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Hullabaloo


Thursday, February 28, 2013

 
Repeal that mess

by digby

It appears that quite a few more people are recognizing that the only way to save the president from himself is to blow up this dangerous runaway train altogether

Today we have Altman and Kingston from Social Security Works calling for repeal:

The "sequester" poses an unnecessary and huge danger, potentially inflicting deep wounds to the economy and to our nation's communities and families.

The sequester is not a hurricane, a tornado, a flood, or some other natural disaster. It is not the collapse of a bridge (though it could result in that). This potentially devastating, self-imposed wound could be eliminated in less than five minutes! All it would take is the political courage to admit a mistake and then agree to its cancellation.

Senator Jeff Merkley:

“We need to end the sequestration, and once and for all stop lurching from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis. This is no way to run a country... The sequester is a D.C.-created disaster in the making. It’s time to take Congress’s foot off the economic brake, make some smart choices about how we build for the future, and spare Americans from a politician-induced recession.”

Congressman Alan Grayson:

Since we now know that the sequester was designed to get congress to agree to cut at least 1.2 trillion dollars in some combination of cuts to Social Security and Medicare and tax hikes it will be more important than ever to push for total repeal not a replacement. Since defense cuts are not going to happen and straight up tax hikes will be impossible I think we can see the writing on the wall. It must be repealed.

In the midst of all this sturm und drang, let's not forget the most salient fact, which is that the deficit is not a crisis in the first place. Here's a little reminder that's worth thinking about as we look at this utter nonsense taking place in Washington over projected deficits decades from now:


On the other hand, the CBO is much more accurate at telling us what's happening in the moment. Think Progress analyzed its latest report earlier this month:

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its latest budget projections today, which show that the U.S. has made substantial progress towards getting its deficit and debt under control. However, the flip side of that reality is that CBO projects economic growth will be sluggish for the next several years, meaning that unemployment will only come down slowly. Here are the four biggest takeaways from the report:

1. The deficit has been reduced by a lot. 

2. The debt is stabilized. Thanks to the fiscal cliff deal and previous budget agreements, most of the country’s debt problem is solved. The CBO’s report shows debt will now peak at 77.7 percent of GDP in 2014, then drop to 73.1 percent in 2018, then rise back to 76 percent in 2022. (See graph below.) According to the Economic Policy Institute, flattening out that second rise from 2018 to 2022 will only require $670 billion in additional deficit reduction — $580 billion in actual policy savings, plus $90 billion in resulting interest savings. That’s less than half the $1.5 trillion in additional deficit reduction President Obama is calling for.


3. Austerity is killing the recovery. The CBO anticipates that economic growth will be slow this year, which “reflects a combination of ongoing improvement in underlying economic factors and fiscal tightening that has already begun or is scheduled to occur — including the expiration of a 2 percentage-point cut in the Social Security payroll tax, an increase in tax rates on income above certain thresholds, and scheduled automatic reductions in federal spending.” Large austerity efforts in Europe have been stifling economic growth and causing continued economic contractions. 
4. Jobs aren’t coming back fast. Due to a pronounced output gap — the gap between what the economy is producing and what it could be producing — unemployment will remain elevated for several years.
Don't worry, they say that we're likely to come down to 7.5% unemployment by the end of the year. I'm so old that I remember when 7.5% unemployment was considered a crisis that required all hands on deck.

We are working ourselves into a frenzy over problems that aren't problems, while millions upon millions of Americans cannot find work and the economy is moribund. Talk about fiddling while Rome burns.

On the other hand, while the president was never explicit about their plan to force entitlement cuts through the sequester, he did warn us just four months ago that it was going to be messy:

Q: Mr. President, we know that John Boehner and the House Republicans have not been easy to work with, and certainly you’ve had some obstacles in the Senate, even though it’s been controlled by the Democrats. At the time, whenever -- we talked a lot about, in 2008, hope and change. I’m curious about what you see your role is in terms of changing the tone and the perception that Washington is broken. But particularly, sir, if you were granted a second term, how do you implode this partisan gridlock that has gripped Washington and Congress and basically our entire political structure right now?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, Rick, let me answer you short term and long term. In the short term, the good news is that there’s going to be a forcing mechanism to deal with what is the central ideological argument in Washington right now, and that is: How much government do we have and how do we pay for it?

So when you combine the Bush tax cuts expiring, the sequester in place, the commitment of both myself and my opponent -- at least Governor Romney claims that he wants to reduce the deficit -- but we’re going to be in a position where I believe in the first six months we are going to solve that big piece of business.

It will probably be messy. It won’t be pleasant. But I am absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain that essentially I’ve been offering to the Republicans for a very long time, which is $2.50 worth of cuts for every dollar in spending, and work to reduce the costs of our health care programs.

And we can easily meet -- “easily” is the wrong word -- we can credibly meet the target that the Bowles-Simpson Commission established of $4 trillion in deficit reduction, and even more in the out-years, and we can stabilize our deficit-to-GDP ratio in a way that is really going to be a good foundation for long-term growth.
 Now, once we get that done, that takes a huge piece of business off the table.

He then said that once he gets that done along with immigration reform, they can tackle the "non-ideological" agenda:

Now we're in a position where we can start on some things that really historically have not been ideological. We can start looking at a serious corporate tax reform agenda that's revenue-neutral but lowers rates and broadens the base -- something that both Republicans and Democrats have expressed an interest in.


So, once all this messiness is over, never fear, we'll start lowering tax rates. It's all good.

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