George Graham

Strange Bedfellows Indeed!

Was that really Paul Ryan (above left) standing next to Patty Murray at yesterday’s press conference announcing a budget “deal”? The Ayn Rand disciple who insists that starving the poor is being piously Catholic?

Who would’ve thought this latter-day Scrooge would be party to a budget compromise that restores government spending cuts?

Not Heritage Action. Not Americans for Prosperity. Not FreedomWorks. Not Americans for Tax Reform… Not any of America’s numerous “conservative” organizations.

The far-right is outraged by Ryan’s “betrayal.”

But progressives aren’t thrilled by the deal, either.

The price of Ryan’s support is high. No extension of unemployment benefits, for example… increased contributions from federal employees and the military to their pension plans …

And, while it eases the impact of the “sequester,” the compromise is still an austerity budget. It only eliminates a small portion of the roughly $180 billion in sequestration cuts set for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.

So, while the Republican leadership in the House seems ready to accept the deal, the support they will need from Democrats is not a sure bet.

In case you were wondering, Ryan’s stony heart remains unmoved. He agreed to soften the Republican death grip on domestic spending only because it was the ransom he had to pay to save the defense budget, which is a sacred cow to Republicans.

The Republican congressman was quick to reassure his base that “nobody had to sacrifice their core principles.”

Tell that to the Tea Party crowd. What they want is defunding of Obamacare (and destruction of the country’s social safety net), not wishy-washy budget deals.

On the flip side, President Obama (ever the optimist) welcomed the compromise, saying it demonstrates that cool heads in both parties were “able to come together and break the cycle of short-sighted, crisis-driven decision making to get this done.”

And when you look at it that way, he’s right.

Given the total gridlock that has afflicted this Congress, the fact that a Republican congressman and a Democratic senator can agree on anything is amazing. Could this be the dawning of a less hostile era in Washington?

I’ll have to see it to believe it.

Click for the deal’s chance of Congressional approval.

About the author

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com