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Real Budget Battle Hasn't Yet Begun

[ Posted Thursday, March 31st, 2011 – 16:01 UTC ]

The media is currently obsessing over the prospects of a government shutdown next Friday, and over the congressional budget negotiations currently taking place which could prevent it from happening. But this is a relatively small fish to fry, because the real budget battle will be officially joined next Tuesday, when Republican Paul Ryan unveils his budget plan for 2012, complete with 10-year projections. What is currently being debated pales in consequence to the fight over the 2012 budget, although it may take the media a while to realize it, because it is so much more fun to say "government shutdown" in a scary voice on television.

What Congress is currently squabbling over is passing a budget for the next six months. The House Republicans want $60 billion in cuts, the Senate Democrats have offered $30 billion, and rumors are that a deal has been struck in the range of $33 billion which could pass the Senate and the House. Note I said "could," as nothing is certain at this point.

But these negotiations are going to pale in comparison to the GOP's proposed budget for next year. President Obama has already put his proposal on the table. Republicans scoffed at it because it "didn't take on entitlements" and "has unacceptable deficits" in it. Next Tuesday, they're going to put their own plan on the table. If reports are to be believed, they also will not be taking on the subject of "fixing Social Security" because some of their members begged them not to (realizing what their constituents would likely have to say about it). But the rumors are even stronger that their budget plan will indeed take on Medicaid and Medicare in a significant way.

One wonders at the political wisdom of getting seniors riled up in this fashion, especially when you consider the fact that Republicans are also currently attacking AARP's non-profit status, in retaliation for their support for the healthcare reform law passed last year. The Republicans seem to have forgotten a very large truth in electoral politics: seniors vote. Big time. In big numbers.

But the most interesting thing in the leaking going on over what will be in the Ryan budget proposal was the following, from the Huffington Post today:

House Republicans are expected to unveil a budget for the next fiscal year next week that includes deep spending cuts in domestic programs as well as steps to remake Medicare and Medicaid. Officials have said that in private conversations, Republicans have set an informal target of reducing budget deficits to $1 trillion over 10 years, down from about $1.5 trillion for the current year.

Wow. If that's true, then Ryan's budget is going to add over ten trillion dollars to the national debt in the next ten years. Which puts Obama's budget proposal into some perspective (Obama's would add $9.5 trillion, to be fair). But Ryan is only targeting getting down to a one trillion dollar deficit -- in ten years' time. So much for all that noise about cutting our way to a balanced budget, eh?

One also wonders what the Tea Party folks are going to say about this. I have long cautioned that the real moment of truth for the Tea Party Republicans is going to be when they have to send their budget plan through the Congressional Budget Office, and have some actual numbers put on it, rather than fantasizing about "balanced budgets" on the campaign trail.

No matter what happens in the next week on the 2011 budget (unless the government does actually shut down with the ensuing media frenzy to follow), while 2011 is consuming the inside-the-Beltway set right now, it's going to be seen as small potatoes when the real budget battle begins for next year's budget.

Which it is going to, next Tuesday.


-- Chris Weigant

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


One Comment on “Real Budget Battle Hasn't Yet Begun”

  1. [1] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    No comments?

    Well, we'll see what Paul Ryan's got come tomorrow...


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