The Corner

No Way, No How, on Budget Deal/Capitulation

This budget deal is an abomination. It must be defeated.

I write that as somebody who once served on the House Appropriations Committee staff. And as somebody who still contends that John Boehner’s “Plan B” for the expiring Bush tax cuts was a better deal than the one we ended up with when the harder-line Right (of which I am often a member) refused to back Plan B. So, while I am a lifelong budget hawk, I’m not averse to reasonable agreements that move in the right direction.

This is not reasonable, and it moves in the wrong direction.

For an extravagant $80 billion extra, meaning on top of what already is a situation of significant overspending, fiscal conservatives in return receive . . . precisely nothing. It’s as if we had 50 apples and the other side had 50 bananas, and they demanded 40 of our apples while we originally wanted 40 of their bananas in return — and then, for no discernible reason, we agreed to give them all 40 apples they wanted, in return not for a single banana, but just for the ability to stop the negotiation and move on.

At the very beginning of these negotiations, Obama demanded (in rough numbers) $40 billion more in domestic appropriations in return for $40 billion more in defense spending (which he also claimed to want, anyway). In the end, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell gave him the exact deal Obama had demanded — with not a single apparent concession from him.

Worse, they pretend to “pay for” the extra spending by methods that not only are one-time stopgaps, but are also ill-advised stopgaps. Consider the sale of tens of millions of barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It’s a horrid idea. First, the reason the Reserve is designed to hold up to one billion barrels is that, in the case of a crisis, a billion barrels actually can tide the country over for a significant time period. Instead of building up to a billion, we keep selling more oil from the Reserve every time we need to pretend to “offset” added spending. So much for the Reserve being available for “strategic” security purposes. Instead, it is being used as a way to hide more spending.

But here’s what’s worse: It seems as if every time Congress decides to sell off some of the Reserve, it does so when prices are low. Yet, eventually, Congress gets wise and purchases more oil for the Reserve, to creep back towards the ideal one billion barrels. It always happens. Alas, it usually happens when the prices are high.

Yes, we buy high and sell low. So not only are the sales a habit that endangers our strategic security, but they also end up being a bad deal budget-wise.

Every single Republican member of Congress, and whichever few Democrats still claim to be fiscal hawks, should vote against this liberal, badly designed, big-government, budget-busting bill. This isn’t brinkmanship — a tactic I rarely advise — but basic, straightforward fiscal responsibility.

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