I've been meaning to ask this question for a while: Isn't this the equivalent of a tax increase?
Here's the story.
The sequester spending cuts forced the superintendent of Yellowstone to decide not to clear the winter snow from the park's road as early as it typically had been plowed in the past because...well...it will eventually melt as the weather gets warmer anyway. That seems like a perfect solution to the sequester-caused spending cut except for the businesses in and around the park. No plowing meant no tourists, and that meant much less business.
According to this story by Mark Barabak in the Los Angeles Times, the prospect of lower sales convinced many of the tourist-related businesses around Yellowstone to pay for the plowing. The Cody and Jackson Wyoming Chambers of Commerce raised $170,000 to get the snowed plowed.
Wasn't this the equivalent of a tax increase for those people who paid to have the snow cleared two weeks early?
As I posted on March 1, the sequester -- the across-the-board spending cuts ordered by the Budget Control Act-- would only become real for most voters when the predictions of the impact of the reductions actually started to have a effect on their lives.
Although some people felt it almost immediately, any budget analyst worth his or her salt knew that the real pain was always going to come when federal programs that were labor intensive started to implement furloughs, layoffs and hiring freezes and the services they provided had to be curtailed. That was always going to take a month or more because of the process that needs to be followed to notify employees.
But the fact that labor-intensive programs didn't reduce services immediately when the sequester began on March 1 never meant that it wasn't coming. It always was and the protests that the White House was playing fiscal chicken little were simply wrong.
Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, who stopped being the co-chairs of a failed deficit reduction commission at the end of 2010, are at it again. At some point today they will unveil yet another B-S plan they say will reduce the deficit and debt to manageable levels.
Never mind that they completely failed in 2010 to get their own commission to agree to what they recommended.
Never mind that since the B-S commission failed, Congress has overwhelmingly rejected several efforts that supposedly were based on what the two co-chairs recommended.
And never mind that after these repeated failures neither Bowles nor Simpson have any standing to offer a a new plan that is so politically toxic it has no chance of (1) being taken seriously, (2) jump starting negotiations or (3) having any positive impact whatsoever.
Watching Bowles and Simpson fight for relevancy in the federal budget debate these days is a bit like a rock band from a previous era going on tour but having to play in much smaller venues because its audience is so tiny that the arenas make no sense.
I decided not to comment immediately on the Obama 2014 released last week because I thought the usual instant micro analysis of what the president proposed was likely to be largely besides the point..
The Obama 2014 budget has far less to do with what was proposed than almost any other presidential budget in history. It's real purpose...and value...comes from understanding it as a document designed to drive a wedge between House and Senate Republicans.
To a certain extent it's hard to understand why more of the people who comment on the federal budget -- that is, almost all of Washington -- didn't get the fact that the individual proposals in the Obama plan weren't the big story. Regardless of the reasons for it being so late (some were legitimate, some were not), a president's budget that's sent to Congress more than two months after the statutory deadline and after the House and Senate have already adopted their own budget resolutions should never be analyzed in the same way as other presidential budgets have been. It simply won't -- or can't -- have the same micro impact on the budget debate even if it was going to declared dead on arrival anyway.