Update #4 ·

What we learned from this fight (part 2/3)

The longer term budget fight that will now commence will revolve around the across-the-board spending cuts known as the "sequester" that came into place after the Democrats caved during the last debt ceiling crisis. The sequester has led to indiscriminate cuts to everything -- from vital social programs that should be better funded to the bloated Pentagon budget that should be the target of even further cutbacks.

If you remember, in 2011 -- despite opposition from CREDO members and other progressives -- Democrats agreed to a process that led first to the dangerous farce that was called "the Super Committee." Then, when the Super Committee failed because Republicans refused to take Democrats up on their offer to cut programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in exchange for modest increases in revenue, an across-the-board sequester was imposed. This sequester has been slashing government spending at a time when the government needed to be spending more money to bring us out of our economic downturn and get people back to work.

The Democratic victory in this most recent fight merely maintained the status quo including those brutal cuts from 2011. The fact that the deal struck consists of a temporary funding bill that adopts the Republicans sequester budget cuts shows how far the goalposts have been moved and how much more work we as progressives have to do if we want to see our priorities reflected in how the government spends money.

The Democrats won this battle. Harry Reid was able to both corral his caucus to keep them unified, and to pursue a strategy that splintered the Republicans without rewarding their hostage-taking. The bigger victory will come when Democrats embrace this strategy in future fights, not only when the Democrats are on defense but also when we can push them to go on offense for our progressive priorities.

Reid's leadership not only helped us in this fight, it also shows how Democrats can win future battles (which will hopefully make the Republicans think twice about threatening to throw our economy into a tailspin if they don't get their way).

It's important to celebrate Democrats when they stand up to the Republicans' irresponsible and undemocratic strategy of using manufactured crises as hostage-taking opportunities, but we shouldn't kid ourselves about the need to continue fighting the Republicans or the need to keep putting pressure on the Democrats to stand up for our values.

Although it received scant notice at the time, the discussions around re-opening the government and extending the debt ceiling explicitly included talk about cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

{Continue to Part 3...}

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