Budget debate really about party politics

Lawmakers in Washington have made little to no progress on passing a new budget and spending cuts as the possibility of a government shutdown at midnight on April 8th draws closer.

Democratic and Republican leaders are hoping discussions between the White House, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will lead to a solution. However, nothing has come from the discussions yet.

House Republicans drafted a continuation of the current budget to cover the short term, but it is unclear if another short-term solution would even pass at this point.

If the government were to shutdown federal workers would go unpaid, social programs would come to a halt and a number of services would be delayed.

Economist and analyst Max Fraad Wolff from The New School in New York said a shutdown is more symbolic at this point, since it is unsure if it will happen. In addition, a one day shutdown would have a much smaller impact than an extended shutdown.

It may be being slightly blow out of proportion,” he explained. “I think there’s still a very good chance we’ll see a last minute deal tomorrow and/or we’ll see them kick the can down the road, because that has been a past time on budgetary matters in Washington for a long time, and do another stopgap that gives them another seven or eight days.”

The symbolism represented by the inability to work together and compromise however is more alarming than the lack of a budget or a possible shutdown, he argued.

As lawmakers debate, the reality is much of the cuts being debated is a relatively small portion of the overall budget.

It’s a dress rehearsal,” Wolff said, explaining that the bigger debate will be over the 2012 budget. “Part of the reason we are seeing this much fighting over it is because it’s pretty clear that the Republican Party at the federal, state and local level is going to run as the budget cutting party in 2012.”

The debate is more about politics and reelection than actual policy and budget cut specifics. The bigger issues at hands are electoral party and ideological politics. It’s symbolic.