James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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TWE Quick Takes: Is the Federal Government Shutting Down on Saturday?

by James M. Lindsay
April 6, 2011

Standing with fellow Republican House members, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks at a news conference held to unveil the House Republican budget blueprint in the Capitol in Washington

Standing with fellow Republican House members, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) speaks at a news conference held to unveil the House Republican budget blueprint on April 5, 2011. (Kevin Lamarque/courtesy Reuters)

CFR.org has just posted a First Take I did on the showdown over the federal budget. The upshot: the budgetary battles are only just beginning. Even if the White House and House Republicans cut a deal to avert a government shutdown—and I’d place the odds at better than even that they do—the two sides have much more to fight about. First, we have the debt ceiling debate. Then we have the discussion over how to slow and perhaps even stem the flood of red ink from the government’s coffers. All of this will take place, of course, against the backdrop of Campaign 2012.

Some other things to note:

1.  A tip of the cap to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). Republicans don’t like to talk about raising taxes. Indeed, activists like Grover Norquist make a point of making life miserable for Republicans who even begin to think about uttering the “t-word.” But the federal government’s structural deficit will not go away without spending cuts and tax increases. Senator Coburn is one of the few Republicans brave enough to admit it.  He said on the Senate floor:

Well, the message for America today is every program’s going to get hit. The Defense Department’s going to get hit, every program’s going to get hit. My taxes are going to go up. Sorry, they’re going to go up. This country cannot get out of this mess with the behavior that we’re exhibiting in this body, and if we fail to do what is necessary for our country at this critical time in our juncture, history will deem us absolutely incompetent.

2.  Another tip of the cap to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). There is a lot to dislike in the spending plan that he rolled out yesterday. But he deserves credit for putting a plan on the table. Yes, the politically smart thing for Democrats to do now is to trash Ryan’s proposal and paint Republicans as radical and heartless. But what makes for good politics doesn’t necessarily make for sound fiscal policy. The federal government will continue to bleed red ink until Washington makes major changes in how it does business. That can’t happen until both political parties talk about the tough medicine they would prescribe. Band-aids and placebos won’t cut it.

3. The New Yorker has posted a terrific e-mail exchange with Gideon Rose, the editor of Foreign Affairs, on Libya. Gideon offers one of the smartest and fairest assessments of our Libyan intervention. This is no surprise. He just published a wonderful book, How Wars End: Why We Always Fight the Last Battle. If you don’t own a copy, you should buy it. If you already have a copy, you should read it.

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