Federal Govt Gets Ready for the 'Meat Ax' As Fiscal Cliff Talks Resume
The WSJ reports that it's beginning to look a lot like Cliffmas, and no one has any idea what sort of gifts to put under the nation's burning tree.
Illustrating the gravity of the cuts, the Pentagon plans to notify 800,000 civilian employees that they could be forced to take several weeks of unpaid leave in 2013 if a deal isn't struck, and other agencies are likely to follow suit.
The cuts, which members of both parties have referred to as a "meat ax," are the product of a hastily designed 2011 law that required $110 billion in annual spending reductions over nine years to reduce the deficit. Their severity, representing close to 10% of annually appropriated spending, was intended to force Democrats and Republicans to come together on a broader package of deficit-reduction measures, which would replace the cuts. That effort failed, raising the prospect of the cuts' taking place.
Complicating matters, the White House hasn't informed federal agencies or contractors of precisely how the cuts might be administered, leading to confusion about the potential impact. Several federal agencies referred questions about the cuts to the White House's Office of Management and Budget. OMB didn't respond to questions.
OMB, who leads that now? Looks like it's Jeff Zeints, an alum of Bain & Company, and his unenviable job is to dodge questions about what the splatter pattern will look like after we lurch over the cliff and hit whatever boulders and beasties are down below.
Meanwhile talks started up again this morning, then went into recess, and have started up again. "Progress," they report. Boehner's tack of skipping over Harry Reid's head to talk directly with Biden seems more than a bit desperate. You've moved up the chain a link, but all that's done is gotten you closer to chatting with Capone. You're no closer to actually nabbing him, you're just hearing what he wants from the guy right next to him instead of the guy who sits around the corner of the table from him.
The fact that Reid could not even get a counter proposal out to offer shows that the Democrat caucus is as divided as the Republicans', despite the fact that going over the cliff gives the Democrats on the left their fondest hearts desires: divided opposition, weaker defense, mostly untouched entitlement spending, and higher taxes on "the rich." The recession that's sure to follow just drives up the rate of dependency. Heads Obama wins, tails the Republic loses.
The disagreement between and within the parties is a fundamental one. For all the president's talk of "putting politics aside," we can either move toward a government that starts spending within its means, or we can continue to have a government that doesn't even bother to pass budgets and keeps spending at a rate that will eventually crash the entire system. Obama and his Democrats prefer the latter -- no budgets, and pouring buckets of money on our fiscal fire. They're using the current crisis to advocate for more spending, not restraint. That's their politics, and Obama, Reid and Pelosi have no intention of putting them aside. The Republicans prefer to have some kind of controls on how much the government spends. They're not putting those politics aside. But they blew their chances when they got Obama to renew the Bush tax cuts and when they struck the deal that created the fiscal cliff in 2011. The American people blew their chance when they re-elected Barack Obama to the presidency. That vote was essentially a vote to put economic reality aside. Good luck with that.