After witnessing enough of these budget negotiations, I've finally found the formula, under this broken system, to get the best of any deal.
Whoever cares the least about the outcome wins.
If you don't care whether children get health care, whether the elderly, blind and disabled die in their homes, whether prisoners rot in modified Public Storage units, whether students get educated... you have a very good chance of getting a budget that reflects that.
If on the other hand you claim to care, you will concede and concede and concede so you can at least play the responsible part and say at the end that you didn't completely eliminate the social safety net, though what you did get in return will be totally unclear.
And you will do it every single time.
How anyone in public service who claims to care lives with themselves under this current system, then, when your proportion of caring is inversely related to the proportion of care your constituents will receive, is baffling to me. You'd think at some point over the last 31 years, someone would cry "Stop!"
UPDATE by Brian: I just wanted to add a simple link to meetnori.com, the site that produced that video. To say it is powerful is an understatement, but when you get the full background of Nori's story, you'll feel depressed all over again. Sorry...