Politics

Shutdown deal in sight?

Shutdown deal in sight?

The Senate is working on a deal to end the government shutdown and get the government deeper into debt, as fast as possible.  With the GOP allegedly cowed by bad poll numbers, Carrie Budoff Brown at Politico writes that “it’s not a perfect deal for the White House – but it’s a worse deal for Republicans.”

Democrats won’t say it too loudly just yet, but the emerging budget agreement leaves Republicans with remarkably little to show for forcing the first government shutdown in 17 years: They barely nicked Obamacare and their poll numbers are in tank.

President Barack Obama would get most of what he wanted. He had insisted that Congress reopen the government and extend the country’s borrowing authority without any ideological strings attached. He held the line on the debt ceiling and Democrats are set to hold off Republican attempts to lock in next year’s round of sequester budget cuts early.

Basically, the debt-limit can gets kicked down the road until February, the government is funded through January, union bosses get a big payoff, and ObamaCare gets a “fix” most low-information Americans will be flat-out astonished to learn it didn’t already contain:

The proposal would fund the government until Jan. 15 and extend the debt limit until Feb. 7. The plan under consideration would also require larger bicameral budget negotiations to conclude by Dec. 13.

Republicans would secure a provision to force Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to certify that individuals receiving Obamacare subsidies meet the required income levels. The department’s inspector general would later have to conduct an audit on the matter. This is a comedown from the delay in the medical device tax that Republicans had wanted after they had previously abandoned efforts to repeal the law, defund it and delay the individual mandate.

Democrats would win a labor union priority to delay for one year an Obamacare reinsurance tax, which was supposed to be levied against most insurance plans to help spread the risk for insurers who take on the sickest patients next year. Delaying the fee — $63 per person covered by an insurance plan per year — could amount to a significant boon to unions.

They weren’t going to make sure people actually meet the income requirements for their subsidies?  Forcing HHS to do that is a concession to Republicans?

It should be more clear than ever, from the outlines of this “deal”, that America is now a racket run exclusively for the benefit of the Ruling Class and its loyal foot soldiers.  We mustn’t inconvenience federal employees – not a single member of that titanic army of non-essential personnel will lose his job, and they’ll all receive full back pay, unlike you unemployed private-sector boobs whose livelihood and independence were a small price to pay for the glories of ObamaCare and Obamanomics.  The private-sector workforce dies in silence, while the tiniest cut to the finger of the almighty State produces blood-curdling howls of agony.

The minimal fiscal discipline imposed by the sequester will be erased, an unions will get another of those very special carve-outs from the Affordable Care Act monstrosity, which is entirely concerned with amassing government power and dispensing privileges, not improving health care.  This “deal” is an act of submission from the American people to the aristocracy.  Obama just dispatched his shock troops to barricade the Flight 93 memorial.  How fitting that a monument to ordinary heroes rising in defiance against totalitarian evil should be the scene of the final indignity visited upon unruly serfs by their spiteful monarch!

The Hill has more details about the union goodies included in the Senate deal:

The bargain under negotiation would make small adjustments to the healthcare law, including delaying the law’s reinsurance fee for one year. The three-year tax is meant to generate revenue that will stabilize premiums on the individual market as sick patients enter the risk pool.

The tax applies to all group health plans, but unions argue it will raise their healthcare costs while providing them no benefit.

The reinsurance tax figured prominently in discussions at a recent AFL-CIO convention, where workers passed a resolution demanding changes to ObamaCare.

The White House recently denied labor’s top priority on ObamaCare, ruling that union health plans are not eligible for the new subsidies because they are already helped by the tax code.

Democrats could be pushing to delay the reinsurance fee for one year as an olive branch after that apparent slight, though it could also create trouble for insurers on the marketplaces.

In the new hierarchy of privilege, well-connected Democrat donor groups don’t have to worry about taxes that “raise their healthcare costs while providing them no benefit.”  That kind of treatment is reserved for the tax serfs.  And I think we’ve pretty well established that nobody involved with the ObamaCare debacle cares about creating “trouble for insurers on the marketplaces,” or consumers.

I suppose it would be churlish to ask about the revenue lost from giving unions a pass on their tax, just as nobody cared about the lost revenue from all the other ObamaCare appendages that have withered away over the past few years, such as the 1099 reporting requirements that would have used tax paperwork to squeeze a few billion out of small businesses.  We’re only supposed to care about revenue lost from a tax cut when it’s a pro-growth effort to stimulate economic growth and job creation by reducing the tax burden on free enterprise.  Unions are corporations that sell labor to other corporations; Democrats are going to waive a huge corporate tax on unions; the people who would pop a blood vessel at the notion of relieving any other corporate tax will have nothing to say about it.  And I wouldn’t take any bets on unions failing to get the outright taxpayer subsidies they want before Obama leaves office.

All that remains is selling this lousy deal to House Republicans, which the Politico article suggests might be a tall order:

The emerging deal would face a tough road in the House, where Boehner’s leadership team, allies and rank-and-file lawmakers spent Monday saying that Reid and McConnell were crafting a crummy framework.

The talk among House Republicans in the cloakroom and on the floor was that they would be asked to accept a clean debt limit and government funding bill — in short, the concessions won by McConnell were nothing to crow about. One House Republican said they would be lucky to find 20 GOP lawmakers willing to vote for this proposal.

McConnell, however, is preparing to make a pitch to his conference that Republicans would get plenty out of the deal.

They kept Obama from winning his “clean” debt limit increase by extracting an Obamacare concession. They rebuffed Democratic demands for a yearlong debt limit extension. Republicans also secured sequester spending levels through Jan. 15 — two months longer than Democrats first proposed, although shorter than what Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) had wanted as a way to lock in next year’s even-deeper spending cuts under the 2011 Budget Control Act.

“Total federal spending has now gone down for two years in a row — the first time that’s happened since the Korean War,” McConnell said. “As a result of the BCA: Federal spending will be lower next year than this year. It is, without question, the most significant spending reduction in modern history and Senate Republicans will not accept anything that undoes these cuts.”

So McConnell’s going to woo House Republicans by telling them it’s a great victory to kinda sorta hang on to the only remaining shred of the Budget Control Act of 2011, for a few months longer than Democrats wanted?  And that tiny little sequester reduction in spending is supposed to be a glorious victory for freedom that inspires us to fill the sky with red-white-and-blue fireworks?

It was a mistake for Republicans to lose focus on ObamaCare and allow the discussion to move on to grand debt-ceiling bargains.  Broadening the discussion in this manner is always favorable to the Party of Big Government (which includes nearly all Democrats and a distressing number of Republicans.)  The dissolution of liberty is hidden within brain-melting budget totals, and byzantine laws nobody understands.  ”This health care system is a disaster and needs to be repealed” is an argument people could rally around.  It’s also a mistake for House and Senate GOP leaders to allow themselves to become divided and pitted against each other.  The House will now be hammered into accepting the Senate deal, while the Democrats’ loyal media points at the ticking debt-ceiling bomb clock and screams at them to cut the red wire, right now, what are you waiting for, this thing’s gonna blow!

Meanwhile, Americans infuriated by Obama’s Shutdown Theater tactics, disgusted with the ObamaCare fiasco, and worried about the long-term health of their country will be resolutely ignored.  And don’t you dare ask why Obama’s spending so much money to make sure we all suffer in obvious, camera-ready ways when 17 percent of his mega-government shuts down.  Don’t you dare ask if we really need all that non-essential stuff, or why it’s unreasonable to ask the flabby Leviathan to leave the debt ceiling in place and scrape by on Bill Clinton’s spending levels.

The only real answer to that question is that America is a far weaker place than it was in the Nineties, and can no longer dream of the prosperity free people created in the Eighties through voluntary commerce and cooperation.  The deeds of our forefathers in even earlier generations are now impossible myths, as remote from the hapless reality of a hyper-regulated, centrally-planned Food Stamp Nation as the labors of Hercules.  This dying nation is on life support, forbidden to rise from its hospice bed and disconnect the subsidy tubes from its pinched veins.

The ObamaCare-shutdown-debt ceiling battle really shouldn’t be a partisan spat.  Republicans shouldn’t allow it to be presented that way.  This is a struggle between the Ruling Class and its citizens, from whom abject submission is demanded.  It doesn’t matter if you’re being robbed to create a health-care system that’s a useless pile of garbage.  You will be silent, and pay what is demanded, and sit quietly in front of your computer until the website loads, and when you’re fined for non-compliance with a system that doesn’t work, you’ll remit the money without complaint.  If you’re very lucky, your wise and compassionate rulers might even delay those fines for a bit; the King might choose to delay the cutoff date for the fines, graciously acknowledging the “unexpected” problems encountered when his system was launched… and if he does, you will take a knee and thank him with great joy for his benevolence.

Whatever the House makes of this Senate bargain, the lingering question will be how the fallout shapes politics in 2014.  The deadly mistake for Republicans would be accepting a deal that dispirits their base and leaves them to wonder what the point of showing up at the polls would be, or perhaps turns them toward the generation-spanning task of dismantling the Republican Party and replacing it with a viable third party.  Obviously, Democrats would very much like for Republicans to accept such a deal.

And if the House forces some improvements in the Senate package, making it just good enough to keep GOP base voters on board for 2014… well, people are going to remember the things Barack Obama did during Shutdown Theater.  Midterm elections are strongly influenced by base voters, and the Republican base is capable of remembering things the media helps low-information voters forget.  There is still a long game to be played here, provided the GOP leadership doesn’t throw away all its chips.

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