Exposing once again Congress's inability to function as one of the three pillars of government, the budget deal struck by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) solves no pressing national problems. It is banality wrapped in spin that will fail to convince most Americans that their government is working for them — and not just to get reelected in the next cycle.
In fact, this deal is a monument to diminished expectations. It is also yet another example of the duplicity coming out of Washington, a “deal” that is meant to veil this Congress's incapacity to govern effectively. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, this is a very modest Congress. Indeed, it has a lot to be modest about.
And let's not forget the cynicism embodied in this deal. Because of the GOP's ideological allergy to taxes for financing the government, revenue will be increased by the cheap trick of fees. In other words, the word “tax” has been replaced with “fee” so that Ryan and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) can assure the far-right wing of their party that taxes will not increase. Ideological purity, in the form of an obvious lie, is feigned but seemingly gives Republicans a clean record going into the elections of 2014. Do they really think that Republican voters are stupid?
And the Democrats also squished their way to a deal by abandoning policy priorities that are as important to them as the no-taxes pledge is to the GOP. Thanks to this deal, some 3 million people over the next few months will fall through a critical safety net, as unemployment insurance is terminated for the long-term unemployed. Yet this agreement continues to provide hedge-fund managers with preferential tax treatments that shield their incomes from the obligations faced by almost all other Americans. The oil company subsidies, and other corporate welfare programs, also survive. And approximately 90 percent of the simply dumb sequester cuts — grinding both domestic and defense programs down like hamburger — remain in place.
It's a sad statement that the best both sides can claim is that the U.S. will go back to regular order in approving the federal budget. There will be no more budget cliffhangers going forward, as if the Groundhog Day series of financial crises were a normal function of Congress. Why, this deal is a reform!
When people tut-tut about Congress's 9 percent approval rating, let us not wonder how things got so bad. Simply look at the output of this critical institution and you'll have a crystalline vision of why Americans are disgusted.
Espuelas, a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute, is a political analyst on television, radio and in print. He is the host and managing editor of “The Fernando Espuelas Show,” a daily political talk show syndicated nationally by the Univision America Network.