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.


In no particular order, and with no real precise plan, I thought I’d run by you the best political cartoons dealing with Congress and the budget. Let’s get started.

I’m always amazed by how smoothly Democrats blame Republicans for everything, painting dire pictures of deprivation and untold catastrophes if Republicans ever get their way:

Democrats and Republicans obviously have different solutions to the financial crisis we face:

But maybe there is hope. Can Democrats change their ways?

That’s not very impressive. Maybe we’re missing the whole point by focusing on political parties. Maybe those most affected by policies should be our focus:

Budget Battles–Now & Later

The Republican House passed a continuing resolution that will keep the government operating one more week and fund the military for the rest of the year, to ensure that those in harm’s way are not treated like dirt. The Democrat Senate, however, refuses to follow suit. If there is a shutdown, just who is to blame here? If logic applies at all, most citizens ought to be disgusted with the Democrat leadership.

While Republicans are attempting to deal responsibly with the budget issue, Democrats are once again playing politics—the same accusation President Obama launched against the Republicans. Harry Reid’s heroic effort to save the Cowboy Poetry funding appears to have impeded progress:

As Republicans work to put out the fiscal fire, their actions are being interpreted differently:

I’m still trying to figure out just what the Democratic plan for taking care of the national debt might be. Since they have offered no real plan, what is their fallback position?

This current budget battle is for this fiscal year only. As I noted in yesterday’s post, the only reason this is still an issue is that the Democrat-controlled Congress refused to pass a budget by last October. Once we finally get this behind us, the next budget battle will begin. Rep. Paul Ryan, Republican from Wisconsin, has drafted a detailed plan to tackle the deficit over the next decade. It even enters the field of entitlements, showing the way to rework the entire Medicare and Medicaid systems. He has something that a lot of politicians lack:

The only question now is whether he and his Republican supporters will get a fair hearing for this plan. The House certainly will consider it seriously, and make any amendments it deems necessary, but will the Senate, under Harry Reid, even bother to look at it? It’s not difficult to predict its future in that body. Hopefully, down the road, after the next election has tossed Sen. Reid from his exalted position, we can move forward. It’s a shame, though, that we’ll have to wait that long.

That Looming Shutdown

A government shutdown looms. Some questions that we should be asking: how did we get to this place? why is it happening now? so what if it does happen? Let’s begin with the first question.

The budget was supposed to have been passed by last October. Let’s see, who was in charge of Congress at that time? Ah yes, total control by the Democrats. They had the House, the Senate, and the presidency. So why didn’t they pass a budget? Could it have been that the election was too near for comfort and they didn’t want to be held accountable for their profligate spending? They punted, and here we are.

The problem now is that the Republicans control the House while the Democrats continue to run the Senate. What has transpired since that change? Well, the House Republicans passed a budget proposal. What has the Senate done? Nothing. And in the “newspeak” of our political times, that means the Republicans are to blame. If that doesn’t make sense to you, join the crowd. While Republicans are busy taking aim at the overspending, the Democrats seem to have a different target:

Republicans were the ones who led the charge to keep the government running over the last few months with continuing resolutions. Yet Republicans, and the Tea Party advocates that support them, receive the “extremist” label for wanting budget cuts. Just how extreme are those proposed cuts?

My, but that hurts! Careful, the country might bleed to death. Old people will be thrown out in the streets. Children won’t have anything to eat. At least that’s what Nancy Pelosi predicts.

But let’s get serious. Democrats don’t really want to cut anything; they believe all good things come only through government spending. Further, they are ideologically bound to oppose the type of cuts proposed—such as defunding Planned Parenthood. There is talk of a filibuster to stop that effort. The Republicans’ quandary?

Dire predictions accompany the threat of a shutdown, but just how dire is it really?

It’s all about making Republicans look bad. Yet if you stop and think about it, any shutdown would actually get us much closer to the limits placed on the federal government in the Constitution. If we could stay shut down long enough, that $14 trillion debt would eventually disappear. Have we found a new strategy?

Pearls of Wisdom

Yesterday at Southeastern University was a good day.

My department brought in as a special speaker Dr. Marvin Olasky, editor-in-chief of World magazine, which serves as an excellent commentary on current events from a Biblical perspective. We kept Dr. Olasky quite busy.

In the morning, he delivered a message in chapel that focused on how to analyze issues through a Biblical lens, showing that there are gradations in how directly the Scriptures apply to various situations. Some are obvious—abortion, homosexuality—while others are more vague, such as whether we should establish a no-fly zone over Libya. Yet even in those areas where there is no direct Biblical command, principles based on the Bible can still guide us.

At a luncheon, he provided a unique interpretation of the parable of the prodigal son, pointing out that both sons in that parable were wrong—the prodigal for wasting his inheritance and the older son for working joylessly at his tasks and being resentful of the reunion with the prodigal. He said, in political terms, Democrats were more like the prodigal, departing more from a Biblical standard, but that Republicans often mirrored the older, joyless son, thereby alienating voters. What is needed, he suggested, is a third son—not prodigal but not stern and joyless either. He believes that this type of person, one who can enjoy life and have a sense of humor yet still operate on solid principles, is not only the best person to have in office, but also more likely to attract votes. As he spoke, I naturally thought of Ronald Reagan. He fit that description perfectly.

At a special faculty colloquium, Dr. Olasky tackled the knotty issue of social justice, basing his remarks on a passage of Scripture from Micah 6:8:

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

He defined justice, mercy, and humility in the original Hebrew, which then opened into a discussion of the role of the church in providing God’s kind of justice and mercy, and showing how God’s goals are thwarted when government takes over this task.

Finally, in an evening session, he challenged students to discover joy in the life and work God has given them. Although we live in a fallen world where the “thorns and thistles” get in the way of joyful work, we can learn what we do best and carry out God’s purposes in our lives.

I felt like we were treated all day long to some real pearls of wisdom.

Yes, yesterday at Southeastern University was a good day.

In a Reasonable World …

The Wisconsin saga refuses to go away. How about a short review of the episode thus far? How did it start? Well, one has to look at November first, where Republicans sweep the races in the state, taking the governorship and control of both houses of the legislature. They do so on the promise to deal with the financial problems looming. What problems? How about a projected deficit of over $3 billion?

So, after being elected, they set out to do what they promised. A bill is drafted to cut back on expenses, aimed at the mushrooming costs of benefits to state employees. The provisions include making those employees pay a greater share of their healthcare premiums and pension contributions—a share that is still less than what private-sector employees pay. The bill also cuts back collective bargaining for benefits, but not for pay.

In a reasonable world, this would be a reasonable bill. Oh that we lived in a reasonable world!

Democrat senators, knowing they will lose the vote on this bill, take advantage of a rule that requires at least 20 votes in the senate to pass the bill. There are 19 Republican senators, so the 14 Democrat senators decide to run away to Illinois.

Safely hidden in Illinois, the Democrat senators demand that Republicans negotiate the provisions of the bill:

Republicans respond that it’s a little hard to negotiate with people who aren’t there. They also remind the Democrats that they were elected to debate bills in the Wisconsin capitol, not from a hidden location outside the state. But that enrages the state employees, who decide to overrun the capitol building, threaten the families of Republican legislators [note: this is barely reported in the mainstream media], and trash the capitol, requiring a few million dollars to repair it.

The majority of those who descend upon the capitol are teachers whose absence from school shuts down a whole slew of school systems across the state. They are “sick.” That’s why they are not in school. A number of doctors are seen writing excuse notes for them as they, despite their illnesses, find the strength to continue their protest.

Finally, when all else fails, the Republicans pass a bill that removes the part that requires the 20 votes, thereby rekindling the anguished protests. They do so only after trying to talk with the absent senators, who, when it is discovered they have been in negotiations with the Republicans, break off those negotiations and criticize the Republicans again. Huh?

By this point, everyone is wondering if those Democrats will ever come home:

Ah, but not to fear. They do return to a hero’s welcome from the mob. They are declared to be the saviors of the people, despite the fact that they deserted their posts, were paid by the taxpayers for doing nothing, and acted like spoiled children as they fled the state they were elected to represent.

In a reasonable world, they would not be considered heroes. Will reason triumph? Stay tuned.

No Time to Go Wobbly

The media has trained its lenses on turmoil in the Middle East and turmoil in Wisconsin. Nearly forgotten in this fascination with all things Qaddafi and public-sector-unions is the fact that the federal government has some tough decisions ahead.

Remember that $3 trillion-plus budget the president presented not long ago? Is that really the beginning of what he terms an “adult conversation”?

How about starting with a proposal that is truly adult first? Of course, there are some people who don’t mind this budget, and who actually see it as a excellent step in the right direction:

Republicans are calling for deep cuts in discretionary spending, and are seeking Democrat allies:

Let’s just say they haven’t been easy to find—and that’s on discretionary spending. What will it be like when they tackle entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare?

It’s going to take a lot of backbone on the part of Republicans to make a dent in this:

An allied problem is whether the American electorate will overcome its divided thinking:

It’s not the politicians only who have to develop nerves of steel. They are going to need help from those who put them in their positions. As Margaret Thatcher told the first President Bush as he debated his actions in the Persian Gulf War, “Remember, George, this is no time to go wobbly.” The same advice needs to be forcefully presented to the American electorate.