A Good Summary

For your Sunday reading, I’m going to suggest you read David Dayen about the debt ceiling (boldface mine):

With one potentially major exception, the relative harm and help was kept to a minimum in the final agreement. It will only be a little bit easier to commit wage theft, or to sell defective or poisoned products. It’ll only be a little harder to get rental assistance or tuition support. Only a few people will be freer to pollute the environment; only a few will find it more difficult to get food. The Internal Revenue Service will only be a little worse. A lot of things will stay the same. Almost nothing will get any better

Imagine a world where we were a normal country with no debt ceiling, but everything else was exactly the same. Thanks to gerrymandering and the malpractice of the New York Democratic Party, Republicans still have the House, and the budget for the current fiscal year still expires on September 30. Republicans and Democrats would still have to negotiate that budget, and one likely outcome of that would be that negotiations fall apart, that there’s just no way to reconcile what both sides want. In that case, either the government shuts down or a continuing resolution is struck, which means that the government would operate at the current funding levels for a period of time. Maybe we’d live under a CR for the entire two years of this Congress.

That’s approximately what happened in this agreement. The funding levels for fiscal year 2024 on the non-defense discretionary side are at FY2023 levels. House Republicans are saying they clawed things back to FY2022, but a number of funding shifts—most prominently the return of tens of billions of dollars in unspent COVID aid—backfill the non-defense discretionary budget to get it to around FY2023.

What this deal really does is hurt the government’s capacity. Clean air and water, consumer product safety, labor laws, public lands, agricultural conservation—most of the stuff we think of as “the government” will be hit by this. “’Flat spending’ implies a further reduction in real government funding per person after a decade of Obama-Boehner austerity, followed by Trump’s assaults on the administrative state,” wrote Jeff Hauser of the Revolving Door Project.

If we lose funding for second generation COVID vaccine development, that will be penny wise and pound foolish, especially in light of recent studies about the prevalence of long COVID–and work requirements for single, middle aged people who need SNAP hits the group most likely to get COVID the hardest.

I also have some thoughts about this on the horrible Twitter machine.

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2 Responses to A Good Summary

  1. John says:

    So we got something worse than a clean debt-limit increase?

    Primary the Green Lantern (Was that its name?) — under the radar, please.

  2. Pingback: In Case You Missed It… | Mike the Mad Biologist

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