February 20 2013
The Wall Street Journal has the headline of the day:
It is on an editorial about a pampered president who returns from golfing with Tiger Woods and other buddies to proclaim Armageddon if a plan—the sequester—developed in the White House goes into effect. He says this Armageddon will be the fault of the Republicans, natch.
Now, the sequester is a terrible idea. But it may be the only way to make even a dent in spending in President Obama’s Washington. It may, in fact, be a terrible idea whose time has come. But here is the thing: the chief executive gets to determine how to manage U.S. funds in the event of a sequester.
And this chief executive sounds as if he wants to make it as painful as possible—and blame Republicans, but I repeat myself, as the president has been doing on this particular matter for going on five years. The Journal explains the nature of the threat:
Americans need to understand that Mr. Obama is threatening that if he doesn't get what he wants, he's ready to inflict maximum pain on everybody else. He won't force government agencies to shave spending on travel and conferences and excessive pay and staffing. He won't demand that agencies cut the lowest priority spending as any half-competent middle manager would.
It's the old ploy to stir public support for all government spending by shutting down vital services first. Voters should scoff at the idea that a $3.6 trillion government can't save one nickel of every dollar that agencies spend. The $85 billion in savings is a mere 2.3% of total spending. The agencies that the White House says can't save 5% received an average increase in their budgets of 17% in the previous five years—not counting their $276 billion stimulus bonus.
The editorial analyzes the president’s threats (recession, job loss, Head Start children in the streets, boils, frogs, and hail).
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House John Boehner has an opinion piece on the same page charging that “The President Is Raging Against a Budget Crisis He Created.” Boehner writes:
A week from now, a dramatic new federal policy is set to go into effect that threatens U.S. national security, thousands of jobs and more. In a bit of irony, President Obama stood Tuesday with first responders who could lose their jobs if the policy goes into effect. Most Americans are just hearing about this Washington creation for the first time: the sequester. What they might not realize from Mr. Obama's statements is that it is a product of the president's own failed leadership.
The sequester is a wave of deep spending cuts scheduled to hit on March 1. Unless Congress acts, $85 billion in across-the-board cuts will occur this year, with another $1.1 trillion coming over the next decade. There is nothing wrong with cutting spending that much—we should be cutting even more—but the sequester is an ugly and dangerous way to do it.
Boehner explains how the sequester came about during the budget impasse of 2011:
During the summer of 2011, as Washington worked toward a plan to reduce the deficit to allow for an increase in the federal debt limit, President Obama and I very nearly came to a historic agreement. Unfortunately our deal fell apart at the last minute when the president demanded an extra $400 billion in new tax revenue—50% more than we had shaken hands on just days before.
The plan called for immediate caps on discretionary spending (to save $917 billion) and the creation of a special House-Senate "super committee" to find an additional $1.2 trillion in savings. The deal also included a simple but powerful mechanism to ensure that the committee met its deficit-reduction target: If it didn't, the debt limit would not be increased again in a few months.
But President Obama was determined not to face another debt-limit increase before his re-election campaign. Having just blown up one deal, the president scuttled this bipartisan, bicameral agreement. His solution? A sequester.
With the debt limit set to be hit in a matter of hours, Republicans and Democrats in Congress reluctantly accepted the president's demand for the sequester, and a revised version of the Budget Control Act was passed on a bipartisan basis.
It is very good that the GOP is finally trying to get some rhetorical advantage. They now have to make the point (repeatedly) that the president doesn’t regard spending as a problem and that his punitive taxes for “the rich” is nothing more than a talking point designed to stoke class hatred.