Advertisements

An Awful Deal and Its Political Implications

Anyone who’s been paying the slightest attention to the Republican presidential nomination race has by now noticed that the party’s rank-and-file are in full tar-and-feathers revolt against its elite leadership. The big budget deal that newly-fledged House Speaker Paul Ryan has negotiated is not like to sooth things.
Although Donald Trump’s latest “tweet” is probably getting more attention, the deal is just awful by any rock-ribbed standard of Republicanism. There’s $1.1 trillion dollars of spending, which is bad enough, and it includes full funding for Planned Parenthood despite revelations of its baby-parts business, continued contributions to the Green Climate Fund that pays American penance for the country’s alleged global warming sins, no reins on the Environmental Protection Agency’s power-grabbing “clean waters” regulations over the puddle in your backyard, and money for all those “Syrian” “refugees” that the Obama administration wants to import from the most crazed areas of the Middle East. Even the big business wing of the party is betrayed by the deal, with provisions to spare some financial institutions from the burdens of the Dodd-Frank monstrosity dropped and Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s bossy Consumer Financial Protection Bureau still exempted from any congressional control, so it’s hard to imagine any portion of the party outside of Washington that will find it acceptable.
Part of the deal is another deal that extends about $600 billion of business tax breaks, which is fine by traditional Republican thinking but only of immediate importance to the affected businesses and their employees without any commensurate spending cuts is not likely to satisfy the rest of the part. There’s something about allowing the export of American oil and a couple of other reasonable provisions that have enraged some of the more far-left Democrats, enough for Ryan to make the strange boast that nobody is happy with the deal, but we can’t help but noticing that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid seem very eager to get it passed. Our fellow Republicans will like notice as they warm their tar and pluck their feathers, too.
This might bolster the front-running Trump, who will surely have something scathing to “tweet” about it, and it could play to his strength as a legendarily tough negotiator, which even such strident critics as ourselves cannot dispute, but it’s more complicated than that. His surging rival is Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has earned a reputation as one of the few congressional Republicans willing to engage in the government shutdown brinksmanship that this deal was clearly intended to avert, and Trump has lately criticized Cruz for being a “a bit of maniac” in his opposition to similarly awful deals in the past, although he backed off that after his talk radio pals who had cheered Cruz on each time stopped gushing, so if Cruz is deft he could also easily benefit from the party’s outrage. There’s a case to be made that the current deal isn’t so awful for the party as the fall-out from another round of government shut-down brinksmanship, which would bring down such opprobrium from the press that even Trump’s “tweets” could not drown it out, and if the more-or-less “establishment” candidate Florida Sen. Marco Rubio can successfully make that case he might wind up the beneficiary. That’s a tough case to make to the typical Republican primary voter these days, however, and Rubio already has a tough case case to make regarding his past heresies on the all-important illegal immigration issue.
The deal isn’t entirely done yet, with crucial votes awaiting in Cruz’ and Rubio’s Senate, so we’re eager to see how it plays out. The deal itself should be the big story, and there should be some way of working out something better within the current political arrangement, but that doesn’t seem very likely. At this point we’re only hoping that it will help an enraged Republican party make better choices in the future, and if Ryan’s lousy deal at least makes that possible we’ll at least give him and that creepy new beard of his some scant amount of credit.

— Bud Norman

Advertisements

The Republican Race Just Got Angrier and Better

The average Republican primary voter’s seething anger toward the party’s congressional leadership has been the driving force in the party’s presidential race thus far, to the point it’s driven the electorate so stark raving mad that until recently itDonald Trump has been pushed to the top of the polls, and this looming budget deal that the leadership has concocted with President Barack Obama is not going to calm any conservative’s temper.
The deal is just plain awful in every way. It effectively ends the “sequestration” budget cuts that lowered the government’s share of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product from 25 to 20 percent and reduced the annual budget deficits back to the level of the Bush administration, which admittedly doesn’t seem like much, and it also caused cuts in defense spending that are painful to conservative sensibilities, but it was arguably the best the leadership could get and inarguably the most that the leadership could brag about. This is in exchange for promises of budget cuts in 2025, which are unlikely to be worth as much as the magic beans that the Democrats had also offered, and basically represents a complete and utter capitulation to Obama and his free-spending ways. There’s nothing in the deal that addresses Planned Parenthood’s baby-parts business or the Environmental Protection Agency’s rapaciousness or any other other conservative budget complaints, it goes the wrong way on entitlement reform, and it outlasts the Obama administration and thus spares him any more fights over how he spends the public’s money.
As awful as it is as policy, it’s even worse as politics. Aside from infuriating their own average primary voter, and in a futile attempt to lure the sort of uninformed general election voter who is far more likely to be lured by whatever free and shiny object the Democrats are offering, the Republican party’s official leadership are weakening their position with the solid majority of respondents to almost every poll we’ve ever seen who think the government should spend less and do less. The official Republican leadership’s spin on it seems to be that Boehner shrewdly sacrificed his standing with his party’s vast membership, such as it was, to ensure that incoming Speaker John Ryan can begin his more steadfastly conservative reign untainted by the sins his predecessor had so selflessly taken upon himself. This is all going to going down with Ryan’s gavel, though, and he’s not going to get any credit for it from the more establishmentarian organs of the mainstream press, who are already gearing up to portray him throughout the presidential campaign as the right-wing crazy that he used to be back in the good old days of ’12 when he was chosen as the party’s running mate to placate a conservative base weary of the establishment nominee Mitt Romney. Since then Ryan’s gone wobbly on illegal immigration and government shutdown brinksmanship and other causes dear to conservatives’ hearts, however, and by now no knowledgable observer expects a reign more steadfastly conservative than Boehner’s. Thus we have an emboldened left, a dispirited right, and an uninformed middle that will be reassured by the 3l-second network news snippets in between pop songs that the Republicans are still crazily right-wing and the Democrats are still winning.
The average Republican primary voter gets his news in three-hour chunks from talk radio and in page after pixelled page of reliable conservative news sources on the internet and sometimes even on a printed page, and his response to all of this will naturally affect the presidential race. Our guess is that the already flourishing anti-establishment candidates who are completely untainted by any previous elective office will continue to do well, and it will be interesting to see if blustery real estate billionaire Donald Trump or soft-spoken physician Ben Carson gets the best of it, or if the formidable but fading high executive Carly Fiorina can get back in the mix. As the best-selling author of “The Art of Deal,” with a hard-to-deny reputation as a ruthless dealmaker, Trump should gain some advantage, although we’re still convinced what kind of a deal the relatively recent Republican and only occasionally conservative fellow consider would consider good. Among the establishment politicians, both Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are presented with an excellent opportunity, and it will be interesting to see which one makes the most of it. Given the understandably seething anger of the average Republican primary voter, we expect they’ll try to out-do one another in their willingness to gum up the works. If we were betting men, and if he we had any money to bet, we’d go with Cruz.
Both men came into office by besting the “establishment” candidates in their states, with Rubio the most celebrated because he had upset the hated Rockefeller Republican and soon-to-be Democrat Charlie Crist in his primary, and in a swing state at that, but since then Cruz has proved the more reckless provocateur. His filibustering attempts on previous budget showdowns were widely blamed for the inevitable frenzy of news stories about National Parks closing and old folks dying while their Social Security checks went undelivered and Earth spinning out of its orbit that inevitably followed, as well as the electoral disasters that also didn’t happen, so of course the average Republican primary voter, if not the uninformed voter hearing those 30-second news snippets, has looked kindly upon him ever since. As the most notoriously anti-establishment of the elected officials, he’s well positioned to lead a charge here, and he strikes as the sort who seize it.
Rubio might surprise us, though. We still fondly recall the handsome young fellow who vanquished Crist, and all the rousing speeches about capitalism and constitutional guarantees of liberty and all that full-throated Cuban anti-communism, and we can’t help thinking he’d make a good pick against whatever crazy lefty the Democrats might come up with. Although the 30-second news snippets will continue to characterize him as a right-wing crazy he still needs to shore up that credential with we actual right-wing crazies, so a good old-fashioned Jimmy Stewart-style filibuster would do him even more good. It would also remind the public that he’s a Senator doing his job, which further refutes a minor controversy about all the Senate votes he’s been missing lately while out on the campaign trail, and ensures his name showing up in a lot of headlines that even the most uninformed voters are likely to spot.
Former Florida governor and Bush family scion “Jeb!” Bush tried to exploit the mixed votes in this weeks presidential debate, and the general consensus of pundit opinion is that Rubio responded nicely by contrasting his record with presidential candidates ranging from Sen. John McCain to Sen. Barack Obama, and that Bush’s already faltering campaign took another hit. We can’t see how the oh-so-establishment candidate from the oh-so-establishment family ever thought he stood a chance, and we can’t see how he’ll get one out of a budget deal that confirms every seething angry anti-establishment suspicion of the average Republican voter. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also had a good night slapping around the media in the last debate, but he has a certain East Coast attitude about guns and a shoddy record on Muslim jurists and other issues dear to the hearts of more heartland conservatives, as well as the audio of him of praising Obama’s Hurricane Sandy efforts and photos of them hugging together on the New Jersey shore like the end of some of Will Smith-Josh Rogan “bromance,” so he also never stood a chance and doesn’t stand to gain one from this awful budget deal.
Whichever candidate winds up winning the nomination on the seething angriness of the seething angriness of the average Republican primary voter, we don’t worry that all the pandering will hurt their chances in a general election against what left-wing crazy the Democrats put up. For all the effort packed into those 30-second spots to make the Republicans look extreme, the Democrats are staking out wildly unpopular positions on guns, illegal immigration, law enforcement, abortion, and even on the economic issues that take more than 30 seconds to explain. If Rubio or Cruz have to explain their brinksmanship on a budget showdown to a general electorate, they can say that they did it so that the government would have to spend less and do less, which always polls well, especially after the National Parks are re-opened and the old folks never did miss a Social Security check and Earth stays in its orbit. Given the mood of the average American voter, who by now regards both the Democrats and Republicans with a seething angry suspicion, the candidate that is mostly convincingly running against both parties stands to do well.

— Bud Norman

Strange Bedfellows

Try as we might, we can’t make any sense of this so-called “Cromnibus” budget deal that might or might not have been passed and signed into law by the time you read this. None of the smart publications that had confidently reported it would pass in routine fashion seem to be able to make any of sense of it, or even explain why it has been called “Cromnibus,” and of course no one in congress has offered a plausible explanation for what’s going on. We suspect there just isn’t much sense to be made of it.
Still, it makes for an interesting spectacle. The $1.1 trillion, 1,600-page bill was said to be a bipartisan compromise with something for everyone to like, just what all the pundits are saying the public is yearning for, so of course some on both sides of the aisle found something to dislike. Conservatives had no problem finding plenty to hate among the $1.1 trillion and 1,600 pages, including such outrages as a year’s worth of money to continue implementing the wildly unpopular Obamacare law at whatever pace the president chooses and a couple of month’s of funding for the Department of Homeland Security of all people to carry out the president’s unwise and unconstitutional and even more wildly unpopular decree to grant amnesty to several million illegal immigrants. Liberals had to dig deeper into such a complete Republican capitulation to find something they didn’t like, but eventually came up with a a couple of provisions that would amend the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law to allow federally-insured banks to trade in certain sorts of derivatives in some convoluted way or another and increased the limits on campaign contributions. This was sufficient for a minority of Republicans and a majority of Democrats to hold up passage of the bill in the House until late Thursday night, and a similar coalition might also prove troublesome in the Democrat-controlled Senate today.
This unlikely convergence of the rabid Tea Party right and loony left-wing progressives is fun to watch, at least, and one can hope that it might even save the country from all the stupid ideas that are found in the moderate middle and therefore funded by the bill. In any event, it has at least revealed some interesting fissures within both parties. House Speaker John Boehner was using whatever clout he has left with his party to win passage of the bill, but his promises to start getting tough about illegal immigration once the calvary of the soon-to-be-installed Republican majority in the Senate is installed and that couple of months of funding for DHS has passed was not believed by the party’s base , who flooded the congressional phone lines and stiffened the spines of the numerous Republicans who voted no. The president also used whatever clout he has left with his party to win passage of the bill, which didn’t stop the Associated Press from describing how that Republicans had “muscled” the bill through the House, but among those who ignored his advice were the likes of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi from San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury and Rep. Maxine Waters from the same Compton that Niggaz With Attitude came straight outta. Leading the Democratic charge against the bill in the upper chamber is Massachusetts’ Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is widely touted as a more left-wing alternative to Hillary Clinton as the party’s presidential nominee, and it will be fascinating to find out what would-be presidential candidates among the Republicans will buck the GOP’s increasingly reviled leadership.
The best guess is that the lousy deal winds up passing more or less intact, though, and that what’s left of the combined clout of the president and the Republican congressional leadership will prevail. The alternative seems to be not funding the government at all, which for some reason remains even more unpopular that a lousy deal full of Obamacare and illegal immigrants and those nasty bankers and big-money donors getting their way. The Republicans took a hit in the polls with the last government shutdown, even if it had happily dissipated by the time the mid-term elections rolled around, and that was over something as comprehensibly outrageous as Obamacare, so they’ll pull out all the stops to make sure that doesn’t happen again even if it’s about something more comprehensibly outrageous than those millions of illegal immigrants. The Democrats’ fondness for government makes even the most limited and unnoticeable government shutdowns unthinkable, and we can’t see them taking the responsibility for a government shutdown over something incomprehensible and probably sensible as allowing federally-insured banks to trade in certain sorts of derivatives according to some convoluted system.
The fissures will remain, though, and it will be interesting to see what seismic rumblings they produce once the lame duck congress has been retired. Rep. Waters told her fellow delegates “don’t be intimidated by Obama,” showing some attitude of her own, and we expect the president will be increasingly un-intimidating to many other Democrats as his final term plays out and his poll numbers dip with every veto of a popular bill passed by the Republican congress. If the Republican leadership doesn’t get those bills passed, and do a far better job of thwarting the president’s authority and dismantling his legislative legacy than they’v done in this lame duck session, challenging their authority will not only be easy but necessary for political survival from the pitchfork-bearing base.

— Bud Norman

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

Knocked Out on Boxing Day

These mid-week holidays are quite discombobulating for creatures of habit such as ourselves. Much of yesterday was spent confirming the day of the week, as it didn’t feel t all like a Thursday, what with the light traffic on the streets and all the college football on the television, and the rest of it was spent putting off the resulting chore of taking the trash out to the curb.
Our daily routine is largely devoted to keeping abreast of the day’s news, and that has also been thrown askew by the holidays. Most of the newsmakers have taken the week off, as have the news commentators we count on to get us good and peeved about the news, and there seems to be little going on in the world other than the post-Christmas sales and the usual frantic efforts to exchange unwanted gifts. The president took time out from his lavish Hawaii vacation to sign that awful budget bill, the stock markets were open for another day of irrational exuberance, and The Drudge Report had a full slate of stories about people acting badly, but there was nothing that provided a satisfying fix for a hard-core news junkie.
More ambitious writers would seize the opportunity for a big-picture essay, or pen something philosophical or folksy, but we just can’t muster the energy on the day after Christmas. The lazy writer’s time-honored options are the end-of-the-year wrap-up or a purely subjective best-of list or some predictions for the coming year that are meant to be forgotten before they are disproved, but we’re saving all of those for the holiday-interrupted week ahead. Something else might come up, but we get the feeling that all the newsmakers aren’t any more ambitious than we are at the moment.
So, let us be the very first to wish you a merry Christmas, and urge that you also take it easy enough to let the holiday spirit linger into the New Year.

— Bud Norman

No Time For Family Squabbles

Maybe it’s just Christmas spirit, or the fatigue that comes with the season, but at the moment we cannot work up the requisite hatred for any Republicans. As loyal members of the Grand Old Party we are expected to be livid about its congressional leadership, but even after that lousy budget deal the Republicans have capitulated to we’re not in any mood to bash anybody the Democrats.
Those shrieking voices on the talk radio shows have a point, of course. The budget deal does increase short-term spending in exchange for long-term cuts that might never materialize, it does include tax increases even if they are in the slightly more tolerable form of user fees, and it does once again inflict budgetary indignities on the military, among other affronts to a Republican sensibility, and above all it’s a far cry from what’s needed to put the country’s finances in order. We note with satisfaction that our Senators and Representative all opposed the deal, right down to the bitter end, and we’re certainly not inclined to vote for any Democrat as a result.
Still, neither are we inclined to punish House Speaker John Boehner or Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan or any other of the Republicans who went along with this nonsense. As bad as the deal was, those congressmen are in a better position than almost any of their critics to know how much worse it could have been. The Democrats are also infuriated by a deal that didn’t include punitive taxes on those they consider rich, it didn’t restore the trillion dollar deficits of their glory days, and extracting further concessions from them would have required the risky tactic of yet another partial government shutdown. We have no qualms about even a total government shutdown, but many of the people Republicans will need in the upcoming mid-term elections apparently do, and it seems impolitic to offend them at a time when they’re so fed up with Obamacare and a sluggish economy and a snooping national security apparatus that they’re willing to do so something so gauche as vote against the Democrats.
Compared to what’s needed the budget deal is a great disappointment, but compared to what the a Democratic majority in the House would do with the current Democratic Senate and Democratic White House it’s a godsend. With Democrats like that to loathe, even in the Christmas season, we have no anger left for Republicans who sincerely intend to stave off their electoral ambitions.

— Bud Norman

Embracing the Suck

Once in a rare while a statesman will utter a phrase that pithily and memorably sums up the spirit of his times. Patrick Henry did so with his revolutionary cry of “Give me liberty or give me death,” Abraham Lincoln when he urged America to reconstruct itself “with malice toward none, with charity for all,” Winston Churchill with his talk of “blood, sweat, tears, and toil,” and John F. Kennedy as he vowed to “pay any price, bear any burden” in defense of liberty. For this peculiar moment in history we now have Rep. Nancy Pelosi urging her colleagues in the Democratic party to “embrace the suck.”
We had thought that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton perfectly encapsulated the zeitgeist when she defended her deadly incompetence and dishonesty in the Benghazi tragedy by snarling “What difference, at this point, does it make?” to a congressional investigative committee, but Pelosi’s bon mot might top even that. It has a certain vulgarity, illiteracy, and slanginess about it that is better suited to our age, and even more succinctly expresses the fatalistic resignation to decline that characterizes contemporary American culture.
The memorable quotation was reportedly uttered at a caucus of congressional Democrats contemplating a proposed budget bill. According to all the press accounts many of those in attendance were dissatisfied with the proposal because it did not include yet another extension of unemployment benefits for people who have been out of work since the Depression of 1819, but we suspect that the Democrats were also disgruntled about the lack of massive tax hikes, massive subsidies for community-organizing scams, massive abortions for everyone, and any number of other massive progressive wish-list items. As the leader of her party in the House of Representatives, Pelosi was sympathetically agreeing that because of the Republicans’ control of the chamber it “sucks” they can no longer run up trillion dollar tabs for such utopian necessities, but urging them to along with the deal because at least it didn’t allow such radical Republican outrages as a balanced budget. What with the manifest failure of Obamaism in general and Obamacare in particular at long last dawning upon a gullible public it “sucks” to be a liberal for the foreseeable future, Pelosi might have added, but the party should embrace the opportunity to blame the Republicans for not allowing them to do more of it.
With all of the media attention being focused on the rather nasty in-fighting between the crazed anarchist Tea Party right-wingers and the lily-livered RINO establishment sell-outs, it warms a Republican heart to know that the Democrats don’t seem to be any happier or more collegial these days. Conservatives of all temperaments are dispirited that their political leadership have acceded to a deal that continues deficit spending on an ever-expanding government that can’t seem to get anything right and is continually getting in the way of people who could otherwise make good things happen, but they can take some consolation in knowing that at least the government’s growth isn’t so ravenous or it’s debts so debilitating that they satisfy Democratic ambitions. With the budget deal now a fait accompli it might even be a good idea for conservatives to set aside the internecine warfare, await the next elections, and in the meantime embrace the suck.

— Bud Norman

A Good Reason for a Bad Deal

An un-civil war within the Republican Party rages on, with the latest battle being fought over a proposed budget deal.
The bargain was made by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, formerly a hero of the right, and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, still a heroine of the left, but there is no such compromise among the various sorts of conservatives. All of the crazed anarchist Tea Party radicals, represented by such right-wing talk radio ranters as Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, think the deal is a capitulation to Obama’s big spending leviathan of overreaching government, while the weak-kneed, lily-livered RINOs of the elitist back east establishment, represented by such traditional conservative print media as the National Review and the Weekly Standard, reckon the deal is as good as the Republicans are likely to get. Democrats are similarly split between the dope-addled progressives who long for the good old days of trillion dollar deficits and the Clintonian “third way” types who still feel obliged to give lip service to fiscal sanity, but they always seem to come together whenever there are Republicans to be vanquished, so the clash of caricatures in the GOP is getting all the attention.
Being crazed anarchist Tea Party radicals ourselves, but pragmatic and patient by temperament, we have sympathy for both sides of the Republican debate.
The deal is, without doubt, far less than we would hope for. It weakens the sequester budgets which, for all their faults, have been the only effective restraint on deficit spending during the Obama administration. The cuts that are included will take place in the future, meaning they might not happen at all, while the next two years leading up to the presidential election will see an increase in spending, which will certainly happen. There are tax increases, too, although mostly in the form of user fees, which are slightly more tolerable to a conservative sensibility than other means of taxation, and much of the savings is based on the dubious assumption that the government will start to do a better job of eliminating waste and fraud. Even if one accepts all the assumptions involved in the deal, it’s still light years away from the draconian budget cuts and thorough entitlement reforms needed to set the nation’s finances in some semblance of order.
It is a budget deal, however, and after five years of continuing resolutions that continually handed unprecedented power to a unfettered Obama administration almost any return to the constitutional appropriations process would represent an important improvement. Most of the increases in the sequester budget will go to national defense, still a cause dear to conservative hearts, and 92 percent of the sequester remains in place. Even with the increases in discretionary spending, the total budget for 2014 and 2015 will still be less than that the proposal that made Ryan a conservative hero and liberal villain right after the Republicans won the House in 2010. There are no income tax increases in the deal, which provides some much needed consternation to the Democrats, and without doubt it is far less than a liberal might hope for.
As much as we’d prefer a better deal, preferably one administered with a chain saw rather than scalpel, it is hard to see how that might be attainable at this unfortunate moment when Democrats control the Senate and the White House and the news and entertainment media. Republican hard-liners are urging the threat of another partial government shut-down, which wouldn’t inconvenience us or the national economy any more than the last one did, but that didn’t force any Democratic concessions then and it probably wouldn’t on the next try. Last time around it was the House that took the shut-down stand while the wise old Senators urged caution, while this time around the Senators are being threatened with primary challenges and are suddenly the more confrontational chamber, but in any case the Democrats will be just as happy to let their opponents take all the blame for whatever horror stories the networks are running on the evening news.
The hard-liners’ damn-the-polls-full-steam-ahead attitude has an undeniable appeal to us, but at a time when the Democrats’ poll numbers are sinking under the weight of Obamacare and all the other failures of Obamaism there is an equally irresistible temptation to sit back and let them take the blame for a change. Maybe we’re just tired out from all the political battles, or the wallpaper-stripping we’ve been doing for an old friend who bought a new home, but we’re inclined to take what we can get and rest up for another day. Both sides of the intra-party dispute have been intemperate in their squabble over an issue that most voters are too busy with Christmas shopping and National Football League games to care about, but if they can stave off self-destruction for another 11 months or so they have a good chance of making significant gains in next year’s mid-term elections that could make those planned cuts a reality. They might even use those gains to win more crucial victories in 2016.
One can only hope that it won’t be too late, but taking what we can get now might allow us to get what we want in the future.

— Bud Norman