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Hullabaloo


Thursday, February 28, 2013

 
The White House's cynical email to supporters

by David Atkins

Got this in my email today from Organizing for America (OFA):

David --

Brace yourself.

If congressional Republicans don't act by tomorrow, we're going to be hit by a series of devastating, automatic budget cuts called the sequester.

It's a sledgehammer to the budget, our economy, and millions of Americans across the country -- and the most frustrating part? It doesn't have to happen.

The majority of Americans support President Obama's balanced approach to deficit reduction -- add your name if you do, too.

So far, congressional Republicans are refusing to compromise -- all because they don't want to close tax loopholes for millionaires, billionaires, vacation homes, and corporate jets. Seriously.

This has very real consequences.

On the chopping block are 10,000 teaching jobs, more than 70,000 kids' spots in Head Start, $35 million for local fire departments, $43 million to make sure seniors don't go hungry, and access to nutrition assistance for 600,000 women and their families. That's just a few of the things we'll lose.

President Obama has put forth a balanced deficit reduction plan with smart spending cuts that protect the critical investments needed to strengthen middle-class families and our economy.
Clicking on the link in the "ask" leads to this:

Right now, Republicans in Congress are prioritizing tax loopholes for the wealthy over crucial investments that help the middle class. Starting March 1st, unless the Republicans compromise, we'll be forced to cut services for seniors, children, our troops, and small business owners, among others. Tens of thousands of Americans will be affected.
The cynicism and couched doublespeak here should amaze. The talking points to the President's most active volunteers and committed Democrats claim to want "smart spending cuts" and oppose cutting "services for our seniors." But we all know that the President has been actively seeking cuts to "entitlements," including to Social Security and Medicare. The President isn't a fan of the sequester per se--but the sequester itself was designed to be so horrid that Republicans would come to the table and agree to the President's Grand Bargain, every public version of which has included slashes to America's most cherished social safety net programs. One of those changes is chained CPI for Social Security, which is only a "smart" cut in the sense that it's smart for politicians who will have had several intervening elections before Americans start to notice the severity of the cuts.

The Obama Administration knows that while the public does indeed want leaders to compromise in theory, the public also specifically opposes cuts to Medicare and Social Security. So the maneuver here is to accuse the Republicans of failing to compromise while talking about "smart cuts" and a "balanced approach" without specifying what either of those phrases actually means to the White House.

The people who wrote that email know all of this. On some level they have to know that this manipulation of hard-working Democratic activists and volunteers is wrong. It speaks to a quite conservative assumption on the part of the White House that the American public--and the core constituency of Democrats in particular--is too immature to eat their vegetables and learn to love austerity. It's not just the White House, of course. The Republicans are also doing the same: insisting on sequestration while calling it the President's fault abdicating their own authority to choose the cuts in the hopes that they can blame the White later.

This is a game theory problem for both sides. If both the White House and the Republicans believed that slashing cherished spending was essential, the best outcome for both sides would be to smile and join together on a Grand Bargain. The President is no longer up for re-election, and Republicans would get good press for accomplishing their legislative agenda without coming across as angry obstructionists. But both sides know that's not the case. Both sides know The People's Budget reflects the most popular set of policy proposals, even among registered Republicans. Republicans simply refuse to enact it because it's against their core principles. And too many Democrats also refuse to stand by it, either because they're bought off or because they're true believers in neoliberal economics, or because they believe in a political ethic that only seeks to support what seems to be in the realm of the politically possible. There is no need for either sequestration or a Grand Bargain, particularly in the face of a rapidly shrinking deficit.

The White House's mobilization and media arms may not have much respect for the Congress, the opposition or the press. But it should at least have some respect for the hard-working activusts who worked so hard to help get them elected.


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