Friday, October 30, 2015

Paul Ryan Debt-Limit Disaster | National Review Online

Paul Ryan Debt-Limit Disaster | National Review Online

Paul Ryan
Starts Off on Wrong Foot with Budget Deal New House speaker Paul Ryan and John
DAVID HARSANYI October 30, 2015 12:00 AM @DAVIDHARSANYI Grass-roots
conservatives have many unrealistic expectations and political objectives. And
then sometimes they have a good point. The new budget deal arranged by John
Boehner and the Democrats — approving $50 billion of additional spending in
2016 and $30 billion in 2017 — will be split between domestic discretionary
programs and defense. Cuts will supposedly take effect in 2025, by which time
this deal is likely to be buried under a dozen budget debates and a trillion
dollars of bad memories for fiscal conservatives. We’re told the reason for GOP
capitulation is that Boehner, acting selflessly, is about to “clean out the
barn” for a Paul Ryan speakership. Implicit in this argument is the idea that
this kind of budget agreement would normally be a no-brainer, but the crazies
must be appeased. Passing it now and avoiding the heat will allow Ryan to move
forward with his own agenda. If only it were that simple. For one thing, the
GOP will have to live with the precedent set by the terrible deal in future
negotiations. President Obama, as the New York Times points out, is now going
to be able to “break free of the spending shackles” of the imaginary reign of
austerity that was brought on by the Budget Control Act of 2011. So are all
Democrats. RELATED: Ryan Strikes Optimistic Tone in First Speech as Speaker For
another thing, conservatives will almost surely see this as a betrayal. The
administration came up with the idea of sequestration, and it turned out to be
the only tangible victory Republicans could claim on spending. You may remember
the 2010 Pledge to America, in which congressional Republicans promised to roll
back government spending to pre-stimulus/bailout levels, cutting at least $100
billion in the first year after taking power. They failed to achieve that
improbable goal. And almost every year since, government spending has gone up,
though the GOP keeps adding seats by promising to achieve the opposite. Expecting
the GOP to return Washington to 2008 spending levels — now, with a Democratic
president in power (or probably ever) — is unrealistic. Expecting Republicans
at the very least not to piddle away the only leverage they have to keep the
status quo is surely reasonable. At this point, Boehner is actually giving back
items Republicans won in previous years. If the GOP is unable to extract
concessions that mitigate future spending and debt, then the debt ceiling has
no real political purpose for Republicans. In fact, if Republicans can’t even
hold the line on what they’ve gained — and at this point, Boehner is actually
giving back items Republicans won in previous years — then the debt limit isn’t
just useless; it’s counterproductive. Why, then, did we go through all this
angst for the past five years? It’s true that both sides are guilty of “holding
the country hostage” in the face of pretend “fiscal calamities” and government
shutdowns. But Democrats understand that they will take none of the blame from
the media when the sides fail to reach an agreement. So Republicans fear this
kind of coverage far more than they fear their own base, despite years of
polling that shows that most voters like the debt ceiling in theory (whatever
they think it means) and don’t mind if a party uses it to obtain spending cuts.
In a new Associated Press/GfK poll, 56 percent of those questioned would trade
a government shutdown for more spending cuts. Nearly 80 percent of Republicans
claim that they would be open to closing down agencies to procure those budget
cuts; even 44 percent of Democrats agree. MORE PAUL RYAN KRAUTHAMMER'S TAKE:
RYAN A PASS ON BUDGET DEAL So the central question is: How is ceding this fight
to Obama supposed to make life easier for Ryan? This is a guy who will begin
his term reopening the Export-Import Bank of the United States and, now,
supporting perhaps the worst fiscal-policy defeat since Obamacare. What magical
ideas will Ryan wring from the GOP conference that were unavailable to Boehner?
And how many voters outside the Beltway care about process more than results?
Democrats under Obama, for the most part, have been willing to use these
deadlines to get what they can. Republicans have not. And if Ryan, a fiscal
conservative by any standard, does nothing about the deal, the perception
grass-roots GOP types have about the old leadership may well be transferred to
the new. If that happens, this deal not only will have sold out fiscal
conservatives but also may achieve the opposite of what Boehner intended. –
David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist and the author of The
People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against
Democracy. Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi. © 2015

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