With Santa Claus coming to town in just two weeks, the holiday spirit has swept over the nation's capital.
Democrats and Republicans met under the mistletoe to strike a rare accord on a federal budget, the first such bipartisan pact since 1986. The Obama administration concluded its bailout of General Motors, saving a private company from bankruptcy. And Obamacare approval is soaring among Americans, up 8 percentage points in the past month after a disastrous debut.
But Christmas will soon be gone. And what's going on in Washington is more like what will happen at month's end, when the bubbly celebration of New Year's Eve will turn into the hangover of New Year's Day. And this hangover will cost American taxpayers billions — in fact, it already has.
With much fanfare this week, President Obama announced that the federal government was getting out of the car business, selling its last shares of what had once been a 60 percent stake in a private U.S. company (delayed, of course, until after the 2012 election). The automakers blamed the 2008 economic downturn for poor sales; others blamed the car companies for offering crummy products. Either way, into the dumper they were going.
"As president, I refused to let that happen. I refused to walk away from American workers and an iconic American industry," Mr. Obama said. "Less than five years later, each of the Big Three automakers is now strong enough to stand on its own."
Wonderful. And after loaning the car companies $80 billion, American taxpayers got back $69.5 billion. Yes, you lost $10.5 billion. Good job, America. Oh, and as part of the bailout, thousands of shareholders were stripped of their stock when the feds handed over huge portions of the companies to the United Auto Workers health care fund.
But not according to the president. It's all good. "GM has now repaid every taxpayer dollar my administration committed to its rescue, plus billions invested by the previous administration," he said. Chrysler, too. And Ford never took any bailout money. So where's the other $10.5 billion?
Gone. Only in the federal government is a $10.5 billion loss considered a rousing success.
Don't worry, though, Congress was busy this week saving Americans a whopping $23 billion. While the fiscal 2014 spending plan calls for doling out $3.77 trillion (while bringing in $3.3 trillion), lawmakers accomplished the monumental achievement of saving $23 billion — over 10 years.
That's right, $2.3 billion a year. Or to you mathematicians out there, 0.06 percent of this year's budget. What's more, the deal calls for reversing $65 billion in automatic spending cuts, which means that before Americans can save $23 billion, they have to spend $65 million (kind of like when your wife saves $200 when buying that pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes — for $965).
In another statement filled with "I's," the president lauded the triumph. But he wants more, more. "Congress should extend unemployment insurance, so more than a million Americans looking for work don't lose a vital economic lifeline right after Christmas." Cost: $26 billion. How will the president pay for this? Just like many Americans will pay for Christmas presents this year — on credit.
Talk show icon Mark Levin called the deal "Mickey Mouse." Presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida also ripped the accord. "This budget continues Washington's irresponsible budgeting decisions by spending more money than the government takes in and placing additional financial burdens on everyday Americans." But they've already spent nearly a half-trillion on benefits since Mr. Obama brought his entitlement mentality to town, so what's another $26 billion, right?
And while we're not counting up debt, Breitbart.com reported that the new deal would still "add $8 trillion to the already-oversized national debt," pushing it to $25.2 trillion by 2023.
At least the president got some good news. CBS News and The New York Times reported this week that Americans now love Obamacare. Well, 39 percent do (50 percent don't). But for the mainstream media, up 8 points means love.
But that New Year's hangover hasn't hit. Americans hoping to be covered by Jan. 1 have 12 days to sign up via a website that barely works. March 31 is the sign-up cut off for millions more. How bad will things be by then? And can the government, which lost $10.5 billion on an $80 billion bailout, really handle the $1.6 trillion health care system?
The answer is no. So on New Year's Day, just sleep in, wait for that hangover to fade away. Set your alarm for Jan. 20, 2017.
⦁ Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times and is now editor of the Drudge Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @josephcurl.
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