The big news today is that the $38.5 billion in budget cuts announced with such fanfare on Friday night mostly aren’t real. A good deal of it involves money from previous years and previous budgets that hasn’t actually been spent. As the AP puts it, the budget deal is
financed with a lot of one-time savings and cuts that officially ‘score’ as savings to pay for spending elsewhere, but that often have little to no actual impact on the deficit…cuts to earmarks, unspent census money, leftover federal construction funding, and $2.5 billion from the most recent renewal of highway programs that can’t be spent because of restrictions set by other legislation. Another $3.5 billion comes from unused spending authority from a program providing health care to children of lower-income families.
The total amount actually cut appears to be $ somewhere between8 and $14.7 billion.
The politics here are very complicated now. On the one hand, polls suggest the public is overwhelmingly in favor of there having been a deal, around 60 percent or so. On the other, politically engaged people on both the Right and the Left are profoundly upset by what they take to be unprincipled caving on the part of the leaders of the two parties.
That profound concern is likely to spur a populist revolt this week, over the next 72 hours, before the vote is taken. Already there are indications that a great many House members are going to vote against the deal. What we don’t know, or can’t know, is whether grass-roots velocity has sped up to such a degree over the past several years that we could be looking at a major meltdown of support when the votes are cast, as Republican members honestly balk at the clear deceit of the negotiators in making non-existent cuts in federal spending—and as they fear the wrath of the voters (particularly tea partiers). Meanwhile, Leftist Democrats who feel betrayed by Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid might also decide to teach them a lesson by withholding support.
And then, all of a sudden, there will be a shutdown. And no plan to end it. And make no mistake—the public will blame the GOP.