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Deal or No Deal

April 10, 2011

It seems as though the government was playing a TV game show last week instead of being serious about the nation’s future.

It started off well enough with the Republicans having extended the shutdown for another week in exchange for $12 billion in cuts. Not much, to be sure, but if they continued to do that week by week for the rest of the fiscal year, they could have accumulated something around $250 billion total. Instead, all they got was $38 billion. Really? That was the best Boehner could do?

Let’s compare some numbers.

Total Federal Budget, source: The Cato Institute

The first thing you want to notice is the difference between FY2008 and FY 2011, which we are in right now. Republicans were elected in November, among other reasons, on pledges to reduce spending by $100 billion or to FY 2008 levels, which would translate to about $84 billion. They no sooner got into office in January than the number dropped to $61 billion. After all, the fiscal year starts October 1 so $61 billion is pretty close on an annualized basis. So the story went.

In the end, Boehner settled for something around $38 billion. Pathetic. Democrats, who had grown an already overgrown budget by $84 billion, squealed like stuck pigs, claiming imminent disaster. That’s nothing. The Department of Health and Human Services alone has seen its budget under Obama increase by $200 billion.

My friend Sean Paige, who was living in DC in 1995 during the last shutdown, writes this:

I remember it as if it were yesterday, driving to work one bright winter morning, past a glitzy Northern Virginia megamall, wondering why the hell the parking lot was spilling over on a day when most of the city was normally at the office, shuffling papers and looking busy. Then it hit me. It must be that government shutdown thing I’d been reading about.

If anyone suffered real hardship because of that shutdown, the fat-cat federal bureaucrats certainly didn’t notice. And today, they even get paid more than the private sector worker–so they will notice even less. But what was really happening? Paige continues:

The Clinton White House ordered some selective closures, and pushed on a few pressure points, in order to maximize the public outcry and make Newt Gingrich and his Republican revolutionaries flinch first. The media blew minor inconveniences into major disruptions, manufacturing a sense of hardship and crisis.

In the end, there was no real shutdown. Who was advising Clinton? Dick Morris, who has since seen the light and become a conservative voice of knowledge and understanding. Here’s what he says about Friday’s deal:

John Boehner has just given away the Republican victory of 2010 at the bargaining table….  he has unilaterally disarmed the Republican Party by showing that he will not shut down the government and will, instead, willingly give way on even the most modest of cuts in order to avoid it.

What we see then is history repeating itself. Twice now: in reaction to massive Democratic spending Republicans are elected to the House in overwhelming numbers which changes the leadership. But not the result. Both times, the GOP blinks first. This time, at least, there was no excuse: Tuesday a Rasmussen poll reported that 57% of the population were fine with the government shutting down as long as it led to deeper cuts. Only 31% were opposed. I suspect they work for the government.

They lost the messaging battle. Again. They blinked first. Again. Morris says we’ve learned a lesson:

We need to purify our party and purge it of the likes of John Boehner and all those Congressmen who vote for the budget sellout. The Tea Party must take the lead in this purifying fire. We must not let the RINOs win!

This agreement needs to be ratified by a vote of the House, reportedly Tuesday. Contact your congressperson. Tell them to vote no. Send Boehner a vote of no confidence.

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