Obama wants to avoid the sequester?

In [Thursday’s] White House press briefing, Jay Carney was asked about House Minority Leader Pelosi’s proposal to extend the Bush-era tax rates for those making up to one million dollars. Carney’s response had three interesting components to it, three of which are standard liberal fare on taxes and the last an interesting admission regarding the sequestration heading Washington’s way.


First, the standard liberal fare on taxes. Carney said the following in his first response to the tax question:

And the question now is whether Republicans will vote to raise taxes on the middle class and hold the middle class hostage on the insistence that the wealthiest Americans continue to get tax breaks that contributed mightily already to our deficits, which in this economic environment they do not need.

This doesn’t need much repeating, but even if one accepts the notion that the Bush tax policies for those making over $250,000 contributed to our deficits (a debatable point), the fact is that in the last 11 years we’ve added $10 trillion to the national debt. The Bush tax policies for upper-income Americans will “cost” the government $829 billion over the next 10 years, according to the liberal Center for Budget & Policy Priorities, which means over the last 11 years we would have prevented 8.29% of our deficits. This is not “contributing mightily” to our deficits.

Second, Beohner’s press secretary released a one-line response to Pelosi’s proposal soon after it came out: “Speaker Boehner has already announced that the House will act to stop the tax hike on every American taxpayer.” For Carney to say Republicans want to raise taxes on the middle-class is absurd in light of this statement.

Third, Carney’s statement shows that this President still doesn’t get that income belongs to the person who made it legally and ethically. While taxes are necessary for a functioning society with the rule of law, property rights, a military etc. etc. this does not mean the government has a right to one’s income. Which is why we need to eliminate the income tax (including repeal of the 16th Amendment) and institute a national sales tax, though that’s a discussion for another time.


The most interesting thing Carney said was regarding sequestration:

Look, we’re continuing to work with leaders in Congress on how best to move forward to ensure that we not only protect middle-class families from a tax hike, but also how we achieve a balanced plan to reduce the deficit and avoid the sequester — to use Washington lingo. I apologize to anyone out there watching, but you know what I’m talking about. And these are — these obviously are ongoing discussions.

When the sequester was first announced in November 2011, the White House issued a veto threat against attempts to get around sequestration without cutting equivalently elsewhere, and said the automatic cuts were “a sword of Damocles” hanging over Congress’ head that were aimed to force Congress to find better alternatives. The Hill reported this was still Obama’s position as of yesterday, which is ironic in light of the new veto threat made early last month against House-passed legislation that avoided the defense cuts in the sequester by cutting social spending, enacting medical tort reform and cutting federal worker pay to offset the lack of defense cuts. However, this all indicates that the President wants to hold to the $1.2 trillion in spending reductions in the sequester.

The fact that Carney has admitted the President wants to avoid sequestration entirely is a new public angle on the debate, though the liberal The Nation says that the President’s FY2013 budget proposal got rid of the defense cuts in the sequester. However, this may be a formal new tactic for the President, as he sent his Deputy Defense Secretary to speak at the American Enterprise Institute earlier this week, where the Secretary commented that the sequestration cuts were “irrational,” and designed to be that way to force action from Congress.


Regardless of the President’s true objective, avoiding sequestration he signed into law is an unusual public tactic to take, especially in light of his proclaimed wish to achieve a “balanced” plan to avoid the sequester. Do such proposals exist? I seem to remember a few…

  • Senator Coburn’s Back in Black plan, which cut spending across the board and eliminated tax loopholes to balance the budget. This was introduced prior to the Budget Control Act, which created the failed Commission that led to sequestration.
  • Speaker Boehner’s offer to put $800 billion in revenues on the table prior to the Budget Control Act’s creation.
  • The Gang of Six’s plan, which was decidedly moderate but both reduced spending and had revenue increases. This was also introduced prior to the Budget Control Act.
  • The President-created Simpson-Bowles Deficit Commission’s chairs proposed some solid (if, again, decidedly centrist) reforms to federal spending and taxation, which the President promptly ignored. Simpson and Bowles proposed these reforms in late 2010.

If the President wanted to avoid sequestration, he had plenty of chances to do so in what he would call a “balanced” fashion. Perhaps this is a sign he finally recognizes the American public sees across-the-board defense cuts as harmful and the domestic reductions as inadequate given the debt challenges facing the nation?



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