Ruth Marcus labels current spending debates un-serious because of outrage over $16 muffins and $1.6 billion in disaster relief.
First, she explains that the $16 muffin was actually not such a bad deal: "The muffin billing actually included: free meeting space, complimentary coffee, fresh fruit, assorted baked goods, taxes and tip. In short, a decent price for a continental breakfast."
So that $16 muffin actually came with coffee, fruit and the chair for the bureaucrat to sit on. Okay, fine. That's slightly less outrageous, although taxpayers should hardly applaud DOJ for getting such a deal for a conference room: Surely in a city awash in federal government buildings they could have found some appropriate-sized space for their meeting, and then brought breakfast in.
Marcus does have a point when she says that outrage over examples like the $16 muffin distracts from the big picture on righting our fiscal ship. Yes, even if the federal government cut out all earmarks, muffin laden meetings, and other flagrant waste, it would make only a small dent in our overall fiscal picture.
But she loses that picture in discussing the recent showdown over off-setting $1.6 billion in disaster relief. She notes that the $1.6 billion came to "an infinitesimal 0.153 percent of the trillion-dollar spending bill under discussion" and less that ".04 percent" of the overall federal budget, and concludes "really, how embarrassing for Congress to go to the brink over $1.6 billion."
Yes, how embarrassing indeed. But it takes two to go to the brink. Marcus automatically fingers Republicans for being so small-minded as to insist that the tiny sum of $1.6 billion should be off-set, but Democrats were just as stubborn about not finding that silly little sum of $1.6 billion in cuts to appease those crazy fiscal hawks.
Marcus laments that a Congress that can't agree on $1.6 billion will never agree on $1.5 trillion in cuts. And that's just the point. If Congress can't cut $1.6 billion to fund disaster relief, of all things, then who thinks they will have the courage to cut $1.5 trillion (or more as the President has decreed they must) just in the name of reducing the deficit.
Marcus is right that Washington isn't serious about spending cuts–but she is among the culprits. Laughing off attempts to save $1.6 billion is a big part of our problem.