The Budget Showdown: 'Lord of the Flies' Redux?

by: Charles Payne

It shouldn't be the case, but what's happening today in Washington is a deeply complicated maze that intertwines politics-as-usual with fresh thinking, cowardice, and simple stupidity. I'm talking the inability to hammer together a late budget because Democrats and Republicans are $7.0 billion apart. One side says it is okay with $33.0 billion in cuts, the other is taking the bold approach of $40.0 billion in cuts.

Yikes! We are talking about a drop in the bucket in a $3.8 trillion budget. Let's not forget how often we were reminded on the campaign trail the system was supposedly littered with waste, fraud, and abuse. Of course, the President was supposed to go through the budget and tax code "line by line," and that never really happened, either.

I have a beef with both sides of the aisle. It's so interesting that the more politicians watch and tilt at poll numbers, the more beholden they become to those poll numbers. The old guard on both sides has already been sucked into that vortex, but thus far those freshmen "Tea Party" candidates are holding the line, much to the chagrin of powerful elites from New York, D.C., and Hollywood.

But how much longer can the Tea Party guys hold out with their poll numbers diving? The political pendulum seems to swing back and forth at the speed of light these days. But these freshmen knew the deal and seem okay coming in ... in fact, I got the impression they would consider it a badge of honor to stick to common sense and tough choices rather than pander to pollsters and media.

On that note, the Tea Party folks were put in an odd jam yesterday when the House passed another continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government moving for a week. The measure passed the House 247-181, but six diehard Tea Partiers voted against the same bill President Obama has said he would veto.

Strange bedfellows? There aren't many things that Michelle Bachmann and Obama agree upon, but it seems extending the budget to keep the government going for another week is one of them. Of course they oppose the bill for different reasons. Ironically, 16 Democrats voted for the measure, which would also cut $12.0 billion from the budget. I normally would be against the bill, too, but adding in funding for the troops for the rest of the year is commendable.

Hearing people who hate the U.S. military and U.S. power chime in about those poor soldiers is disgusting and disingenuous, yet they finally have a point. I want to see soldiers get paid, but draw the line there only because everyone could get paid and then some, if there ever was a dedicated attempt to remove waste, fraud, and abuse. Spending is out of control, and the federal government is bloated. Every job is not essential and, in fact, we could discover just how non-essential many jobs are. Since September 2008, local governments have lost 416,000 jobs, and while it's painful, most of these governments continue to function.

The White House loves to point to corporate America's success, yet doesn't acknowledge how swiftly businesses moved into survival mode. "Survival mode" is a euphemism for letting people go.

I get how complicated the gamesmanship can be and I understand why some want to cut to the chase, but I thought the $12.0 billion CR was a great way to lob this grenade back to the Executive Branch. I'm reminded of Lord of the Flies, where a group of British schoolboys stranded on an island descended and surrendered to the worst traits lurking in our beings. With their schoolmaster they worked as a unit; without there were power grabs, intimidation, and war.

I wonder when the White House is going to step in to take command and responsibility for the budget. It is one thing to try to stay above the fray in the hopes of not getting hit with shrapnel while avoiding tough decisions (tough for them, not me), but how about really stepping in to bring order? It's all about the blame game for now; later it could be about the slaughter.

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