As I explain quite a lot around here, I’m really not very ideological. If I lived in a better time and place, perhaps I would be. But I’ve seen too much of the dangers of ideology — on the left and, most especially and recently, on the right. So as a pragmatist, I’m not especially upset about this new budget — the so called CRomnibus. (It’s called that because it is a combination of a normal budget — an ombibus — and a continuing resolution, or CR.) I’ll get to the details of the deal in a moment.
One thing that we liberals have to understand is that it really doesn’t matter that roughly half the population consistently votes against its own best interests — usually in the name of concepts that have no meaningful policy substance — things like “life” and “freedom.” And it doesn’t matter that if everyone voted we would have a far better government. The fact remains that a large enough block of the electorate votes for oligarchs and we have to make the best of this situation. (I might note that when things go ridiculously wrong because of the oligarchs, we would be better off voting in a bunch of actual liberals and not New Democrats like Obama, but I’ll leave that for another time.)
There are a number of things that are wrong with the new budget. It isn’t just the change to Dodd-Frank and the increase in political party giving. There is also a change to the funding of the risk corridor program in Obamacare. There are some cuts to the EPA. There are cuts to the IRS that are totally self-defeating unless you are a Republican and want to “destroy the IRS.” And perhaps the worst thing is that Congress is blocking the District of Columbia’s cannabis legalization law. Republicans always talk about what an authoritarian Obama is. That’s a joke, of course; but their treatment of DC is quite authoritarian.
But even if this was all there was to the budget deal, it wouldn’t be that bad. A government shutdown is a very bad thing. It hurts people. Nothing here is totally unreasonable like defunding the Medicaid expansion or enacting chained-CPI. So I don’t see any reason to freak out regardless. But the truth is that it isn’t that bad because the Democrats did get a lot of what they wanted. And that’s what we’ve all been saying over the last four years: compromise involves getting something and giving something. So what did the Democrats get?
Kevin Drum over at Mother Jones provided a good overview, Here’s What Democrats Got Out of the CRomnibus. In the article, Jim Morgan explained that perhaps the biggest thing they got was not having the EPA gutting — which is what the Republicans wanted to do with a thousand cuts (okay: 26). And according to Obama it included “investments for the President’s early education agenda, Pell Grants, the bipartisan Manufacturing Institutes initiative, and extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program.” These are not the greatest things in the world, but the same can be said for what the Republicans got. Which is why the right-wing authoritarians are screaming about the bill.
Some, like Ezra Klein, are arguing that the Democrats really had to take this opportunity, because otherwise, they would have just passed a three month continuing resolution. That would have meant the even more crazy fully Republican controlled Congress would have to be dealt with. I don’t really buy that, either. The Republican leadership wanted the CRomnibus too. They are as afraid of the new Congress as the Democrats are. But they weren’t going to roll-over on this. And that’s why this compromise bill actually made sense.
I’m not exactly happy with the CRomnibus. But it isn’t the sort of thing that I’m going to get worked up about. It isn’t the end of the world. I’m much more concerned that the Federal Reserve is going to raise interest rates just in time to assure us a Republican president. I’m far more outraged that the torture report was met by conservatives (and many “liberals” as well) with a shrug and a, “That was so long ago!” Above all, I’m angry that the Democratic Party can’t manage to be an actual liberal party when it comes to the economy or the national security state or foreign affairs. But this budget deal? No big deal.