Today, October 10th, President Barack Obama met with House Republicans to discuss the ongoing Government shutdown as well as the upcoming debt ceiling. Various reports indicated the meeting was generally positive, although no consensus or deal was reached. An interesting quote came from House Speaker John Boehner following the meeting:
"What we want to do is offer the president today the ability to move a temporary increase in the debt ceiling, an agreement to go to conference on the budget, for his willingness to sit down and discuss with us a way forward to reopen the government and to start to deal with America's pressing problems," said Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
"And I would hope the president would look at this as an opportunity, and a good-faith effort on our part to move halfway—halfway to what he's demanded—in order to have these conversations begin," Boehner said. Source
This line of rhetoric is interesting for a number of reasons. First, let's quickly review something that is a bit of an eye sore for Boehner regarding his statement: In the last six months, Republicans have refused to engage in budget negotiations 19 times. It was only after the Government's discretionary programs were taken hostage did they decide these budget negotiations were worthy of engaging in.
Second, after spending 5 years railing about any and all Government spending that wasn't for the purposes of the military or for the purposes of tax cuts for the wealthiest American individuals and entities, and after getting the arbitrary shutdown of all discretionary spending that the GOP has essentially verbalized dreams about for years, they are now complaining that so many programs have been shut down. In fact, it took House Republicans less than a week to realize many of the programs they've spent years complaining about are actually worth funding.
While those two points are certainly intriguing, there is a third point here that's quite perplexing as well. As most people know, the previous Administration inherited a budget that was essentially balanced, and had been so for multiple years prior to receiving it. 8 years later, the deficit sat at a trillion dollars and the economy was shedding close to a million jobs a year. It is worth noting that at no point during those 8 years was there any substantive discussion from either party about shutting down the Government in order to "negotiate" the budget. There was certainly a deafening silence from the GOP, given there alleged outrage now.
But, at closer review, it's so much worse than that. The reality is that any President, or deity for that matter, taking over a trillion dollar deficit and an economy shedding close to a million jobs a month was going to see the deficit remain high before it got better. And, indeed it did. Barack Obama's first budget year saw a deficit of more than a trillion dollars. And, that trillion dollar+ deficit remained throughout Barack Obama's second and third budget year as well link. Those are gaudy numbers to be sure. But, do Republicans know where the deficit is heading? The deficit's projected to be less than 700 billion dollars for FY2014 link.
So, the question: why now? Why are Republicans shutting down the Government and threatening default allegedly over the budget when the budget is in much, much better shape than where the last Republican Administration left it? The timing here joins a long list of things Republicans are doing that just doesn't make any sense. Explanations would be quite helpful at this point, although it's hard to identify any particular explanation which is going to make much sense either. Of course, there's always an open invitation to try.
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