By Julianne Malveaux
Congress must approve a budget by October 1, or our government will shut down. That means that people will not be paid and technically, government departments will cease to operate. Social Security payments, veterans’ benefits, and more will cease to be paid. Literally, government will shut down.
Whenever we get to this brinkmanship, Congress approves a continuing resolution that provides temporary funding at current levels, or enforces an across the board reduction of a certain percent. Sometimes the cuts are established so that the military takes smaller cuts than other departments. The bottom line is that lawmakers figure out how to apply a Band-Aid to a hemorrhaging leg. The bad news is that the problem does not go away. The good news is that it keeps us going for a few minutes.
Why are House Republicans so determined to have a budget showdown? Part of it is their determination to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood. They refuse to understand that, in addition to providing abortion service, Planned Parenthood provides basic women’s health services, including gynecological examinations. They are providing these health services in areas where they are not available.
Abortions represent just a fraction of what they offer. But, based on a set of bogus videos, some Republicans are using those videos to posture about abortion. Somebody needs to speak up for Planned Parenthood, but unless they do, this is going to be a rook on the shutdown chessboard.
Then there is the issue, always, about budget cuts and the difference between domestic spending and military spending. In order to accept the Obama budget, Congress will have to lift the debt ceiling. They don’t want to. The Republican rap is we need more fiscal discipline. Many of these folks will take to the floor of Congress or of the Senate to rail about irresponsible spending. Their drama impedes the October 1 deadline, and they know it.
This is an opportunity for many Republicans who are presidential candidates (Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, and Ben Carson to name a few) to show their stuff. They want to stand out from their opponents, as well as from this administration. They hope like hell that C-SPAN or some other media is there to capture their vapid remarks. They pray that their passionate nonsense will make the evening news. If they have the slightest bit of sense, they will help pass this budget. Perhaps, after they’ve blown off enough steam, they will.
The discussion about the debt ceiling and the division between domestic and military spending is a recurrent one. Some members of both Congress and the Senate have mixed feelings around the deal that our country has cut with Iran. We have limited Iran’s ability to manufacture nuclear weapons, and we have imposed some checks and balances to keep them to their word. How do you cut a deal with the devil? Can we really trust Iraq? For the longest time I have had mixed feeling about the deal, mostly because I really think that part of the deal should be to release American citizens, like the Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who are being held in Iraq. After much contemplation, I am persuaded that the Iran deal is better than anything we’ve had until now. We’re going to deal with a free-lance devil, or a devil with a contract. We can’t verify a thing with the freelance devil. We have significant, though not perfect, limits to Iran’s arms accumulation, so we’ve cut a deal with the devil with a contract. That’s not perfect but it is better than nothing. Would we prefer the Donald Trump nonsense of “I can negotiate with anyone? Somebody would negotiate his comedic idiocy out of the room.
It is almost impossible that Congress will pass the twelve bills that are part of our budget. Give that, the next best choice is to maintain the status quo, or impose a percentage cut until a budget deal is cut. Planned Parenthood and Iran should not even be part of the conversation.
The deadline, however, has seemed to collide with the drama. There are folks who understand that the budget, or some version of it, needs to be approved by October 1. They just don’t plan to sacrifice their dramatic moment by doing the right thing. Will government shut down? Only if these presidential postures decide that their drama trumps an important deadline.
Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based author and economist. She can be reached at www.juliannemalveaux.com.