Negotiation is a dialogue between two or more people to reach an understanding, resolve a point of contention, or produce an agreement and craft outcomes to satisfy the interests of the people involved in the negotiation process. Simply put, negotiations are intended to reach a compromise where each party gives up part of their demand. When Paul Ryan and Patty Murray announced they had reached an agreement for the nation’s budget yesterday, it was fairly clear by the giddy-ass grin on Ryan’s face that Senator Murray likely did all the compromising to agree that an austerity budget defying sane economic comprehension was the optimum deal to send President Obama a message that his income inequality speech was a waste of breath.
It was obvious the two-year agreement was a deficit hawk’s dream based on Speaker of the House John Boehner’s response to the Koch Brothers, Freedom Works, Heritage Action, Americans for Prosperity, and Club For Growth. Boehner accused the teabagger groups of “using our members and using the American people for their own goals. Listen, if you’re for more deficit reduction, you’re for this agreement.” Boehner is right, the budget is all about reducing the already falling deficit and nothing about revenue by closing corporate and the wealthy’s tax loopholes that would have made the austerity budget palatable. Since 2010, the victims of austerity-mad Republicans have never been the richest Americans, and the only difference in this agreement and earlier austerity is it targets a different segment of the population; federal employees.
As soon as details of the budget’s spending were released, one wondered why Senator Murray did not just sign off on Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity budget and be done with any pretense of negotiations. But wait, doing so would not have cut spending as much as Murray negotiated in yesterday’s budget negotiation announcement. Ryan’s austerity budget that Democrats could hardly stomach two years ago set discretionary spending at $1.039 trillion in 2014 and $1.047 trillion in 2015, and this proposed “agreement” with Democrats would put discretionary spending at $1.012 trillion in 2014 and $1.014 trillion in 2015; both years are less than Republicans demanded in Ryan’s budget. It is glaringly obvious that Republicans have so mesmerized Democrats with their austerity madness since they took control of the House in 2010 that this “deal” is considered a good compromise.
The only good news in this agreement is that a tiny amount of the sequester cuts are repealed for only two of the sequester’s remaining nine years, but they are paid for with other “entitlement” cuts, a tiny increase in “user” fees for Americans wealthy enough to “fly about the country,” and demonic cuts to federal employees’ pensions. There was absolutely nothing in the Ryan negotiating with Ryan budget remotely close to tax reform that, dog forbid, addressed the increasingly devastating income inequality because Republican austerity will never affect the wealthy; this agreement certainly maintains that sick income equality producing practice. Speaking of advancing income inequality, the middle class will be paying the major share of the budget that reverses part of the sequester.
To pay for relieving a small portion of the sequester’s damage, Murray and Ryan intend on punishing federal employees by robbing their pensions in future years by increasing federal employee pension contributions. Federal employees have already paid for more than their share of austerity madness since 2010 when their pay was frozen. According to the Congressional Budget Office, federal employees purchasing power has taken a 7% hit since 2010, and Murray and Ryan just agreed to an additional 1.2% pay cut to save the wealthy and corporations from paying anything for Republicans’ austerity. This attack targeting public pensions, which are already under an all-out assault in the states from ALEC, the Kochs, big tobacco, and Kraft foods by way of their State Policy Network, is yet another brilliant move to increase the devastating income inequality President Obama addressed at length in his economic speech last week. One wonders if Murray and Ryan took a break during their negotiations to watch, and laugh hysterically, while the President spent an hour talking about how much damage income inequality was wreaking on the economy and Americans who are not members of the wealthiest one percent of income earners. That they agreed on ravaging federal employees pensions, like the Kochs, ALEC, and SPN are doing in the states and Republicans plan for Social Security pensions, is a clear sign that Americans will be spending their retirement years suffering the effects of income inequality they lived with during Republican-borne austerity madness during their working lives.
What is curious about this agreement is not that Ryan likely pushed hard for a deep austerity-laden budget, but that Murray acquiesced to an economic theory that is proven to ravage an economy during a tepid recovery. Has Murray not been conscious to see the devastation in Europe after three years of austerity, or have Republicans so polluted the minds of Democrats that they think trying the same failed policies over and over again will have a different result because this is America? And where was revenue-producing tax reform by closing loopholes for corporations and the filthy rich? There were no provisions for infrastructure improvements guaranteed to create jobs, and those tiny two-year reductions in the sequester cuts still do not address the devastation over the next nine years the cuts will do their worst damage and kill millions of jobs. It is beyond the pale that Murray could stand there next to Ryan and announce a budget agreement as acceptable giving everything Republicans lusted for two years ago that Senate and House Democrats rejected out of hand as barbaric and totally unacceptable in 2011 and 2012.
This so-called agreement is as unacceptable today as Ryan’s Path to Prosperity was two years ago, and worse, it contains deeper discretionary spending cuts than Democrats railed against then. Of course Republicans love it, it contains no revenue, or tax reform affecting their dirty rich patrons, and it pays for the minute sequester cuts with other entitlement cuts and federal employees’ pensions. If any American depended on Murray, or her Democratic colleagues, to fight for Americans and wage a war on economy devastating austerity, they can put those hope to rest because it is apparent that the negotiators were unconscious during last year’s election. Agreeing to this budget sent a clear message to Americans that Democrats lost the 2012 elections and Republicans won; especially the war on austerity.