Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Are You Powerless to Fight?

The title of this post harkens back to a post two years ago, in which a commenter admonished me for not doing more to bring the Republican Party more in line with my own views about budget policy.

Reading stories like "Democrats Face Limits in Changing Bush's Budget" in yesterday's New York Times makes me wonder whether the anonymous commenter would come back and ask the same question of the Democratic Party's new majorities in Congress. Consider the following:

In theory, the budget presents the Democrats their first real opportunity to rewrite the administration’s policies, especially on tax cuts, that they have been attacking for six years.

But in practice, Democrats know that the only way they can find the revenue to restore the administration’s proposed spending cuts would be to cut back on military spending, delay their stated intentions to balance the budget or rescind the Bush tax cuts in future years. They are not especially eager to do any of these.

The most likely result, even some Democrats acknowledge, will be a limited reshaping of the budget by restoring some proposed cuts in a variety of domestic programs, including children’s health care, Head Start and home heating
assistance for the poor and the elderly.

But few Democrats are expected to look for new revenues by calling for an end to Mr. Bush’s tax cuts, instead of extending them as the president proposed Monday, or to deal with the looming costs of Social Security and Medicare as the postwar generation retires, all of which pose huge budget problems in future years.
This would be sad if true. The Democrats are not constrained in the budget they pass. They could declare the President's budget DoA and write their own from a different template. It wouldn't have to extend the tax cuts. It could redo the defense budget. It could raise taxes to fund all of the social programs they want. They need only have the creativity to write such a budget and the will to defend it.

Since the Democrats can't guarantee 60 votes in the Senate, there will be negotiations before the Congress can pass their budget. Since the Democrats cannot override a veto, there will be further negotiations after they pass it. So what? That's the way the system is supposed to work ... unless the Democrats really do feel they are powerless to fight.


bakho said...

I agree. However, the Democrats would have to be united to do this and they are not.

#1 is they should raise the top rate back to 39% and tie it to the Iraq supplemental. Make it clear that Bush must accept the loss of his tax cuts to pay for his war.

There is a lot of waste in DOD spending. There was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth when Clinton was president, but he only managed to whack about $25 Billion out of DOD. All the "peace dividend came from flatlining DOD and letting it inflate away. To do that now would flatline DOD at over $500 Billion, double the peace dividend.

Health care costs have to be brought under control.

eightnine2718281828mu5 said...

Allowing the Republicans to become the Santa Claus party of high deficits and big tax cuts while Democrats become the party of austerity and hair shirts is not in the Democrats' best interest.

And Grover Norquist was wrong; you can't starve a beast that holds your credit card.

eightnine2718281828mu5 said...

On a more practical note: the democrats finally have a decent megaphone to promote new policy choices, and they need to prepare the public for any major shifts.

In the similar vein, there's a reasonable expectation for a more sympathetic executive in a couple of years, and it might make sense to hold off on any major moves in anticipation of such.

Due to the compression of the primary schedule, the campaign season has been pushed forward by months. We may have a clear idea of the likely candidate by this time next year.

In this environment, it would make sense for the Democratic congress to hold back a bit and allow their nominee to become the face of the party. After the primaries, the candidate's priorities could be rationalized with those of the Democratic congressional leadership.

In the event of a Dem presidential win in 2008 these policies would have a clear mandate, thus increasing their likelihood of becoming law.

Tom said...

The Dems will offer the same amount of taxes but targeted away from the super-rich and towards the middle class. That's why they're constrained. It's not a case that they're just going to take whatever Bush gives them...that dope has set the record for the longest term as a lame duck in the history of the US. No Democrat (and only the rare republican) cares at all what he thinks or says, and none of them got elected to support his tax policy.

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