WSJ: Hey, we’re winning, in case you haven’t noticed

posted at 10:55 am on April 1, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

And not #winning in the Charlie Sheen credibility-death-spiral sense, either, but actually winning on federal spending.  While Tea Party activists express anger over a potential deal to finally end the FY2011 budget debate, the paradigm on the budget has shifted since the midterm elections, the Wall Street Journal argues.  Instead of debating whether to slow the growth of spending, we’ve finally begun to actually cut it, and now even sacred-cow programs are on the block for at least restructuring and reform:

We share the desire of new Members in Congress who want deeper reductions. But Republicans don’t hold the Senate or the White House, and even cuts of this magnitude are bigger than anyone could have expected last December. Republicans and tea partiers should pocket the victory and move on to the bigger fights over the 2012 budget and debt ceiling.

The fact that Congress is cutting any spending from the $3.6 trillion budget is a big cultural shift in Washington and an important course correction. In 2008, domestic discretionary spending rose by roughly 8%. The budget for federal agencies then expanded another 24% over 2009 and 2010, not including the $270 billion of stimulus funds for these programs. By contrast, the $10 billion in cuts that Republicans have already won for fiscal 2011 will reduce spending by roughly 1%, and 3% if a $33 billion compromise becomes law.

This has accomplished two valuable goals. First, Republicans have succeeded in preventing the stimulus funding in 2009 and 2010 for discretionary programs from becoming a permanent part of the federal baseline of spending, which was a major goal of unions and liberal Democrats.

Second, because this budget permanently reduces the spending baseline for all future agency expenditures, over the next decade $33 billion savings will grow to about $400 billion. Now we’re talking real money.

Of course, by that argument, $60 billion would have meant $800 billion over the same period, but that also points out the folly of hanging on either number.  On the same trajectory, we will add more than $12,000 billion to the national debt, which makes the $400 billion difference a drop in the bucket.  It’s the direction that counts on discretionary funding, but that’s not really the major battleground anyway.

The big fight will come in entitlement reform, and in order to have credibility in that fight, the GOP needed to shape the debate in significant ways.  First, they had to demonstrate that their cuts were budget based rather than ideological, and second, they had to show Democrats as opposed to any cuts at all.  Chuck Schumer may have used DSCC flash cards to push the “extreme” label onto the GOP, but no one looking at a $1.6 trillion deficit would think of a $0.03 trillion cut to the budget as somehow being “extreme.”  That’s even more true when considering a $3.8 trillion budget, or $1.3 trillion in discretionary spending, against the $0.03 trillion in cuts proposed in this budget.

Furthermore, Republicans will have driven the budget process to closure past Democrats and the White House in 90 days, something Democrats couldn’t do with total control for 365 days.  They will have done that while imposing the first real cuts in spending in long memory (not just cutting the rate of growth), while demonstrating actual governing responsibility and focus.  When it comes time to fight for entitlement reform, that credibility will go a long way towards forcing Harry Reid and Barack Obama to play ball — or if they don’t, for Republicans to point out that the only party that seems interested in actual budgeting and responsibility is the GOP.

That’s not victory, of course.  But it is momentum, and it is winning, at least in the preseason.  The real fight still lies ahead.

Update: Reason TV looks at the Tea Party pushback this week against compromise:

However, the Ohio Tea Party is attempting to influence one local politician with outsized influence on the national stage: House GOP Majority Speaker John Boehner. As house minority leader from 2007-2011, Boehner rubber stamped practically every Bush-era initiative to expand the scope and size of the federal government.

More recently, Boehner has stated his support for increasing the federal debt ceiling, which will allow Washington to continue borrowing money to meet its obligations after it hits the limit (which is expected to happen before the end of May). The West Chester Tea Party, which is opposed to increasing the debt limit, has been contacting the Speaker’s donors, asking them to influence him to take a harder line on the issue.

Boehner’s trying to use the debt ceiling limit to force reform on spending and entitlements. Until Republicans control both the Senate and the White House, they will have to find ways to force Democrats to come to the table, and the debt ceiling may be the best leverage they have at the moment. But if so, Boehner had better get something significant that changes the paradigm even further.


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when the WSJ says “we” I don’t think they mean “we” as we mean “we”

unseen on April 1, 2011 at 11:01 AM

On the same trajectory, we will add more than $12,000 billion to the national debt, which makes the $400 billion difference a drop in the bucket.

Ed, I’m holding my breath until I hear from either you or AP some version of:

“All they’re doing so far is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic”

Paul-Cincy on April 1, 2011 at 11:01 AM

The TP needs to keep the pressure on. GOP leaders respond to the stick and carrot. No carrots.

a capella on April 1, 2011 at 11:01 AM

I noticed yesterday that the EPA has started advertising themselves on tv, in an obvious attempt to stop any cuts in funding, or I should say -stop any attempt to not give them the pie-in-the-sky increases they dream up. In prog-disease lingo, that’s a cut.

EPA headcount should be cut by 50%, and then frozen for the next ten years.

slickwillie2001 on April 1, 2011 at 11:02 AM

Let’s see what happens in Wisconsin, because union grifters around the nation will take heart if Walker’s plans get shattered, and then it won’t really matter because the game will be over.

Bishop on April 1, 2011 at 11:03 AM

Let’s see what happens in Wisconsin, because union grifters around the nation will take heart if Walker’s plans get shattered, and then it won’t really matter because the game will be over.

Bishop on April 1, 2011 at 11:03 AM

Governor Walker has already proven to my satisfaction that he has more bawlz than the vast majority of congressweasels of either gender.

gryphon202 on April 1, 2011 at 11:06 AM

Until Republicans control both the Senate and the White House, they will have to find ways to force Democrats to come to the table, and the debt ceiling may be the best leverage they have at the moment.

This is the reason why even though I’m disgusted with the level of spending by the federal government, I’m also not on the third party bandwagon just yet. The fact is the GOP needs control of the House, Senate(with as close to 60 seats as possible), and the Presidency before any significant changes to the budget can be made.

Sure, there’ll be Republicans who put up hissy fits about spending cuts(Lisa Mancowski and Scott Brown come to mind), but I’d much rather have internal fighting amongst the GOP than have to negotiate with Democrats who balk even at the mere mention of defunding cowboy poetry festivals.

Doughboy on April 1, 2011 at 11:07 AM

If progress in cutting discretionary appropriations is a prelude to dealing with entitlement spending growth, where ALL of the real fiscal problem resides, then we’re winning.

If it’s a distraction that enables politicians to duck the really significant spending issues, then we’re losing.

Chuckles3 on April 1, 2011 at 11:10 AM

I say make the democrats choke on all their spending. MAKE.THEM.OWN.IT. It’s not rocket science. They drove up the debt, now let’s see if they want to work with us to fix it. If not, then SHUT.IT.DOWN.

SouthernGent on April 1, 2011 at 11:16 AM

The basic problem with Government Budgets is that you have to spend it all – if not next year´s budget will be less. So there is an inherit problem of trying to get as much money as you can and then spend it all so you can increase your Budget for the next year.
Private Corporations (as well as families) have to live within it´s means. If you don´t you go out of business (or go bankrupt). That is unless you are “too big to fail”….

gullxn on April 1, 2011 at 11:18 AM

What? What sacred cow programs have been cut? What entitlements have been reformed? What government has shrunk?

NONE.

This is all “blue bells and pie in the sky” happy talk. No one’s produced a damn thing to save this nation yet. Slowing spending is NOT cutting spending – and we are so far gone that slowing doesn’t do a damn thing but … apparently make the WSJ giddy.

HondaV65 on April 1, 2011 at 11:20 AM

They should change the name “entitlement reforms”. Sounds like they are going after elderly people having only their SS to live on. Come up with a name denoting that young people years away from retirement can enter a more secure pension system that will be there when they retire. And while they are at it expose that big liberal lie that SS is well funded with notes backed by the US government. They spent the dam money it’s all gone and they’ll have to borrow money to send out those SS checks each month. Guess what will happen if we go broke?

Herb on April 1, 2011 at 11:20 AM

Herb on April 1, 2011 at 11:20 AM

fiscal sanity?

unseen on April 1, 2011 at 11:25 AM

The only answer for fiscal sanity, is deep cuts in “entitlement” spending, as well as a complete restructuring of regulations and taxation to make America business friendly again.

This simply will not happen with the Soetoro regime in charge. So I’m content with these minor cuts, so long as they lead to a republican dominated government that will do what is necessary in 2013.

Because if we don’t, we’re boned anyway, regardless of if we get what we want this year or no.

Rebar on April 1, 2011 at 11:27 AM

Maybe my math is just screwed up, but it seems we are running over a $1-Trillion(+) deficit per year, so I don’t see where the “$33 billion savings will grow to about $400 billion” in ten years, i.e. at least another $10-Trillion(+) will be added to the debt (does that include interest?) in those same ten years. A change of direction, maybe…

Karmi on April 1, 2011 at 11:30 AM

Cuts, eh?

Shrestha is NOT impress!

Christien on April 1, 2011 at 11:33 AM

The argument is faulty because if the Republican house alone votes to not extend the debt limit, that will bring all excess spending to a crashing close even without the participation of the Senate or the White House.
.
The full power to stop the mad spending is in the hands of the Republicans right now.

FactsofLife on April 1, 2011 at 11:36 AM

This is all “blue bells and pie in the sky” happy talk. No one’s produced a damn thing to save this nation yet. Slowing spending is NOT cutting spending – and we are so far gone that slowing doesn’t do a damn thing but … apparently make the WSJ giddy.

HondaV65 on April 1, 2011 at 11:20 AM

Honda, the WSJ is one of the better conservative “voices” in the print media and they make perfect sense here. You can’t change an entrenched system overnight.

Vince on April 1, 2011 at 11:36 AM

EPA headcount should be cut by 50%, and then frozen for the next ten years…

slickwillie2001 on April 1, 2011 at 11:02 AM

…by moving the whole department to Purdue Bay Alaska!

dominigan on April 1, 2011 at 11:41 AM

errrr… Prudhoe Bay Alaska

clumsy typing fingers…

dominigan on April 1, 2011 at 11:42 AM

Honda, the WSJ is one of the better conservative “voices” in the print media and they make perfect sense here. You can’t change an entrenched system overnight.

Vince on April 1, 2011 at 11:36 AM

The WSJ is shilling for one thing: higher stock prices. Doesn’t matter to them if the “winning” is built on sand; the market goes up when bogus “employment” numbers are released and when some idiot zillionaire in the Hamptons is suddenly a “more confident” consumer.

Your “entrenched system” has to “change overnight.” The government has borrowed itself into a hole it cannot dig out of, leaving all of us with a bill we will never be able to pay.

There is no money left in the pot for the pampered royalty in Congress to throw around. Why is this so hard to understand.

The way “pundits” and “political observers” try to spin the insanity and coat it in weasel words is beginning to make me sick.

MrScribbler on April 1, 2011 at 11:44 AM

And according to the USAID director, “winning” means killing 70,000 3rd world children and leaving some 800,000 in danger of dying in refugee camps and aid centers.

ernesto on April 1, 2011 at 11:45 AM

ernesto on April 1, 2011 at 11:45 AM

Don’t fall for the tactics. In Florida one county is saying they are going to have to cut sports to cover the short fall in their budget. Their administrative budget covers 42% administrative costs over 12% administrative costs of a neighboring and higher achieving county. The Left always uses the children.

Cindy Munford on April 1, 2011 at 11:55 AM

And according to the USAID director, “winning” means killing 70,000 3rd world children and leaving some 800,000 in danger of dying in refugee camps and aid centers.

ernesto on April 1, 2011 at 11:45 AM

And of course, if we increase spending even more, even more kids won’t die. Why, we should spend 80 kajillion dollars so that nobody anywhere in the world ever dies.

Who needs facts or logic or an understanding of economics? America can just keep everyone everywhere alive forever and can keep increasing spending by gargantuan amounts every year! Utopia!! Hope and Change!! Unicorns!!

It really is not even worth having a rational discussion with a leftist. They will never admit reality and logic. Everything is emotion and pipe dreams. Why, if we just took all of the rich peoples’ money, we’d have enough money for eveyone to be a millionaire! there would be high paying exectuive jobs for everyone!

Don’t you evil republicans get it? If we just take the rich peoples’ money, then kids would never die and old people would live forever. Health care will be free, education plentiful and nobody would have go work. It’ll be great.

Monkeytoe on April 1, 2011 at 12:03 PM

Cindy Munford on April 1, 2011 at 11:55 AM

That’s known as the ‘Washington Monument strategy’; choose the wackiest, most outrageously sympathy-seeking manifestation of a budget cut, even if you just make it up.

No mention however of how cutting Planned Parenthood could save the lives of a hundred times that number of ‘choodrun’.

slickwillie2001 on April 1, 2011 at 12:05 PM

Honda, the WSJ is one of the better conservative “voices” in the print media and they make perfect sense here. You can’t change an entrenched system overnight.

Vince on April 1, 2011 at 11:36 AM

The Republicans have great power here and are choosing not to use it. That must be because either they fear the effect of a shutdown or they do not really want to make tough choices.

GaltBlvnAtty on April 1, 2011 at 12:08 PM

The Republicans have great power here and are choosing not to use it. That must be because either they fear the effect of a shutdown or they do not really want to make tough choices.
GaltBlvnAtty on April 1, 2011 at 12:08 PM

“Great power”? Please. They have ONE house of Congress. The Dems control the other, and the White House. Which very much means that it IS impossible for the system to “change overnight”. Until the GOP gains control of at least the Senate (doable in 2012), the best we can hope for is, as Ed notes, the GOP using certain things like the debt ceiling as leverage to FORCE Democrats to come to the table. It is limited power at best, but they ARE attempting to wield it.

Vyce on April 1, 2011 at 12:38 PM

Ed, I understand where you’re coming from. I really do. And I know that there’s a limit to what the GOP can really push for in terms of cuts. Reid and Obama will block anything that’s too big.

But 1.6% still feels more like symbolism to me than an actual effort to solve the problem. We’re still headed over a cliff, just 1.6% slower. Pardon me for not leaping for joy.

Still, I will accept this as long as it appears that Boehner and the GOP leadership understand that this is a start, not an end. And that when we start talking about 2012, 2013, etc., we’re going to have to do a lot better than 1.6%.

Chris of Rights on April 1, 2011 at 12:42 PM

I’m so impressed with the WSJ article, that I’ll pretend to feel much better about paying all those taxes knowing how responsibly they are handling it.

Done That on April 1, 2011 at 12:43 PM

slickwillie2001 on April 1, 2011 at 12:05 PM

The Left are masters at this garbage. The guy who came out with ernesto’s report used to work for Bill & Melinda Gates, I suggest he wander back over there.

Cindy Munford on April 1, 2011 at 12:50 PM

EPA headcount should be cut by 50%, and then frozen for the next ten years…

slickwillie2001 on April 1, 2011 at 11:02 AM

No, EPA headcount should be reduced to zero.

Vashta.Nerada on April 1, 2011 at 1:19 PM

Ed, I understand where you’re coming from. I really do. And I know that there’s a limit to what the GOP can really push for in terms of cuts. Reid and Obama will block anything that’s too big.

But 1.6% still feels more like symbolism to me than an actual effort to solve the problem. We’re still headed over a cliff, just 1.6% slower. Pardon me for not leaping for joy.

Still, I will accept this as long as it appears that Boehner and the GOP leadership understand that this is a start, not an end. And that when we start talking about 2012, 2013, etc., we’re going to have to do a lot better than 1.6%.

Chris of Rights on April 1, 2011 at 12:42 PM

Or, to borrow an analogy from Dear Leader, instead of accelerating the car careening down into the ditch (or more like a ravine), we have not only stopped its (D)escent but managed to back out a little bit using R gear. By actually cutting 2% of the deficit, we went from 100 feet below the road to 98 feet below the road. A baby step in the right direction, but still a long way to go up a slippery slope.

Steve Z on April 1, 2011 at 1:23 PM

Ed, when you win hugely while promising a $100B cut right off, then deliver a third of that after four months, it may be ‘momentum’ but it’s the momentum of a wave washing up on the shore, slower and slower, before falling back into the sea.

PersonFromPorlock on April 1, 2011 at 1:35 PM

I’m glad I don’t have to figure out how to balance
a) budget cuts on CR’s vs.
b) serious cuts in new budget vs.
c) the importance of the 2012 election

and 1000 other things. No, I’m not happy with the token amount, probably won’t be happy with the new budget, but if the GOP gets our silly voting public too irate over cuts, we could lose 2012. If we keep Ø 4 more years, we are toast. Calls for some pretty fine strategic maneuvering.

jodetoad on April 1, 2011 at 1:38 PM

Let’s see what happens in Wisconsin, because union grifters around the nation will take heart if Walker’s plans get shattered, and then it won’t really matter because the game will be over.

Bishop on April 1, 2011 at 11:03 AM

I don’t beleive that for a second.

WI is the blue-est of blue states and look who was elected Governor. We should be damned proud of how far we took it in that state, regardless of what happens.

If it goes bust, we take it to ‘em again….that’s what we do.

As more states continue to go broke – the dumbsh!ts in this nation will continue to wake up, and they’ll vote accordingly.

I’m waiting for the day that the states are forced to privatize services…..I think the PSU’s are commiting slow suicide.

Tim_CA on April 1, 2011 at 1:43 PM

I remember when while the libs where screaming that the “Bushies” where terrible over spenders they also where screaming even louder that Republicans were trying to cut 60 billion.

Speakup on April 1, 2011 at 1:49 PM

It’s hard to feel like we’re winning when we’ve been losing for so long. And when the spending increased so much in the last two years that getting back to only 2008 levels is a victory.

I’m not sure I know what winning feels like. If this is it, it’s not as much fun as you would think.

Even if Republicans win the entire government in 2012 that is only the start of a long hard course to bring us into a realist relationship with spending.

And how long can that last? It is always more fun to spend money recklessly than pay the bills.

petunia on April 1, 2011 at 2:33 PM

And how long can that last? It is always more fun to spend money recklessly than pay the bills.

petunia on April 1, 2011 at 2:33 PM

Sadly, petunia FTW.

Chris of Rights on April 1, 2011 at 2:47 PM

It’s worth pausing in our labors long enough to give thanks for the progress we’ve made.

A lot more Americans have learned about the intricacies of government spending, healthcare, public sector unions, and pension funds. That’s a good thing. And more people are coming around to making some difficult, common-sense choices about spending. That’s also good.

We just need to keep pushing in that direction, keep plugging away, and maybe we can dig America out of this hole.

hawksruleva on April 1, 2011 at 2:51 PM

What the Republican leadership doesn’t seem to understand is that they have Obama by the cojones. He unwisely dove into Libya and now has made it the cornerstone of his reelection bid. Problem is, the Repubs control the House and war spending and he didn’t even bother to (that ol constitution thing) tell them. If the Repubs had any sense, they would tell Obama that all $105,000,000,000 of Obamacare was coming out of last years budget, as well as any other amount they want to cut, and if he doesn’t support 100% of the cuts, they will cut funds to the war in Libya. AND THEN DO IT! After the budget is passed, cut the funds to Libya anyway!!!!

colonelkurtz on April 1, 2011 at 2:54 PM

He’s correct, I didn’t notice.

Is spending down year to year? – No.
Is the deficit down year to year? – No.
Is debt down year to year? – No.

It seems like it’s the WSJ that hasn’t noticed that so far nothing is better, in fact it’s far worse in every category.

The Republicans can’t even defund NPR a taxpayer funded arm of the Democrat Party, so I’ll wait for real change before declaring that we’re winning.

RJL on April 1, 2011 at 3:06 PM

And how long can that last? It is always more fun to spend money recklessly than pay the bills.

petunia on April 1, 2011 at 2:33 PM

Agreed – but only if you’re the one doing the reckless spending.

Which party is the party of “Reckless Spenders”?

The conservative party is being watched pretty closely right now by an expanded voter base (as evidenced by the midterms).

Look how scared our timid house speaker is….OF US.

Keep pushing….we’re gonna win this.

Tim_CA on April 1, 2011 at 7:12 PM

Sigh. Still a yum-yum, however.

Fortunata on April 1, 2011 at 9:41 PM