Just don't call it class war
When a Republican clutches his pearls and sniffles about "divisiveness" remember this:
The latest Republican plan to reconcile the budget and preserve defense spending extracts even deeper cuts from programs to help the poor and Americans still reeling from the recession.
Although spending levels for the budget were set in the Budget Control Act passed last summer in the deal to raise the nation's debt limit, Republicans are pushing ahead with another plan that cuts more while trying to prevent the beginning of $600 billion in cuts over 10 years to the growth of the defense budget.
They are doing so because the Super Committee, which was supposed to find $1.2 trillion in cuts on which everyone could agree, failed, leaving the slashing up to a pre-agreed sequestration plan that extracts half the savings from the military.
Unless Congress acts, the sequestration begins at the start of 2013. Democrats in the Senate are arguing that the Budget Control Act counts as a budget, and therefore they won't take up debate on a spending plan for 2013, much less address Rep. Paul Ryan's House budget resolution.
So instead, the House has embarked on a seldom-used reconciliation process. Its aim is to have at hand an alternative to the sequestration on the theory that the Senate will not want to allow the defense cuts either, and won't have its own plan.
In a memo sent to members Wednesday instructing them how to write their reconciliation bill, Republicans picked a number of targets, including extracting $80 billion from federal workers and $44 billion from health care. In all, it identifies $78 billion to cut in 2013, and details around $300 billion over 10 years.
But the memo spends the most time targeting the exploding cost of food stamps, on which more Americans rely than ever, at greater expense to the government than ever before.
If people were paying attention to the details, which they aren't because they have lives, they would see that the Republicans are very systematically pitting constituencies against each other in all these legislative showdowns. Just this past week they defined the choice as being between raising student loan rates and health care. Here, it's between defense cuts and food stamps. (A no brainer for liberals, but watch the conservadems on this -- they're likely to go the wrong way.)
This is wedge legislating. It's smart, especially at a time like this where the whole political system seems like a toxic mess to most people and they only hear certain buzzwords, at best. The point is to make sure that somebody in your opponent's coalition feels like they're getting screwed by their own people. (And I'm pretty sure you know who that "somebody" usually is.)