“Dire Consequences And Denial”: With Their Jobs Secure, Republicans Could Less About The Rest Of America
The sequester’s automatic, across-the-board spending cuts are set to go into effect on Friday, and there is no plan as yet to stop it.
America, this is your feeble government at its most ineffective and self-destructive.
The White House favors a balanced plan that would include spending cuts and some tax increases for the wealthy. Republicans reject any solution that includes tax increases.
These are two fundamentally different perspectives, only one of which is supported by a majority of Americans.
A Pew Research Center/USA Today survey released Thursday found that only 19 percent of Americans believe that the focus of deficit reduction should be only on spending cuts. Seventy-six percent want a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, with more emphasis on the former than the latter.
But the impasse could have dire consequences. A study last year by Stephen S. Fuller, a professor at George Mason University, estimates that the sequester could cost 2.14 million jobs and add 1.5 percentage points to the unemployment rate. Fuller’s analysis was cited in a Congressional Research Service report prepared for members of Congress.
What’s more, the sequester would reduce military spending by $42.7 billion; nonmilitary discretionary spending would drop $28.7 billion, in addition to a mandatory $9.9 billion reduction in Medicare, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
In anticipation of the very real possibility that the sequester could come to pass, some Republicans are leaning on the shoulder of an old friend: denial.
This week on CNN, Senator Rand Paul pronounced the $85 billion in mandated cuts a “pittance” and a “yawn” that is “just really nibbling at the edges.” He also called President Obama’s warnings about the sequester’s impact “histrionics,” “ridiculousness” and “emotionalism.”
What a perfect segue to Rush Limbaugh, who took to the air this week to denounce predictions about the sequester’s effects as a “manufactured” crisis, saying that “for the first time in my life, I am ashamed of my country.”
“In truth, we’re gonna spend more this year than we spent last year. We’re just not gonna spend as much as was projected. It’s all baseline budgeting. There is no real cut below a baseline of zero. There just isn’t. Yet here they come, sucking us in, roping us in. Panic here, fear there: Crisis, destruction, no meat inspection, no cops, no teachers, no firefighters, no air traffic control. I’m sorry, my days of getting roped into all this are over.”
Those not denying the crisis are hoping to exploit it.
Karl Rove, writing in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, called the president “a once-in-a-generation demagogue with a compliant press corps” who will subject the American people in the short term to a “slew of presidential photo-ops with those whom he claims will lose jobs.” Mr. Rove advised House Republicans to “pass a continuing resolution next week to fund the government for the balance of the fiscal year at the lower level dictated by the sequester — with language granting the executive branch the flexibility to move funds from less vital activities to more important ones.”
Rove supports the steep cuts but wants to allow the president “flexibility” in applying them. That Rove is as slick as an eel. In other words, he wants to force the president to rob Peter to pay Paul and take the flak for making all the tough choices.
Another Pew Research Poll released this week found that although many Americans favor cutting government spending in the abstract, most don’t agree with cuts to specific programs. “For 18 of 19 programs tested, majorities want either to increase spending or maintain it at current levels,” Pew found. “The only exception is assistance for needy people around the world.”
Ah, foreign aid, the tired old whipping horse that would do virtually nothing to reduce the deficit, as it accounts for a paltry 1 percent of the federal budget.
Rove’s plan to shift to the president the burden of choosing where to bring down the ax is Rove’s way of getting Republicans “to win public opinion to their side.” That is a roundabout way of acknowledging that right now they’re losing. A Bloomberg poll released this week found the president’s job-approval rating at its highest level and the Republican Party’s favorable rating at its lowest since September 2009.
Furthermore, the Pew/USA Today survey found that if a deal isn’t reached in time, about half the public will blame Congressional Republicans while fewer than a third will blame the president.
And if the sequester happens, we’ll all lose. It will be a disaster for the job market and the economy. But no one can accuse these politicians and pundits of caring about such things as long as their own jobs are secure.
By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, February 22, 2013