Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Budget's Raw deal.

It's a "raw" deal that Obama might not sign.
It's too good to be true .  Budget negotiators announced Tuesday a bipartisan deal to set spending levels for the federal government for two years and partially replace unpopular spending cuts with other savings.House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., led the negotiations that had intensified in recent days as a Dec. 13 deadline approaches.In a joint appearance Tuesday evening in the U.S. Capitol, Ryan and Murray said the agreement would stop the government "lurching from crisis to crisis" and eliminate the threat of another government shutdown. The current stopgap funding measure is scheduled to run out again Jan. 15. “the emerging agreement amounts to little more than a cease-fire. Republicans and Democrats are abandoning their debt-reduction goals, laying down arms and, for the moment, trying to avoid another economy-damaging standoff.” In other words, congressional leaders are going small. Given what’s transpired in Congress during the last couple of years in the budget debate, it’s not difficult to see why a broader arrangement simply wasn’t in the cards .The real news here is that a bi-partisan working group in Congress actually came up with something. Most of the other attempts at bi-partisanship ended with Republicans walking away from negotiations.  The something they came up with is rather small and not totally satisfying for either side. Not to worry - Koch Brothers and Karl Rove will make sure none of it passes. They can't seem to accept "yes"..  The agreement eliminates about $65 billion in across-the-board domestic and defense cuts while adding an additional $25 billion in deficit reduction by extending a 2 percent cut to Medicare through 2022 and 2023, two years beyond the cuts set by the Budget Control Act of 2011. House Democrats unsuccessfully sought to use the negotiations as a vehicle to secure an extension of unemployment benefits set to expire at the end of the month. Benefits affecting 1.3 million long-term unemployed workers are set to expire if Congress doesn't act, and the budget deal could be the only vehicle headed to President Obama's desk before the U.S. House adjourns until the new year on Friday. The Senate is scheduled to be in session next week. One of the deficit-reduction proposals is to cap civilian and military pay increases, according to CBO. Those caps could save as much as $78 billion through 2023. Federal pay raises are set at 0.5 percentage points below the annual rate of increase in the Employment Cost Index. The CBO report recommends reducing that amount by an additional 0.5 percentage points from 2015-2013 to cut federal outlays by $53 billion. The proposal would decrease the cost of operating the government without diminishing services, CBO notes . Pay isn't the only thing being examined by CBO. The analysis also looks at the impact of cutting the size of the federal workforce. The report recommends using attrition to cut the overall size of the federal workforce to save about $43 billion through 2023. It recommends reducing the government workforce by 10 percent by limiting federal agencies to one hire for every three workers that leave. The president would be able to exempt certain agencies and about two-thirds of the workforce - mostly the Department of Defense - would be off limits so the total reduction would be around 70,000 employees.This country has not passed a budget since 1997, which means we've been on continuing resolution since than. Why is this a big deal now? Why can't we simply find new sources of revenues?  It's simply on the backs of people. The measure, known as Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC), is designed to step in with federal insurance after a person’s state benefits run out, usually after 26 weeks. It was enacted in 2008 by President Bush during the early stages of the economic recession; at the time unemployment hovered at 5.6 percent and jobless Americans could expect an average of five months searching for new employment. It has survived a number of renewals since. Without traction on Capitol Hill it is likely 1.3 million will lose the insurance immediately after the program expires on Dec. 28, with an additional 3.6 million by the end of 2014, according to a report released today by the Labor Department and the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

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