The Republicans aren’t going to goad Obama into defunding Obamacare. The Democrats aren’t going to magically “break the fever” and get Republicans to see the error of their anti-government ways. Neither of these goals is at this point remotely on the table.
Instead what is actually on the table being negotiated underneath all the noise was, has been, and is the US budget — both the size of the budget and the constituent parts.
I’ll have more to say on this during the next few days and weeks, but for now let me make two quick points. First, the continuing resolution offered by the Democrats and so far rejected by the House Republicans sets the budget at or even below Paul Ryan-like levels. Yes, that is right: Paul Ryan levels. See this figure published by Derek Thompson at The Atlantic, and also by Ezra Klein at his Wonkblog. The original 2011 Paul Ryan budget plan put 2014 discretionary spending levels at $1.095 trillion. The continuing resolution being debated — and, again, offered by the Democrats, rejected by the GOP — puts discretionary spending below that: at $986 billion. This number is just above Paul Ryan’s latest budget, which would put discretionary spending slightly lower, at $967 billion.
The take-away is this: Underneath the noise of “polarization,” the Paul Ryan budget is in a bipartisan fashion steadily being institutionalized into effect by the United States government. This is bad. Bad for domestic investment. Bad for the domestic economy.
Which leads me to my second point. The current impasse thus marks the second time this year that significant spending cuts have been adopted into the US budget with neither side claiming actual authorship. Earlier in 2013, we had the “sequester”; now we have the “shutdown showdown.” Both sides blame the other for sequester. And neither side will claim victory once the shutdown is behind us. The truth is both sides are engaged in steady bipartisan cuts to domestic, middle-class spending. And neither side is getting in trouble, because they do it hidden beneath shiny media horse-race analysis with ready-made names (“sequester,” the “shutdown”) able to obscure the underlying truth.
This is bad. Bad for domestic investment. Bad for the domestic economy.
We are barely at all removed from a historic economic recession. We have experienced at best a lackluster recovery from this historic downturn. A largely jobless recovery at that: unemployment remains stubbornly high; indeed, too high.
And the US government is institutionalizing further spending cuts behind its citizens’ backs, while a complicit media uses faulty narratives to make it possible.
This is not good.