Congressional leaders reached an eleventh hour budget agreement late Friday night avoiding the first government shut down in fifteen years. The Democrats managed to stave off the ideological sticking points that had stymied a resolution for days. Republicans were able to carve out almost $40 billion dollars in cuts, impacting programs close to the hearts of Democrats.
So who won?
In terms of the big picture this was pretty much a protracted argument about nothing. When facing a deficit in the trillions cutting $40 billion is like trimming a bothersome hangnail on your pinkie finger.
Make no mistake; these cuts will be devastating to millions of people. The elderly will sorely miss their heating oil assistance and some will literally freeze. Prospective students will not be able to obtain college loans and never see the inside of a college classroom. In the bubble that is Washington no one will notice.
This is how Congress works. Eleventh hour deals are the norm. The can gets kicked down the road until the road comes to an abrupt end. Then deals are struck along ideological lines with little understanding of the effects they have on the people they are suppose to serve. Paramount is securing the support of those who hold the keys to re-election. If people get hurt along the way well it’s all for the greater good.
This is a budget resolution that should have been reached last year. It has stymied Congress for months and it has cost millions in waste and abuse. In the end it did nothing to slow down the inevitable economic train wreck that that is fast approaching.
Next up is a vote to raise the debt ceiling. After that a debate on Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget proposal that seeks to privatize Medicare and abolish Medicaid. Given how difficult it was to resolve this little sliver of the deficit one can only imagine how the next few months will play out. The stakes will be much higher.
So who DID win this latest battle? In truth no one did. Certainly not the American people.