Democrats want the federal budget to be about $3,730,000,000,000. Republicans want it to be about $3,630,000,000,000. As with many other issues, the difference between the two parties is less than three percent. Even so, it nearly led to a federal government shutdown.
The deal that the two parties recently struck to avoid a government shutdown meets somewhere in the between. It is advertised as cutting $38.5 billion of spending. But on closer inspection, it would actually cut $14.7 billion. That would cut total federal spending by 0.39 percent.
I have a hunch that even those small cuts may not actually happen. This blog post I wrote in 2005 explains why.
The rules of the game in Washington are severely stacked in favor of spending increases. Presidents Bush and Obama grew the federal government by about 100 percent in only a decade with little political pain. And it apparently takes the specter of a government shutdown to reduce spending by 0.39 percent.
If anyone is looking for a reason for fundamental institutional reform, that would be a big one.