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Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Dealing With the Budget Deal



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The midweek edition of the Morning Jolt features a look at why the Washington area can never seem to cope with any amount of snow (or even rumors of snow!), another inspiring example of your tax dollars at work, and, of course, examining the budget deal announced last night:

Budget? Deal With It.

Great news for everyone who was tired of the recent Republican unity over Obamacare and fantastic momentum heading into the midterm elections: House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) worked out a budget deal with Senate Budget Committee chairwoman Patty Murray (D., Tennis Shoes).

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 would set overall discretionary spending for the current fiscal year at $1.012 trillion — about halfway between the Senate budget level of $1.058 trillion and the House budget level of $967 billion. The agreement would provide $63 billion in sequester relief over two years, split evenly between defense and non-defense programs. In fiscal year 2014, defense discretionary spending would be set at $520.5 billion, and non-defense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion.

The sequester relief is fully offset by savings elsewhere in the budget. The agreement includes dozens of specific deficit-reduction provisions, with mandatory savings and non-tax revenue totaling approximately $85 billion. The agreement would reduce the deficit by between $20 and $23 billion.

This is not what most of us would consider a “good” deal. The deficit reduction is pretty paltry. The “non-tax revenue” includes things like raising the $2.50 per-passenger per-flight “TSA fee” on flyers, which will sound a lot like a tax hike to a lot of folks. But there is a tiny bit of pension reform for federal workers:

These sections increase federal-employee contributions to their retirement programs by 1.3 percentage points. The proposal affects new employees hired after December 31, 2013 with less than five years of service.

And there’s a bit of what we would consider to be entitlement reform in the treatment of military pensions:

This provision modifies the annual cost-of-living adjustment for working-age military retirees by making the adjustments equal to inflation minus one percent. This change would be gradually 3 phased in, with no change for the current year, a 0.25 percent decrease in December 2014, and a 0.5 percent decrease in December 2015. This would not affect service members who retired because of disability or injury. Service members would never see a reduction in benefits from one year to the next.

This, or any other long-term deal, avoids a government shutdown for the next two years. And you have to figure Barack Obama and Harry Reid are itching to have another government shutdown, as it provided the Democrats their one most optimistic political moment, just before Obamacare the Destructor appeared on the horizon.

Above: Obamacare, in marshmallow form.

Here’s the political environment at the moment, according to Quinnipiac:

President Barack Obama’s job approval among American voters drops to a new low, a negative 38 – 57 percent, as the outlook for Democrats running for Congress and the U.S. Senate fades also, according to a national poll released today. He even gets a negative 41 – 49 percent among voters 18 to 29 years old and a lackluster 50 – 43 percent approval among Hispanic voters.

American voters say 41 – 38 percent that they would vote for a Republican over a Democrat for the U.S. House of Representatives, the first time this year the Democrats come up on the short end of this generic ballot. Independent voters back Republican candidates 41 – 28 percent. Voters also say 47 – 42 percent that they would like to see Republicans gain control of the U.S. Senate and the House. Independent voters go Republican 50 – 35 percent for each.

If Quinnipiac’s not to your liking, here’s the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll this morning:

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that more Americans disapprove of the president’s job performance than ever before; half say they’re either disappointed or dissatisfied with his presidency and 54 percent believe he’s facing a long-term setback.

Perhaps more significantly, Obama has seen a drop in key presidential attributes.

Just 28 percent give the president high grades for being able to achieve his goals (down 16 points from January); only 37 percent give him high marks for being honest and straightforward (down 5 points from June); and 44 percent give him high marks for being able to handle a crisis (down another 5 points since June).

Only 34 percent believe the health law is a good idea (down 3 points from late October), while 50 percent say it’s a bad idea (the highest percentage on that measure since the NBC/WSJ poll began asking this question).

Also, by a 51 percent to 43 percent margin, respondents say they are bothered more by the Obama administration’s troubled health care website and some Americans losing their health plans than by the Republican Party’s continued efforts to undermine the law.

And asked which one or two issues have been most important in shaping their views about the president, the top response was the health care law (58 percent) — followed by the economy (25 percent), the government shutdown (23 percent) and the situations in Syria and Iran (16 percent).

The Ryan-Murray deal puts Obama and Reid in a box. Only a few events would be big enough to change this dynamic, and the most likely is another shutdown. But to get another government shutdown, they have to shoot down this deal — putting them on the wrong side of a happy-talk “bipartisan compromise” and making them the scapegoats for any failure to reach a deal. Sure, they could dig in and force another government shutdown, but they would get the blame for this one.

Mike Memoli nicknames it “The Bland Bargain.”


Tags: Paul Ryan , Patty Murray , Budget , Barack Obama , Polling


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