Friday, December 13, 2013

The New Ryan Budget: Pros and Cons

Less than two weeks before Christmas, folks. Snow's on the ground, the presents are getting wrapped, there's more polls showing Obama lower than a snake's belly: Yep, that must mean it's time for another budget fight! Wait, what?

Yeah, I'll be honest; the new Ryan-Murray budget deal, removing the budget cuts from the sequester in favor of cuts at a later date, announced earlier this week caught me off guard. So did all the attacks immediately made by other conservatives, and the congratulating going around between Democrats and mainstream GOPers. (The latter probably has something to do with the former, I'd imagine.) I'm still working through what this budget has to say, and if you've seen something I haven't, feel free to call me out on it. As for what I have found so far, it's a mix of good and bad--but more of the bad, I'm inclined to think.

Pro: It Keeps Us Focused On ObamaCare. This one is pretty straightforward. The RMS Obama has finally met its iceberg, in the form of an awful ACA rollout, and the Prez's approval ratings are hitting new lows. (Smiles all around.) The bad news is still coming in, too, and each new piece of information makes the Democrats look worse. So why should we derail that train with a new fight over government funding and another threat of shutdown? As Jonah Goldberg points out at NRO, we would essentially be risking all the goodwill we might have built up in the past month or so "over what amount to rounding errors in the budget and the debt."

Pro: Mandatory Spending Cuts! (ish) The budget deal requires that increases in discretionary spending have to be balanced out by cuts to entitlements. Some of those cuts are kind of weak--federal employees have to pay more into their pension plans, for example, but only those employees hired after the fact--but they do still set good precedents. Hey, every little bit helps.

Con: Taxation Surprise! Taxation surprises are never fun, and this is no exception. One of the provisions in the budget deal is a procedural alteration that would allow Senate Democrats to pass tax increases and send them to the House with a mere 51 votes, not the usual 60. Now, it sounds worse than it is. The Senate can already do this via reconciliation, and in any case, it doesn't mean the House has to play ball--on paper. However, anything which makes it easier for Harry Reid to put the burden on House Republicans, especially where taxes are concerned, is hardly something to cheer about.

Con: The Budget Is Just Plain Screwy. Simple math: It approves the spending of $600 billion, at minimum, over a ten-year period while reducing the deficit by only $20 billion, and that through higher fees. There are real savings, further down the road; but not until 2022-23 and later. If we could trust that those cuts would in fact happen then, it might be different, but is anyone willing to extend that trust? Because I'm not. And, some of those "fees" are really egregious examples of intrusive government--like an increase in how much the feds can charge us for a passenger flight. Which I didn't even know they did, and isn't that creepy.

Final judgment on this plan? Eh, I don't have one. It's not a good budget, but then I don't think anyone on the Right, establishment, Tea Party, or whoever, is claiming that. What it really comes down to, I think, is whether you believe that under the present political circumstances, this is the best possible budget we can hope to pass right now. And there's a good argument that it is.

Mainly, where I think Ryan did screw up on this plan is by rolling it out on such short notice, and then by demanding a full vote on it so quickly. We talk a lot here about paying attention to the political realities; one of those realities is that when you blindside a large chunk of your own party (deliberately or not), they're not going to like it very much. By not getting everyone on the same page earlier, Ryan, Boehner, and other leaders caused a very visible divide in the GOP ranks, made worse by the intramural shouting match of the past couple days. Obama and his cronies are playing for keeps in this political game. We need to make sure our side is too.


AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Thanks for writing this article and saving me having to wrap my head around this thing. Nice work! :)

Like you, I have no opinion on this plan. I don't think it's good, but I don't know that they could have gotten better, not with the government in insane Democratic hands. I think that ultimately, the only answer is to remove the Democrats from power.

Patriot said...

T-Rav....You make some excellent points here, mainly in the larger sense.

1. Isn't this the first budget passed (if it goes through and is signed by the Preezy) in years? We've been operating under "continuing resolutions" for a while now. It would be nice to get back to a constitutional form of spending, where budgets originate in House are approved in the Senate and followed by the Executive. What we've had for years has been insane!

2. While I don't like what I've seen and read about the budget (thanks again) at this point in politics, ANYTHING agreed upon by both parties is a start to begin getting our Congress working again.

3. The Repubs did the same thing the Dems did on this law....passed it and then went for a quick vote before there could be any debate in the House on spending priorities and where each party wants the Federal gov't to prioritize. I know they're going for Christmas holidays very soon, but this approach STILL sux, no matter which party does it. I only hope when the R's get control of both chambers next year, we cram down all sorts of bills and changes to laws without ANY Dem support. What's good for the goose sorta thing..... Screw 'em!!

While I agree with much of the TP'ers sentiments, politics is a game of compromise, ad at this point the R's needed to keep the media's eyes focused on the sinking of the USS Obamacare, in all its 'can't look away' glory.

We should get a pool going here as to the exact month that Congress "delays" O'care for good. I'll take August/September (how's that for exact?!)

Tennessee Jed said...

Rav, like you I don't have this figured out yet. I do think Ryan is pretty honest, and this does not attack the big spending entitlements, but when you only control one third of government, you have to be realistic. We have to continue to allow Obamacare implode AND unveil a better alternative with an eye towards taking control of both houses in 2014

BevfromNYC said...

Excellent T-Rav. The big point ideally is we don't need any stand-off. And we certainly can work with Harry sending tax proposal after tax proposal to the House to be shot down. That creates great optics for Republicans on how the Dems want to take your hard earned money, but we stop them, Mr. And Mrs. Public. So if you help us take back the Senate, we will be the ones to shut this craziness down. Or something like that.

tryanmax said...

T-Rav, yours is the first article I've read about the budget, and I've heard nil on TV or radio. (So much for the talkers keeping their listeners informed.)

I tend not to fret over procedural changes like the one in the Senate, except that Republicans always seem reluctant to change things back. They shouldn't be; procedures don't interest the public except for the screaming done about them. They could change them daily and no one would care. As to whether Reid can use this to put pressure on the Republicans, it's only in response to the pressure they're under b/c of Obamacare. I don't see what he can pass that will outweigh that. If Boehner is smart, he'll site the stack of bills Reid has been sitting on and counter "a vote for a vote." I won't hold by breath, but I could see him saying that. Either way, Bev makes a great point about the optics, and those are optics I think the GOP can actually pull off.

On a side note: I'm generally unopposed to fees so long as they are immediately tied to a particular service. 1) Fees are fairer than taxes in that they only hit those using the service and, 2) They're harder to hide. Granted, most people probably don't associate the gov't fee on passenger flights with their friendly pat-down by the TSA, but I don't know what you do to make it more obvious. Have people swipe their debt card to start the body scanner?

T-Rav said...

Andrew, don't worry, you can still try to wrap your head around it if you want. :-)

Yeah, I'm really torn on this, because I'm a big fan of Paul Ryan and I think the people attacking him as a RINO lately are being really unfair. But, I think he made a lot of basic errors (or at least oversights) in putting this budget together, and the party's rollout of it has been really bad.

T-Rav said...

Jed, like I said above, it basically boils down to whether you think keeping the heat on ObamaCare is worth passing a bad budget without any fuss. If it's only a moderately bad budget, I might be willing to accept that trade-off, but if it's a really bad budget? I don't know. But probably it's going to be passed anyway, so I guess all this is a moot point.

AndrewPrice said...

Arg... comment eaten. :(

T-Rav, I agree. On the one hand, I don't like the attacks on Ryan. He's not a RINO and it's time our side stopped infighting. On the other hand, I do think he bears some criticism here. Ultimately though, I guess it comes down to whether or not he could have gotten a better deal and I'm just not sure of that.

As for writing another article... uh, yeah. I'll get right on that. LOL!

Kit said...


I have a theory:
The reason neither side got much done in the 112th Congress (2011-2013) is because both Democrats and Republicans felt it would be better to wait until 2013 when they would surely have a larger majority and surer footing to push through what they wanted. So neither side really pushed for much of anything, instead "making stands" on "pivotal issues" that they would implement when they had a clear majority in January of 2013.
Instead, 2012 had neither winning a clear majority. You could say it was a "net gain" for the Democrats, keeping the White House and picking up 2 seats in the Senate and 8 in the House. But that was hardly a mandate by any stretch. In fact, its been pointed out that if Romney had picked up the same number of votes McCain grabbed in 2008, he would've won. That speaks bad for Romney, certainly, but its not good news for Obama.

2012 made both Republicans and Democrats, at least in the leadership, realize that unless the Democrats gain a majority in the House in 2014, which ishighly unlikely, we are going to have a split government until 2017.

That realization seems to have made the leadership decide to be a bit more compromising on issues, lest either side appear to be obstructionist.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, I think what's really going on is that both parties now respond only to their fringes, and the fringes are playing a 100% - 0% game. Taking anything less than 100% is seen as surrender. So until one or other other wins total control over the government, all they can do is push the can down the road until supreme victory can be achieved.

Kit said...


Well, I think the realization of both parties that they will have a split government until 2017 has caused at least the GOP leadership to push against the Fringe.

That, and the Fringe going "a bridge too far" in attacking the leadership in primary races (McConnell).

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, I'm not sure what has motivated the GOP to fight back yet, but they have. It could be self-preservation, it could be they are sick of losing, it could be they simply don't see governing by tantrum as a decent thing to do. It's probably a combination.

In any event, they are fighting back now and they are fighting back hard. And it's interesting to see the fringe's reaction. In the comments sections of various blogs they are laughing it off or whining about the GOP not being loyal... irony of the highest order. Their leaders, however, are panicked and are retreating everywhere they are pushed. I said before that the McConnell battle will be critical, especially after all of Talk Radio and Palin jumped on the challenger's bandwagon. But now they seem to be fleeing in droves. The new fight they've chosen is John Cornyn in Texas. But they can't win that either, so look for a similar ending there. Earlier this week, I saw the ultimate in expectation management in which they tried to explain that even if they didn't win a single one of the 16 primary challenges they are making against GOP people, it would still be a win because somethingsomething. And now the Chamber of Commerce is planning to support primary challenges against fringe Congressmen, which has the fringe screaming bloody murder. Interesting times. Lot's going on behind the scenes.

Koshcat said...

I think overall this is a win for the GOP in the public eye. It makes Ryan look like someone who is trying to build bridges unlike the WH idiot. It is not a perfect bill but a compromise. Nobody likes a compromise because you had to give something up to get it. Changing tax bills with just an up/down vote in the senate is a win if the GOP can get the chamber.

Most importantly is that most of the public doesn't care about "budget plans". This takes that issue off the table (and news) for awhile and allows the ACA to continue dying the death of a million pin pricks.

tryanmax said...

Maybe it doesn't really answer the initial question, but I think the GOP didn't fight the fringe sooner because they didn't want to contribute to the infighting and the bad optics stemming from that, as well as hoping it would die down on its own. Now we've reached a point where it's more than clear it won't die down and the optics for pushing against the tea party couldn't be better.

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, I agree. And it's a win if it keeps our side form shooting themselves in the foot again by trying another shutdown.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, In all honesty, what the fringe doesn't want to believe is that the GOP leadership was part of the fringe... until the rest of the fringe went insane. These people shared the same views and advocated similar tactics. They were all part of the same team (the fringe idea of this RINO establishment keeping reel 'merkicans down has been a myth since the mid-1980s).

Where things changed was when the leadership realized that the fringe is genuinely unbalanced and cares only about their tantrum. The first big sign of this came when Boehner and Ryan tried to create tax deals that imploded because the fringe wanted nothing to happen... ever.

Then they started trying to primary anyone they could, no matter how conservative they were. That was probably what sparked the idea that something had to be done. Next, they stupidly overreached and attacked people like Tom Coburn, Charles Krauthammer and Paul Ryan as RINOs.

That's the moment everything changed. Those people (Coburn, Krauthammer and a bunch of writers) washed their hands of the fringe, and they bitch slapped Cruz hard. At the same time, the GOP leadership ran a couple tests of their strategy to fight back (see e.g. Wyoming) and learned how to fight the fringe. Then they let the fringe have the shutdown and exposed them as frauds: the fringe predicted that the Democrats would fold... they didn't. They predicted the public would jump up and support us... they didn't. Instead, the shutdown drove the party to historic lows. The fringe didn't even claim ownership of their stupid actions. Instead, half the fringers started screaming the Boehner is the one who wanted the shutdown (something they had advocated only days before) and the other half went silent. That's the smell of weakness.

After that debacle, the fringe tried to regroup by coming together to knock off McConnell on the ludicrous basis that he's the reason the shutdown (which they now claimed they never wanted) failed. On almost the same day, Rush, Hannity, the rest of talk radio, Sarah Palin, Norquist, Freedom works, etc. all came out in opposition to McConnell... the RINO.

That's when the GOP leadership finally launched the counterattack. They all endorsed McConnell, they cut off funding to fringers, and they fired groups who had GOP contracts who were working for fringers. So far, the establishment has won everything and the fringe is in retreat... and whining about loyalty.

Kit said...

Its amazing how quick the fringe went into a disorganized route once the GOP slapped them down.

AndrewPrice said...

BTW, I'm not making this stuff up, it's out there to be seen if you pay attention to articles that don't normally make the headlines -- Drudge in particular caters to the fringe, so he likes to keep these "high-information voters" in the dark about their defeats as much as possible.

Here, for example, is an article talking about McConnell taking on Jim DeMint's Senate Conservative Fund and firing companies who work for them. LINK.

It's all been fascinating if you're into behind the scenes intrigue.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, It really has been. Like I said, the new line (besides, "THOSE DIRTY COMMIE RINOS BETRAYED BY FIGHTING BACK!) is that it doesn't matter if they ever win another primary, they have already won their victory. Yeah, right.

Kit said...

I usually read The Hill.

Also, I enjoy reading about "behind the scenes intrigue". :)

Kit said...

Also, from what you are describing it appears the GOP Establishment pulled a Cannae.

For those of you who don't know, Cannae was one of Rome's worst defeats.
The Carthaginians baited them by putting their rear forward and let the Romans attack only to pull back their center so they could envelope them and crush the Romans.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, I read them too. And National Journal. What's interesting to me is how few pundits apparently bother reading about this stuff. I see it very often where the cause of something is obvious if you've been reading the behind the scenes stuff, but the talkers act like it came out of the blue.

Kit said...

In October I guess you could say, with all due respect to Julius Caesar, "Alea Iacta Fuit". ("The Die was Cast".)

Kit said...

Excuse me, I'm being unfair as when Caesar crossed the Rubicon he knew what he was doing and the moment he stepped foot across the river he would face the full force of Pompey and the Senate.

T-Rav said...

Thanks, tryanmax. I largely agree with you about the procedural thing. It isn't such a big deal on its own, except that the Republicans, with few exceptions, seem unwilling to play the same fast-and-loose game with the rules. You can't win when you refuse to play the other side's hardball on principle.

On the fees, I suppose it's not that qualitatively different from taxes. But it still bothers me on a fundamental level that the government presumes to make you pay for using a private service. I suppose one can come up with arguments for why it's not that bad, but they're not satisfying to me.

T-Rav said...

Koshcat, that's probably the most salient point. None of this is going to register with the public in its gut, not in the way that ObamaCare and the millions of people losing their coverage has been doing. To that extent, I agree with those who have been saying we don't need to divert our focus to the budget.

(Incidentally, sorry for the lack of responses, everyone. Schoolwork called, and it ended up being an all-day affair.)

Kit said...

"But it still bothers me on a fundamental level that the government presumes to make you pay for using a private service."

Isn't that a sales tax?

T-Rav said...

Bev, there certainly is that angle to it, which I hadn't thought of. Of course, the Democrats have proven to be very clever at disguising these as goody entitlements that will save starving kids, and why won't the House GOP cooperate? And so on. But the way things are now, we might be able to spin it right.

AndrewPrice said...

An all day affair doesn't sound so bad. Was this schoolwork cute? :D

Kit said...

If you want to know why we call certain segments of the right "The Fringe", here is why.These are comments posted to the Paul Ryan facebook page. All bolds or underlines are mine.

"Paul Ryan is a weak and timid leader! This budget deal is so in line with Democrat ideology that the Dems are barely critical of it." 
Then why did House Dem Whip Steny Hoyer vote against it and a liberal on NPR this morning call it "a conservative bill". I should note this is one of the nicer ones.

"If we insist on a Republican approval by a Democrat Senate, we are doomed!" 
Me: Uhm... split government?

"Don't cut military benefits, social security and medicare - Increase those and delete the EPA, Dept, of Ed., and the phony grant money to study the mating habits of democrat slugs." 
Me: 1st, this bill DOES NOT CUT SS OR MEDICARE and 2nd, I thought medicare and social security were in desperate need of reform or they would become insolvent.

"Liar, liar, liar. You are a filthy liar and I will never, ever vote for you. Id rather vote for a freakin' liberal rat thsn you, because at least I'd know what I was getting. I hope you choke....filthy man!!
Me: Stay classy, fringe.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, I've never thought of stacks of books and lengthy papers as "cute,", maybe with the right glasses and a fake ponytail, and I should really cut myself off right now.

Anthony said...

I listened to Rush yesterday. He posited that Republicans in Washington wouldn't kill Obamacare if they had the presidency and a legislative majority and noted that while 'It doesn't matter' he had just learned that Paul Ryan once worked for Boehner.

So much win. Anyone that does anything seems to be setting themselves up as a RINO.

DUQ said...

Anthony, I heard that as well. Rush has lost his mind. There is no way the Republicans wouldn't repeal Obamacare. Rush has become like Savage, he spends all his time attacking his friends with false charges because that's what his fringy audience wants.

Kit said...

"I listened to Rush yesterday. He posited that Republicans in Washington wouldn't kill Obamacare if they had the presidency and a legislative majority and noted that while 'It doesn't matter' he had just learned that Paul Ryan once worked for Boehner."

Yep. Rush is officially in Cuckoo Land.

Kit said...


Azula was closer to the sane during the last episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender.

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