With the federal government poised at the brink of a shutdown, you have to ask yourself -- who benefits?
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If past experience is any guide, it would seem the White House is the winner. The 1995 showdown clearly gave the advantage to President Bill Clinton. Maybe Obama's advisors are betting it will happen again—and that's why they were willing to submit a budget back in February that boosted spending and ignored the idea of serious spending cuts.
But there is much at risk in this budget.
According to Peter Morici, an economist at the University of Maryland, spending has jumped more than $1 trillion or 40% from 2007, the last full year before the financial crisis, to 2011, the second year of the recovery.
The president's budget plan would trim the deficit to $774 billion by 2022, but his projections have been rejected as too optimistic by private economists and political analysts of all stripes.
Clearly, we cannot afford to lock in the expanded spending of the meltdown years.
But the Republican plan to wait out the president isn't a sound one.
The $33 billion in cuts Democrats have already agreed to would reduce the budget baseline and leverage more cuts in future years. In short, it's a start.
The party risks going to the mat in pursuit of gains that amount of less than 2% of the budget. That, frankly, is a waste of time. And worse, it's clear from polls that voters will blame the Republicans if the government shuts down.
It's time to keep our eyes on the prize -- broad-based reform that downsizes taxpayers' obligations and reduces the footprint of government so that the private sector can expand.
And, that other prize -- the White House in 2012 -- the campaigning is starting now.
Republicans should save their energy for the real debates to come -- the 2012 budget and a real, serious discussion of how to save the entitlement programs.
Whether we cut $33 billion or $40 billion in spending over the next six months isn't nearly as important as what happens with those issues.
Leadership isn't about brinkmanship— it's about getting things done.