President Obama said that with less than a week before $85 billion of automatic across-the-board cuts hit, he still believes that lawmakers “have the opportunity to make the right decisions” to avert the sequester.
“Hope springs eternal,” Obama said during a brief press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “And I will just keep on making my case not only to Congress, but more importantly the American people to take a smart approach to deficit reduction and do it in a way that doesn’t endanger our economy and endanger jobs.”…
Obama added that “this should be a no-brainer.”
A quick scan of recent headlines and you’ll see that enacting the cuts will make the U.S. a second-rate military power, keep you from seeing part of the Grand Canyon, poison your food and leave you sitting on an airport tarmac for an hour and a half. Also, someone from the federal government will come into your home, kick your dog, take you off the do-not-call list, and borrow your car without filling it back up.
Of course, if you’ve paid attention to these fights before, you know that is a classic case of Washington Monument Syndrome. Threaten to cut government budgets and it always turns out that the amount you want to reduce spending by is precisely the amount that was needed to pay police, firefighters, and teachers. We probably won’t be able to afford to immunize crippled orphans against rabies either, so you heartless Republicans are just going to have to live with the knowledge that you were responsible for the wolves rising to power in the inner cities.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner describes the upcoming sequester as a policy “that threatens U.S. national security, thousands of jobs and more.”
Which leads to the question: Why would Republicans support a measure that threatens national security and thousands of jobs? Boehner and the GOP are determined to allow the $1.2 trillion sequester go into effect unless President Obama and Democrats agree to replacement cuts, of an equal amount, that target entitlement spending. If that doesn’t happen — and it seems entirely unlikely — the sequester goes into effect, with the GOP’s blessing…
The effect of Boehner’s argument is to make Obama seem reasonable in comparison. After all, the president certainly agrees with Boehner that the sequester cuts threaten national security and jobs. The difference is that Obama wants to avoid them. At the same time, Boehner is contributing to Republican confusion on the question of whether the cuts are in fact “deep” or whether they are relatively minor.
Could the GOP message on the sequester be any more self-defeating?
Democrats get to do the P.C. Shimmy. Traditional presidents go through a normal set of motions: They identify a problem. They come up with a proposal to address the problem. They try to convince the country that their proposal is the best approach.
Under the Permanent Campaign Shimmy, the president identifies a problem. Then he declines to come up with a proposal to address the problem. Then he comes up with a vague-but-politically-convenient concept that doesn’t address the problem (let’s raise taxes on the rich). Then he goes around the country blasting the opposition for not having as politically popular a concept. Then he returns to Washington and congratulates himself for being the only serious and substantive person in town…
He does have a vague and politically convenient concept. (Tax increases on the rich!) He does have a chance to lead the country into a budget showdown with furloughed workers and general mayhem, for which people will primarily blame Republicans. And he does have the chance to achieve the same thing he has achieved so frequently over the past two years, political success and legislative mediocrity.
Meanwhile, with a budget higher than it was even at the peak of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Pentagon is resisting attempts to force it to audit its own finances. Congress passed a law back in 1990 requiring such an audit, to no avail. Last year, Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., introduced the Audit the Pentagon Act, which would try again to force a look inside the maze of Pentagon spending.
Now, with the Defense Department sounding the alarm about sequestration, some budget hawks on Capitol Hill are doubtful. “It’s difficult to take these doomsday scenarios seriously when the Pentagon can’t even audit its own books,” says a spokesman for Coburn. “We would argue that the Defense Department has the authority to reprioritize funding toward vital needs and away from less vital spending. As Sen. Coburn has detailed, the department spends nearly $70 billion each year on ‘nondefense’ defense spending that has nothing to do with our national security.”
If the sequestration cuts go into effect, many members of Congress will be watching the Pentagon closely.
Indiana Rep. Larry Bucshon, who represents a once-swingy seat shored up in redistricting, says “the two percent of the federal budget that’s going to be cut by this should not have a dramatic effect on Hoosiers.” Mississippi Rep. Greg Harper, from the Jackson area, just blames the cuts on the president and says “the solution is to raise taxes, it’s just not going to happen.”
And then there’s Virginia Rep. Scott Rigell. A former car dealer, a man who defeated a Tea Party primary challenger in 2010 and took one of the state’s defense industry-heavy Tidewater, Rigell is running around warning of falling skies. “This is not a theoretical problem like it is up in Washington. This is reality,” he tells a Norfolk, Va. station. “This is not a tornado that hits in the middle of the night and you’re totally disoriented,” he tells the Washington Examiner. “You’re tracking it and watching it come up.” He tells the Wall Street Journal that he’s actually open to closing tax loopholes for new revenue — GOP dogma is that loopholes can only be closed if taxes are cuts somewhere else…
I enjoy the new, #slatepitchy argument that gerrymandering is overrated as an issue, and that it doesn’t influence whether members moderate their votes or not, but sequestration’s putting that to a test.
The Pew poll found that only 27 percent said they knew “a lot” about the sequester, while 43 percent said they knew “a little” and 29 percent said they knew “nothing at all.” The most ignorant are Democrats: 33 percent said they knew nothing at all, compared with 29 percent of independents and only 22 percent of Republicans.
That helps to explain President Obama’s shameless demagoguery on the issue. For a lot of those voters his speeches may be the first time they are hearing about this. I wonder how many of those listening know the sequester was the White House’s idea in the first place, that Obama signed it into law and initially vowed to veto any effort to undo it?
Via Daily Rushbo.