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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

 
Sequestration demonstration

by digby

Politico helpfully pimps the GOP negotiating position in the next budget showdown:

Republicans wanted to cut the federal budget — everywhere except the Pentagon. No more.

The reason: A new breed of conservatives in the House cares so much about cutting spending they’re willing to extend that to the budget for bullets and bombs, too — in this case, by letting $500 billion in across-the-board automatic budget cuts over 10 years take effect, alongside a similar number for domestic agencies.

“I’m reading what a lot of different members are saying, and I find there’s not as much opposition to sequestration as I thought there might be,” Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.), the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee in charge of the Pentagon’s purse strings, told POLITICO.

“I don’t think I have any real feeling for which direction this House is going, and this is the first time in a long time that I haven’t had a pretty good feel for it,” Young added.

It’s got defense hawks in the House on edge — and on the defensive. But the members of the next generation say their argument is straightforward: Of course they want a strong national defense, but spending is spending.

“What you’re hearing from some folks about the status of the sequester simply tells you that there’s a group of Republicans who are willing to look at the Defense Department equally with the other departments,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), a sophomore who has been leading the campaign for spending cuts, including at the Pentagon.

“I think Republicans lose credibility when they say we have to look everywhere for savings except defense,” he added.

Republican Policy Committee Chairman James Lankford of Oklahoma said sequester isn’t his first choice. He’d rather shift cuts to domestic programs, but he knows that’s an idea Senate Democrats aren’t going to swallow.

“I haven’t done the head count, but I can tell you a large part is committed to saying we have to reduce spending. We’d rather do it another way. But if the only way it can be done is sequestration, then it has to be done,” said Lankford, a sophomore who quickly rose to the top ranks of Republican leadership.

I think that's kind of cute. Of course they are saying they are willing to kill their most important hostage. That's what terrorists do when they are making their demands. But if they do that, they will be making an enemy of the single most powerful lobby in the Republican Party and a good portion of their own base, which reveres the military.

Neither Party is going to agree to slash defense. It's possible that the GOP rump freakshow thinks they are willing to do it, but John Boehner and Paul Ryan know very well that it's not going to happen.

But you do have marvel at how the rhetorical worm has turned in just a couple of years. It wasn't long ago that you could get attacked in public as a traitor for simply implying that military spending needed to be cut. And, by the way, Democrats, it will be that way again as soon as anything happens to put war back on the menu. (Just look at how they attempted to gin up Benghazi into a symbol of Democratic fecklessness on foreign policy.)

On the other hand, I don't think you can let the Democrats off the hook. It would be pretty to think they would form a coalition with the nutballs to cut defense spending. But unless we also think it's a great idea to eliminate the Center for Disease Control and the Forest Service and the FAA, it's not going to be a good deal for the country. Not only that, most Democrats wouldn't do it on the merits. They've spent too many years working to be seen as just as tough as the Republicans on defense (not to mention all the corrupt contractor dollars they crave.) Even if they could do it, the pressure would be immense from every direction not to.

The congress needs to repeal the sequester and pretend like it never happened. It was just a stupid, temporary face-saving exercise from the disastrous budget negotiations of 2011. It's not "real" and the pretense that it is becomes more ridiculous every day. Witness the Tea Partiers: if they are serious about it you know it must be absurd.

Update: Also too, this. It's almost embarrassing.

Update II:

The president is gong to offer a short term replacement for the sequester today:

Obama will ask for a targeted way to reduce the deficit in the short term, perhaps several months. White House officials said that Congress needs more time to work out a 10-year plan worth more than $1 trillion in deficit reduction. Obama is not placing a time span or a dollar amount on the short-term plan. Officials said he will leave that to Congress.

Finding deficit reductions of up to $85 billion would put off the automatic cuts, known as a "sequester" in government budget language, until the start of the new fiscal year.

White House officials say the delay will give Congress and the administration time to negotiate a long-term deal through the regular legislative budget process.

Looks like we're going to kill government by a thousand cuts.

Not sure that this is wise, considering the economy doesn't exactly show a lot of energy. But hey, maybe the green shoot are finally showing and we can afford to "pivot" to more deficit reduction right now. It worked so well before.


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