Wednesday, August 25, 2021

A few random thoughts on infrastructure, the deficit, and goofy DC rules

I wanted to go over the infrastructure and budget situation in DC, as the dollar amounts and procedures get thrown around in a way that I barely comprehend, and most people really don't understand at all.

First, the House and Senate have not agreed to spend $3.5 trillion over the next 10 years. Or any amount, for that matter. What they hsve agreed to is a budget RESOLUTION, which is simply an outline of what the final numbers might look like. I don't trust the austerity oligarchs at the Pete Peterson Foundation on policy, but this is a good explainer on what that resolution does/doesn't do.
A Congressional Budget Resolution is a “blueprint” that guides fiscal decision-making in the Congress. It is passed by the House and the Senate, and it establishes the top-line levels for the budget by setting targets for revenues and upper limits for subsequent spending bills over a specific period or budget window.

Although it is not presented to the president for signature (and hence is not a law), it is a critically important document because it sets the terms of the budget debate. It defines the Congress’ goals for federal spending, revenues, deficits and debt, and allocates budgetary resources among the major functions of government (such as national defense, transportation, health, veterans’ benefits, general government and income security). It also can provide a vehicle for making changes to mandatory programs and revenues through a process known as reconciliation.
Congress doesn't even have to pass a budget resolution in a given year, but the reason it's important is that it a bill can be RECONCILED to this budget, and only requires 50 votes in the Senate to pass.

The resolution certainly allows for a lot more spending and tax credits, compared to the projected totals that the Congressional Budget Office projected last month for the next 10 fiscal years.

This is a separate situation from the smaller roads/bridges/water type bill, which has already passed the Senate with well over the cloture limit of 60 votes, so all that needs to be done is for the House to pass the same bill, and that goes right to Biden's desk and (hopefully) gets those projects moving right after.

So why all the drama among House Dems earlier this week, that led to my Congressman tweeting stuff like this?

My guess is that the Dem corporate sellouts moderates want to be seen as supporting the smaller infrastructure bill, but don't necessarily want the larger (reconciliation) bill to go through. Why? I truly have no idea, because a big bill of expanded services and tax credits is something voters want, and we've seen over the last year that the deficit isn't something that'll drive up interest rates, with inflation only an issue in the short term due to COVID shortages and boosted demand.

But if the small infrastructure bill were to go through on its own, those corporatist Dems could then walk away and say "Well, that's all we need", which would anger progressives who see a chance to do some overdue rebalancing to our economy. With a majority of only 220-212 in the House and 50-50 in the Senate, any small amount of Dems saying "No" will likely sink the bill, as no GOPs are likely to favor government stepping up to help large numbers of Americans. So instead, progressives want the bigger bill to be figured out and agreed to before the roads/bridges/water bill is passed.

I get the strategy, and it made sense until yesterday's action, but now I think that's a little petty at this point, and I would actually shove through the smaller infrastructure bill now, to get those projects moving sooner vs later. With the budget resolution in place, the real debate now begins - figuring out what taxing and spending package can get a majority in both the House and Senate.

When that happens, GOPs will be crying crocodile tears like this, all-of-a-sudden caring about a large budget deficit when they ran up massive amounts of red ink in passing a GOP Tax Scam and COVID relief under The Former Guy.

In addition to being untrue (the only taxes being raised are on the rich and corporate...unless Gross-man thinks people making $400K is a "middle-class family"), Dems can say that there's an easy way to improve economic stability AND keep the deficit in line - TAXING THE RICH. As we've seen in the last year, if the economy improves and people aren't trapped into substandard choices, debt is merely a number, and not something that becomes an actual burden or barrier to better things.

So let's step up and get it done.

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