By DONNA BRAZILE
So Congress might pass a budget. Or it may not. Deja vu all over again, Chicken Little. The sky is falling — or it may not.
Congress did not pass a budget from April 29, 2009, through March 2013. Why? Because Republicans wanted more cuts (“more, more — I’m still not satisfied”) and Democrats wanted to close corporate loopholes and raise revenue. (Corporate taxes have fallen from one-third of federal revenue in the 1950s to about 9 percent.)
In 2011, when Congress was unable to forge a consensus on a budget, they passed a “sequester” bill. It provided for automated spending cuts — equal chunks hacked from domestic and defense spending, and a cap on total spending. It was meant to be a sort of “fiscal doomsday” mechanism that would be so bad that Congress would cooperate to end it. The problem is, many Republican members of Congress stopped worrying and learned to love sequester. Democrats continue to lament its disastrous effects.
The sequester was a draconian cut to safety-net programs in education, housing, food stamps, veterans benefits, etc., that have been on the Procrustean bed.
This week, though, a bipartisan conference committee — headed by Rep. Paul Ryan from the House and Sen. Patty Murray from the Senate — reached a deal. They effectively called a “cease-fire,” according to The Washington Post, and restored half the sequester spending cuts equally to domestic and defense programs. More than $20 billion was provided to trim the national debt and spending, a gift horse whose teeth we — apparently — shouldn’t examine.
No taxes were included because, for Republicans, it seems the phrase “provide for the general welfare” is jabberwocky. Taxes make them “mimsy” (apologies to Lewis Carroll). Instead, revenue to pay for restored cuts will be raised by an increase in “user fees” on airline fares, by reduced cost-of-living increases for veterans and by a hike in the percentage federal workers (hired after 2013) must pay into their pension funds.