Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Funny Definition Of Victory, Part 2

The last time the government shut down, the time Newt Gingrich did it, I actually worked for the federal government at a national recreation area. That was interesting, to say the least.

Government shutdowns suck on a lot of levels, though one thing they do accomplish is make people aware of all the things our government does, things which should be obvious but which people are ridiculously oblivious to nonetheless. I’m thinking of the lady I saw on the news who was shocked to discover that the national Civil War battlefield she planned to visit today would be closed if a deal couldn’t be reached.

I mean, duh. But that attitude is extremely common. I remember way back when telling my dad I was off work and he's like "Why?" And I'm like, "The government shut down, you know ..." and he kept saying, "you're affected by that? Really? YOU? I had no idea!"

Le sigh. So, government shutdowns can be a teachable moment for a lot of mainstream Americans who take government for granted.

That said, I was not like Mike Pence leading the Teanutties in a chant of “Shut it down!” No, as I said, government shutdowns suck on a lot of levels, trust me, I know. They are a failure of our politics and a failure of democracy. If our government is forced to shut down over something like a budget impasse, it does not speak very highly of our system or our leaders.

So I’m glad we have a reprieve. But for crying out loud, please let’s not call this last-minute deal a victory. This is a tragedy, and it should be stated as such. Because I’m sorry, I just don’t see these things as wins:
1) $17 BILLION IN CHIMPS -- WE SPREAD OUT THE CUTS ACROSS OTHER PARTS OF THE BUDGET. We insisted that meeting in the middle on cuts would require looking beyond domestic discretionary spending—and we prevailed. More than half—or $17 billion—of the final round of spending cuts came from changes in mandatory programs, or CHIMPs. The emphasis on this part of the budget staved off severe cuts to key domestic programs like education, clean energy, and medical research.

2.) $3B IN PENTAGON SAVINGS -- WE PROVED DoD WASTE SHOULD NOT BE SPARED. We won the argument that waste at the Pentagon should not be immune from spending cuts. The final agreement eliminates nearly $3 billion in unnecessary Pentagon spending that was contained in H.R. 1. These reductions are supported by Secretary Gates.

3) TITLE X PRESERVED -- WE FOUGHT OFF ATTACKS ON WOMEN’S HEALTH. We fended off their highest priority among the riders by nixing their proposal to gut Title X funds that provide cancer screenings and other preventative health services for women. The Republicans’ overreach on this rider in the final days dramatically weakened their hand.

Yes, well, my uterus thanks you. But I’m sorry ... $3 billion in Pentagon waste while cutting $17 billion in Social Security and Medicare spending? That’s, what, basically that one redundant fighter jet engine that was already axed? I mean, really? That’s all the waste you can find at the Pentagon? Are they still giving $50 million to NASCAR? Just wondering.

I bring this up because last week David Sirota noted that the one-week continuing resolution would set our bloated Pentagon budget for the year, while leaving the rest of the budget open to negotiation. This means the burden of all that deficit-reducing everyone is yammering about will be borne by social programs. Or, as Sirota wrote: even larger and more disproportionate amount of budget cuts will be focused almost exclusively on the relatively small portion of the discretionary budget that funds social programs.

Because there’s always money for war.

This is how Democrats cut deals with Republicans, and even worse they are trying to sell this to us as a win. And don’t give me that crap about fighting for women’s health when the deal that was struck banned locally-funded abortions in D.C. I guess some uteruses are more equal than others.

No, nothing pisses me off more than when Democrats try to sell me a shit sandwich. This happened last summer when the FMAP extension was passed by cutting food stamp benefits.

This shit happens all the time. The Claims Resolution Act of 2010 -- the settlement to 75,000 black farmers discriminated again in the case known as Pigford II -- was paid for in part with cuts to WIC funding.

Democrats need to realize that robbing Peter to pay Paul is not a “win” for liberals. And some of us actually are paying attention to this stuff.

So am I glad the government has not shut down (yet)? Hell yeah. But am I pissed the Pentagon budget got trimmed by a measley $3 billion and is now off-limits? You betcha.

When polls show Americans a) vastly underestimate how much we spend on defense, and b) support cutting the defense budget anyway, one has to wonder what the hell the Democrats in Washington are thinking. Maybe they’re too scared of looking “weak on defense” and like “cheese eating surrender monkeys” and like they “don’t support the troops” and all the other mean stuff the right will say about them. But guess what: they say that shit anyway!

So I guess we’ll just keep on being asked to accept winning these small battles while losing war after war, over and over again, until the end of time. I guess we’re supposed to be happy with that.

I dunno, doesn’t sound like a win to me.