But just around the corner next month, Reid’s Democrats face immediate new challenges, including a $925 billion debt ceiling increase and a social safety net that’s unraveling even as unemployment has topped 10 percent.Oops! You mean that the original stimulus bill wasn't all about job-creation? Duh!
Expanded federal jobless benefits — hastily authorized under the economic recovery bill last February — are due to expire in January and will cost $85 billion to renew for the coming year. And this says nothing about a backlog of year-end spending bills and President Barack Obama’s decision on the Afghanistan war, which threatens to eat up whatever savings are coming from the troop withdrawals from Iraq.
For the first time, Democrats are talking seriously about going back and rechanneling portions of their $787 billion stimulus bill to help jump-start job-creation initiatives — such as a long-delayed highway bill.
If you think that the states had problems passing budgets this past year, imagine how tough it will be next year when they don't have that cushion from the so-called stimulus to fall back on to help them keep on state employees and teachers. How soon before we start to hear proposals to repeat those federal handouts to the states so that they can keep their teachers employed? All very nice, but there is no money.
By any measure, the numbers are staggering. The debt ceiling increase will bring the new limit to about $13 trillion, yet with unemployment at 10.2 percent, Democrats see no choice but to push ahead with jobless benefits. Down the road, the same math faces lawmakers as state governments prepare their 2011 budgets next summer and see a drop-off in the emergency funds — to help pay teachers or Medicaid bills — provided under the recovery bill last winter.It's all so very depressing. We have this terrible economic situation and no money in the till. And Congress wants to add this mammoth debt on top of all the spending shortfalls we already have.
The debate over highway funding illustrates this problem. Washington has its own set of fiscal problems given the drop in gas tax revenues for federal trust funds. But states are in such bad shape that many governors can’t make their 20 percent match to get the construction funds — and generate the jobs that Democrats need.
Oh, and here is another tidbit of how Reid got that nice CBO analysis. There is a program in the bill that is purely voluntary, but they're estimating that they'll get $72 million from people voluntarily enrolling in the program. But eventually, the program will have to payout the promised care. Once again, they're counting payments up front and benefits on the back end of their decade-long projections.
For the first 10 years, CBO credits the Senate bill with reducing the deficit by $130 billion, but over half of this is because of added premiums collected from a new voluntary program for long-term-care insurance.You betcha! It's a mess, and they just want to make it worse. Unbelievable.
The “savings” of $72 billion will be short lived, since the money is being collected in anticipation of future payments to provide the promised care.
Exactly the kind of math that — after so many years — makes December such a challenge.