Sunday, April 20, 2014

In our opinion: Compromise at last

Deseret News editorial

Published: Sun, Dec. 15 12:00 a.m. MST

 The U.S. Capitol is seen under an overcast sky at dawn, Monday, Oct. 7, 2013, in Washington.

The U.S. Capitol is seen under an overcast sky at dawn, Monday, Oct. 7, 2013, in Washington.

(J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press)

Compromises are, by their nature, unsatisfying. Neither side gets what it wants, but both agree that moving forward meets their needs better than standing firm on raw principle.

So it is with the budget deal worked out last week between House Budget Committee Chairman (and former vice presidential candidate) Paul Ryan, a Republican, and Washington Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat. The deal does not alter nor reform Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare, three entitlements that combine to make up 60 percent of the budget and are on a runaway trajectory. It also doesn’t extend emergency federal unemployment benefits, nor does it increase taxes. The only new revenue is a jump in aviation security fees that amounts to about 60 cents per airplane ticket.

It does erase many of the automatic spending cuts, or sequestration, which went into effect earlier this year when Republicans and Democrats were unable to draft a compromise. And, overall, it does reduce the federal deficit by $23 billion over 10 years which, given the size of federal overspending, will require a microscope to detect.

But, most importantly, the compromise does two things. It begins to bring a sense of calm and predictability to markets that have been jittery in recent years as Washington went from one crisis to the other.

Also, it demonstrates that Republicans and Democrats are capable of working together, even if the result is just a small step in the right direction. Congress faces other difficult, but important, issues demanding compromise, such as immigration reform and farm legislation dealing with food stamps and agricultural subsidies.

Perhaps only small steps can be made on these issues, as well, but the more lawmakers become involved in negotiations, the more they are bound to see avenues for common ground and progress.

Eventually, that could result in progress toward tax and entitlement reforms, issues that must be resolved in order for the nation to reverse a trajectory leading to insolvency, or worse.

The compromise also signals that the more extreme elements of the political realm are being pushed aside in favor of cooperation. This became evident when House Speaker John A. Boehner said conservative groups who oppose the deal have “lost all credibility.” Party leaders clearly feel they no longer have to fear such groups politically.

The budget compromise means the government won’t face the threat of a further shutdown — similar to the one in October — for the next two years. That is, it won’t face a shutdown due to a failure to pass a budget. It may, however, face a shutdown or crisis of some sort early next year as payments on borrowed funds once again hit the so-called debt ceiling. But again, the budget compromise provides a glimmer of hope that other crises may be avoided, as well.

To be clear, we are not entirely satisfied by the budget deal. It doesn’t attempt to tackle the nation’s most important long-term fiscal challenges, dealing with entitlements and taxes. It cuts little from discretionary funds and in fact increases non-defense discretionary spending by 4.7 percent. It leaves in place the Affordable Care Act, a new costly program that has injected an additional layer of uncertainty into private markets.

But it appears to be the best that can be done, given political realities. American voters put Republicans in control of the House and Democrats in control of the Senate. A polarized political atmosphere pushed those two sides apart.

This compromise doesn’t erase those realities, nor should it. However, it does signal that the private sector can begin to rely a bit more on cooler heads in Washington choosing small steps forward rather than drastic steps on side roads with only an extreme political base in mind.

1. JoeBlow
Far East USA, SC,
Dec. 15, 2013

"The deal does not alter nor reform Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare, three entitlements that combine to make up 60 percent of the budget and are on a runaway trajectory. "

Until we address these 3 things, everything else is window dressing. Defense should also be in the mix because of its huge budget footprint.

SS is the easiest, but as the years go by, it gets more painful to fix.

Medicare and Medicaid are tied to health care costs. As the population ages, these 2 areas will rule the deficit.

So, I suggest that when anyone brings up the costs of foreign aid, Solyndra, Air Force one,
Obama's golf, food stamps or unemployment point them strait back to the big 4 above.

Our politicians would rather talk about the spending of pennies rather than the where the big $$ go. And we blindly follow their lead.

Let me say again. If the deficit discussion is not about SS, Defense, Medicare and Medicaid, it is ignoring the problem. Period!

2. New to Utah
Dec. 15, 2013

This is a measured accurate evaluation of where our nation's government sits. We could argue forever about the legitimacy of the 2012 presidential election but the reality is Obama
is president. The completely partisan Obamacare passage and rollout failure may suggest a major
shift in governance after the 2014 mid term elections. If the election were held today it is likely Democrats would lose the senate and even more seats in the house but its nearly a year away and much can change.

3. Mike Richards
South Jordan, Utah,
Dec. 15, 2013

I'm mystified with the Deseret News editorial. Will removing the automatic cuts stop our financial ruin? Did someone happen upon an extra $17,000,000,000,000 that was just laying around Washington? We still have to borrow more than $1,500,000,000,000 PER YEAR just to fund the run-away programs coming out of Washington. Add to that the huge TAX increase that every family in America will be paying in the form of increased health-care insurance, and what, exactly does the Deseret News cheer about? What person working in the financial market will sleep better at night, knowing that now, more than ever, his government is racing towards insolvency?

Our money has lost it's buying power. Look at oil prices. Oil reflects the true value of the dollar much more accurately than any other measure. When oil prices go up, it shows that the value of the dollar has decreased.

There is nothing to cheer about. There will be NO 10-year spending decrease. Does the Desert News think we're all dupes who can't read history?

The "budget" is a total failure. A supposedly sane Congress is acting as though it were insane.

4. Tyler D
Meridian, ID,
Dec. 15, 2013

As the article points out this deal is incredibly minor in scope, but its virtue is primarily in providing some degree of certainty (that Washington is not completely insane – e.g., will default) to the markets.

More & more economists’ are becoming conceived that the primary reason for our slow growth out of this recession (and the reason corporations are hoarding cash) is our political dysfunction and the unprecedented uncertainty it has injected into our economy.

Among the far-right conservatives who voted against this deal (including my own congressman), I suspect the more intelligent ones (admittedly tough to figure out these days) know this, which simply is further evidence that these folks are putting party (or Obama hatred or both) ahead of the country.

For the sake of our economy and country I hope people begin to wake up and in 2014 start sending these arrogant children home (clearly they need more schooling) and return the pragmatic grownups to congress.

5. Humbly Yours
Camas, WA,
Dec. 15, 2013

Who remembers the picture of a single, seemingly insignificant individual standing in front of a row of tanks during the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989? It's an unforgettable and enduring image from world news. Why?

The image stirs great emotion. The video replay: even more. When the first tank changes course to go around him, the brave young man steps to the side and again in front, saying in essence - "You must kill me to move passed me."

This image should be a metaphor to the Deseret News, to American citizens and to ALL about how each of us, as individuals, should feel about compromising principle in the face of great opposition.

Let us stand on principle, even if we stand alone, and no matter the result.

We are too results driven. We make decisions on "how we hope things will turn out." I argue that God would have us let HIM worry about all of that, and asks that we simply do the right thing, no matter the tanks, the dire results, the grave consequences. In the end, we'll have been bravely standing where we should've been - next to principle, beside truth and with God.