Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, Jake Tapper, senior White House correspondent for ABC News, discusses the 11th hour budget deal and what to expect from President Obama's deficit plan to be unveiled on Wednesday.
The heated wrangling over money on Capital Hill is far from over. After Friday's tenuous agreement to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year, the president will respond on Wednesday with the announcement of a broad plan to reduce the nation's debt. Tapper expects we'll hear from the president that we need to ease in cuts in so we don't derail our fragile recovery and the usual backlash from Republicans about the dire need to cut spending, but he hopes at some point we can start talking about something real.
What we're missing:
The debate that needs to happen is one that has to do with what we as Americans get from our government, what we expect, what we want, and want we're willing to pay for. That debate is one that I think a lot of Americans would be surprised to find out the realities of where the money is.
Americans don't understand the deficit.
Polls show that the majority of Americans are under misconceptions about the cause of the government deficit.
A lot of Americans, at least according to polling, believe that if you get rid of waste, fraud and abuse, and eliminate the foreign aid budget, which a lot of Americans according to polls think is about a quarter of the budget - when it's actually about one percent - there's this misperception that that would do a lot to stave off the debt and the deficit. It's just not the case.
In actuality, the big drivers of the deficit are Medicare, Medicaid, the military and the tax breaks depleting revenue over the last ten years, not to mention the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So are Americans just not reading the news? Tapper doesn't think that's the only issue.
I think another possible source of any confusion is the rhetoric from politicians who for decades now have been promising a free lunch. 'You don't have to give anything up, we are going to go to Washington and take care of this.' You can't discount how much politicians exploit vulnerabilities.
Did Obama win the budget battle?
Maybe. He swept in at the last minute and brokered a deal. That fits in to the administration's efforts to sell Obama as the common-sensical "adult in the room" who they hope will be able to woo Independent voters back in the next election.
That's why you keep hearing members of the Obama administration say 'It's time for a grown up conversation, it's time for an adult conversation.' What they're subliminally trying to convey is that the other side is not adult, is not mature and I think you're going to hear a lot of those themes in 2012.
If you thought last week was bad... just wait.
This argument last week was over 38.5 billion dollars. To raise the debt ceiling - which needs to be raised in May- to raise it just so the government can borrow enough money so the government can survive until the end of 2012, just a year and change, is 1.9 trillion dollars that the debt ceiling needs to be raised. That is fifty times what last week's argument was about. So the stakes could not be higher.
To recap, budget battles are about the values and priorities of government as expressed through spending. The fight is far from over.