DN Editorial: Debt 'deal' only delays some tough decisions a few months

Posted: August 03, 2011

THE CRAVEN "bipartisan" deal to raise the debt ceiling isn't as bad as it could be - but that's only because, in six months, it's likely going to get worse.

Don't be fooled: Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid have escaped cuts right now, but the multilayered legislation creates a mechanism that could, and likely will, put them back on the table.

None of the budget cuts will create jobs, most economists say; instead they'll add to unemployment. Yet there's no provision to extend unemployment benefits or the payroll-tax cut enacted earlier this year, meaning that there will be even less demand and fewer jobs and that we'll continue the downward economic spiral.

But, hey, Republicans have agreed not to blow up the global economy and President Obama has survived to (not) fight another day. And there will indeed be another such a day: Congress is required to either pass a 2012 budget or a "continuing resolution" by Sept. 30, providing yet another chance for Republicans to threaten another government shutdown.

Here are the basics of the deal:

In exchange for raising the debt ceiling enough to allow the nation to pay its bills until 2013, about $900 billion will be cut from the budget, with a higher-than-expected $350 billion coming from defense. The rest comes from "non-defense discretionary spending," a perennial favorite for congressional slashing because politicians don't have to come right out and say that it comes from education, transportation, medical and scientific research and other unimportant stuff like that.

The second phase of the deal is the doozy: a bipartisan, bicameral 12-member committee of six Democrats and six Republicans will be appointed to propose $1.5 trillion more in deficit reduction to be given an up-or-down vote by Christmas. No amendments, no filibusters: this "super Congress" could propose major entitlement "reforms" (read "reductions"). Of course, it's also possible that it could propose new taxes to balance out the cuts. Just like it's possible that Glenn Beck and George Soros could open an antique store together.

If the committee deadlocks or Congress fails to pass its proposal, $1.2 trillion in cuts are automatically triggered, from both defense and from payments to Medicare providers. Given the recent insanity, that trigger looks much better for the health of the nation than any proposal Republicans would vote for.

So there's a small sliver of hope. Democratic congressional leaders must appoint members to the "super committee" who can be counted on - like, really - to hold the line against cuts to the "Big Three" entitlements.

And our representatives must work to stop this assault on ordinary Americans.

Time to start dialing again.

If you want to call your representatives in Congress, they're at 202-224-3121. You can also dial up the White House comments line at 202-456-1111.

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