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Hullabaloo


Friday, April 26, 2013

 
Sequester game over?

by digby

I think it's great that Ezra is writing that "the Democrats" have bungled the deficit reduction gambit. It's certainly true and I'm hopeful that the rest of the establishment will wake up to what's happened here as well. But it's been true since before the sequestration ever took place.

He declared the game over because of today's FAA vote:

In effect, what Democrats said Friday was that in any case where the political pain caused by sequestration becomes unbearable, they will agree to cancel that particular piece of the bill while leaving the rest of the law untouched. The result is that sequestration is no longer particularly politically threatening, but it’s even more unbalanced: Cuts to programs used by the politically powerful will be addressed, but cuts to programs that affects the politically powerless will persist. It’s worth saying this clearly: The pain of sequestration will be concentrated on those who lack political power.

Those he's referring to are also known as "Democratic Party constituents" which should mean that they have at least some political power. But alas, we've known for some time that neither party really gives a damn about them since they were more than willing to use them as chips in their high stakes game of deficit reduction?

Democrats had other choices, of course. As Politico’s Glenn Thrush pointed out on MSNBC Friday, President Obama could’ve vetoed the FAA bill while standing at a Head Start that’s about to throw needy children out of the program. He could’ve vetoed it from the home of an jobless worker who just saw her benefits cut. Democrats could simply have insisted that the powerful can’t get out of sequestration unless the powerless can, too. But they didn’t — and they show no signs that they’ll start.

But that’s game, then. Absent the willingness to accept the pain of sequestration and use it to overturn the whole policy, Democrats have no leverage to end it.

Lol.

That's all true, except for one thing: the Democrats, particularly the White House, has never been prepared to play the sequestration game effectively. Remember: the idea was that the Republicans would come to the table when the defense cuts bit while the Democrats would be willing to do the same when the children got kicked out of Head Start. But that was always ridiculous. Both parties protect defense cuts, while only progressive Democrats give a second thought to programs for average people. It was never an equal bet.

In fact, the White House has ostentatiously led the way from the beginning by criticizing the "balanced approach" of Simpson-Bowles on the basis of their proposed defense cuts and proposing a Grand Bargain budget that reversed most of the sequestration cuts to those programs. I don't think it takes a tactical genius to see that while the Republicans may not want defense cuts, the Democrats don't want them either, which means that the only logical outcome of this stand-off was that while the Democrats would protest the cuts to programs for the poor, the Republicans would actually propose to reverse specific sequestration cuts to the programs that both parties value --- like defense, the FAA etc. (And hey, they may even find they value stuff like meat inspection or the CDC too. Winning!)

Unless the Dems were prepared to hold out and let those defense cuts take place, those programs were always going to be sacrificed. And we knew the White House, at least, wasn't prepared for that. They signaled it loud and clear.

Ezra concludes:

It is worth noting how different the Democrats’ approach to sequestration has been to the GOP’s approach to, well, everything. Over the past five years, Republicans have repeatedly accepted short-term political pain for long-term policy gain. That’s the governing political principle behind their threats to shut down the government, breach the debt ceiling, and, for that matter, accept sequestration. Today, Democrats showed they’re not willing to accept even a bit of short-term pain for long-term policy gain. They played a game of chicken with the Republicans, and they lost. Badly.

Well, yeah. But they do look like grown-ups and that's what's going to save them, right?

Meanwhile, as Ezra says, the White House should probably accept the Inhofe-Toomey bill so they can choose how some of these cuts are distributed. I know they don't want to take responsibility for that, but they aren't running again and should take this bullet for the Democrats who are. It's only fair. They're the one's who have been pushing this cockamamie strategy the hardest.

Update: Also too, what Charles Pierce says:

Pure political analysis — this whole thing is going to come down, not to "who's the grown-up in the room?" but to, "Government doesn't work. See?" At which point, the Republicans win.


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