October 14 2013

Is the Sequester in Danger?

Charlotte Hays

President Obama has accused the GOP of taking America hostage and trying to exact a ransom merely for doing its job, which the president sees as giving into constant demands for higher taxes and higher spending.

Is it time to consider that President Obama is engaging in what shrinks call projection? An editorial in the Wall Street Journal this morning (sorry, subscription required) fingers the real hostage takers:

The way the budget showdown is going, Democrats may soon require the Republicans to pay ransom before they'll allow the GOP to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling. That's how badly the party's Ted Cruz faction has messed up the politics of all this. But we sure hope part of that price won't be to abandon the budget caps that are the only restraint on President Obama's spending plans.

The sequester really does squeeze some pet Democratic programs and they hate it. A new Congressional Research Service report indicates that “the sequester caps are providing better fiscal discipline than any budget deal has since 1980.”  The report finds that the sequester’s reduction of the deficit over the next five years will be second only to the deal cut by then-President George H.W. Bush and Senator George Mitchell.

The five percent across the board cuts are hardly noticed by most Americans. But Democrats in Congress do notice them and, emboldened by this latest debt crisis, may try to up the ante for a deal and eliminate the sequester. The sequester was a small change, not the kind of sweeping, bold change of which many conservatives (including this one) still dream. But it was a start, probably the best that can be done under this president. And now it is in peril.

Why has no Republican gone on TV and said that the reason this crisis is so scary is that for the first time in American history, we have a president who just might be willing to default, when it could be avoided? I hope Charles Krauthammer, who says that President Obama knows he can’t afford a default (the legacy thing), is right. But I am not at all sure. Nor am I confident that, as chief executive, the president would not try to make the fallout of a default even more painful than necessary. It's going to be an interesting week.

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