuts. That alone is an important issue to be considered. There is still a complete withdrawal in Iraq that has to be done and a partial withdrawal in Afghanistan, which will lower defense costs. All these variables have to be factored in because it's not just about the dollar numbers; it's the consequences of spending cuts, lack of investments, and unforeseen circumstances.

The final hurdle will be raising the debt limit. Yesterday, I heard senator Cornyn said he would not consider raising the debt limit, unless we consider a balanced budget amendment. A balanced budget amendment would be a constitutional nightmare because revenues fluctuate, unforeseen events pop up all the time, and even though defense spending would be exempted; an increase in military spending will mean a decrease in discretionary and entitlement spending if you were to have a balanced budget amendment. Senator Marco Rubio told Chris Wallace that certain proposals would have to be passed before he would vote to raise the debt limit but being a typical politician; he wouldn't commit to a firm no. It's easy to stand on a principle when you know your colleagues will do the responsible thing and bail you out.

I just heard Ryan's budget will repeal the Health Care Law,which now needs enough votes to override a veto(NOT) or winning the 2012 presidential race (not likely)but anyway according to CBO,repealing Health Care will increase the deficit. It's the devil in the details.