Budgetary Blues

Being civic-minded sorts, we do our best to keep up on the latest events of public importance. Having a peculiar interest in such dreary matters, we’re probably more diligent about it than the average American. Even such obsessed sorts as ourselves, however, sometimes find it a dreary slog through the news.
Wednesday’s headlines were largely devoted to the $1.1 trillion spending bill that seems set for passage today, for instance, and it’s more than the most patriotic policy wonk should be expected to digest. Not only is that astronomical figure beyond our powers of mathematical conception, it takes 1,600 pages to spend that exorbitant amount, which is more than even a Congresswoman Evelyn Woods would be able to read before the vote. The Washington Post boasts that it “skimmed” the bill “so you don’t have to,” and provides a somewhat useful summary compressed into a relatively few column inches, but we’d rather read 1,600 pages of bureaucratese than take their word for it.
Usually one can infer what’s in 1,600 pages of budgetary jargon by who is screaming the loudest, but in this case the shrieks of pain are coming from every direction. The Conservative Review gives several convincing reasons that the right-wing bastards such as ourselves should hate it. The folks at Politico are always attuned to liberal sentiment, however, and they report that the left hates it was well. We note that Massachusetts’ Sen. Elizabeth is among the most outraged, and take some solace in this. The bill will avert a government shutdown, which will presumably please that uniformed majority of folks in the middle of spectrum, but it doesn’t seem likely to improve anybody’s poll numbers. Elsewhere in the news find that the bill does not provide funding for a ridiculous that outlaws our beloved incandescent light bulbs, but judging by the shelves of our local grocery store the manufacturers will probably continue obeying the law just in case there’s a federal budget surplus that needs spending.
The political ramifications, which are what mostly concern the politicians who will be voting today, are every bit as convoluted. Our familiarity with the Republican base leads us to expect it will once again be livid, with more denunciations of their party’s congressional leadership emanating from talk radio and Tea Party meetings and barroom conversations, and the inevitable lamentations of the liberals will provide little compensation. That vast uninformed middle of the spectrum will take little note, that astronomical figure being far beyond their powers of mathematical conception and the latest of passing totals of the National Football League’s quarterbacks being of greater interest, so despite our preference for de-funding the federal government in almost its entirety we can’t discount the possibility that the Republican congressional leadership didn’t attain its power without some political savvy.
President Barack Obama is still wielding veto power and the Democrats still have control of the Senate, after all, so there might be a plausible argument that this lousy deal was the best that could hoped for. In a month or so the Republicans will control both chambers, with an opportunity to drive Obama’s unpopularity to a point that they’ll be able to peel off a veto-proof number of nervous Red State Democrats, and at that point the Republicans will face a disastrous rebellion within the ranks if they don’t do better. We dare not hope for a federal government on a scale that its more diligent citizens can keep track of, but something better. Even a skimming of the skimmings of the budget deal will show that.

— Bud Norman

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