After a series of public comments yesterday, it does look as if there could be a government shutdown after April 8. Either that, or both sides are sparring for tactical advantage. Or they just want to blame the opposition for the inevitable. One or the other or the other.
Chuck Schumer reported some progress on Thursday, and Eric Cantor really didn’t like that getting out.
Senator Schumer’s comments this morning that the negotiations on a long term solution to fund the government for the remainder of the year are going well are completely farfetched. Leader Reid, Senator Schumer and the White House continue to abandon their responsibility to get our fiscal house in order by negotiating off of the status quo and refusing to offer any sort of serious plan for how to cut spending. House Republicans continue to offer serious solutions to get our fiscal House in order, but we cannot keep doing it alone. If Senators Reid and Schumer insist on shutting down the government because they want to protect every last dollar and cent of federal spending then that will be on their hands.
After days of positive negotiations, with significant flexibility shown by the Speaker, the House Republican leadership is back to agonizing over whether to give in to right-wing demands that they abandon any compromise on their extreme cuts. The Speaker knows that when it comes to avoiding a shutdown, his problem is with the Tea Party, not Democrats. Instead of lashing out at Democrats in a kneejerk way, we hope House Republicans will finally stand up to the Tea Party and resume the negotiations that had seemed so full of promise.
Now this could just be verbal sparring, as I said. But the specifics don’t look a whole lot better. There are three things to be determined in a continuing resolution for the rest of the budget year, which will have less than 6 months remaining by April 8. One is the level of cuts; House Republicans want about $50 billion more, while Senate Democrats haven’t released a figure. Then there’s the question of where the cuts will hit. And finally, you have the riders, the policy issues and defunding of things like health care, the EPA, the FCC’s net neutrality provisions, NPR and Planned Parenthood, which House Republicans want included.
According to the latest information, the two sides are far apart on all of this. The final level of cuts, ending somewhere halfway to the GOP’s maximalist number, has not yet been determined, and in some ways that’s the easy part. There’s no resolution on where the cuts come from or the riders. And Democrats want to include Medicare and Medicaid in the hunt for savings, which Republicans are resisting, if you want your had turned completely upside-down. Both sides couldn’t even agree on what bill should serve as the baseline. Jack Lew actually stood up and rejected the GOP effort to make their bill the starting point.
Lawmakers have a little over two weeks to resolve all of this, and it doesn’t seem possible to anyone, especially when the GOP House leadership reacts to any hint of compromise with a blistering statement disavowing it. And with members of both parties adamant against any more short-term stopgaps, there doesn’t seem to be any choice other than a shutdown.
Remember, this is just the FY2011 budget. The deadline for next year’s budget isn’t all that far away. And we’re about a month away from reaching the debt limit, another hostage-taking event.
But let’s make a wild assumption that all this gets resolved. You could see that resolution winding up with $30-$40 billion of total spending cuts for the current fiscal year. The determination by Mark Zandi of 700,000 jobs lost from the House GOP continuing resolution was based on $60 billion in cuts. So using the same multipliers, you can credibly say that the best-case scenario, the one without the shutdown, will feature 350,000 job cuts.
Is there any wonder why Bob Herbert, in his last column for the New York Times, proclaims that America has lost its way?
Welcome to America in the second decade of the 21st century. An army of long-term unemployed workers is spread across the land, the human fallout from the Great Recession and long years of misguided economic policies. Optimism is in short supply. The few jobs now being created too often pay a pittance, not nearly enough to pry open the doors to a middle-class standard of living.
Arthur Miller, echoing the poet Archibald MacLeish, liked to say that the essence of America was its promises. That was a long time ago. Limitless greed, unrestrained corporate power and a ferocious addiction to foreign oil have led us to an era of perpetual war and economic decline. Young people today are staring at a future in which they will be less well off than their elders, a reversal of fortune that should send a shudder through everyone.
The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.