December 11th, 2013

The budget deal

I’m with Kevin A. Hassett on this:

…T]he Ryan-Murray budget deal makes a trade that most Republicans would likely prefer not to make. It balances higher spending in the near term against longer-term reductions that, combined with increases in user fees, will reduce the deficit over ten years. But since promised future reductions can be reversed, Republicans are being asked to trade certain cuts today for uncertain cuts down the road.

Still, many Republicans might rationally choose to do so, for five reasons. First, the deal is microscopic, so small as to amount to economic rounding error. Second, it reduces government pensions by changing an indexing formula, a method that might have a better chance of sticking than more straightforward reductions, making these future cuts more certain than most. And if the new indexing continues forever, then spending will drop in the long run by much more than it will increase over the next two years. Third, if House Republicans pass this, it will reduce uncertainty and help the economy. Fourth (though this weakens the previous point some), the deal appears not to lift the debt limit, so they can play that game again if they want to. Finally, assuming that the debt-limit increase is not going to lead to another showdown next year, this deal allows Republicans to talk about Obamacare all next year.

For Democrats, who might prefer not to talk about Obamacare next year, and who wanted to increase unemployment-insurance benefits, it seems like a weak deal as well. Such is the fruit of bipartisan negotiation.

When I heard there was a budget deal, and that the deal didn’t amount to much, I had two thoughts. The first was, “Most conservatives probably aren’t going to like this; they’ll consider it just another case of weak Congressional Republican gruel and lack of Republican spine.” The second was, “Good. The Republicans weren’t going to win this battle anyway, and this deal will take away the Democrats’ most potent argument against them—the one that hurt them so much earlier this fall, the obstructionist argument—and allow Republicans to focus on the awfulness of Obamacare.”

The way I look at it is this: the best way to combat the Democrats is to win majorities in Congress next year, and to vote for people who are conservative enough to actually stick to their principles in the exceedingly tempting and corrupt atmosphere of Washington DC (no mean feat that, and it’s somewhat unpredictable who will stand firm and who will not). Republicans and/or conservatives can bluster all they want from a minority position, but it’s a weak position nonetheless and the way to get something going is to be in charge, particularly now that the Democrats have used the nuclear option to cement majority rule. I’m not in favor of the nuclear option, but what’s done is done and it cannot be undone, so Republicans should poise themselves to take advantage of it.

Here’s Paul Ryan on the budget deal. He seems very sensible to me (although somehow I strongly suspect that some of you will differ, and strongly):

As a conservative, I deal with the situation as it exists,” Ryan said. “I deal with the way things are, not necessarily the way things I want them to be. I’ve passed three budgets in a row that reflect my priorities and my principles and everything I wanted to accomplish. We’re in divided government. I realize I’m not going to get that. So I’m not going to go a mile in the direction I wanted to go to, but I will take a few steps in the right direction. This agreement takes us in the right direction, from my perspective, for the very reasons I laid out before.”

Repeat after me: the perfect is the enemy of the good, or of the good-enough-for-now.

19 Responses to “The budget deal”

  1. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “Good. The Republicans weren’t going to win this battle anyway, and this deal will take away the Democrats’ most potent argument against them—the one that hurt them so much earlier this fall, the obstructionist argument—and allow Republicans to focus on the awfulness of Obamacare.”

    Reportedly, Ryan has made the same point and it’s a valid one. That said, my understanding is that this deal will last until Sept. 30, 2015. Which is just in time for the democrats to initiate another gov. shutdown, which of course will be the republicans ‘fault’, with the MSM loudly proclaiming that to be true, all during the run up to the 2016 election. The political advantages of giving the left more ‘proof’ with which to paint the right as evil, greedy and uncaring are obvious.

    As for the ObamaCare waiver delay for employers, due to expire in Nov of 2015, why can’t Obama simply issue another? One safely past the 2016 election?

    Obviously the 2014 election is important, even critical to the right but from the left’s POV, the 2016 election is of far more importance.

  2. T Says:

    Neo,

    You wrote: ” I had two thoughts. The first was, ‘Most conservatives probably aren’t going to like this; they’ll consider it just another case of weak Congressional Republican gruel and lack of Republican spine.’”

    Above, you quoted Ace as writing (emphasis mine): ” If [the MSM is not] actually in service of the Progressive Socialist Transnationaist cause, why is it that any moderately-informed observer can predict every single one of their judgements by employing this rule?

    Same men, different ties?

  3. KLSmith Says:

    Obama likes it. That tells me all I need to know. And as for what’s done is done, that applies to Obamacare, too. Does it really matter if we keep the focus on Obamacare when it’s not going anywhere. And I think you are fooling yourself if you think the Republicans will do “turn-about is fair play” with the filibuster if they retake the Senate. They don’t like to fight and be disagreeable. They’ll restore it first chance they get it. Bank on it.

  4. KLSmith Says:

    Paul Ryan may be a wonk but he is not a fiscal conservative. Congratulations to the national security hawks and statists. This country sucks anyway. Good luck trying to get people to keep working for a living just so you can tax it all away and give it people that don’t want to.

  5. rickl Says:

    Repeat after me: the perfect is the enemy of the good, or of the good-enough-for-now.

    Problem is, math doesn’t care about that.

  6. M J R Says:

    The Democrats, lefties, and other assorted statists would *love* to have a budget battle as a distraction from confronting head-on the obamacare disaster.

    The Ryan-Murray agreement kicks the can down the road (again), but it enables us good guys to focus our energies on what appears to me to be a more imminent battle: to do something constructive about obamacare. Repealing it certainly works for me, but that’s not very realistic, at least not for another year. What to do about it? I dunno — I’m not a wonk. But let’s see what we can come up with.

    Meanwhile, given that the Senate is safely in Democrat hands and the White House is safely in fascist hands, how much better were we going to get from Ryan-Murray? At least with kicking the can down the road — with spending cuts in the future that are never going to happen, let’s no one kid ourselves — we can focus on containing the more immediate malignancy.

    That’s my analysis, anyway, and I’m sticking with it [smile].

  7. neo-neocon Says:

    KLSmith:

    Actually, if the Republicans take the Senate I don’t think they’ll restore the filibuster. I understand your point, but I think things have gone too far even for them, and they realize the danger.

    Hopefully, they’ll take the Senate and at least we’ll get to see whose prediction was correct, yours or mine.

  8. parker Says:

    Anything, including a small increase in the 2013-14 budget, is fine by me as long as the repubs keep hammering on Obamacare. Mary landrieu, one of the crucial votes in passing Obamacare, is running scared and has a new ad out chastising Obama and bragging about her efforts to ‘fix it’. This is a good thing.

  9. KLSmith Says:

    With all due respect to many of those here, if I wanted to drink kool-aid I’d have just stayed a Democrat. Part of me does envy your optimism, though.

  10. parker Says:

    KLS,

    It ain’t over until its over and if you’re not in for the long haul the game is already over and that means you ain’t in the game although the game goes on until its over. Its sort of a Yogi Zen thingy. 😉

  11. Don Carlos Says:

    Neo sez, “the best way to combat the Democrats is to win majorities in Congress next year, and to vote for people who are conservative enough to actually stick to their principles.”

    I say, it is never liberals who cave, it is always conservatives who fail to stick to their principles. Murray isn’t caving; she’s temporizing, sucking in the RINOS, the Beaners (oops, Boehners). And Ryan’s not caving? the savings are minuscule, and he’s claiming progress?

    Interesting, No?

    No wonder we never win. Conservatives are like the hapless Italian army in WWII. Conservatives cannot trust one another to march together. For the Left, all it takes is a raised fist and a yell, and there’s a stampede.

    In closing, I suggest the best way to combat the Dems is NOT to have a single best way. Our best way in 2012 was Romney, and we all ended up with egg on our faces.

  12. J.J. Says:

    The deal is progress because it puts the fiscal responsibility back in the hands of Congress. This will be the first actual budget since 2009. The continuing resolutions allowed Obama to set the spending priorities. It means that the military is not going to be completely gutted. There is only one way to get real spending reductions – win the Senate and the Presidency. Without winning elections the die is cast. That means working for fiscally conservative candidates and voting for R candidates even if they aren’t perfectly conservative. RINOs are far more fiscally conservative than any dem in Congress. Having the leadership in either house is very important to attaining legislative goals. Harry Reid is a prime example. He has been able to block all kinds of legislation and without he and Pelosi in the leadership roles Obamacare would never have been pushed through. Republican democracy is a very frustrating, messy way of governing. You have to keep working over the long haul and you have to be able to sell your ideas to ill-informed people.

  13. Don Carlos Says:

    Keep on spinning, you Friends of the Good.
    And see this:http://www.cnbc.com/id/101265477

  14. blert Says:

    Is this something about a hamburger today, bill due on Tuesday?

  15. blert Says:

    I have to admit that getting a budget passed that removes discretion from Barry has merit — even if it otherwise totally stinks.

    I also like the fact that the deck gets cleared for a general action.

    The legislative schwerpunkt is 0-care. It’s the ONLY hill we want to die on.

    The rest, stinky as they may be, have to be deferred to the schwerpunkt.

    Congress CANNOT diffuse its focus and carry the Press along for the ride.

    This goes back to one of the original headaches in ancient warfare: compelling an opponent to defend a fixed position — even though tactics would have him fade away.

    It was the one big down-side to fortress defense: once constructed, you’re compelled to hang around and defend the asset — sometimes even lulled into thinking you can pull off a defense — while your opponent is two steps ahead and has brought overwhelming force.

    Thus, Julius Caesar did in Vercingetorix at the siege of Alesia. At all times prior, Vercingetorix had bobbed an weaved — Mao style — driving Caesar to distraction.

    Defending 0-care is more impossible than holding the Soviets away from the Fuhrer bunker.

    It’s a depot of scandals: so many extra taxes, denial of service, interruption of professional relations, cartel pricing, kick-backs, graft, — and out and out boobery.

    60 Minutes would be booked solid with sordid politics — should they dare. (Not with a ten-foot pole)

  16. Ymarsakar Says:

    Don Carlos, bottom up strategic initiatives work because it doesn’t depend on having one big nest egg for a problem.

    But the only bottom up hierarchies I’ve seen are BitCoin, single user youtube advertisement channels, Kickstarter, and simulated universes.

    The rest of the economy and the military/political sphere are authoritarian, top down hierarchies. The leader says go with A, everyone goes with A, A fails, everyone then loses.

  17. T Says:

    Megan McArdle also thinks this budget deal will benefit republicans.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-12-11/republicans-get-the-better-end-of-the-budget-deal.html

  18. Da Tech Guy On DaRadio Blog » Blog Archive » Some advice on judging the Ryan/Murray Budget deal… Says:

    […] And some who look at it prag­mat­i­cally: […]

  19. blert Says:

    Well, it blew through the House on a lop-sided vote.

    It’s off to the Senate.

    My guess is that this ‘half-a-baby’ will become law.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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