The Budget Debate Is a Joke

The nondefense discretionary budget compromises a paltry 10 percent of total federal spending.

By + More

In last year’s lameduck session, both parties agreed, via the tax-cut compromise, to rack up a mountain of fresh debt--$337.5 billion in fiscal-year 2011 alone.

Now we’re fretting about how much to cut or freeze the nondefense discretionary budget: a paltry 10 percent of total federal spending. This is what is known in the vernacular as bass-ackwards.

Budget maven Stan Collender tells NPR: “That is the ultimate irony here and the biggest frustration for any of us who watch the budget very closely ... The truth is, though, that they’re talking about cutting a very, very small part from a very small part of the budget.”

Note the emphases on the words “very” and “small.”

Meanwhile, American Enterprise Institute blogger Ryan Streeter finds it “interesting” that a poll of highly-committed, self-identified conservatives showed tepid support for serious entitlement reform:

That was pretty revealing. Social Security and Medicare will drive our long-term structural deficits and crush our economy along the way. But even though the issue is getting some play in the media, it doesn’t seem to be getting through to the grassroots.

Such data should not be “revealing” to anyone who has paid the slightest attention to politics over the last 30 years, least of all to the conservative intelligentsia in Washington.

Shortly after the midterm elections, in a panel on Fox News Channel, National Review editor Rich Lowry said all talk of conservatives’ unseriousness about reining in spending would end as soon as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan “put pen to paper.”

Well, I’m here to keep up the chatter.

This is a joke.

An utterly predictable joke.

  • Check out this month's best political cartoons.
  • Become a political insider: Subscribe to U.S. News Weekly, our digital magazine.
  • Listen to Alice Rivlin's podcast on leadership and the federal deficit.