Thank you to all of the CG&G readers who were concerned enough about my disappearing act the past three weeks to check up on me. To asnwer some of the comments...No, I wasn't in an accident. Yes, my health is great. No, I wasn't in a witness protection program.
Thanks for asking...really...It was, and is, much appreciated.
This was the longest I've been away from CG&G since it began close to six years ago. I had to get away: I had become so angry about the federal budget situation that the few posts I tried to write were somewhere between a rant and a screed.
Thanks to lots of exercise (down three pounds) and several long walks with my Beautiful and Talented Wife (The BTW) and Gracie the Wonderdog, I've worked my way through this fiscal mid-life crisis and am now back on the case.
That's not to say I'm not still angry, however. After all, how can you not be?
Sunday, May 19, 2013, was one of the saddest and most notorious moments in the sordid history of the federal budget.
Let's start from the beginning.
It's December 2012 and House Republicans are facing a number of politically very difficult and unpalatable choices because taxes will go up automatically on January 1, the sequester will go into effect on January 2 and the by-now- commonplace-but-still-called "extraordinary" measures the Treasury has been using for several months to deal with the problems caused by not raising the debt ceiling are about to be exhausted.
The tax problem was dealt with by agreeing to a smaller increase than was set to happen under current law and then blaming the White House for it. The sequester was postponed until March 1 when both the GOP and the administration thought that the threat of cuts to domestic and military programs, respectively, would cause the other to back down.
But it was the unique and disgraceful way the debt ceiling was handled that deserves the scorn.
There was a time when a $200+ billion reduction in the federal budget deficit would have been big news and hailed as a singular achievement worthy of either fiscal sainthood or a dance-on-the-table party...or both.
Yet yesterday's Congressional Budget Office report showing that the fiscal 2013 federal deficit will be $642 billion, $203 billion less than CBO's previous estimate of $845 billion, did not create any spontaneous cannonizations or celebrations. It also didn't change the still-stalemated and crisis-oriented federal budget debate by even a small amount.
The bottomline: It's in almost no one's interest to be happy about the budget news that should have made everyone happier.
What do you call the effort that will be made in the House of Representatives this week to pass a budget-related bill that will never be enacted, won't work as promised even if it somehow does get signed into law and uses the legislative process for purely political purposes?
"Typical" may be the most common answers. My suggestion? That tried-and-true federal budget phrase so often used to complain about federal spending: "Waste, fraud and abuse."
The legislation is the Full Faith and Credit Act, a bill that supposedly would make payments to federal bond holders the priority if the federal debt ceiling isn't raised and the government doesn't have enough cash to pay all its bills when they come due. The legislation would allow the Treasury to borrow more than allowed by the statutory debt ceiling to make these payments.