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The Festering Sequester

By The Reverend Published: February 11, 2013

Major Garrett writing at the National Journal about the sequester...

The sequester arose out of a crisis over not raising the debt ceiling. This premeditated GOP maneuver sought a deficit-reduction lever against Obama with which Republicans extracted dollar-for-dollar spending cuts. Sequester, which Obama’s advisers first suggested, reduced discretionary spending and held harmless mandatory spending. All of this done at the point of a GOP-threatened government default. Republicans precipitated the crisis; the Obama-generated sequester “solved” it. Ownership was mutual because, originally, neither side wanted the sequester.

That summary seems about right. Back in August, 2011, there was absolutely no reason to couple lifting the debt ceiling with a plan for deficit reduction. Republicans molded the debt ceiling "negotiations" into a fight about government spending.....and damaged the economy in the process, convincing S&P to lower the bond rating on U.S. debt. The overall economy took a hit during that period. Here's a chart or two demonstrating the damage.

The debt ceiling hostage taking.....and the resultant hit to the economy.....were forced upon the nation by Republicans. The downgrade and the downward blip in the national economy were the immediate results of a GOP plan. Point being that GOP members had few qualms about purposely doing damage to the economy under a popular, first term Democratic president they despised. If the economy took a hit in 2011, so be it, thought Republicans. Obama was up for re-election the very next year.......a floundering economy going into 2012 was an advantage, they thought. Didn't work out that way in the long run.

In light of our national amnesia epidemic, the Budget Control Act was signed into law on Aug 2nd, 2011. The House passed the Act on Aug 1, 2011 by a vote of 269-161 with 174 Republicans voting in favor. The Senate passed the Act the very next day by a vote of 74-26 with only 19 Republicans voting against. Republicans overwhelmingly agreed to first: a 'super deficit committee' with the task of identifying, and then agreeing on what revenues would be raised and what spending was to be cut....and in case of committee failure....second: automatic spending cuts as detailed in the Budget Control Act.

The first of last month, Congress agreed to kick the sequester can down the road until March 1st....which is now right around the corner. The sequester calls for equal cuts from non-defense spending as well as defense spending.....for a total of $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over ten years....but the GOP had their fingers crossed behind their backs when they Major Garrett remembers....

I can remember the day the Budget Control Act (which set the sequester in motion) was on the House floor and Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., said GOP leaders from Speaker John Boehner on down assured him—practically in blood-oath fashion—that Pentagon spending would never face the sequester buzz saw (half the annual discretionary cuts come from defense).

Republicans had no intention of cutting defense spending.....even though they voted in favor of the Budget Control Act which included cutting defense spending in case the sequester kicked in. Now,  a few top GOP senators are playing the "be very afraid" card if defense spending is any amount. If one dollar of the yearly $600 billion we spend to control the world is cut, we're now being told...."we will become less safe."

However, in the midst of all this confusion......made to be confusing by elected officials intent on an ultimate goal of 'broadening the tax base and lowering rates'....(primarily advantaging the already-rich and powerful).....comes the Tea Party malcontents with that destructive gleam in their eyes....

Tea-party-inspired conservatives now say the only thing worse than defense cuts is no cuts at all. Increasingly, GOP rank and file are nodding in agreement. And GOP leaders now see sequester as the only point of leverage and accountability for Obama.

Politico reports....

Jim Walsh, a former New York GOP congressman who chaired an Appropriations panel responsible for the Department of Veterans Affairs, said the number of House GOP members suggesting defense cuts is unprecedented in recent history. “I never experienced that in my 20 years, even from the hawkest of the budget hawks,” he said.

What explains all this? Why are conservatives in the House now willing to allow cuts to defense spending?

Additional revenues.

Tom Cole (R-OK).....“I’m all against raising any additional revenue on this...."

In other words, we have come full circle back to Aug. 2011 and the debt ceiling crisis. The 'super committee' could not arrive at a consensus because GOP'ers on the committee would not accept any new tax revenues. Now, as sequestration draws closer.....Republicans, who hate the fact that new revenues were included in the "fiscal cliff" agreement....are damned certain there won't be any more tax increases on America's corporations or on America's wealthy in any final sequester agreement.

And so many Republicans are now willing to cut defense for the express purpose of keeping any additional taxes, or corporate loophole closings, or corporate subsidies on America's richest from passing.

Always comes down to that, doesn't it? A willingness by Republicans to do damage to the national economy in order to protect the economic interests of the top 2%.



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