Pat Buchanan: Is the Tea Party's dream an illusion?
With some such thought in mind, Speaker John Boehner strode to the floor of the House to offer a "clean" debt ceiling bill and relied on Nancy Pelosi's Democrats to pass it. They did.
Yet Boehner was holding a losing hand. Had he added a GOP wish-list bill to the debt ceiling, Harry Reid's Senate would have rejected it. President Obama would have denounced it as putting at risk the full faith and credit of the United States.
A clamor to pass a clean debt ceiling bill or risk a new recession would have arisen. And the House Republicans would have caved, as they finally had to cave on the budget bill last fall.
Yet, the Tea Party has a right to feel cheated.
For while there are countless proposals and plans to cut back on federal spending, from Simpson-Bowles on, it is impossible today to see in either party the political will to do the surgery.
First, the major entitlement programs Medicare and Social Security would have to be peeled back. But any effort to raise the age of eligibility, or reduce the benefits, or trim cost-of-living adjustments, would meet with ferocious resistance, led by the AARP.
Thanks to Obamacare, the number of beneficiaries of Medicaid is soaring. And even should the GOP capture the Senate in 2016, a Democratic minority would filibuster to death any bill to cut Medicaid.
Defense is the other big item in the budget. But while the wind-down of our trillion-dollar wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has made cuts possible here, most of these have already been made.
Last December, Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray, in their budget deal, raised discretionary spending in 2014 from the $967 billion it would have been under the sequester to $1.012 trillion.
The farm bill just signed by President Obama contains a tiny cut in a food stamp budget that has exploded during his days in office. But nice new subsidies are in there for peanut and corn growers and producers of maple syrup. Embarrassed at what the House went along with, not one Republican Congressman showed up at the signing ceremony.
Have the beneficiaries of Big Government become so powerful that any champion of the national interest who challenges them in fixed battle invites almost certain defeat?
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of "Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?"
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