The laughably entitled “Budget Control Act of 2011” cleared it’s final hurdle in the Senate, passing with a bipartisan vote of 74-26. Nineteen Republicans, five Democrats and Socialist Bernie Sanders opposed the bill. The House passed the compromise deal on Monday with a final vote of 269-161.
Contrary to what is being reported by the mainstream media, the bill contains no cuts in spending. The bill actually allows the government to borrow an additional $2.1 trillion to pay its bills, while increasing the national debt from $14 trillion dollars to more than $20 trillion dollars over the next 10 years. Only by using Washington DC logic can one claim that borrowing and spending $7 trillion dollars, rather than borrowing and spending $10 trillion dollars, amounts to a cut. It does not. There are no cuts, only increased borrowing and spending to the tune of $2.1 trillion dollars.
The bill also spends an additional $17 billion to fund the Pell grant program for the next two years.
In a complete abdication of their constitutional responsibility, Congress gives the President the power to raise the nation’s debt limit. This provides political cover by allowing Congress to oppose any debt increase. With a two thirds “veto proof” majority required to deny the President’s request for a debt limit increase, cowardly politicians can simply say they voted against raising the limit.
President Obama also gets what he wants, which is to kick the can down the road past the 2012 elections.
Since raising taxes would be very unpopular in the current political climate, a 12-person “special” committee, composed of 6 Democrats and 6 Republicans, will be tasked to identify further deficit reductions. Of course, this will certainly include tax increases (“new revenues” or “balanced approach” for those who think the American people are too dumb to know the difference). This special committee will require 7 votes to move forward with a compromise. Once put forward, Congress must hold an up or down vote on the recommendations, with no debate or amendments. This provides political cover for half of the politicians to oppose any new taxes, while still allowing taxes to increase.
If the special committee can’t come to an agreement or Congress votes down the proposal, the growth of spending will increase by 1.2 Trillion less than originally proposed, split equally between discretionary and military spending. Yes, spending will still be increased by trillions of dollars, just a little less than debt addicted politicians had hoped. Of course, all of these so called savings are pushed years into the future, ensuring that savings will never occur.
Splitting the assumed deficit savings between military and discretionary spending gives the neocons ample incentive to allow tax increases in the special committee’s proposal. Neocons will never do anything to jeopardize the expansion of the military industrial complex. They are sure to cave to demands of new taxes in their effort to maintain increased military spending.
The Tea Party
The Tea Party movement did succeed in driving the debate but they really didn’t get any real cuts from this legislation. They have certainly re-framed the debate and avoided blame for the bad economy so in that regard, they should consider this a political win. The Tea Party has momentum going into the 2012 elections and if they want to see real cuts in the deficit, they will need to be active in their support of House and Senate candidates. The Tea Party will need to support candidates who can beat Senate progressives, including establishment GOP neocons.
This bill does nothing to solve America’s debt problem. It was not designed to do so. It is purely a political document. It’s all about jockeying for position in the upcoming 2012 elections and providing political cover for both parties.
Real solutions to our debt crisis will only occur if Americans wise up and elect fiscally conservative, small government politicians to Congress in 2012.