EDITORIALS

A deal not to like

Posted Aug. 01, 2011, at 7:03 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 01, 2011, at 9:31 p.m.

With time ticking away, it was unlikely that Congress would come up with a reasonable, forward-looking debt reduction plan. But the plan, likely to be passed by Congress Monday or Tuesday, is a an example of what is so terribly wrong with Washington today.

While averting default on U.S. debt payments, which could have happened without congressional action, was necessary, the agreement to address the problem is weak and unfocused.

Rather than serious cuts in spending and an end to unneeded tax loopholes, congressional leaders and the president have so far agreed to anemic cuts and — the fallback for every problem in Washington — a commission to look for places to further cut federal spending. Worse, they’ve agreed to consider a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, a bad solution to a real problem.

President Barack Obama and congressional leaders should be ashamed.

“Lawmakers — bless their hearts — seem entirely unaware of just how bad they looked during this fight and will almost certainly spend the next few weeks (or months) congratulating themselves on their tremendous magnanimity,” Chris Cillizza wrote on his Washington Post blog.

He rated them among the losers in this debate. The winners, according to Mr. Cillizza are Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the tea party and Grover Norquist, head of American’s for Tax Reform. He also included President Obama in this list, which is a stretch.

The president’s lack of leadership is part of the reason Congress didn’t address the debt ceiling months ago — a report from the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform laid out the solution to the problem in December, but was ignored.

The president also didn’t stick to his pledge to only support “a balanced strategy,” namely on that included spending cuts and tax changes. Instead, he want to so far as to agree to spending caps, the worst, unthinking way to cut federal spending.

In short, the deal allows the president to raise the debt ceiling by $400 billion immediately with another $500 billion increase later in the fall — if two-thirds of more of Congress doesn’t vote against it. More than $900 billion will be cut from government agency spending and then caps spending below current levels.

A 12-member House panel, made up of equal numbers of Republican and Democrats is charged with cutting $1.5 trillion from federal spending over the next decade. Medicaid, Social Security, veterans benefits and government employee retirement plans are exempt from the cutting. In a smart move to try to ensure the committee’s work isn’t shelved, its recommendations must be accepted in full by Congress or the White House budget office can come up with its own cuts.

In the overused cliche of the day in Washington, they “kicked the can down the road.”

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