Washington's Budget Deal: The not-so-perfect gift for Christmas?

Are we supposed to be too distracted by Christmas to notice the flaws in Washington's latest budget deal? Or is there a pony somewhere? Photo: Santa Claus / Free Great Picture.com

THE NORTH POLE, December 12, 2013 - Santa Claus has just made an emergency order of extra coal for this Christmas. It’s to fill the stockings of those supporting Washington D.C.’s latest budget deal.

But there’s a unique holiday spirit in Washington, so those receiving the coal will re-gift it to those who oppose the budget plan, with cheerful gift tags attached and addressed to “Ebenezer Scrooge.”

Since the whopper budget deal of August 2011, we have added over three trillion dollars to the national debt. Each new agreement teaches us the gift of giving, because our government knows it is more blessed to spend more than you receive. Politicians put a happy face on deficits, just like gift-wrapping the garbage before putting it under the Christmas tree.

Few were surprised at the latest announcement from House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray (D-WA). These proclamations have become predictable, almost like prophecy. For unto us a deal is born. And the government shall be upon its shoulders and shall not be shut down. And the deal shall be called wonderful.

The choir of angels was missing, but President Obama sang praises. It was like the sound of herald trumpets to hear the pronouncements that spending will be reduced under the agreement. Yet it’s like silent night if you ask when that would happen.

In place of gold, frankincense and myrrh, this budget deal delivers $63 billion in additional spending during the next two years. Reductions in spending are sometime in the eight years thereafter. You can settle down for a long winter’s nap while you wait.

But, hey, it’s Christmas season. Everybody buys now and pays later, right? That’s what makes for a wonderful life!

If you have read the details of the new budget deal, you have seen the list they have made and perhaps you have checked it twice. It can get pretty confusing. For example, here’s part of the report from Politico:

“The bipartisan package includes $63 billion of ‘sequester relief,’ $85 billion of total savings, and $23 billion in net deficit reduction. The agreement would set the discretionary spending level for fiscal year 2014 at $1.012 trillion, and $1.014 trillion in FY 2015.”

This is what drives Santa to insist on more than milk and cookies. The new plan spends more than the old plan, but offsets the new spending by raising fees. So even though spending goes up, the deficit doesn’t go up and neither do taxes. Clear?

Sure, it raises airline ticket fees, but look at the bright side. It doesn’t raise fees on Santa’s reindeer. Possible new fees on Christmas trees are supposed to be in different legislation, not the budget bill.

When they bragged this week about “lowering the deficit,” that is not the same as lowering our debt. Even balancing the budget is less likely than a white Christmas in San Diego, much less reducing debt. The national debt remains up on the housetop, at over $17.2 trillion and headed even higher under this budget deal. Having ANY deficit means your sleigh is headed in the wrong direction; the amount of deficit only tells you how fast.

No, our national debt won’t drop under this proposal, but only The Grinch would expect that. (And perhaps his relatives, like Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks, Heritage Action, Tea Party Express, Tea Party Patriots, American Conservative Union, Club for Growth. The ones who are getting nuttin’ for Christmas from the Washington insiders).

But this is the most wonderful time of the year. Even Washington and the American people learn they share something in common. At this time every year, millions of us decide we’re going on a diet—after the holidays. Meantime, we will enjoy ourselves. That’s what we did last year and the year before and the year before that. Too many of us still carry extra pounds from not keeping previous diets, just like Uncle Sam carries extra bloat from not keeping past promises to control spending.

Why should anyone believe this year’s promises that politicians will behave responsibly with future spending when past promises were not kept? That is the biggest single problem with the latest budget proposal. None of the numbers matter; only that principle matters.

So just remember the song:

He’s spending while you’re sleeping

He spends when you’re awake

He spends on things both bad and good

So slow down for goodness’ sake

 

You better watch out

You better not cry

You better not pout

I’m telling you why

Uncle Sam is not Santa Claus.

 

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Ernest Istook

Ernest Istook spent 25 years in public office, including 14 years in Congress. He was rated one of the top 25 conservatives in the U.S. House of Representatives. Then was a Heritage Foundation fellow and a fellow at Harvard's Insitute of Politics, where he led a study group on Propaganda in American Politics Today. 

Now as a radio host and a commentator, Ernest aims to expose Washington's gimmicks--to help you avoid the pitfalls. He brings clarity out of the confusion. 

Native to Texas, Ernest transplanted to Oklahoma after graduating from Baylor University.

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