January 23 2013
The Federal Budget Is More than a Game
Carrie L. Lukas
The President has decided “not to oppose” House Republicans' offer to exempt the government from the “debt ceiling” for a couple of months, in order to give the Administration and Congress more time to come to a more lasting agreement.
The Wall Street Journal makes the case today that this strategic retreat by the Republicans from the budget arm wrestle that has been going on seemingly endlessly with the President is a savvy move.
That’s probably so: With the press doing the bidding of the President, Republicans in the House have little hope that they will be able to gain anything by trying to force the President to embrace something resembling real spending control. The price Republicans are demanding for this capitulation—that the Senate actually goes through the motions of producing a budget—are so low that it would have been a been terribly revealing if Democrats hadn’t gone along. The fact that the President had to come back with a promise “not to oppose,” rather than welcoming or embracing the capitulation, suggested that the Administration was a bit flummoxed as to how best to counter the Republicans' move. They probably just couldn’t get the polling data turned around fast enough to know whether an embrace or rejection would play best so decided to try to stay neutral.
All this is very interesting for the inside-the-beltway types who enjoy politics as sport. Yet I bet it’s rather tiresome for the millions of Americans frustrated by our persistent economic woes and who rightly suspect that Washington is a reason why this downturn seems to intractable. The Administration system to love suspense: Will they approve the Keystone Pipeline? Just how high will tax rates go up next week? And what new regulations might the EPA be dreaming up next to send energy bills through the roof? I guess we are supposed to just stay tuned in to find out. But while such cliff hangers may keep people’s eyes on politicians, they aren’t giving investors and business leaders much confidence that now is the time to expand.
I’m glad to hear that there likely won’t be another debt-ceiling nail-biter in 6 weeks. But like most Americans, I’m less interested in the political drama and more interested in Washington finally making progress toward cutting spending and closing the deficit.