A Small Beginning Of Fiscal Courage?

Nothing’s small when you’re talking about 38.5 billion dollars. But when it’s in the context of 3.6 trillion budget, it’s just one week’s worth of spending–or slightly over one half of 1%.

That’s the essence of the recent budget deal reached between The Republican House and Democratic- controlled Senate and White House that was hammered out before midnight on April 9.

They agreed to cut last year’s “missing” budget by 38.5 billion dollars or less than one percent.

Big deal.

Does it take much courage to whittle less than 1% from your personal or family budget?

I don’t think so.

On the other hand, for the first time in recent memory some courageous leaders took on the government behemoth and actually shrunk its voracious appetite. Is this truly a beginning of some necessary fiscal courage that we desperate need in the United States of America?

Before we answer that question, let’s analyze who might have won the recent budgetary prize-fight.

Carl Cameron. leading political reporter for Fox News, in an article entitled “Who Won the Shutdown Showdown? It Wasn’t Even Close” had this analysis:

“While Republicans wanted to cut more spending in Saturday’s early morning compromise to keep the government open, they think they got the better of the deal.”

“Here’s why: HR1 [the House budget bill] was originally to seek spending cuts of $32 billion until Tea Party conservatives insisted on more than $ 60 billion. House Speaker John Boehner won more cuts than he originally sought and got the Senate to agree to votes to defund the health care reform law and groups like the nation’s largest abortion provider Planned Parenthood – votes Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said he’d ever allow to come to the floor. Back on February 3, Reid called $32 billion in cuts ‘extreme’ and ‘draconian.'”

“The history of offers on this bill goes something like this. Democrats first offered no cuts, then $4 billion, then $6.5 billion, then $33 billion, then settled at $38.5 billion. Boehner made numerous adjustments to his offer in recent days too, but started at $32 billion, then with a Tea Party push went to $62 billion, then dropped to $40 billion, then $38.5 billion.”

“Democrats claimed they met Republicans halfway after the $10 billion in cuts that already passed this year were approved. They settled late Friday night at three and a half times more. Boehner came in $8.5 billion higher than the halfway point between his high offer of $61 billion in cuts and the Democrats opening bid of zero cuts.”

“It was not a totally lopsided bargain. Dems have some silver linings. There were no votes on defunding the EPA or PBS and NPR. Democrats fought for and won a $2 billion cut from the Department of Defense, knocking the military appropriation for the rest of the year down to $513 billion. But the GOP had to be able to see this as a win in the end, because it is puny compared to what they want to do next.”

“House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget resolution proposes cuts of $5 TRILLION in the next 10 yrs. But the resolution is a non-binding roadmap for the committees to use as they approve tax and spending bills for next year, the resolution will never be signed into law by the president.”

“The next battle with consequences begins in a matter of two short weeks when the accumulated U.S. debt will be nearing it’s $14 trillion legal limit.  So Congress will have to vote to raise the ceiling so Uncle Sam can borrow still more money. The administration has said it will need to be raised between April 15 and May 31 or the U.S. could default and create a new fiscal crisis of unknowable magnitude. Fiscal hawks plan to demand strict, enforceable spending caps, triggers for across the board cuts, and austerity measures in exchange for raising the debt limit.”

“This short-term agreement was just a beginning.”

Amen–but an important one.

I agree with Cameron. John Boehner definitely won a clear decision over the Barack Obama-Harry Reid Tag team. In fact, I’d grade the fiscal prize fight this way:

  • John Boehner – B+. He deserves a lot of credit for his bargaining skills, but only 60-100 billion would have eaned him an A.
  • Barack Obama – D. He was clearly disengaged from the budget process and exercised little leadership. What he claims are “historic budget reductions” are only true because he raised the spending bar by 20% over the past two years–making the reductions a phony trophy to claim.
  • Harry Reid – F. Undoubtedly, the worst Senate Majority leader in U.S. history. No wisdom–no guts–no leadership.
  • Nancy Pelosi – F. She’s no longer leading the House of Representatives, but her failure to produce a timely budget last year clearly marks her as the worst Speaker of the House of all-time.
  • Tea Party leaders-and-newly-elected officials – B+. Most of them stood firm on their pledge to cut the budget by sixty billion. Some did not–hence the B+. Still, their electoral success and pressure has temporarily halted the bloated growth of government.

One who did stand her ground was Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, a rising GOP star from the state of Minnesota. Here’s her vote report:

“Early this morning, I joined with 27 other Republicans in opposition to the continuing resolution brokered by President Obama and Congressional leaders. While millions of Americans expect Congress to make significant efforts to address our nation’s fiscal problems, the deal that was made leaves us with a paltry $36 billion in cuts and fails to defund Obamacare and Planned Parenthood. This continuing resolution is a disappointment and ignores the mandate given to us by voters in November. Keeping in line with my promises, I will continue to oppose any continuing resolution or budget plan that does not defund Obamacare or make significant cuts in government spending, and I will not yield in this effort.”

“Who won the budget negotiations of 2011? That’s a question people will be debating for some time.  For conservatives, the bill is a mixed bag. On one hand, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) negotiated Democrats into the largest dollar-for-dollar spending cut in American history. After pushing the President and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to bite on the GOP’s initial plan–$ 33 billion in cuts–the Speaker upped the ante at the last minute and got them to agree to $5 billion more. By night’s end, the Left had accepted $38 billion in spending cuts.”

“But, as Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) pointed out, that’s a far cry from the $100 billion voters wanted. ‘Relative to the size of the problem,’ he said, ‘it’s not even a rounding error. In that case, we probably all deserve to be tarred and feathered.'”

Congresswoman Bachmann gets it. That’s probably why she’s a leading presidential contender for 2012.

The Heritage Foundation also has it right. They believe we need some courageous leaders who will change the culture of Washington, D.C. Here’s their take:

“This Congress was sent to Washington with a simple mandate from the American people: cut federal spending and get government under control.  Friday night’s budget compromise to avert a government shutdown embraced these principles, but also left plenty of work to be done. Congress has finally started cutting spending instead of running up the tab on future generations, and we hope the budget deal changed the culture of Washington. No longer should budgets be railroaded through Washington that increase spending and grow government. From here on out, the question should be: What can be cut?”

“One good thing to have come out of this process is that the debate has clearly shifted.  Though the details of the compromise remain murky, what’s clear is that the national mood is for cutting, and all the reformist ideas are coming from one side only. The liberal approach to the debate over the 2011 budget spoke volumes. Liberal Members of Congress foolishly said Republicans were trying to “kill women” and end cancer screenings. The pitch of their tirade showed how desperate they were to maintain the status quo spending environment. It didn’t work, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Oh.) was in the end able to deliver a compromise deal that amounted to the largest spending cut in history.”

In reality, even one of the biggest spending cuts in history is merely a drop in the bucket. A handful of days of deficit spending. A rounding error. But this should merely demonstrate how much there is left to accomplish. America is still on a dangerous fiscal path. A cut of $38.5 billion will not change that. A larger one of $61 billion would not have changed that. Even one of $100 billion would not have changed that. The moral victories of the past are now merely small steps on the road to true Washington reform. The future fights over entitlement and budget reform will need to be measured in the trillions, not billions. And that debate begins today.”

April 9 was a small beginning of fiscal courage in America. But we need a citizenry who are willing to give up their addiction to entitlements and some truly courageous leaders to stop all deficit spending and enact a bold plan to pay off the fourteen trillion dollars of debt.

We can do it. We’re Americans.

But it will take a national spiritual awakening, much prayer, and some very courageous leadership to turn a small beginning into a hopeful ending of our national financial nightmare.



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