It’s what passes for high drama in America’s most parasitic city: Washington, D.C., home of the takers, not the makers, lair of  the folks that make dependency this country’s biggest growth industry. “Government shutdown averted at the 11th hour!” (Make that “shutdown,” in quote marks, since nothing would have, you know, actually shut down, more's the pity.)

The president, right on cue, was out there beaming, praising himself: “Americans of different beliefs came together. . . .”  Thanks to me, B. Obama, we just worked out the “biggest annual spending cut in history.”

How big? $38.5 billion trimmed out of government operations through September. $38.5 billion out of — remind me, what’s the total budget? In 2010, U.S. federal spending was about $3.5 trillion.

This is what $38.5 billion looks like written out:


This is $3.5 trillion:


In other words, this “historic” spending cut is a little over 1 percent of federal spending. Lunch money. Not even lunch money: it's the change, without hope, that you get back after paying for lunch. Pathetic.  It is just a couple percent of the nearly $1.5 trillion deficit forecast for this year, which turns out to be $414 billion higher than its previous estimate, which came last August. (Feeling dizzy? The national debt at the end of December 2010 was $14 trillion.)

$38.5 billion in spending cuts. “White House, Congress Cheer Deal,” read the headline. Who would doubt it?  Hey, we’re pretty good guys, aren’t we? Three cheers for us!

$38.5 billion. John Boehner wanted $61 billion, but settled for $38.5. In Washington, that’s called a “compromise” and is hailed as “visionary” and “historic” (Harry Reid’s phrase, so you know it must be a joke).

This is a breakdown of federal spending in 2010, courtesy Wikipedia:

Notice anything?  Social Security and Medicare/Medcaid account for more than 40 percent of federal spending. The former came into being as a temporary emergency measure during the Depression. It is now the largest government program in the world. The latter was one of Lyndon Johnson’s gifts to the nation: a species of government-funded health care that accomplished two things: 1) the institution of a metastatic and almost comically inefficient government bureaucracy and 2) the dependence of huge swathes of the American public on government, i.e., taxpayer largess.  We’re told that nothing can be done about either program — they’re sacrosanct, meaning, of course, that the politicians who might do something about them are too timid to try.