The Washington Budget Process Is the Definition of Insanity

Punxsutawney Phil says winter will end soon. The same can’t be said for the Capitol's budget posturing.

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Well, spring is coming early this year, according to Punxsutawney Phil. The cute little guy didn’t see his shadow this morning, so our long national nightmare will soon come to an end.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the budget posturing on Capitol Hill. In the movie version of Groundhog Day, Bill Murray woke up each day and made slow, gradual improvements to his life, changing his behavior and outlook and, eventually, building an entirely different future.

Here, inside the Beltway, we get a new day, every day, without any changed behavior. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results, it’s not mere metaphor to call our budget process insane.

In a universe of trillion-dollar and up budget deficits, House Republicans are taking aim at the monstrosity with a pea shooter. The bloated defense budget? Off limits! Entitlement programs? That sounds scary. No, the Republicans are going to take aim around the edges of “non-security” domestic spending.

And then we have earmarks. Now, Democrats are joining Republicans to unite in a fight against earmarks . This will address just under 1 percent of the federal budget.

We won’t raise taxes though. Working to increase revenue would be a terrible thing, particularly when there’s another election just 21 months from now. I mean, yes, there’s always another election just two years away, but still…taxes? Come on.

[Read more about the deficit and national debt.]

And so, in the midst of all the discussions about the evil of budget deficits, we won’t raise revenues, and we will pretend to cut costs without really cutting any. And then we’ll hold more elections with each side blaming the other for the debt.

As Ruth Marcus notes in today’s Washington Post, here is how Jerry Brown (yes, the supposedly crunchy liberal unrealistic Jerry Brown) began his inaugural address in California:

California faces a crisis that is real and unprecedented. Although our state's economy has started to recover, we will not create the jobs we need unless we get our financial house in order. . . .

Kicking the can down the road . . . is simply out of the question. If you are a Democrat who doesn't want to make budget reductions in programs you fought for and deeply believe in, I understand that. If you are a Republican who has taken a stand against taxes, I understand where you are coming from. But things are different this time.

Ah, things are different this time. Not so in Washington D.C. on Groundhog Day.