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.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.
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.
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.