It’s the deficit-reduction package that doesn’t reduce the deficit. It’s the debt-ceiling deal that doesn’t touch the debt ceiling (and doesn’t cut debt). It’s the long-term entitlement negotiation that—after nearly three years of wheedling—does not delay, let alone stave off, aBaby Boomer retirement bomb currently on pace to swallow half of federal outlays by 2030.
Say this for the fiscal cliff-avoidance bill that passed on New Year’s Day—it is a near-perfect expression of Washington’s grotesque devolution since Bill Clinton left office. Not only have a succession of Republican and Democratic presidents and congresses combined to jack up spending from $1.8 trillion in Clinton’s last year (a bit more than $2.3 trillion in today’s dollars) to a baseline level of $3.6 trillion and above, but the process for arriving at these hideous figures has degenerated into a series of endless, man-made, deadline negotiations in lieu of actual budgeting.
If you squint hard enough you can see some comparative upside to this circus freakshow—it could have been worse, and maybe (as my colleague Nick Gillespie suggested this morning) “the government has effectively kicked the can so far down the road that they’ve run out of road.”