The White House says its hands are tied by the $85 billion sequester, but budget experts counter that it will have some flexibility to choose what to cut and what to save.
The wiggle-room is inviting accusations from Congress that President Obama is mismanaging the cuts.
Critics also say the flexibility could allow the administration to make the cuts more painful, in order to pressure congressional Republicans to raise taxes as part of a sequester-replacement. Some of these critics point to the decision to not deploy an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf…
Some accounts are so broadly defined they give the administration a lot of flexibility. For example, the Pentagon’s operations and maintenance account includes thousands of contracts and different activities from which to choose the cuts.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday that the cuts under sequestration “will cause pain” and potentially impact readiness ”across our force,” but avoided any doomsday scenario for the impact on national security. Hagel also expressed optimism the White House and Congress would come to an agreement to head off any serious consequences.
In his first briefing for reporters, Hagel said America “has the most capable, the most powerful fighting force in the world” and the Pentagon will “not allow this capacity to erode.” Hagel added “we’ll do what we need to do to assure the capabilities of our forces.”
“We’re adjusting to the realities.”
“I have confidence in the president and the Congress that decisions, consensus will be reached to at some point to avert tremendous damage to this institution. This is the security of America we’re talking about … adjustments are being made … to assure the capabilities and readiness of our forces.”
Speaker John A. Boehner, the man who spent significant portions of the last Congress shuttling to and from the White House for fiscal talks with President Obama that ultimately failed twice to produce a grand bargain, has come around to the idea that the best negotiations are no negotiations…
Among those who placed him in his post and could conceivably remove him, the test of his leadership seems to be how little action he takes. In a closed-door meeting and subsequent news conference this week, Mr. Boehner said the House was done negotiating over spending cuts until the Senate “begins to do something.”…
“I think he realized the president of the United States was using him as a tool for his own benefit and was not actually in a partnership with him, and he also realized that we in the House were not happy with what was coming out of those negotiations,” said Representative Raúl R. Labrador, Republican of Idaho. “We were pretty blunt with him and the entire leadership team that we have to feel like we have a plan and a vision, and we’re following up on that plan and that vision.”
President Obama’s public shaming of congressional Republicans to act on a range of issues may be winning at the polls — but it risks alienating the people needed to reach bipartisan compromise.
While Obama has made a strategic calculation that he needs to marshal public support to push through his agenda, centrist Republicans warn the president and his allies could go too far with partisan events and campaign-style ads targeting GOP lawmakers…
Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee, noted that it was “really, really early to start” attacks, and said the ads could be counterproductive by further undermining relations between the GOP and the White House.
“It is strange to have President Obama’s arm reaching out and attacking members of the House Republicans when in theory he’s trying to work with us,” he said. “I’m not sure how smart that is. If he really wants cooperation, why would you just sort of, intentionally antagonize? I don’t know.”
There are two legitimate objections to sequestration, one political and the other policy-oriented. Politically, Republicans will be handing Democrats something to blame for an economy that is slowing because of tax increases. In terms of policy, sequestration is not an ideal way to make budget choices and is particularly hard on defense spending for no good reason.
But if relatively modest budget reductions that have current law on their side can’t happen, then no real spending cuts can ever happen. And if entitlements and interest payments on the debt aren’t eventually dealt with, defense will keep getting squeezed.
Touting their role as trimmers of a welfare state they once wanted to transform, titillated by the prospect of using as a boomerang against President Obama an idea that was originally his own, thrilled to be showing unaccustomed cleverness by trying to make lemonade out of lemons, the Republicans have taken to the ramparts to preserve, protect, and defend sequestration…
Now what? It’s the morning after. Bloated domestic discretionary federal programs may become a bit less bloated. But they won’t be reformed or improved. Meanwhile, it is defense—the first function of the national government, whose share of federal spending has gone from about 47 percent under John Kennedy to less than 20 percent today—that takes the bulk of the cuts. The one part of the government that has performed well, even above and beyond the call of duty, over the last decade is slashed deeply and indiscriminately.
It’s at this point that the writer is supposed to interject, hastily and apologetically, that of course the Pentagon can and should be cut to some degree, that of course there is at least some bloat in its budget, and that of course no one is mindlessly defending all defense spending. We scorn this pointless accommodation to what are assumed to be the prejudices of uninformed readers. The fact is, if America is to pursue anything resembling its traditional role in the world for the last 70 years, the Pentagon has already been cut too much. We are already at dangerously low levels. The most reasonable position to take now on defense spending cuts is: No.
Say what you like about those Mayan guys, but they only schedule an apocalypse once every 5,126 years. Only Washington would try to pull it off every six weeks. If I understand correctly, by the time you read this, the planes will be dropping from the skies; the drip-feeds in every emergency room will be dry; every creature on the endangered species list will have broken free from our pristine federally manned national parks to be left for roadkill in the potholed asphalt of America’s crumbling interstates; you’ll turn on your bathroom faucet only to find the town reservoir choked with fecal coliform; the Ebola virus will be rampant across Ohio, Florida, New Hampshire, and other swing states, where it will nevertheless enjoy higher approval ratings than Marco Rubio and every other prospective GOP nominee. The sequester supposedly cuts $44 billion from the federal budget — or from the rate of growth of the federal budget. Whatever. $44 billion is about what the United States government borrows every nine days, so it’s not a lot. But it’s apparently responsible for everything that matters in American life…
Can you pierce the mists of time and go back all the way to the year 2007? Back then, federal spending was 40 percent lower than it is today. In a mere half-decade, has all that 40 percent gravy become so indispensable to the general welfare that not even a teensy-weensy sliver of it can be cut?
If you really believe that, then America is going to die, and a gullible citizenry willing to give this laughable charade the time of day will bear ultimate responsibility.
Obama said he thinks the cuts can be replaced by combining a different set of spending cuts with entitlement reform and changes to the tax code, without raising anyone’s tax rates.
“A majority of the American people agree with me on this approach, including a majority of Republicans. We just need Republicans in Congress to catch up with their own party and the rest of the country,” he said…
“Now, it’s important to understand that, while not everyone will feel the pain of these cuts right away, the pain will be real,” Obama said.
Krauthammer argued that Obama has never had any interest in cutting spending or reducing deficits, suggesting that sequestration is part of the president’s “larger agenda” to change America into a liberal entitlement “European-style” state. He said that the only obstacle that Obama has ever had to overcome was the Republican-controlled House, and in order to get done what he really wants to get done, he needs to “neutralize,” “marginalize,” and “fracture” the GOP on the spending issue.
Krauthammer predicted that when Americans start to feel the brunt of the spending cuts, the media will portray it as “Republican cuts” and his opposition will “come crawling and cave on taxes and spending.” Hannity agreed with Krauthammer, but said it is far more malicious than that, since Obama is most interested in cutting spending in the most essential parts of the economy for the sake of making a political point.
Via the Daily Caller.