With all the craziness of Columbia, Bwog often forgets it’s a national citizen. Also, because Netflix streaming exists. We’ve already tried to demystify The Planned Parenthood controversy, and the Lame Duck Congress that soared. Now, to aid those who haven’t followed all the congressional buffoonery, we offer this quick summary of the current budget situation. The government almost shut down!

To begin with, the way the federal budget is passed is kind of strange.  President Obama presented the fiscal year 2011 budget to Congress in February 2010. It usually takes a few months of debate for the thing to be finalized. The budget, if passed, would then have covered spending from October 2010 to September 2011. The deadline to pass the budget was obviously before the last budget ran out–September 30th 2010. But a congress almost completely controlled by Democrats failed to pass the budget because of election year grandstanding (being obstinate) and so Congress was forced to pass a continuing resolution.  A continuing resolution is kind of like when you email your TA a word document that is filled with gibberish because you know that you can blame it on a corrupt file and that’ll buy you another day to work on your essay that was due last week.

The first continuing resolution was passed on September 29th and funded the government at fiscal year 2010 levels until December 3rd. Still no resolution, and so another CR, and then another, and another, and another…  In total, there have been seven continuing resolutions that have funded the government at 2010 levels with a few billion dollars in cuts.

Did you hear about the federal government maybe shutting down on April 8th?  It would have been the first government shutdown since 1995 and caused the furlough of 800k federal employees. Luckily, that didn’t happen. Instead, Obama and Speaker of the House Boehner struck a deal, cutting $38.5 billion from the 2010 level of funding. But in practice the Congressional Budget Office estimates that only $352 million would be cut from non-defense related expenditures through Sept. 30th. $8 billion in immediate spending decreases were almost completely offset by an increase in defense spending–giving the Department of Defense a mere $680 billion to blow on up the Middle East/Libya.  In the end, we are more than halfway through this current fiscal year, and the President has yet to sign a budget.

All of this, and there still has to be a 2012 budget!  This is a main point of confusion. Congress has spent a long time debating the 2011 budget and finally came to a conclusion, but recently most of the media coverage has been about plans for the 2012 budget.  However, generally the debate has surrounded the same issues of shrinking the size of the government and cutting the deficit. There are two major plans swirling around the Capitol: The Ryan Plan, and the Obama Plan.

The Obama Plan would:

  • Cut $1.1 trillion in ten years
  • Leaves Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security relatively unchanged.
  • Allows the Bush Tax cuts to expire for individuals making over $200,000 a year.

The Ryan Plan would:

  • Cut $5.8 trillion in spending over ten years (mostly from Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security)
  • Reduce $4.2 trillion in tax receipt over ten years
  • The House passed the Ryan Plan this past Friday on a party line vote; effectively proclaiming that the Republican party officially endorses gutting Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.  The Republicans deserve real applause for proposing serious solutions to the budget crisis, but one has to wonder how this will affect the GOP’s main voting block–old white people.

Both plans are much more complicated (although still vague in a policy-wonk sense) than presented here, and Bwog encourages you to find out more if you are interested.  Alternatively, you could base your political worldview off of Bwog, because that’s cool too!