The Bad Faith of Budget Politics

US House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) speaks on budget negotiations and a possible government shutdown at the U.S. Capitol on April 7, 2011.

The Democrats were the less honest actors through much of the run up to last weekend's passage of a federal budget compromise. They had the votes to pass a budget several months ago, before the midterms, but chose not to because of perceived electoral risks.

They balked at an early deal from some of the less extreme Republicans for a thirty something billion package of cuts, then, when the more extreme Tea Party types pushed the GOP to bump that up into the 60s, the Democrats responded by saying they would meet them halfway... with about ten billion in cuts.

Jokes about Voodoo Math aside, more recently the Democrats got their heads out of the sand and their compromise offer moved to actually meeting the Republicans about half way, essentially matching the Republicans' earlier offer. This was the point where the GOP became the party that was acting less in good faith.

As the Democrats offered a number that was in line with what the GOP asked for previously, and met their standing offer more than half way, Republicans took that inch and tried grabbing a mile. Boehner changed his tune, bending to more extreme elements in his party, saying they wouldn't go for less than sixty some billion. They also pushed for fringe inspired cuts to women's health funding, public radio and public television.

Fiscal liberals and the right wing lost out on the overall amount of spending cuts, as the end result was between the 30s moderates had been pushing for, and the 60s that conservatives wanted. Anything that was going to pass was always going to have to be near what the moderates wanted to be able to pass, the deciding factor here being the Republicans played their cards better than the Democrats.

From my centrist perspective, the result of the budget battle isn't perfect, but it is certainly far and beyond better than what we would have gotten had either party been in control of both houses of Congress and the White House. It only gets harder from here on though, with raising the debt ceiling, entitlement spending, military spending and tax reform up for debate, at the same time 2012 election posturing starts spinning up.

We are months beyond the point where the president should have started using the bully pulpit to lead us towards something along the lines of his Fiscal Commission. While it is obviously good that the two sides finally came to a compromise over this, it does not inspire confidence in our "leaders" when you realize that it took half a year and a brush with a federal shutdown to get the two parties to make a one percent cut to the budget.

With the federal government borrowing about four dollars out of every ten it spends, something needs to give. Will the president rise to the occasion?

Solomon Kleinsmith is a nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates. He is currently collaborating with other centrist independent and moderate bloggers on a news aggregation and social networking site, and is always looking for ways to help the independent groundswell as more and more people become disaffected with the two major parties.