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Hullabaloo


Friday, March 15, 2013

 
Let's declare victory on the deficit and go home

by digby

... at least for a little while.

This is funny:
A strange sickness is afflicting congressional Republicans.

Unwilling to team up with Democrats to replace sequestration with a mix of spending cuts and tax increases, and unable to pass a cuts-only sequestration measure on their own, Republicans’ official position is that they’ve made their peace with enduring, across-the-board spending cuts in perpetuity.

But now that those cuts are creating real consequences, individual members are experiencing buyer’s remorse. The only problem is, until they change their underlying position on replacing sequestration, the only thing they can do about it is whine.

Call it sequestration NIMBYism.

“It seems difficult to say with a straight face that completely eliminating a source of revenue for the National Park Service is a smart, targeted cut,” said Sen. John Thune (R-SD), a member of GOP leadership.

Thune says he thinks the National Park Service made a political decision to close revenue-generating campgrounds, including at Wind Cave National Park in his home state, to make the cuts more visible to the public.

“Instead of cuts that reduce wasteful and duplicative spending, the administration’s politically calculated cuts are targeting facilities like the campground that actually serve as a revenue source for the park,” Thue added. “It appears NPS is just another agency following the White House’s lead in trying to find the cuts that can trigger a press release before looking to internal cost-saving measures that are less newsworthy.”

Sequestration is intended to be indiscriminate. It requires federal agencies to reduce spending by a certain percentage on each of their programs and activities.

That means all House and Senate members are likely to see some consequences in their districts and states. But when those consequences materialize, Republicans either blame the administration or plead for special treatment.

Yes, those across the board cuts are a bitch aren't they? What a silly thing to agree to. And yet, most of them did.

Now, I'm given to understand by people much smarter than I that the only possible options here are continued sequestration forever or Obama's plan to cut Social Security and Medicare in exchange for some loophole closing. At least that's how the administration sees it:

The Obama administration has taken note of these complaints. And while Republicans and the media in Washington limit their focus to the fact that the White House canceled public tours, the administration hopes the problems sequestration is causing back home will create pressure on the GOP to support a balanced tax increase and spending cut measure to replace it.

“[T]hey’re right,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at his daily press briefing Thursday. “[T]here are real impacts out there. And it’s an unfortunate result of the arbitrary, across-the-board nature of the sequester cuts. That was the — I use this term facetiously — the genius in the design of the sequester — it was written in a way to make it terrible. That was the purpose. Republicans and Democrats alike wrote it that way so that it would be so onerous that it would compel Congress to take alternative action to reduce our deficit in a more responsible way. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. And unfortunately, Republicans in Congress made the choice not to postpone the implementation of the sequester.”

The key phrase there is this:

Republicans and Democrats alike wrote it that way so that it would be so onerous that it would compel Congress to take alternative action to reduce our deficit in a more responsible way.

That's the problem here. The budget is not just a vehicle for the holy grail of deficit reduction. In fact, they don't have to reduce the deficit any more right now at all.  There is another way. They could repeal the sequester and replace it with a normal budget that simply seeks to fund the government instead of forcing another round of cuts. Maybe just take a break and let the government work as per normal for a while. After all, that 4 trillion dollar number is completely arbitrary. They should declare victory and go home:

Michael Linden and Michael Ettlinger provide us today with a handy chart of all the deficit reduction we've implemented over the past couple of years. In all, we've reduced spending by $1.8 trillion and increased taxes by $600 billion, for a total of $2.4 trillion. More details here. This may not be the grand bargain of Beltway dreams, but it's pretty good progress in a short period of time.

And three-quarters of it has been from spending cuts.

Ezra calculates it even higher:

Let’s do some quick math. Start the clock — and the deficit projections — on Jan. 1, 2011. Congress cut expected spending by $585 billion during the 2011 appropriations process. It cut another $860 billion as part of the resolution to the 2011 debt-ceiling standoff. And it added another $1 trillion in spending cuts as part of the sequester. Then it raised $600 billion in taxes in the fiscal cliff deal.

Together, that’s slightly more than $3 trillion in deficit reduction. After accounting for reduced interest payments — as there’s now less debt to pay interest on — it’s more like $3.6 trillion. That’s real money!

Yes it is! Seriously. Enough.

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