Taken for a Ride?

The grumbling on the Right is increasing with respect to the budget deal agreed upon last week. At first glance, it appeared that $38 billion was cut from the current budget. That, by itself, was a reduction from the $61 billion the House Republicans had passed.

It wasn’t much of a cut to begin with—consider that $4 billion gets added to the debt each day—but now it’s beginning to look even worse. More careful scrutiny of those cuts reveals most of them are a little phony. Some are budgetary sleight of hand, many are simply unspent funds from this year for certain programs that weren’t going to be spent anyway. One estimate says that only about $14 billion can be called “real” cuts.

Does this mean that the Republican House leadership under John Boehner has been taken for a ride?

I freely admit I’m more than a little disappointed in the results. Within me is a desire to cry, “Where are your principles? Why did you settle for so little?”

Yet there is another side of this that has to be taken into consideration. First, if Republicans had pushed harder, it might have led to that vaunted government “shutdown,” an action that the media would have pinned on the Republicans despite the evidence that the blame rests on the other party. Second, there is still another party in D.C. I wonder if some people have forgotten that Democrats still control the Senate and the White House. Republicans have only one-third of the components of the legislative and executive branches.

It’s a daunting task to get anything done with that kind of entrenched opposition.

Another factor to consider is that this was just the first skirmish in a long battle: coming up next are the debt ceiling debate and the new fiscal year’s budget. Even if Republicans had achieved their original goal of a $100 billion cut in expenditures, that would have been the proverbial drop in the bucket.

I’m not going to rush to judgment and declare the Republican leadership to be devoid of backbone–just yet. Let’s see what future negotiations accomplish. If something is done that deals substantially with so-called entitlements like Medicare, and if they hold the line on the debt ceiling, there is still hope.