Of the things one might expect from Congress, in a presidential election year, deep compromise and/or abiding by its own deadlines are not on the resulting short list. In fact there is scarcely any time (beyond 2001) where Congress has worked in unison since the 1980′s.
This is the backdrop of the lame duck session of Congress that will exist from November 7th until January 2013. No matter what the election results. It is during this lame duck session that the impending “automatic” budget cuts of $650 billion will be addressed. Just as we (and everyone except elected politicians) expected, automatic does not mean what Webster’s Dictionary defines it as. Where is Inago Montoya when you need him?
As currently stands, $650 billion will be cut from defense and mediacare budgets on January 1, 2013. The impact of which is described by Tom Stinson of Minnestota Economist as,
“roughly the equivalent of going to bed Dec 31st with gasoline prices at $3.85 a gallon and waking up the next moringin with gas at $10.35 a gallon.” – Star Tribune
Obviously, neither political party wants such an impact hung on their shoulders – which is where it is squarely situated based on the 2011 debt ceiling deal hammered out by Congress. The mad dash to finger point at the other political side does nothing to remove the reality that both parties and both houses of Congress may be responsible for the first time legislation directly cause a recession to occur.
Thus, quietly but with growing vigor, politicians on both sides of the political line are trying to make “automatic” mean optional – or at least delayed. Yes, once again Congress proves that anything which is politically uncomfortable, even though it was created by the actions of Congress itself, even if it portends to the eventual financial collapse of the nation, can be altered and made worse off.
By the time the next president is sworn in, “automatic” cuts in the budget will be replaced with a “significant” and “serious” downpayment of maybe a couple of tens of billions of dollars, to be followed – at some point in the fuzzy and unforeseeable future – by dramatic cuts of real size. And pigs will fly.
All the while the national debt will increase, a national budget remains the primary job of Congress that they just won’t do, and the day that interest rates rise and skyrocket to unsustainable levels draws ever closer.
If this were a game show it would be deplorable. If this were a joke, it has no punchline. But this is Congress, and politicians are reasonably sure that once elected, it really doesn’t matter because any problem can get kicked down the road for someone elese to deal with.
Perhaps this all will become more serious once another downgrade of the U.S. creditworthiness occurs. On that day, the blame will lie at the feet of all the politicians that made this mess and avoided making the hard decisions when they would have done the most good. That means Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals, and all the rest alike.