Politics & Policy

Strike One

We initially supported the deal House Speaker John Boehner cut with the White House to cut $38.5 billion from the rest of the fiscal year 2011 budget. It was only a pittance in the context of all of Washington’s red ink, but it seemed an acceptable start, even if we assumed it would be imperfect in its details. What we didn’t assume was that the agreement would be shot through with gimmicks and one-time savings. What had looked in its broad outlines like a modest success now looks like a sodden disappointment.

All the cuts in the deal aren’t equal. The ones that matter most are the cuts in discretionary spending that reduce the budget baseline in future years. Even with more the details of the deal released early yesterday morning, the exact numbers are still shrouded in confusion, but it is clear the cuts are much less than meets the eye — the gimmickry is not merely around the edges.

#ad#The $38.5 billion includes real cuts, but also a dog’s breakfast of budgetary legerdemain. According to the Associated Press, the deal purports to save $2.5 billion “from the most recent renewal of highway programs that can’t be spent because of restrictions set by other legislation.” It gets another $4.9 billion by capping a reserve fund for the victims of crime that also wasn’t going to be spent this year — a long-standing trick of appropriators. The Washington Post reports that a notional $3.5 billion cut from the Children’s Health Insurance Program “would affect only rewards for states that make an extra effort to enroll children. But officials with knowledge of the budget deal said that most states were unlikely to qualify for the bonuses and that sufficient money would be available for those that did.” And so on.

There’s realism and then there’s cynicism. This deal — oversold and dependent on classic Washington budget trickery — comes too close to the latter. John Boehner has repeatedly said he’s going to reject “business as usual,” but that’s what he’s offered his caucus. It’s one thing for Tea Party Republicans to vote for a cut that falls short of what they’d get if the controlled all of Washington; it’s another thing for them, after making so much of bringing transparency and honesty to the Beltway, to vote for a deal sold partly on false pretenses.

As they push a bargain that is still not fully understood, Boehner and the leadership have put their members in an awful fix with another deadline to keep the government open fast approaching. We’d vote “no,” even if we understand the impulse to move on to more important matters and to avoid a leap into the dark that might include a politically damaging shutdown. At the very least, freshmen and other conservatives should be frank about the deal’s shortcomings, refusing to exaggerate its merits as their leadership often has. The episode is strike one against the speakership of John Boehner.

The Editors — The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

Most Popular

PC Culture

Hate-Crime Hoaxes Reflect America’s Sickness

On January 29, tabloid news site TMZ broke the shocking story that Jussie Smollett, a gay black entertainer and progressive activist, had been viciously attacked in Chicago. Two racist white men had fractured his rib, poured bleach on him, and tied a noose around his neck. As they were leaving, they shouted ... Read More
World

Ilhan Omar’s Big Lie

In a viral exchange at a congressional hearing last week, the new congresswoman from Minnesota, Ilhan Omar, who is quickly establishing herself as the most reprehensible member of the House Democratic freshman class despite stiff competition, launched into Elliott Abrams. She accused the former Reagan official ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Strange Paradoxes of Our Age

Modern prophets often say one thing and do another. Worse, they often advocate in the abstract as a way of justifying their doing the opposite in the concrete. The result is that contemporary culture abounds with the inexplicable — mostly because modern progressivism makes all sorts of race, class, and ... Read More
PC Culture

Fake Newspeople

This week, the story of the Jussie Smollett hoax gripped the national media. The story, for those who missed it, went something like this: The Empire actor, who is both black and gay, stated that on a freezing January night in Chicago, in the middle of the polar vortex, he went to a local Subway store to buy a ... Read More
U.S.

White Progressives Are Polarizing America

To understand how far left (and how quickly) the Democratic party has moved, let’s cycle back a very short 20 years. If 1998 Bill Clinton ran in the Democratic primary today, he’d be instantaneously labeled a far-right bigot. His support for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Defense of Marriage Act, ... Read More
Elections

One Last Grift for Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders, the antique Brooklyn socialist who represents Vermont in the Senate, is not quite ready to retire to his lakeside dacha and so once again is running for the presidential nomination of a party to which he does not belong with an agenda about which he cannot be quite entirely ... Read More
PC Culture

Merciless Sympathy

Jussie Smollett’s phony hate-crime story could have been taken apart in 24 hours, except for one thing: Nobody wanted to be the first to call bullsh**. Who will bell the cat? Not the police, and I don’t blame them. Smollett is a vocal critic of President Donald Trump who checks two protected-category ... Read More
U.S.

Questions for Those Who Believed Jussie Smollett

The “we reported the Jussie Smollett case responsibly” contention has been blasted to smithereens. Twitter accounts and headlines in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times reported as fact Jussie Smollett’s wildly implausible allegations, and many other journalists did so as ... Read More