Nel's New Day

February 21, 2013

Whither the Sequester, Part 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:12 PM
Tags: , , , ,

In an interview with Rev. Al Sharpton, President Obama said,

“My sense is [the GOP] basic view is that nothing is important enough to raise taxes on wealthy individuals or corporations, and they would prefer to see these kind of cuts that could slow down our recovery over closing tax loopholes. And that’s the thing that binds their party together at this point.”

The president was talking about the sequester, set to take place on March 1 because the Republicans have refused to negotiate. Today he phoned House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Earlier this week, he called several Republican senators, including John McCain (AZ), Marco Rubio (FL), and Lindsey Graham (SC), after they criticized him for not talking to them about immigration reform.

To stop the sequester through the end of this year, the Democrats have a $110 million plan that provides an equal division between revenues and spending cuts. Implementing the Buffett Rule, it would phase in a 30-percent effective rate for incomes between $1 million and $2 million. Additional revenues would come from changing tax treatment of oil extraction from oil sands and end current tax breaks to companies who move jobs overseas.

The $55 billion in spending cuts, evenly divided between defense and non-defense programs, would save $27.5 billion by eliminating agricultural subsidies and another $27.5 billion though defense cuts. Defense cuts would not start until a $3 billion cut in 2015, after the end of the Afghanistan war, and be slowly phased in until 2021 with a $5 billion reduction. In opposition, some Democrats pointed out that Congress has already cut $1.7 trillion in spending while raising only $700 billion in taxes since 2010, 2-to-1 cuts over revenue.

Of course, they haven’t presented the plans to Congress because it hasn’t been in session for the last week. They’ll show up for a couple of days next week, not enough time to take care of the sequester before March 1.

Most of the people in the United States know that the Republicans are responsible for this manufactured crisis, despite the GOP insistence that the president is at fault, but all of us are helpless to do anything about it. With its goal of showing the weakness of the opposing party to gain seats in 2014, the GOP wastes time. They are not trying to help the economy grow or reduce joblessness because that might give a more positive view toward the Democrats. The Republicans want these “meat cleaver” cuts, and they don’t care if their actions will destroy the country.

In a last-ditch attempt to show that he is not at fault, Boehner has a 900-word op-ed in the Wall Street Journal trying to point a finger away from himself. Boehner’s words and the translation:

“During the summer of 2011, as Washington worked toward a plan to reduce the deficit” means he and the GOP held the nation hostage while the president offered him a 9-to-1, cuts to revenue.

“The president scuttled this bipartisan, bicameral agreement. His solution? A sequester” means that the president accepted over $1.2 trillion in spending cuts with no revenue which Boehner found inadequate and then agreed to give policy makers more time—typical Boehner “kick-the-can-down-the-road” approach.

“Ultimately, the super committee failed to find an agreement, despite Republicans offering a balanced mix of spending cuts and new revenue through tax reform” means that the GOP offered the possibility of tax breaks—some day.

“The president’s sequester is now imminent” means that the GOP voted for it and then spent months bragging about its own sequester.

“Unfortunately, [the president] has put forth no detailed plan that can pass Congress” means that President Obama provided a detailed plan that Boehner doesn’t like.

“By contrast, House Republicans have twice passed plans to replace the sequester with common-sense cuts and reforms that protect national security” means that they did it during the 112th Congress and the plan doesn’t carry over to 2013.

“The president has repeatedly called for even more tax revenue, but the American people don’t support trading spending cuts for higher taxes” means that he ignores “the American people” because they have supported closing tax loopholes.

“The president got his higher taxes — $600 billion from higher earners, with no spending cuts — at the end of 2012” means that Boehner forgot that he got his $1.2 trillion spending cuts with no new revenue in 2011.

“Republicans’ willingness to do what is necessary to save these [retirement-security] programs is well-known. But after four years, we haven’t seen the same type of courage from the president” means that Boehner hopes no one notices his and the GOP’s work to end Medicare and privatize Social Security into oblivion as well as the president’s willingness to “reform” these programs.

Part of the impending disaster comes from Boehner’s latest “new rule,” as ridiculous as those on Bill Maher’s show and equally created out of thin air: “The sequester will be in effect until there are cuts and reforms that put us on a path to balance the budget in the next 10 years.” Unfortunately for the Speaker, his own caucus is getting nervous about the most recent proclamation. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), responded,

“There could be a significant number of Republicans that say, ‘I’m not going there because it would be too dramatic.’ I have said to my constituents, nobody is talking about changing Social Security and Medicare if you’re 55 years or over.’ I’ve been selling it for three or four years that way. So have many other members. Well, to balance in 10, that 55 years is going to move up to 58, 59, 60. It makes us look like we’re going back on what we were telling people when we were trying to sell this.”

Even the plan from the 112th Congress, less draconian than Speaker’s recent idea but still horrifying, wouldn’t balance the federal budget for almost 30 years. The last plan was so disastrous that GOP members weren’t willing to give specifics on the numbers. Now Boehner thinks that cuts in areas outside defense of one-sixth to one-third without any revenue can solve the country’s deficit problem by 2023.

This is Boehner’s message, phrased by Rachel Maddow: “(1) the sequester would do real harm to the country; (2) Republicans will allow it to happen anyway; and (3) this is a political winner for the GOP.”

This week, the president’s approval rating is 55 percent, his highest in three years; the GOP approval rating is 35 percent. These figures are according to a Bloomberg poll from February 15-18, 2013.

A poll from USA Today and the Pew Research Center shows that 76 percent of people in the United States, including 56 percent of Republicans, want a combination of revenues and spending cuts. Only 19 percent favor Boehner’s and McConnell’s cuts-only approach. The same poll shows that people are more likely to blame the GOP for negative results if the sequester is allowed to go into effect.

Tomorrow: what the sequester cuts.

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