When No Deal Is The Deal
Representative Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray have been leading an effort to find a “deal”. The scope of the deal would include some relief for the sequester and also set spending limits for the next two years. The objective is to avoid another government shutdown or default on the debt. Sounds sensible if not heroic, but the substance falls quite short.
Prima facia, the country’s tax code is so convoluted it should be against the law. Entitlement, especially Medicare and Medicaid are woefully underfunded and should constitute fiscal mismanagement to be allowed to continue as is. A pinch here or a pinch there on the over all budget without dealing with these two big problems won’t have much impact upon the growth of the debt.
These two elements (tax reform and entitlements) constitute the heart of a political impasse. Without tax reforms (leading to more tax revenue) Democrats will not support any other changes, especially to entitlements. Without cuts in entitlements, Republicans won’t budge on any changes in the budget, and as an article of faith, no new taxes will be considered.
The Obama-Boehner “grand bargain” which included tax reform and entitlement cuts, seemed so obvious. Washington, today, is deafly silent about that possibility. While it remains an option, it certainly is not one for an election year.
The Murray-Ryan deal is the equivalent of “no deal” even if it can be struck. Nothing happens versus the systemic problems facing a slow growing nation. At a time when decisive handling of the nation’s infrastructure could prepare the US for global competition in the 21st century, there is no budget room and sadly, no will to deal with the future. Just as disturbing is the blind eye both parties are showing towards healthcare. While the Affordable Care Act promises to reduce the inequality of healthcare delivery and may slow the growth of future healthcare costs, it still leaves the US far short of more than two dozen other modern countries in cost and quality of care. Not dealing with healthcare also leaves in place the festering sores called Medicare and Medicaid.
If Representative Ryan and Senator Murray cannot lead us to a tiny deal, how can we expect our elected representatives to deal with real game changers?