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Congrats, Congress, you passed a budget bill

Jan 22, 2014 - By The Chicago Tribune

So the U.S. House and Senate finally agreed on something. They agreed the status quo isn't so bad after all.

Last week, Congress sent a $1.1 trillion spending bill to President Barack Obama that aligns with the bipartisan budget deal struck in December between House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray.

Everyone patted themselves on the back for ... agreeing on something. And then they went home to their districts.

Did Congress make necessary changes to the programs that are driving government's alarming deficit spending -- Medicare, Social Security or Medicaid? Did they meaningfully scale back federal pension benefits, cut more discretionary spending or overhaul the tax code?

They did not.

Just about every member of Congress who hits the campaign trail this year will talk of the need to get a handle on the federal government's $17 trillion debt. You'll hear of the imminent need to reform entitlement programs. You'll definitely hear, from both parties, of the need to reform the complicated tax code and make it fairer. Somebody! Fix it!

But members of Congress had the chance, and let it pass.

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, has announced that he will retire at the end of the year. We're going to miss his frankness. Just as the way he described the budget deal last month when it was in the works: "We're going to raise spending back up because the political powers that be want to spend more money rather than be responsible with what we know needs to be done up here, which is hard work eliminating all the stupidity, fraud, duplication that's going on."

Just another day on Capitol Hill. Another week, month, year. Forgive us for not getting too excited about "the deal." It's little more than a perpetuation of the frightening status quo.

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