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Posted at 4:43 p.m. on Dec. 9, 2013
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., are grown-ups, and it looks as though they are reaching a deal to avoid another government shutdown crisis — provided superpartisans don’t block it.
That said, it’s sad — and bad for the country — that the best they could do was avoid immediate disaster. What they could not do, apparently, is make the slightest dent in the long-term disaster that the federal debt represents.
If the Washington Post lead story Monday is right, their deal will also — to their credit — partially repeal the budget sequester that is strangling federal agencies and give them slightly more money to spend in fiscal 2014 and 2015.
It’s not clear, but one hopes they will also provide Cabinet officers with the ability to move money around and not continue having to slash every program across the board.
But it’s a grave disappointment that they could not even begin to shave the government’s $17.6 trillion national debt — more than 100 percent of GDP, now higher than at any time since World War II.
Because Congress is so polarized, Ryan and Murray evidently didn’t even take a stab at doing what everyone knows needs to be done to address the debt: reform taxes, raise revenue and reform entitlements, gradually diminishing benefits.
Another Post piece, the latest brilliant column by Robert Samuelson, outlines the consequence: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — programs heavily for the retired — now account for 44 percent of all federal spending and will keep growing, at the expense of programs benefiting young people.
Safety net programs for the aged have reduced their poverty level to 9 percent, but the poverty rate is 20 percent for those under 18.
What’s going on is generational reverse Robin Hoodism, and both parties are enabling it as though they were the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Ryan and Murray know full well what’s going on. That they did nothing about it — or even try — is a tragedy.