Since the budget conference committee finally reached a deal to ease sequester cuts and fund the government for the next two years, congressional leaders and President Barack Obama have hailed the bipartisan agreement as a “step in the right direction.”
As a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report points out, however, the deal drafted by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Committee chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) is not even close to a permanent solution..
After adjusting for inflation, the budget deal increases funding for select public services from $478 billion in 2013 to $492 billion in 2014. But by 2015, funding for the same services – including programs that help low-income families, protect the environment, and improve education – drops to $482 billion.
As demonstrated by the CBPP chart below, federal spending on the same programs will be reduced to $473 billion by 2016, “$105 billion – or 18 percent – below the 2010 level.”
The bill’s greatest flaw is that it completely neglects the additional funding that the programs poised to benefit from the deal in 2014 will need to keep up with inflation and population growth. According to the CBPP, non-defense funding would need to rise at a rate of approximately 2.1 percent after 2014 if funding for programs are to match the rising inflation rates. Under the current deal, however, non-defense funding rises at a rate of less than 1 percent in 2015 and 2016.
And the numbers are only expected to get worse after 2016.
The problems have certainly not gone unnoticed by various lawmakers in Congress, and even the bill’s own co-drafter, Murray, admits that the deal is flawed.
“The bill isn’t exactly what I would have written on my own, and I’m pretty sure it’s not what Chairman Ryan would have written on his own,” Murray said earlier this week.
As the Democratic senator puts it, the bill is a “compromise”; one that Republicans are more willing to accept because it does eventually slash funding for various non-defense programs.
Ryan — who has received heat from several on the far-right who do not approve of the bill — says it is “a long ways to go to get this deficit under control,” which might explain why he and others in his party support what they admit “isn’t the greatest agreement of all time.”
Both parties also stress that the deal avoids another government shutdown, for now. But while the budget compromise is certainly a solid political fix, it clearly leaves much to be desired fiscally.