The New Year also means that your senators and representatives in Congress will reconvene with a full plate of items to attend to.
One of the first items on the docket is to pass (or attempt to pass) a spending bill to cover federal government operations through the end of the current fiscal year.
“Wait,” you say. “Didn’t I hear that Congress had passed a budget back before Christmas, thus saving us all from the threat of another government shutdown?”
Not so fast. Congress approved a budget resolution under the misleading title “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013,” which provided the framework for the eventual adoption of a spending plan which is the actual “budget.”
As an aside, contrary to popular media reports, the last “shutdown” was in reality a partial shutdown, which left about 80 percent of the federal government in place and open for business. Listening to the hue and cry from the left and their friends in the media, you would have thought that the country was teetering on the brink of financial ruin. I can’t speak for the rest of you, but I hardly noticed “shutdown.”
When the budget resolution was passed, several congressmen and senators were quickly out in front of the cameras slapping one another on the back and proudly talking about what a great job they had done to work together on a bipartisan basis to finally pass a budget.
Sen. Johnny Isakson’s office issued a statement that said, in part, “I believe this bipartisan agreement is a good first step toward managing government spending and the fiscal policy of our country.”
Rep. Tom Graves chose to look at the meager bright side and noted that the bill reduces the deficit by $23 billion over 10 years without a tax increase. The Georgia House delegation voted to approve the deal 10-3, with the three dissenting votes coming from the three House members who are seeking Chambliss’ Senate seat in the upcoming 2014 midterms. Both Isakson and Chambliss voted to pass the deal.
So what does the budget resolution do to warrant such an outpouring of political pride and accomplishment? The two points getting the most play are a reduction of budget deficits and an increase in discretionary spending which would otherwise have been prevented as result of the sequester, which, lest ye forget, was President Obama’s idea in the first place.
According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, under the budget resolution, if folded into a spending bill, spending would increase by roughly $62 billion over the next 10 years.
On the other side of the ledger, projected budget deficits would be reduced by approximately $85 billion, also over the next 10 years.
Graves is correct, and to save you from doing the math, that is a net deficit reduction of $2.3 billion per year. Not $2.3 billion in reduced spending. It is a reduction of $2.3 billion in the budget deficit ($680 billion in 2013), which is the amount that spending exceeds revenue. That amount is barely a rounding error in the ongoing spending spree that Congress cannot seem to squelch.
To put it in perspective, at current spending levels, the federal debt increases by $2.3 billion every two and a half days.
I suppose a little progress is better than no progress. On the other hand, I am not sure why Republicans should be so proud of such a meager compromise.
Call me back when Congress actually cuts spending by $85 billion or even $23 billion in one year. That would be progress.
Jerry Landers is an attorney in Marietta.