Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Failures of 113th Congress — Let's Count the Really Big Ones Okay

Members at Press Conference (turning their back on America)

(L to R: Rep. Van Hollen (D-MD); Sen. Murray (D-WA); Rep. Ryan (R-WI); Sen. Sessions (R-AL) 

Bowing in Prayer - ha - how about bowing in shame ...

The story of the budget in 2013 was a grand tour through the worst of Washington from here in a fine article by Suzy Khimm.

I have picked parts to emphasize the ineffectiveness and failed leadership in DC – from top to bottom and across both party lines, but in all honestly more blame, if that’s the right word, falls squarely on the GOP for not even wanting to discuss solutions, compromise, or cooperate ... that much is clear. Here are the 19 key points of the aftermath that I see and that I picked from the article – please read the whole article to see the original and entire flavor by Ms. Khimm:

  1. Last January’s fiscal cliff to October’s government shutdown created self-destructive gridlock, brinksmanship, and the failure to even get the bare minimum accomplished.   
  1. Every fiscal crisis of 2013 was manufactured by Congress itself. 
  1. Congress laid the groundwork two years ago when they passed the 2011 budget deal to reduce the deficit by $2.1 trillion that included $900 billion in upfront cuts, with another $1.2 trillion that would happen in one of two ways. 
  1. If that failed, automatic cuts (sequestration) would kick in for across the board cuts on January 1, 2013. That was supposed to put the fear of God into all them to work for solutions – it did not. 
  1. The first part of 2013 made it clear that Congress would not and could not do enough to stop the vast majority of cuts. The Senate passed a deal around 2 a.m. on January 1, 2013 that preserved most of sequestration and the Bush tax cuts — a deal made possible because Speaker Boehner broke from the majority of the GOP caucus. 
  1. The fiscal cliff deal replaced just two months of the automatic cuts and raised income taxes for Americans earning more than $750,000. It also raised taxes on the middle class by letting the payroll tax cut expire. 
  1. There was no “grand bargain” to reduce the deficit through sweeping reforms to entitlements and taxes. It raised only $600 billion in new revenue – far lower than the $1.6 trillion target. 
  1. That deal was born out of crisis: Boehner sided with Democrats only after he failed to get the GOP caucus to come along, and conservatives hated him for agreeing to raise taxes. In the early months of 2013 it was clear that Congress had returned to a partisan deadlock over the budget. 
  1. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) drew up diametrically opposed spending plans that were $91 billion apart. (They finally put together a “deal” now signed into law which by all accounts is a bigger mess). 
  1. Democrats proposed to reverse sequestration completely, while Republicans proposed to ramp up military spending and cut domestic programs even more sharply.  
  1. Sequestration had real consequences for many other government programs, cutting Head Start programs, federal unemployment benefits, scientific research, and heating aid, with a disproportionate impact on the poor. 
  1. Despite protestations from the GOP’s defense hawks, a growing number of conservatives came to embrace sequestration as spending cuts that trimmed the fat from the government. 
  1. Democrats hated the automatic cuts, so Boehner hoped to replace sequestration with entitlement reforms — a medium-sized bargain. Insurgent conservative Republicans backed by outside pressure groups pushed Boehner in a completely new direction: they convinced the Speaker to link the next budget deadline to the launch of Obama-care’s insurance exchanges on October 1. 
  1. With Boehner’s support, the anti-Obama-care campaign ultimately drove the country to a shutdown as House Republicans refused to fund the government without unraveling part of Obama-care — a total non-starter for Democrats
  1. The shutdown stretched over 16 days, while Democrats held firm against GOP attempts to open the government piecemeal to extract an Obama-care concession. 
  1. It ended when the GOP leadership finally admitted its campaign was doomed to fail, voting with Democrats to keep the government running and raise the debt ceiling without any pre-conditions. 
  1. Ordinary Americans hated the shutdown and overwhelmingly blamed Republicans for a self-inflicted wound that cost the country billions of dollars.   
  1. But the compromise came only after both parties had seriously ratcheted down their expectations. The deal reversed just one-third of sequestration’s cuts in 2014-15 without accomplishing any of the goals that both Democrats and Republicans had set out for themselves two and a half years earlier.  
  1. All that fiscal brinksmanship barely touched the major tax and entitlement programs (the biggest drivers of the budget). Congress so-called austerity slashed trillions in discretionary programs, undermining programs that both parties support while doing little to reduce the long-term deficit.
Democrats got $600 billion in additional tax revenue from January’s fiscal cliff deal, but the tax changes did nothing to address the fundamental problems with our antiquated tax code

Issues for 2014 midterms the way I see them: 

(1) Tax reform that the entire country can agree on; one that is simple, effective, not harsh, and plays no favors for the top while bashing the vast majority; (2) Work to make ACA work – that will help get us get and stay healthy in more ways than just physical; (3) Stop the gridlock and nasty politics coming from the ugly partisanship pandering and posturing. 

Campaign any way you choose, but once in office, do your damn job; and (4) Turn off the big money in politics now before it's too late. See the results from 2012 (billionaire massive flow). What we saw was not freedom or democracy by any stretch. But, it may be the final stretch of the end of our system – the one we call: “We the People.” One replaced by “We the Money.”

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