The budget talks — a real mess

It’s a real mess — the budget negotiations here in Washington.

On Friday, once again, we face the possibility that the entire federal government shuts down if an agreement is not reached until then. Without a budget deal, Congress is unlikely to vote for a new temporary increase of the debt ceiling to keep the government running. Everyone says they want a settlement and avoid a shutdown, but there is still no deal.

President Obama has not said much publicly on this issue for a long time, staying in the background, strangely passive. We should have learned this by now – judging from the healthcare reform and tax deal – that this is his style. Let Congress negotiate and then step in at the last minute and reach a settlement. This seems to be, again, the White House strategy. The question is whether it will successful this time and it worries many — Washington Post
columnist E.J. Dionne today urged Obama to step up and take the lead.

Suddenly today, the White House announced that the President has invited the Congressional leadership for talks tomorrow on the budget. The question is if it is now too late to avoid a shutdown.

The political parties have so far been unable to reach a deal – they cannot even agree within themselves,  particularly within the Republican majority in the House with its 87 new members, most of them Tea Party-members/sympathizers, who just want to cut and cut in the budget. First 100 billion dollars, then 61 billion, and now, maybe, a compromise bid of 33 billion dollars. It’s not easy for Republican Speaker John Boehner to reach a deal when he cannot count on keeping all his republicans together.

This brinkmanship must come to an end, wrote the WashingtonPost today.

Let us also remind ourselves that this fight is about this year’s budget. Congress has not even begun to discuss the budget for next fiscal year, starting on October 1.  Those discussions are
expected to last well into 2012, an election year, and we all know what that can mean.

Amidst all this, Paul Ryan, chairman of House budget committee, tomorrow presents his draft budget reported to include 4 trillion dollars in cuts over the next ten years. A blow against the middle class, say the Democrats.

The latest figures show a steady improvement in U.S. economy – 216,000 new jobs in March, with continued reduction in unemployment to 8.8 percent, compared with the peak of over 10 percent at the end of 2009. Failure to reach a budget deal could jeopardize this still fragile economic recovery.  That’s what makes this so urgent and important.

Yes, it’s a real mess.

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