The Learning Curve

New tricks for an old dog.

Robert Reich is honorable but mistaken

Robert Reich writes in The Hostage Crisis Continues: Why Obama Can’t Pivot to Jobs and Growth:

But what precisely will [President Obama] fight for now that the debt deal has tied his hands?

He says he wants to extend tax cuts for middle class families and make sure the jobless get unemployment benefits.

Fine, but the new deal won’t let him. He’ll have to go back to Congress after the recess (five weeks from now) and round up enough votes to override the budget caps that now restrict spending. What are the odds? Maybe a little higher than zero.

As an honorable man, Reich’s natural way of thinking is that a deal is a deal, but by my way of thinking any deal that was agreed to under duress is no deal at all, and it should be reneged upon at the  first opportunity. The recently enacted Budget Control Act of 2011 is misnamed. The only substantive part of the Bill is the part relating to the debt ceiling. The remainder of the Act is a collection of unenforceable suggestions, a Republican wish list, that can and ought to be short-circuited any way possible. The Act should have been named the Debt Ceiling Act of 2011.

The meaningful parts of the Federal budget process are the actual appropriations, mostly contained in the annual budget Bill.  The way I understand it, the Congressional appropriations for fiscal year 2011 terminate at midnight on September 30, 2011. The so-called  Budget Control Act of 2011 does not contain any appropriations.  Congress still needs to enact a fiscal year 2012 budget for the government to continue normal operations starting on October 1.

If the actual FY 2012 Federal budget appropriations bill, as enacted and signed into law, exceed the caps contained within the recent debt ceiling legislation, then so be it. Any law enacted by Congress can be amended or repealed by a subsequent law, and it is nearly impossible to prevent this. It has been tried before. The Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 (The Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act) imposed deficit caps for fiscal years 1986 through 1991 which were totally ignored by the actual budgets for those years.  The Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act attempted to require a zero Federal budget deficit for FY 1991, and we know that it did not happen that way.

Except for the provisions relating to raising the debt ceiling, essentially the plan proposed by Sen. McConnell, the  Budget Control Act of 2011 is political theater.  Warfare in Washington over budget matters will resume shortly, but no later than October 1, 2011 when the government shuts down if Congress does not appropriate anew. Congress can totally ignore the budget caps contained in the  Budget Control Act of 2011, if it wishes.

Nobody’s hands have been tied, Mr. Reich.


Written by Tom Fox

08/03/2011 at 11:04 am

Posted in Politics

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