The Budget Compromise

(How to Blink with Both Eyes Wide Open)

Republican leaders have reached an agreement with President Clinton so who blinked? They all did — with their eyes wide open. It was an exercise in Washington doublespeak at its best. It did accomplish something — solved a public relations snafu. The rhetoric had reached a point where both sides had painted themselves into their respective corners and there was no room to compromise or back down gracefully.

At one end of Pennsylvania Avenue Republican leaders were insisting that they won, pointing out that the agreement is to a “Seven-Year Balanced Budget.” At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue the story was quite different. Mr. Clinton said that he wasn’t concerned about the seven years because if Congress passes a budget that forces “unacceptable cuts” in the programs that he deems important, he simply won’t sign it. “Nothing is binding unless everything is binding,” said the President.

You’ve heard the expression the devil is in the details. This devil is in the definitions — the definitions of consultation, protect, ensure, reform, solvency, adequate, help and stimulate. The agreements says that both sides have a commitment to a seven year budget that must:
∙ Protect future generations (From Clinton’s perspective the government must be empowered to handled everything.)
∙ Ensure Medicare solvency (How long? The Clinton plan just put off the train wreck for a couple of years.)
∙ Reform welfare (From the Clinton prospective, based on his latest Office of Management and Budget study, that means no reduction in the current level of spending on our present programs, and more money for a host of new ones.)
∙ Provide adequate funding for Medicaid (Adequate to conservatives means enough to cover the deserving poor and those with catastrophic illnesses – – to liberals it’s anyone with a hand out.)
∙ Adequate funding for education and the environment. (These are Clinton’s pet projects, and represent two of the biggest areas of waste and abuse by the federal government. Many programs in this area should be cut. This is a prescription for expansion.)
∙ Adopt tax policies to help working families and to stimulate future economic growth. (I rest my case.)

The last portion of the agreement stipulates that the estimates are to be provided by the Congressional Budget Office following a consultation with Clinton’s Office of Management and Budget and other government and private experts. The Republicans won that point since “consultation” can mean anything they want it to mean. However, when you consider all the other items in this agreement I think you can understand why Mr. Clinton is confident that the new CBO projections will show that Congress can’t possibly meet it’s seven year deadline, with the projected tax cuts, and maintain Clinton’s programs.

From where I sit Mr. Clinton is off the hook and Congressional leaders may be looking for a way to wiggle away from some of the goals set forth in the Contract with America.

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