Samuelson on the debt situation

April 25, 2011

Here are a couple good articles by Robert J. Samuelson. He’s of the same opinion as myself: The federal government is suicidal, and Obama is not helping matters.

“Big government on the brink”

“Obama abdicates on the budget”

Though Samuelson doesn’t say this, I think a big reason the Republicans have been so timid on budget cutting, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, is that despite their tough talk about it, the Democrats have set up the budget rules such that if there’s a government shutdown, soldiers will not receive paychecks. This was not the case when the government shutdown happened with Clinton in the 1990s. The military is a major Republican constituency, and they’d catch hell from their base for denying pay to soldiers (though they would be reimbursed once the shutdown ended). Michele Bachmann introduced a bill in the most recent budget battle to change the rules so that soldiers would continue to be paid in the event of a shutdown. Obama shot that down, saying he would veto it if it came to him. He understood what was going on, and he was not going to take the pressure off Republicans to backtrack on their demands. In the end, there was effectively no budget cut for this year, with about $300 billion in cuts spread out over the next few years, of money that was appropriated in ’10, but hadn’t been spent yet. What would be done with the unspent money was not discussed in public. Perhaps it would reduce the debt a little, but the amount is paltry compared to the size of the problem.

Some Tea Party Republicans voted against the deal that was ultimately reached, because they wanted much larger cuts, but there weren’t enough of them to force the issue.

The big “budget drama” that Republicans say will be coming, probably in May, in raising the debt ceiling is likely going to end the same way. Little change, and for the same reason. The Democrats have equalized the field, and said, “If you’re going to hurt our constituents, we’re going to hurt yours, too,” and the Republican majority in the House has been revealed as having no spine. The current congress is not up to the challenge.