Send in the Tedious Clowns

The president’s FY 2013 budget has just been released, and before you read much of anything else about it, you should check out (speaking of JournoList!) Ezra Klein’s introduction to it in this morning’s WaPo.

As Ezra indicates, the hallmark of this budget is a bit more honesty than is customary in such documents. It seeks to implement the intentionally-vague and indirect spending “sequesters” in last year’s deficit reduction deal. It no longer pretends that repealing or extending the Bush tax cuts is any thing other than an explicit policy decision rather than continuation of a “baseline.” And it also doesn’t pretend Obama can or should keep a 2009 pledge to reduce the budget deficit by half–any more than George W. Bush kept any of his periodic deficit reduction promises.

Now the Kabuki Theater of budget politics will begin, and you may be excused for ignoring most of it. The odds of anything other than stopgap decisions during this election year are very low, and Republicans are probably not foolish enough to present honest accountings of what their own budget blueprints would produce in the way of specific funding levels and policy changes for the popular federal safety net programs they’d like to turn inside out and upside down. Green-eyeshade season in Washington is never a lot of fun for non-wonks. This year in particular, it’s going to be that least interesting of commodities: a boring circus with tedious clowns and wild animals who hide their fangs.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.