Congress isn’t in session this week, but that doesn’t mean that they’re entirely out of the media’s gaze, either. After Barack Obama waggled his finger yesterday at Congress over the sequester he himself proposed and signed into law, John Boehner waggled his right back in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Boehner reminded Obama and readers that the budget fights in 2010, 2011, and at the end of 2012 were over both spending cuts and tax increases. Republicans bent over backwards to enact the latter, and now it’s the turn of Democrats on the former:
Both parties today have a responsibility to find a bipartisan solution to the sequester. Turning it off and erasing its deficit reduction isn’t an option. What Congress should do is replace it with other spending cuts that put America on the path to a balanced budget in 10 years, without threatening national security.
Having first proposed and demanded the sequester, it would make sense that the president lead the effort to replace it. Unfortunately, he has put forth no detailed plan that can pass Congress, and the Senate—controlled by his Democratic allies—hasn’t even voted on a solution, let alone passed one. By contrast, House Republicans have twice passed plans to replace the sequester with common-sense cuts and reforms that protect national security.
The president has repeatedly called for even more tax revenue, but the American people don’t support trading spending cuts for higher taxes. They understand that the tax debate is now closed.
The president got his higher taxes—$600 billion from higher earners, with no spending cuts—at the end of 2012. He also got higher taxes via ObamaCare. Meanwhile, no one should be talking about raising taxes when the government is still paying people to play videogames, giving folks free cellphones, and buying $47,000 cigarette-smoking machines.
Washington must get serious about its spending problem. If it can’t reform America’s safety net and retirement-security programs, they will no longer be there for those who rely on them. Republicans’ willingness to do what is necessary to save these programs is well-known. But after four years, we haven’t seen the same type of courage from the president.
Rand Paul’s response to Obama was more tart and to the point, deriding the President for his “histrionics”:
“I think the sequester happens and it will be in some ways a yawn because the histrionics that are coming from the president saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to shut down and get rid of meat inspectors’ — I mean, is anybody not going to stand up and call his bluff on that ridiculousness?” Paul said on CNN on Tuesday night. …
“I mean, for goodness sakes, it was his proposal. He proposed the sequester, it was his idea. He signed it into law, now he’s going to tell us that, ‘Oh, it’s all our fault?’” Paul said. “I voted against the sequester because I didn’t think it was enough.”
He added: “It’s a pittance. I mean, it’s a slowdown in the rate of growth. There are no real cuts happening over 10 years.”
There are real cuts to discretionary spending programs (including defense, especially), but that’s not where the deficit pressure originates. The deficit pressure comes from entitlement programs that pay out far more than we take in, an will do so increasingly over the next three decades or more. What’s needed aren’t cuts across the board (although they would probably be salutary, if done properly). We need fundamental reform of the statutory spending programs to bring them back into fiscal balance and ensure that the truly needy get assistance.
Democrats avoided that issue over the Christmas holiday because the expiration of the Bush tax rates gave them all the leverage. Republicans aren’t going to let them off the hook, not even with Obama using first responders as potted plants.
Addendum: Not that anyone particularly misses them, but why exactly aren’t the House and Senate in session this week? President’s Day was only on Monday, not for five days.