Lest anyone think I have fallen madly in love with the budget deal the President just hammered out with Congress (aka, the Continuing Resolution or CR), I’m not. I think the President did a fine job getting as much as he could without having to give too much up, for sure. But there’s still some pretty egregious stuff in there. Here are a few that really raised my eyebrows.
Take the so-called “free choice vouchers”. These were supported by Senator Ron Wyden and would have allowed some employees to “opt out” of their employer-sponsored plans and choose their own coverage. As the New York Times points out, this one made for some rather odd bedfellows:
Supporters said the vouchers would give employees more options and spur competition in the marketplace. Critics contended that younger, healthier employees would leave the plans and make insurance costlier for older, less healthy workers.
The American Benefits Council — a group that represents employers and insurers and spent nearly $1 million on federal lobbying last year — wrote its members that the Wyden proposal would have a “destabilizing” impact on employer insurance plans. The A.F.L.-C.I.O., which employs a formidable Washington lobbying force, warned that the proposal would create a “death spiral” of higher costs.
I don’t feel particularly strongly about this element one way or the other. I can see good arguments for and against it. What gripes my cookies is that the Congressional Budget Office said that the free choice voucher system “had no short-term impact on federal spending and could actually save money over the next four years.”
So, tell me again why this was even in the CR?
Or how about the so-called “czars”? In their summary of the bill (pdf), House Republicans crow about how “the legislation also eliminates four Administration ‘Czars,’ including the ‘Health Care Czar,’ the ‘Climate Change Czar,’ the ‘Car Czar,’ and the ‘Urban Affairs Czar.'” Okay, I get it. You hate “czars”. But exactly how much money was saved by eliminating four Presidential adviser positions? What are we talking here, maybe a million bucks at the most? Actually not. Why? Because three of those four positions had ALREADY BEEN ELIMINATED!!!
The language in the short-term budget agreement seeks to put four of President Barack Obama’s policy czars out of jobs — those appointed to assist the president on health care, climate change, autos and manufacturing, and urban affairs.
The catch: At least three of those four czars have already moved out of the czar jobs.
Energy and climate adviser Carol Browner resigned earlier this year; health czar Nancy-Ann DeParle was promoted to deputy White House chief of staff; and Obama’s urban affairs adviser, Adolfo Carrión, left the White House to become a regional director for HUD.
Egads and yeesh…
According to the Republicans, the CR “also includes language preventing Guantanamo Bay detainees from being transferred into the United States for any purpose, prevents the construction or modification of detention facilities within the U.S. for the housing of detainees, and requires the Secretary of Defense to provide a certification to Congress that a transfer of any detainee to any foreign country or entity will not jeopardize the safety of the U.S. or its citizens. This language is virtually identical to existing law that was included in the National Defense Authorization Act.”
This exactly what to do with lowering the deficit? Ah, right. Nothing. Apparently that whole “lowering the deficit” thing is just smoke to be blown up the nether regions of voters. I love that they included language from another bill already signed into law. Recycling!
And finally there’s the matter of denying Washington, D.C. residents the ability to use their own tax dollars to help provide abortions (remember: a safe and LEGAL medical procedure) to their poor residents. This is not federal money, this is local tax money. But it’s in the CR because … um … okay, I don’t actually know why it’s in the CR. It doesn’t involve federal funds at all. Just a “fuck you” to D.C. residents, I guess.
Seeing a theme here? I do: tiny ideological battles won by the Republicans that have nothing or next to nothing to do with reducing the deficit just so they have things to crow about to their voters and some red meat to toss to their tea party fanatics in the House and Senate.
For a government system that many describe as the best in the world, it sure does look ugly sometimes, doesn’t it?
I’m just sayin’…