A strategic assessment of the recent budget skirmish

posted at 2:00 pm on April 10, 2011 by J.E. Dyer

Bruce McQuain and others have made good points about the outcome of the budget battle – which actually ended up being a maneuver game, with a little fire traded but no real battle in the end.

Here’s my take, for what it’s worth.

First, the outcome of the last 24 hours is most important for what it’s not: a full-frontal cave-in by Republicans to business as usual.  The numbers are less significant than the political postures in this regard.  In the end, the Democrats were prepared to offer more cuts rather than go to a shutdown.

That means they were not as confident as their earlier rhetoric suggested that a shutdown would produce a political result in their favor.  I suspect the Wisconsin supreme court election had something to do with that.

The point that the cuts are small – smaller than the additions to the deficit over just the last week – is well taken.  But anyone who thought the whole war was going to be won on this battle misperceived the event.  It was never going to be.  This was not the battlefield on which the multitrillion dollar deficit was going to be slain.  Moreover, heaping efforts like defunding Planned Parenthood or the EPA on this particular confrontation was a flawed tactic.  Riders of that kind are a perquisite of established political power relationships and procedural convention.  When you don’t have that behind your effort – and the Republicans in Congress don’t – you need to fight only for what you must.

In the case of the punching bag that is the 2011 budget, avoiding a reversion to business as usual is the minimum the Congressional GOP had to achieve.  It did that.  There is an important sense in which this outcome has bought time:  it almost certainly forestalls the decision of global finance planners to catastrophically disfavor the US economy and US securities.

That is a real possibility, if Republicans are decisively unable to halt the hurtling progress of our federal government toward fiscal insanity.  The incremental success achieved by the GOP on Friday means that any assessment in that regard can – in fact should – be postponed.  It’s an uneasy position for everyone, but it’s also better than any alternative.  In terms of transparency, fairness, and public integrity, the United States and our fiscal management are still the best the world has got.  Investment gurus love to maneuver against the dollar, but there is literally nothing that can do what it has done for the last 60 years.

That reality is based on the characteristics of American society and our political institutions, even more fundamentally than on our economy.  Currency, fiscal accounting, and debt are all man-made constructs, not principles of the universe that operate, constant and indifferent, outside our conscious decisions.  The mechanism that would render it impossible for us to manage our way out of our fiscal crisis is a loss of confidence in our character by the rest of the world.  Other peoples stand to lose so much in their own right, if our character is judged to have imploded and our faith and credit to have become unreliable, that they are strongly motivated to postpone making that judgment.

The budget compromise on Friday gave them a reason to continue postponing it.  There is another freighted confrontation coming up on 16 May, when money will run out if the debt ceiling is not raised.  It’s important for Republicans to keep the trend going in the direction they’ve now established, however incremental the progress may be.

Trying to win the whole game on every play is a faulty approach, and one that has to be avoided.  Republicans can force issues only in the House this year.  It isn’t possible to override a presidential veto.  Those are the constraints.

In a sense, the voting result in Wisconsin may turn out to have been the most important event of the last week.  The Republicans in Washington avoided what would have been a very damaging – perhaps irreparable – loss, but the supreme court election in Wisconsin appears to be a positive victory (assuming Prosser’s win holds up).

America’s fiscal soundness can’t be repaired without a significant political shift away from the principles of progressivism and collectivism that have become entrenched at each level of government.  We are attempting to turn the ship of state in a positive direction without descending into chaos or succumbing to weakness and corruption: an effort there are few if any historical models for.  But there is no fate dictating that we can’t be the nation that achieves this.  We have not even begun to tap the idled resources that can be brought to bear, to restore our character, our economy, and our fiscal integrity.

J.E. Dyer blogs at The Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions” and as The Optimistic Conservative.  She writes a weekly column for Patheos.

This post was promoted from GreenRoom to HotAir.com.
To see the comments on the original post, look here.


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It still would have had to run the Senate and POTUS gauntlet.

The Opinionator on April 10, 2011 at 9:04 PM

hah, you honestly think that the senate or the president would kill a bill to pay the Armed Forces? What about all that political capital everyone talks about…It would be passed in a single day with unanimous bipartisan support…and you know it.

equanimous on April 10, 2011 at 9:15 PM

It still would have had to run the Senate and POTUS gauntlet.

The Opinionator on April 10, 2011 at 9:04 PM

Are you telling me that you think Obama would have said no to paying the military in a clean bill? Can you imagine how people would have reacted to that? People from all over the country would have converged on Washington demanding to know what is up with Obama and the Democrats, especially in light of who their allies are in Libya.

The Democrat party would implode.

FloatingRock on April 10, 2011 at 9:29 PM

And our “allies” threw it away. They aren’t so concerned for the country that they’re willing to actually fight to save it or even keep their promises.

FloatingRock on April 10, 2011 at 9:31 PM

Oh, but our erstwhile “allies” are so much smarter than us, you see, we just don’t understand the “big picture”, yet this morning, back on page 1, I challenged them to justify themselves and nobody has come even close. Hardly anybody even tried.

There is no justification for breaking a promise they never intended to keep.

FloatingRock on April 10, 2011 at 9:39 PM

I guess I’ve been banned from RedState. Oh well. Their party sucks.

FloatingRock on April 10, 2011 at 10:00 PM

I guess I’ve been banned from RedState. Oh well. Their party sucks.

FloatingRock on April 10, 2011 at 10:00 PM

Accept it as a badge of honor. If they have to ban you to shut you up then they have no response to your arguments.

sharrukin on April 10, 2011 at 10:02 PM

First, the outcome of the last 24 hours is most important for what it’s not: a full-frontal cave-in by Republicans to business as usual

I strongly disagree:
First, did republicans ever submit a budget that cut $100 Billion from it as they promised in their 2010 campaign? The answer is no, they never even tried to keep their campaign pledge.
Second, in order to show they are serious, they have to be willing to exact a little political capital. A budget shutdown, even one that was lengthy would have forced Obama and Reid to realize that republican were putting their ideals in front of their careers as polticians. Since they did not have the will to do this, now the dems know when it comes to raising the debt ceiling, the repubs will cave. When it comes to negotiating the 2012 budget, the repubs will cave.
From a democratic standpoint, they just need to give just a little to look like they are trying to compromise, but that little is so small that it has no economic impact.

paulsur on April 10, 2011 at 10:15 PM

I just replaced RedState with RiehlWorld on my Firefox quick-launch bar. I might not have but they apparently don’t even allow you to read their front page. I’ve been totally blacklisted.

FloatingRock on April 10, 2011 at 10:36 PM

I’ve been totally blacklisted.

FloatingRock on April 10, 2011 at 10:36 PM

What did you do?

sharrukin on April 10, 2011 at 10:37 PM

The War Planner on April 10, 2011 at 6:26 PM

Doesn’t feel like the Battle of Britain. Feels like “Peace for Our Time.”

AshleyTKing on April 10, 2011 at 10:41 PM

What did you do?

Same thing I’ve been doing here. Interrupting peoples fantasies about historic victories with brief doses of reality.

Somebody claimed that $78 billion was actually a really good deal, and when I pointed out that $78 billion was funnymoney and blows credibility out of the punch bowl, (which I thought was funny), I now get a 601 Database redigestation error.

FloatingRock on April 10, 2011 at 10:51 PM

I asked, $78 billion? What $78 billion?

Banned.

FloatingRock on April 10, 2011 at 10:53 PM

I asked, $78 billion? What $78 billion?

Banned.

FloatingRock on April 10, 2011 at 10:53 PM

Well thats one reason I like HotAir even if it is too squishy for my taste. They boot you for being a sleaze-ball, not for your opinion.

sharrukin on April 10, 2011 at 10:55 PM

Yeah, that’s one of the best features of HotAir, it’s a free market of ideas. People’s ideas stand or fall on their own merit rather than through ideological enforcement.

FloatingRock on April 10, 2011 at 11:00 PM

the dems won and won big Friday night. the fact that the Gop “victory” has to be explained to the people tells anyone that wants to think about it that it was no victory. A victory doesn’t need explainations and talking points. A victory is self appearant.

If you have to explain why you won you lost.

unseen on April 10, 2011 at 2:30 PM

You do not have to have a triumph on the level of driving Obama and Reid in chains before you as the crowd salutes to be worthwhile. In clever negotiations, the loser often does not know he lost. Thus he comes to the table and loses again. Since Reid and Obama hold veto power over our agenda for the time being, we must let them think it is worthwhile for them to play along. We can get another bite with the debt limit, another bite with the 2012 budget and maybe even the 2013 budget if we don’t give them an excuse to take their marbles and go home. Fiscal stability is going to be a long war not a short one.

KW64 on April 10, 2011 at 11:05 PM

About being banned at RedState: I should add that earlier in the day somebody at RedState called me a troll. I didn’t think I was but just in case explained that I was a conservative independent, and I invited them to ban me if we’re not allowed, so that could also be a reason. It is called “Red” state, after all, and I’m not a Republican. That’s why I usually don’t comment there.

Seriously, I probably deserved to get banned. I’m not trying to start anything with RedState. It was just that their “Red” Party lied to me to get my vote then cheated me by breaking their promise in the flimsiest possible way. All I wanted to know what they had to say for themselves.

Note to HotAir, please warn me if you don’t want me talking about this. I think I’m pretty much finished, anyway.

I might have violated another of their rules, too, but I can’t check their policy because I’ve been blacklisted from their entire site, apparently.

FloatingRock on April 10, 2011 at 11:42 PM

Well I still have my unused Little Green Footballs account, at least. :)

FloatingRock on April 10, 2011 at 11:44 PM

FloatingRock on April 10, 2011 at 11:42 PM

Whats your name over there and what thread do you recall?

sharrukin on April 10, 2011 at 11:48 PM

I have the URL’s but get the error instead.

FloatingRock on April 10, 2011 at 11:52 PM

They might have deleted my comments, I don’t know. If I’m not in either of those threads then they must have.

FloatingRock on April 10, 2011 at 11:56 PM

I have the URL’s but get the error instead.

FloatingRock on April 10, 2011 at 11:52 PM

This is it.

Ooh, that was a ‘fail.’
Moe Lane Sunday, April 10th at 9:53PM EDT (link)

OK, for the benefit of everybody else: let me explain what happened here.

The late floatingrock was trying to pull a fast one here by arguing that the GOP’s 38.5 billion’ worth of cuts from the 2010 baseline represented a horribly broken promise, since they called for 100 billion. Small problem with that argument: when the House reissued that promise with regard to the CR situation, it was misreported as being only 61 billion. It was actually $100 billion, because that promise used as its baseline Obama’s proposed budget, which called for increased spending of around $40 billion. So if you’re going to complain about the $38.5 billion in cuts – and use the House’s February promise to justify it – please include the $40 billion that they used to make that argument in the first place.

“But, Moe!” I hear you all say. “So what if they used a budget gimmick in the CR! I want that $100 billion that they originally promised me!” …OK. The thing there is, they originally promised you that for the upcoming budget. At the time that the Pledge to America was written, it was not actually expected that the Democrats would give us the opportunity to hack at 2010’s spending. Surely they would have gotten that in under the wire, given that we would… well, hack as much money out of it as we could. And did.

So, there’s your options: if you want to complain that $78.5 billion ain’t as good as $100 billion, go you. Politics, sausage, you don’t want to see either made. But $78.5 billion is still considerably more than $38.5 billion, even if it makes your argument also considerably weaker. And if you want to go back to the original promise, also go you. We have yet to have that struggle, after all – which means that no promises have been actually broken yet.

Please note that ‘you’ is, at this point, generic. Obviously.

sharrukin on April 10, 2011 at 11:59 PM

So he banned me because I don’t understand WTF he’s talking about? It wasn’t even his thread, I don’t think.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 12:02 AM

Thanks for checking, BTW.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 12:03 AM

I guess RedState banned me because I’m not a Republican, then. Maybe it wasn’t even that guy that did it.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 12:04 AM

So he banned me because I don’t understand WTF he’s talking about? It wasn’t even his thread, I don’t think.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 12:02 AM

You got banned because you were raining on his happy parade and he didn’t like it. Like Charles at Little Green Footballs if you annoy some people they will remove you rather than try to win through argument.

Like I said above, I like HotAir because they don’t do that here.

sharrukin on April 11, 2011 at 12:06 AM

BTW, my response to his reply would have been something along the lines of: that just sounds like a bunch funny-numbers to me, but when it comes right down to it the promise was for “One Hundred Billion Dollars” and the deal is for less than 40% of that according to news reports.

I prefer real numbers. It doesn’t require so much nuance.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 12:07 AM

I LOVE HotAir!!! Please don’t ever ban me, bro’s!

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 12:08 AM

I prefer real numbers. It doesn’t require so much nuance.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 12:07 AM

Your reply was posted and then nothing.

I agree. Can’t say I understand where they are getting this talk of a reduction in spending given the rise in spending.

Must be the new math.

sharrukin on April 11, 2011 at 12:10 AM

The Republican Party needs less nuance and more action.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 12:10 AM

Your reply was posted and then nothing.

Do you mean that there was a response from me to the guy at RedState? I was banned before I had a chance to respond… I didn’t even know he had responded until you pasted it here.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 12:19 AM

If you meant that you posted it with your account, thank you.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 12:24 AM

Do you mean that there was a response from me to the guy at RedState?

Yup.

I was banned before I had a chance to respond… I didn’t even know he had responded until you pasted it here.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 12:19 AM

He was talking to everyone else rather than you.

OK, for the benefit of everybody else: let me explain what happened here.

A warning I guess to tow the GOP line or be thrown into the outer darkness.

I stopped going to RedState after made their threat to ban anyone who talked about Obama’s birth certificate. I have no use for that sort of controlling of the argumentation.

sharrukin on April 11, 2011 at 12:24 AM

If you meant that you posted it with your account, thank you.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 12:24 AM

No, I don’t have an account there.

sharrukin on April 11, 2011 at 12:25 AM

I wonder if they all wear suits, too. :)

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 12:33 AM

I stopped going to LGF when they were banning creationists, although I’m not one.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 12:38 AM

I stopped going to LGF when they were banning creationists, although I’m not one.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 12:38 AM

I never like LGF. Its always the same thing. If they ban you for disagreeing regardless of what the disagreement might be, its a warning sign that they don’t want a discussion, but a cheerleader squad.

I actually like creationists because it forces scientists and evolutionists to make better arguments than they currently do. Even those with whom you disagree can help to refine your own point of view.

sharrukin on April 11, 2011 at 12:43 AM

It sounds like RedState banned me because my funny-number calculations differed from theirs, whereas my point was that I see right through his funny-number scheme and call BS. It was all a ruse.

It’s just a difference of perspective, is all. He’s inside the box and I am not. I have other options.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 1:01 AM

The difference between inside the box and outside is the difference between 78% and <40%. That's how "Red" his glasses are, nearly doubled.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 1:10 AM

Moe Lane of RedState is who I’m talking about.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 1:11 AM

Me? I wear green eye shades, the color of money.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 1:13 AM

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 1:13 AM

So you got banned..evaluate and move on!..:)

Dire Straits on April 11, 2011 at 1:15 AM

Already have done. The Republican Party isn’t for me.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 1:27 AM

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 1:27 AM

Okay..I wish you luck!..:)

Dire Straits on April 11, 2011 at 1:36 AM

Thanks, you too. We’re all going to need a lot of luck to save this country, it seems.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 1:40 AM

Dire, why do you think they blacklisted me? I can’t even read their front page. There have been some trolls here at HotAir that I was glad were banned but I’d just assume allow them to continue reading if they choose to. I don’t get it. What do you think? You guys don’t even want to try to persuade me anymore?

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 1:45 AM

Back in November the Republicans promised they’d call us in the morning, now they don’t even want to talk to us.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 1:51 AM

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 1:45 AM

I don’t know!..Try clearing your history and reloading it again!..:)

Dire Straits on April 11, 2011 at 2:18 AM

Wow, that worked! Either that or they changed their minds. I don’t know which is the case, but assuming it was technical, in my defense I did express some skepticism as to the cause of the “ban”, because it didn’t really make much sense. I was hardly in the minority there even if I was cutting to the chase more than most, I supposed. Also I looked up the error but perhaps should have looked for more confirmation.

So just to be clear, I appear to be able to log onto RedState. Thanks Dire Straits. :)

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 2:38 AM

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 2:38 AM

Your welcome!..Now play nice over there!..Red State is cool!..:)

Dire Straits on April 11, 2011 at 2:41 AM

This is the first web site I clicked on that indicated I had been banned. Perhaps it is wrong.

http://politicalseason.blogspot.com/2009/01/banned-from-redstate.html

Anyway, I’m glad they changed their minds, if that’s what happened.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 2:49 AM

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 2:49 AM

your problem was technical..not that you got banned!..:)

Dire Straits on April 11, 2011 at 2:59 AM

Anyway, I’m glad they changed their minds, if that’s what happened.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 2:49 AM

As someone that admires your comments, I have to admit its also a good laugh to witness you struggling with a brain fart. ;)

Saltysam on April 11, 2011 at 3:08 AM

Hmmmmm….

Well, either way, it’s fine with me I suppose. It was the first time I’ve commented there at any length and there was no way for them to know I wasn’t a troll, considering the topic. I’ll assume that if I had had a track record they probably wouldn’t have banned me.

Or perhaps it was technical.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 3:11 AM

Saltysam on April 11, 2011 at 3:08 AM

I actually hope I did get banned and then unbanned. It’s more exciting that way. :) But that web site could be wrong or a false flag. I’m not inclined to check now that it’s over.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 3:19 AM

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 3:11 AM

No it was not technical!..The Red State gods got together and decided that you should not be banned!..:)

Dire Straits on April 11, 2011 at 3:20 AM

Dire Straits on April 11, 2011 at 3:20 AM

You never know.

Goodnight, and thanks again.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 3:30 AM

Wait, I’m still banned from RedState.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 3:46 AM

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 3:46 AM

Too bad!.:)

Dire Straits on April 11, 2011 at 3:48 AM

I can view it, I guess, if I clear my history, but I can’t sign in. I thought I was signed in because it let me hit the reply button before but when I used the log in feature it failed with the same error.

Oh well, their party still sucks, anyway, and at least now I can keep tabs on my progressive opponents.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 3:49 AM

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 3:46 AM

Too bad!..:)

Dire Straits on April 11, 2011 at 3:55 AM

I don’t think it’s too bad. If they want to enforce an strict ideological code, that’s there prerogative. It’s a free country after all. Personally I’m not a fan of rigid, progressive ideologies so I’m going to do everything I can to appose their agenda.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 3:58 AM

A lot of the RedState commentators seemed more inclined to side with me than with whoever banned me.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 4:01 AM

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 4:01 AM

Too bad!..See you would not be you!..:)

Dire Straits on April 11, 2011 at 4:04 AM

I’ve just got to be me. :)

Yeah, I don’t belong over there. But I think a lot of them belong over here.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 4:11 AM

If RedState purges them then maybe it’s time for HotAir to have another open enrollment. Just a thought.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 4:12 AM

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 4:11 AM

Red State is a cool site!..:)

Dire Straits on April 11, 2011 at 4:14 AM

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 4:12 AM

I don’t see that happening!..:)

Dire Straits on April 11, 2011 at 4:15 AM

Red State is a cool site!..:)

Dire Straits on April 11, 2011 at 4:14 AM

If you agree with them.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 4:18 AM

I don’t see that happening!..:)

Dire Straits on April 11, 2011 at 4:15 AM

No, they’d have to ban half their members. That’s my point. Why me? Because I made the most persuasive case, that’s why.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 4:19 AM

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 4:19 AM

You just didn’t fit in!..It happens..:)

Dire Straits on April 11, 2011 at 4:22 AM

I feel like going over the LGF and arguing in favor of creation-science, even though I don’t believe in it, just to have a pair.

Uh, a pair of ban-trophies.

You know, people used to think LGF was a cool site too.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 4:24 AM

I still have my old LGF account, I’ll have to think about it. At any rate, I’m off. Goodnight.

FloatingRock on April 11, 2011 at 4:26 AM

“In March, Pimco’s flagship Total Return Fund (TRF) has now taken an active short position in US government debt: -3% on a Market Value basis (or $7.1 billion), and a whopping -18% on a Duration Weighted Exposure basis.”

http://www.zerohedge.com/article/exclusive-bill-gross-now-short-us-debt-hikes-cash-73-billion-all-time-record

“the fact that the world’s largest bond manager — which has made a fortune riding the great bond bull over the years — is short US bonds is a huge turn. That this comes amid such anxiety over the Federal debt also raises the stakes.”

http://www.businessinsider.com/pimco-short-treasuries-2011-4#ixzz1JEHhUKN8

Viator on April 11, 2011 at 11:38 AM

Kind of like the Moon walk, it was a big step for Boehner.

The real showdown should be the debt ceiling and we will see if he has the guts. He will push raising the celing, but at some point there is a moment of truth.

Raising the celing will protect the GOP from the ‘killing old people’ routines but they will lose as much as they gain. They will lose from the base.

There is a chance to build themselves up as the defenders of the currently entitled (Social Security, Medicare and yes, Medicaid) with the argument they can only protect those entitlements if they stop the rise in other spending.

They have to seize the argument. Ryan prepared the way by protecting SSA in his budget plan. Ryan is a great speaker and much needed to change the image of the right.

The argument is the truth, because is we go bust, whatever we print to cover those entitlement checks wont buy a hamburger. And we all know every other check in America will be discontinued before we stop mailing SSA. THere is no changing current entitlements until every other wastful expenditure is cancelled

entagor on April 11, 2011 at 1:47 PM

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