With the showdown in Madison competing with the battle for Tripoli on the networks, the budget debate in D.C. has slipped from the front pages. You may have missed that the Democrats blinked yesterday on the stopgap measure for the two weeks after this Friday. Not a big deal, but another preliminary signal that the Dems know they have lost the debate over spending. Does the GOP know that it has won? Did the GOP ever want to win?
The Congressional back-and-forths are fascinating test cases, first of the strength of the deficit-cutters within the GOP caucus (far stronger than the appropriators, but not yet organized or confident of their strength), now of the Senate Democrats (weak and worried with 23 seats up in 20 months) and of the president (struggling not to have any opinions on anything and hoping the GOP stumbles.)
All of these test matches should be figuring into Paul Ryan’s calculations about how far and hard he can push the FY 2012 budget. We need to see that budget before anyone can venture an opinion on the seriousness of the House GOP when it comes to spending. They should be as serious as can be. Today another report details the enormity of the waste in the federal budget, and Charles Koch penned an op-ed on scale of the fiscal crisis and the urgent necessity of scaling back the size and scope of the federal budget. (Interesting fact: Koch Industries employs about 50,000 people in the U.S., which is about 49,000 more people than the president has ever employed even if we count the campaign and staff jobs he has filled that are paid for with other people’s money and which don’t have to work towards a profit.) If there is any doubt about the numbers and what they portend, return to the Kleiner Perkins study I linked yesterday. We are out of time.
Yet we also have another story on how Social Security appears increasingly likely to be off-limits to budget cutters. Take that with a grain of salt given the number of people who have said publicly and privately that it is the easiest of the big three to address –the others being Medicare and Medicaid. But the story is still troubling, because if a Ryan budget doesn’t take in all the problems and propose a comprehensive solution, he won’t get another chance until after the 2012 elections. The time is now, right now, for the big test of the public’s resolve to drain the swamp and secure the fiscal future of the U.S., and if the Ryan budget doesn’t do so, the blowback from the grass roots will be beyond the Beltway GOP’s reckoning.
That’s the upside of the Wisconsin preview of coming attractions. The center-right has rallied to Governor Walker, and despite all the noise and all the wildly biased MSM coverage and all the made-up polls, the clear sense is that the public and especially the grassroots are standing with the Wisconsin governor and that the GOP especially is supporting him. When his “austerity” budget passes and the world doesn’t end up north, the whole country will understand that the endless cries of shock, horror and doom are just diversions to keep attention off of the staggering costs of government contracts with public employee unions and of the size of the transfer payments of the various entitlements.
What Paul Ryan needs to do is be as public, as prepared and as bold as Scott Walker, and so too must Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor. The sooner the better for the unveiling of the FY 2012 budget, even as the battles over the CR and the debt ceiling continue.