(Reagan) Democrats are dancing in the streets! Headlines across the country proclaim: “All Sides Declare Victory” or “GOP Passes Largest Budget Cuts in History!”

Well, which is it? What really happened last night?

I guess because I’m really into self-immolation these days, it seems, I’m going to continue on with this series of articles on the Great Budget Battles of 2011™. I’ve been given fair warnings about casting assumptions, being self-righteous and pious (and a lot of other ugly things–hat tip to Rob and his brother moorcat), that I’m a “radical progressive” (which I take as a step up from our junior senator’s labeling of people like myself as “extremists”–thanks PW), but I take those aspersions as either a sign that I’m touching a raw nerve, or maybe I’m just a raw nerve that’s touched… whatever–that is to say, I have an opinion and a soapbox from which to shout it.

Ok, back to the question: what happened? Everybody came together and sang Kumbaya–the republicans gave up their policy demands, and 1/3 of their $61 billion in demanded cuts, democrats gave up a few billion dollars more, and won the fight for women’s health care… right??? (Or did the dems really just use women’s health issues as a way to ameliorate slashing other democrat-prized New Deal programs??? Or for Boehner to appease teabaggers as a way to force dems to agree to more cuts…but I digress, I didn’t want to delve into conspiracy theory here–that is lizard’s realm, and he does a damn fine job of it, I might add)

Well, no. We got 2 billion dollars in immediate non-discretionary cuts to the likes of high-speed rail transit money, HUD public housing funds, CDBG block grants, FAA airline safety–you know, things democrats like to cut in the name of “responsibly cutting the budget”–let’s just get the easy stuff out of the way first. But let’s not forget all the other budget cuts for the 2011 budget, that will bring the total to $78.5 billion… noooo.

But they got rid of the policy riders, right? Nope. They got some of them–like the Planned Parenthood defunding–out of this round, but in so doing they had to offer up-or-down votes on them in the senate (how many blue dogs are willing to go along with defunding PP…I wonder, and all the rest of the riders???). Oh, and rich Washington D.C-ians (and Congressmen, I assume–oops, there’s that “A” word again–bad writer, bad writer) got to keep their federally funded vouchers to send their kids to private schools. Nice. I wonder if they teach them about sex-ed and birth control, global warming or evolution there.

So where does that leave us? Very good question. I guess there’s another $37 billion in cuts to be worked out (I mean “fought over”–drama, drama drama…) before next wednesday, because, well, they just passed a Continuing Resolution till next week (actually, I think it was more that they decided to use the “KY Jelly” brand in their marketing of the deal, but that would be too nasty of me to say in mixed company), meaning another battle will be fought between now and then, supposedly with the parameters of that $37 billion somewhere agreed upon to finish the budget cycle. OK, just what is the agreement over those cuts??? I think we’ll begin to see that as the next phase of this drama begins to unfold.

I’ll end (sort of–I’m a glutton for punishment) by allowing John Nichols of The Nation do my dirty work for me, lest I be accused of falsely slandering democrats (though I still fully expect to be attacked, as it is easier to shoot the messenger than…):

“So who won the standoff? President Obama says the deal is good for the future, and that might make some Democrats think that he and the Democrats prevailed.

The one-week spending bill enacted by the House and Senate contains $2 billion in spending cuts to transportation, housing and community development programs.

A Senate Appropriations Committee review says that most of the $2 billion in cuts contained in the one-week bill come from a $1.5 billion slashing of the Federal Railroad Administration’s High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program. More cuts are achieved by hacking $220 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Fund. And research into making air travel safer and more efficient took cuts as well.

In other words, precisely the sort of programs that Democrats used to defend were slashed.

The Senate agreed to the one-week plan by unanimous consent.

Seventy House members opposed the bill. Of those seventy “no” votes, forty-two came from Democrats. They did not want a shutdown, as some of the GOP “no” voters did. But the dissenting Democrats said the cuts went too far.

They were right.

And we will need a lot more FDR Democrats to prevent the broader deal from becoming the greatest triumph yet in the GOP campaign to end the New Deal and bend the arc of history against progress.

They didn’t…”

Yes, a lot more FDR Democrats to tip the balance against the Blue Dog and resurgent Reagan Democrats that seem to be running the “grownup” wing of the Democrat party.

Update: Here’s how Ezra Klein described the whole rig-a-marole:

“The Democrats believe it’s good to look like a winner, even if you’ve lost”…

Right now, the economy is weak. Giving into austerity will weaken it further, or at least delay recovery for longer. And if Obama does not get a recovery, then he will not be a successful president, no matter how hard he works to claim Boehner’s successes as his own.

And Krugman concurs in “Celebrating Defeat:”

It’s one thing for Obama to decide that it was better to give in to Republican hostage-taking than draw a line in the sand; it’s another for him to celebrate the result. Yet that’s just what he did. More than that, he has now completely accepted the Republican frame that spending cuts right now are what America needs.

Nice… Austerians, what say you???

(And what’s that whooshing noise with thuds in the background? Oh yeah, that’s the vacuum being created as teabaggers pull the right to the extreme right, and democrats fall into a deep pit trying to appease compromise with them.)

(ps, the Wall Street Journal headlines today read: [Tea Party] “Activists Give Boehner a Nod of Approval”, while FireDogLake proclaims: “The Ugly, the Ugly, and the Ugly: A Look at the 2011 Funding Deal”. I guess democrats showed them!)

I might have to give this reportage–or whatever you want to call this stream of thought babble–a break for a few days. I’m starting to feel like I’m channeling my inner Tokarski, and frankly [or Markly] I find that disturbing to my peace of mind. I’ve got a peaceful, easy feeling… said the democrat to the republican

Said the Democrat to the Republican… (this is for you Big Ingy)

I like the way your sparkling earrings lay,
against your skin so brown
(Boehner, that a pistol in your pocket, or you just glad to see me?)
and I wanna sleep with you
in the desert tonight
with a billion stars all around
’cause I got a peaceful easy feeling
and I know you won’t let me down
’cause I’m already standing on the ground

And I found out a long time ago
what a (republican) woman can do to your soul
Ah, but she can’t take you anyway
You don’t already know how to go
and I got a peaceful, easy feeling
and I know you won’t let me down
’cause I’m already standing on the ground

I get this feeling I may know you
as a lover and a friend
but this voice keeps whispering
in my other ear, tells me
I may never see you again
’cause I got a peaceful, easy feeling
and I know you won’t let me down
’cause I’m already standing …
‘I’m already standing…
“yes, I’m already standing on the ground
oooo, oooo

  1. petetalbot

    I, for one, am very appreciative of your budget-related posts. They’ve been thoughtful and have generated, for the most part, an informative conversation. Sure, there have been a few insults, but then it wouldn’t be a blog.

    I’m still wrapping my brain around the whole thing but a few quotes from some NY Times articles caught my attention:

    Representative Anthony D. Weiner of New York, an outspoken critic of Mr. Obama’s agreement last year to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, wrote on Twitter: “This feels an awful lot like the tax cut deal. I gotta bad feeling.”

    He tweeted a few minutes later: “Our fights can’t be just to stop their horrible ideas. Don’t we need to have our own agenda?”


    Republicans said they were able to win increases in Pentagon spending but not to the extent they sought.

    My thoughts are, yes, wouldn’t it be nice to see a Democratic agenda. And, increases in the Pentagon? WTF?

    And while it’s great that Planned Parenthood avoided more cuts, Washington DC ended up with no federal aid at all for abortion services — a decision that most DC residents would oppose, I’m sure.

    Then you have cuts to high-speed rail at a time when prices at the pump are predicted to hit $4/gal. or more — and cutting funding for air traffic safety when the skins are peeling off 737s — not to mention block grant cuts and low-income housing cuts during a recession. Short sighted or what?

    I don’t think the Democrats can claim victory here. It doesn’t serve the majority of Americans, either.

  2. the crux is not so much THAT we cut deficit spending…. but WHAT we cut in this country which will define the US as fair or mean.

    so far the score is 20% fair and 80% mean. all the poor, women, children and those considered too weak to defend themselves politically get it in the neck. while the strong hold on to their largesse.

    the rising tide of world economics is lapping now at the shores of our aging and leaking dam of american dream expectations. one of the laws of hydrophysics proves that water always seeks its own level. with each year of deficit, the united states loses more water to the rest of the world. the sooner we all deal with lowered expectations the sooner we can adapt to the new rules of international survival.

    but first, we must lower the expectations of the powerful who will not give up their military toys, corporate giveaways and subsidies without a fight. in order to adapt it is imperative that america reorder its priorities from rewarding bad behavior and punishing good. until we decide that corporate bribery and war are not the way to succeed but rather, investing to improve the crumbling infrastructure of this nation and a commitment toward re-education of a work force which is falling far behind the rest of the world , we will most likely not survive the next fifty years as a viable competing nation in the leveling of the world economy.

  3. (1) Barack Obama never could have made a living selling used cars on commission.

    (2) I nominate JC for White House economic advisor.

  4. We have witnessed more Kabuki Theater from Versailles. The far far right puts forth an extreme agenda of austerian spending cuts. Then the right of center aka Democrats cries crocodile tears, rending garments saying tea partiers and Republicans are mean to the poor, the middle class and to the environment. But what can they do? What can they do? The budget must be cut. The budget must be cut. So they cut. And then they boast about cutting. They crow. But behind the scenes they have all conspired to eat crow in order to further the Shock Doctrine (deregulation, privatizing of all things public or of the commons, and defunding social programs. Read the chapter on Bolivia in Shock Doctrine and you will see the similarities to what is happening now.

    We are not broke. “If corporations and households with $1 million income paid at the same levels they did in 1961, the Treasury would collect an additional $716 billion a year – or $7 trillion over a decade.” from Institute for Policy Studies’ Chuck Collins (Oscar Meyer heir)…”In 1961, small business owners and individuals paid twice as much in federal income taxes as large corporations. By 2011, small business owners and individuals will be paying nearly five times in taxes what corporations pay.”

    GE and other corporations pay no taxes at all. Between 1999 and 2005, 83 out of 100 corps paid no taxes at all. Time to stop all this free loading. But that won’t happen because we have a Democratic Party that has gone derelict in its duty. Instead of being on the offense pushing for a fair tax code that would bring in a whole lot of cash, it is part of the push to overturn the New Deal and once and for squelch any attempts at democracy.

    The taxes have been shifted from the uber rich and corporations to the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker. This is the case we must make to our neighbors here in Montana. While corporations get rid of regulations, they have their lackeys in Congress and the state legislatures burden small business with added fees while upping property taxes. They shift the burden to the dwindling middle class. Small businesses fail. Then the big fish eat the little fish.

  5. OOPS. Sorry about that repeat. No edit button. (gotcha covered–no worries)

  6. The whole shutdown story simply highlights just how inept the Dems are.

    Last fall, they didn’t want to pass a budget before the election, even though it would have been easy for them to do so, because they were afraid they would get pasted at the polls.

    So they didn’t pass it, and got pasted anyway.

    Now they have backed themselves into a corner, and after they saw their internal polling and realized that the public was blaming them as much as the GOP, they capitulated.

    Now there’ll be an up/down vote on public funding for abortions (Planned Parenthood) and I’m betting the bill passes the Senate.

    And when the debt ceiling fight happens shortly, they’ll will give some more.

    • Eric is right. The debt ceiling is the big one. And quite probably as dangerous a moment for the nation as the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

      Here’s the problem:

      As the House GOP’s idealogical spectrum narrows further, and shifts farther to the right, it transforms itself from a major political party into something akin to a doomsday cult. Zealotry replaces firm but honest conviction. Recklessness replaces caution. Iron certainty suppresses doubt. Compromise becomes treason. The restrains imposed by 200 years of an ever more sophisticated political culture vanish, leaving only raw power and a wild will to employ it.

      This is the rough beast that Obama and the Democrats now face.

      There is no constitutional requirement that a budget must be passed by a constellation of members of Congress representing the majority of the nation. In the Senate, under some circumstances, just 41 Senators representing less than 20 percent of the people can stiffarm a budget. In the House, it takes a majority — but when the White House and Senate are held by one party, and the House by the other, the other has the power to dictate its terms.

      There is nothing in the Constitution to prevent the House Republicans from refusing to concur with the Senate until all of the House’s demands are met. All that prevented such extortion in the past was a sense among both parties that compromise was their duty; that, and political pressure from outside the Congress. The weapon was there, in plain sight, but a sense of restraint prevented any majority from using it.

      That may be about to change. Suppose the House Republicans decide to hang together, to not be swayed by public opinion or Presidential pressure. They can prevent the debt ceiling from being raised unless the Ryan plan, or something worse (yes, there could be worse things), is adopted.

  7. James, I concur. As White House economic adviser, I’m certain that JC could get us to the same place much quicker.

    JC, one does not “cast assumptions”; one makes them. It’s a healthy and standard part of any budgeting process. But, making assumptions about the people who question your assumptions? Not so healthy and not so standard. Kindly remember that this brouhaha began because you wanted to castigate a Senator for not speaking in the manner you found palatable about budgeting priorities. That had nothing to do with the budget, and everything to do with not being questioned in your assumptions. Yeah, it kinda went down hill from there.

    Pete, I like Rep. Weiner. I really do. He talks a helluva fight. And he’s really kinda full of it at the same time. With all his firebrand pontificating, he hasn’t really accomplished much of anything, budget wise. The Executive office submits a budget every year to the House of Representatives. That hasn’t failed for many years now. The House, holding the purse strings, alters the budget to reflect the will of the people. They have failed to do that for 2 years now. They then pass it on to the Senate, which ratifies the budget and passes it back to yadayada …

    You have seen the Democratic agenda coming from the Democrat in the White House. You just haven’t seen it supported in the House of Reps. Weiner’s wrong in that it doesn’t exist, and he’s foolish for masking the fact that he hasn’t proposed anything novel while blaming others for the non-existence of what actually existed.

    No, the Democrats can’t claim victory here. No one can. But I’ve been reading all day long about how that’s a failing of the Democrats. As to fail of the Republicants? Complete crickets …

    • I did not say that JC “could get us to the same place much quicker.” And I kind of like the phrase “cast assumptions.” First one makes assumptions, then one casts them. Or in the case of people who need assumptions to support what they’ve already decided, one casts for them, just like one casts for trout.

      I think the Republicans can claim victory. They used the policy riders to extort billions of dollars of cuts.

      • I did not say that JC “could get us to the same place much quicker.”

        No, you didn’t. I did. Did you bother to follow the link? We’ve had many class wars in this country, the latest before the current being the Reagan revolution. They never end well. But then good things come from them because the instigators (always the wealthy) seem to always overplay their hand.

        I think the Republicans can claim victory. They used the policy riders to extort billions of dollars of cuts.

        Yeah, about 5 billion. Peanuts. No offense, but I think you’re missing the point of the narrative. Both sides will attempt to claim victory. They would have done that regardless. 39 billion in cuts is meaningless to anything, save those whose programs get cut. Women were under direct attack from the proposed, and the Republicants backed off. That means nothing in online discourse. Listen to the epic whine: “It wasn’t really about planned parenthood”. Yes, in part it really was. Are we hailing that victory? No. This continuing discussion is all because Jon Tester wrote an op-ed that gave JC the vapors. All that is being discussed is the capitulation of the Democrats.

        Yes, the Republicans really did win. Their allies among progressives have assured that victory.

        • What, exactly, were the good things that happened to those who are not wealthy as a result of the Reagan Revolution’s war on the lower and middle classes?

        • JC

          “Their allies among progressives have assured that victory.”

          Bullshit. You’re just looking for scapegoats because whatever strategy you’ve got up your ineffectual sleeve ain’t working. And the Dems got pasted. And somehow you think some conspiratorial unholy alliance of progressives and the far right made it happen? You’re delusional. But oh, so predictable.

          If you got a strategy, put it on the table Kailey. I’m tired of this crap of you coming in here and just whining about what the left thinks of the political process as it unravels… unveils itself.

          You’re just pushing the left further away because you can’t get them to join you in your nice comfortable, moderate center full of squishy compromises that lack any principle.

          • Bullshit. You’re just looking for scapegoats because whatever strategy you’ve got up your ineffectual sleeve ain’t working.

            And what have you proposed lately that’s worked? Nothing? Anything? Jack squat?

            Quit accusing me of your own pathetic failures, JC. You are an extremist. You may be upset about that truth, but it is the truth nonetheless. You are accusing others of what you fail at. You’re the one looking for scapegoats. Jon Tester, me, my brother. You can’t show anything save your assumptions. But if you’d like, I can show your failures with crystal clarity.

            I’m not “pushing the left” anywhere. I’m telling to you to get off my ass because you don’t belong there, and you’re too pathetic to claim primacy over what you don’t own.

            If *you* are the left, then I’m happy to leave it. Cause you suck.

            • JC

              Nice pissing match you’ve ignited here, Kailey. Exremist? I embrace it. It invigorates me. Call me a failure? It motivates me to react even more. Think I’m pathetic? I take that as a compliment coming from you. Think I suck and represent the left, and it’s going to drive you away? Fine. Go join your brethren in the land of reagan democrat grownups and pink ponies and unicorns.

              Because the left you think you belong to has just been sucked into the vacuum left by 2/3 of the political world moving quickly to the far right.

              And all I hear from you is a bunch of fear wrapped in rhetoric designed to cast blame anywhere but where it belongs: squarely on dem politicians afraid to get their hands dirty battling with the right.

    • JC

      one does not “cast assumptions”; one makes them.

      One can cast their assumptions about after one makes them. But you choose to quibble over a verb, when far greater is at stake.

      I have always maintained that a writer is one’s own worst editor. Especially when his alter ego gets in the way (you got that right) and wants to have a little fun at the same time.

      But for suggesting that I may hasten the way to Appomattox, there are 31 36 kinds of people in the world, some who would indulge in a touch of nuance to place a hex on you to say: 46 55 43 4b 59 4f 55 21

    • petetalbot

      I didn’t research the messenger. I’m not that familiar with N.Y.’s Rep. Weiner. I liked the message, though, and the rejoinder: “We have the White House and Senate and this is the best we can do?”

      And of course the Republicans are to blame for this short sighted, retrograde policy but the Democrats’ passive politics are not inspiring the people, Rob. I’m tired of the headlines that read: GOP won first round of budget battle, even if it isn’t entirely accurate.

  8. Also, we need to be a nation of laws. We need to stop the fraud of the banksters. We need to restore something like Glass Steagall. We are being mightily ripped off by the banking system. We don’t necessarily want small government either. Small can be just as corrupt as big. We need to end the corruption and fraud and that starts with the banks.

    Until we fix the financial sector, all the rest of this debt ceiling and budget brouhaha is just a vaudeville act or a bad soap opera.

    But in the meantime we should cut the whole Department of Homeland Security which was just set up to siphon our tax money to more contractors like the ones making those creepy airport scanners.

    • lizard19

      i agree, fcof. that’s the big picture thinking getting missed.

      it would be great to see Obama make the Financial Consumer Protection Agency a priority. but i doubt his new chief of staff, Daley (who was vocal against it before being picked) is going to let that happen anytime soon.

      first, Obama needs to raise a billion dollars for reelection, and i bet setting up the FCPA will be one of the carrots they use to try to keep progressives in line.

      • first, Obama needs to raise a billion dollars for reelection,

        No. No he doesn’t. He wants to, and that’s no lie. But he doesn’t “need” it. The Republicans are making certain of that.

        • I agree Rob – he doesn’t need it.

          All he has to do is continue doing exactly what he’s been doing, and no amount of money will buy him reelection.

  9. mr benson

    Budgets require assumptions.

    Budgets should be balanced, or at least show a decent relationship between income and debt service, and expenditure. This isn’t a budget; it’s a license to drive the country off a cliff of debt.

    The Republicans just agreed to the largest deficit in history.

    And yes, governmental budgeting is very much like a household budget, and yes, you’d get thrown in jail for fraud if this how you handled your own finances.

    I’d like to have seen a trillion dollars of cuts “extorted”. The GOP decided they’d horsetrade away responsible budgeting in exchange for fewer individual rights.

    It could be that some “corporations pay no taxes” although I’m guessing almost all, even non profits, most all of which are corporations, pay taxes; property taxes, sales taxes, excise taxes, gas taxes, just to name a few.

    And corporation shareholders, those evil people who own corporations, also pay income taxes.

    Nobody won. We all lost. Again.

  • Ingemar Johansson

    I don’t think our side did so bad.

    Carl Cameron piece. “While Republicans wanted to cut more spending in Saturday’s early morning compromise to keep the government open, they think they got the better of the deal.

    Here’s why: HR1 was originally to seek spending cuts of $32 billion until Tea Party conservatives insisted on more than $ 60 billion. House Speaker John Boehner won more cuts than he originally sought and got the Senate to agree to votes to defund the health care reform law and groups like the nation’s largest abortion provider Planned Parenthood – once votes Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said he’d never allow to come to the floor.Back on February 3, Reid called $32 billion in cuts “extreme” and “draconian.”

    At a news conference New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., agreed, “I happen to think some of their cuts are extreme and go overboard. But every week they keep upping the ante and proposing extreme cuts.”

    Over the next decade the cuts are expected to save hundreds of billions of dollars.

    The deal mandates a host of studies and audits of Obama administration policies. It also blocks additional funds for the IRS sought by the Obama administration and bans federal funding of abortion in Washington, D.C.”

    Read more:

    Also the Dems agreed to re-establish vouchers back in DC.

    • Ingemar Johansson

      Ya think old Jon is excited about getting to re confirm his vote on Obamacare or govt. financed abortions?

      “House Speaker John Boehner won more cuts than he originally sought and got the Senate to agree to votes to defund the health care reform law and groups like the nation’s largest abortion provider Planned Parenthood”.

      Old teary eyed Boehner won this one, hands down.

  • Pogue Mahone

    HOLY SHIT, dudes! Have I been here before! It was during my first divorce. You see, we tried counseling first. It was really quite interesting. What I discovered from our counselor was that fighting is OK, but you just have to learn HOW to fight! Put some ground rules in place first. Do NOT hit your spouse in the head with a full can of spray starch (the big can) from point blank range, as my spouse did to me I found out after I woke up!

    Well, sure, we still got a divorce. But I LEARNED that in order to maintain a good relationship, it’s important to follow some ground rules for fighting with spouses (or fellow bloggers for that matter)

    Now, on marraige number two, I’ve convinced my new little lady to use an EMPTY can of spray starch when she’s angry! Just kidding. We don’t fight too much like that any more and have tried to learn to fight the way our counselor advised. In other words, try not to get personal or wound too deeply. Words have power, and words hurt. And you can’t take them back.

    And then, if that don’t work, use the friggin’ EMPTY can! It hurst a whole lot less! (true story) And save your best shots for the nazis.

  • mr benson

    I see no one’s got the answers for my points in “GE pays all kinds of taxes”.

    But there was one good point: the employees of GE pay plenty of taxes too. And that’s a good thing. What if GE went out of business? or GM? eh? what taxes would they or their employees or what taxes would all the people who sell stuff to GE,GM and their employees pay then?

    Didn’t we just go through that?

    • Pogue Mahone

      Um, who DOESN’T pay taxes, Bennie? Sheesh, come round when you get an actual/factual argument. I mean, that’s silly. Hey, TEACHERS pay taxes too! Maybe we should take ALL the subidies provided to GE and put them in education! NOW you’re on to sumtin’!

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