Congress is in recess and there is a chill in the air both literally and figuratively. Hopefully, the members will take advantage of the time away from the madness and return with some constructive ideas on how to gel a budget agreement. The House and Senate passed vastly different plans, and they need to work out a final deal for the sake of the country's economy.
While the Democrats may have celebrated passing their first budget in four years, Senator Patty Murray's, D-Wash., plan is the budget to nowhere. The $100 billion in stimulus money, $1 trillion in additional tax increases and the absence of entitlement reform does absolutely nothing to address the growing budget deficits or slow down federal government spending. Senator Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senator Murray could not even garner the unanimous support of the members in their own party, with four senate Democrats from red states voting against her plan.
Let's face it: the reason the Democrats avoided a budget for four years is that when Americans see their spending priorities, it makes the politics tougher for vulnerable Democrats.
On the other side, Congressman Paul Ryan's plan focuses on slowing down federal government spending with the goal of balancing the budget in ten years. His plan pushes for significant entitlement reform and the repeal of Obamacare, which is a worthy but monumental task to undertake.
A recent poll released by The Hill.com stated that 55 percent of likely Americans voters preferred a plan that cut federal spending without raising taxes and balanced the budget in 10 years. However, in a separate Gallup poll, 88 percent of Americans believe that the President needs to take major steps to ensure the long term stability of Social Security and Medicare. In other words, they do not want their Medicare or Social Security benefits touched. Despite the fact that mandatory spending is eating away at a larger and larger percent of the federal budget, entitlement reform has been a hard sell for the American people, which makes these budget negotiations even tougher to resolve.
We are all waiting for the release of President Obama's budget, which will likely reflect much of the same: no real path to balance the budget, more federal spending, more taxes and stimulus money, which is highly predictable, boring and unhelpful.
Continued crisis management in Washington and procrastination in tackling problems with long term solutions will only lead to greater uncertainty. A Fox News poll released last week stated that 60 percent of Americans still feel nervous about the economy. Businesses continue to remain on the sidelines, and the economy is sluggish at best. Add to the equation Obamacare, which is giving businesses heartburn because it will make them less willing to hire more employees and require them to pay higher costs.
What we do know is that the status quo is unacceptable, and President Obama will need more than just his charm to develop a workable budget solution that both parties can support. Otherwise, Americans will find themselves bracing for a cruel summer, and the President risking lower approval ratings will give the Republicans an opening in the 2014 elections.