The U.S. Capitol is seen at dusk in Washington on...

The U.S. Capitol is seen at dusk in Washington on Friday, April 8. Credit: AP

Now comes the hard part.

What just happened in Washington might have seemed tough, Friday night's screech-to-the-edge agreement to whack $38.5 billion from this year's federal budget. But that number -- even if it is "the biggest budget cut in history," as self-congratulatory politicians on both sides kept boasting Saturday -- adds up to a grand total of two-tenths of 1 percent of what the feds intend to spend in 2011.

Gee, congratulations! If you think that was difficult, get ready for the trifecta of budget battles that will ignite Washington next.

Raising the debt ceiling. Agreeing on a 2012 budget. And coming to grips with the long-term financing of programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The debt ceiling? Who cares about that?

In a normal year, nobody but economic nerds. This is no normal year. Currently, Washington can borrow $14.3 trillion, which sounds like a lot of money. Pretty much all economists seem to believe the limit has to go higher. But Republicans will try to use that vote to extract massive cuts in Democratic programs like President Obama's health care reform.

Democrats will resist, suggesting alternative cuts in Republican-backed programs like high-tech missile systems and tax breaks for oil companies.

It'll get ugly. No doubt. And that's before anyone throws abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage into the debate.

You think I'm stretching here? Just wait.


ASKED AND UNANSWERED: Is wisecracking Rockaways crash-lander Jason Maloney sullying Sully's reputation? Or is it just that near-death experiences feel different at 24? . . . Can this marriage be saved? Redistricting reformer Ed Koch and redistricting foot-dragger Dean Skelos? . . . The "undisclosed location" of Snooki and JWoww's "Jersey Shore" spinoff house -- could it possibly be on an island that is really only part of an island and has the initials LI? . . . Taking the train from Freeport to Babylon this weekend? You think so, huh? . . . Did the nuns ever imagine this? North Shore-LIJ running the ER at what used to be called St. Vincent's in Greenwich Village, the last general Catholic hospital in New York City? . . . Is anyone surprised that LIPA finds extra state oversight negative, costly and unnecessary? Will the nosy state senators buy that? . . . Why do LI serial killers keep stalking escorts? Joel Rifkin, Robert Shulman -- and now this new guy.







  • Early-season Mets bravado



  • Official NYS veggie contests



  • More than 100 cats in a single Glen Cove apartment



  • Dangerous Queensboro Bridge off-ramps



  • Hot-button social issues masquerading as budget fights




    Ellis' Long Islander of the week: JOE PERRI


    As president of Islandia-based Gold Coast Bank, established in 2008, Joe Perri competes every day with far larger and far older financial institutions. Here's something that should help his little bank stand out: All month, he's donating every dollar of his ATM fees to local groups battling autism. Perri says it's because he's just opened a new branch in East Setauket and because April is National Autism Awareness Month. "Autism affects so many Long Island families," he says. Whatever the reason, maybe other banks should start copying the idea. Giving those hated ATM fees to worthy charities. Or eliminate the fees entirely.


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