The Budget Deal

Well, that was anti-climatic.

After staring with baited breath at my Twitter feed for hours, I leanred just before midnight, just like the rest of us, that Congress had made a deal to pass a temporary stop-gap to keep the government open and would work on a spending plan that would cut $38 billion from the budget for the rest of the current fiscal year. Where those cuts come from, of course, hasn't been hammered out.

There's a great chance, of course, that the cuts will hit the country's poorest the hardest. We could probably cut the entire $38 billion from various programs military officials no longer want but Congress continues to make them participate in. Instead we will, for example, restrict funding on abortion services in District of Columbia, a largely Democratic city over which the vast majority of abortion opponents in the middle states should have no say. And any programs like food stamps on which people depend weekly will likely see cuts immediately.

You could argue that this is less bad than shutting down the government as the fight rages on, and there I'd probably have to agree. The larger problem is about what this does to faith in the Democratic party as the party of progressives. Rep. Anthony Weiner tweeted last night “Our fights can’t be just to stop their horrible ideas. Don’t we need to have our own agenda?”

As Greg Sargent points out these battles are happening more and more on conservative turf. That's what happens when you cede so much ground from the start. Progressives wanted a robust budget from Obama that did not cut spending on important domestic programs, and they got the opposite. I went to a background meeting a few months ago during with a Treasury official said the idea behind that budget was to decrease pressure to cut spending on necessary, stimulative programs right now. That didn't happen. Obama has always tried to walk a line down the middle, and I've rarely seen it work.