How You (Yes, You) Won the Budget Wars

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 12 2013 9:50 AM

How You (Yes, You) Won the Budget Wars

My latest piece, reported on the Hill this week, explains how Congress decided that punting on everything budget-related was a virtue; that there was no point in another showdown with high stakes meant to force a "grand bargain." It's largely the story of the deficit shrinking, Democrats denying Republicans any shot at entitlement reform, and Republicans—who would never admit this—realizing they needed to stop looking like the antagonists who were ready to inflict massive casualties to force through spending cuts. It is a massive victory for Democrats, who took Social Security and Medicare cuts out of the conversation after two years of "Washington" insisting that they needed to happen.

And it's also the funeral of Fix the Debt. No one's taking selfies at this bash. Fix the Debt, the iconic "just use this current panic to cut entitlements" pressure group, spent at least $43 million to influence the conversation. Its reward: bupkis. Shortly after the budget deal's parameters were known, Fix the Debt issued one of its standard five-paragraph press statements full of repetitive rhetoric.

To be clear, this deal falls well short of what is needed to deal with the nation’s fiscal challenges. It will have only a marginal impact on the debt and it does not tackle the difficult choices we will have to make. It does not address the growth of entitlement spending, provide for tax reform, or help target government spending away from consumption towards more productive investments. It does not even put in place any further steps to help deal with these challenges in a timely manner.
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Four more grafs of that. If liberals want to thank anyone for the stasis that killed debt mania, they should thank the conservatives who held out on a 2011 bargain and the consultant class that did basically nothing with all the money provided by debt-hawk business interests.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.