Saturday, February 23, 2013

A busty Sequester

Incredibly, the DC pols are still arguing over the Sequester, with regard to whose idea it was and who will "own it," should no deal be reached to prevent the automatic cuts. I say "incredibly" because it's pretty clear that the Sequester was the brain child of the Administration, not the Republicans in Congress nor even the Democrats in Congress. True enough, Congress passed the bill making it law (and President Obama signed it, let's not forget), but it did so with the understanding that a deal was being made, a deal that the White House is now trying to pretend never happened.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 increased the debt ceiling and created the so-called Super Committee, a bi-partisan group tasked with coming up with a plan to reduce the deficit. Utlimately, the Super Committee was a complete failure, no agreement was reached by the drop dead date--November 23, 2011--and the committee was formally disbanded in January of 2012.

This left the Sequester "on the books," meaning that it should have happened in January of this year. But another bill--the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012--delayed it for three months, which it where we sit now. But note that this last bill included tax increases on the wealthy, the tax increases Republicans in the Super Committee refused to accept at the end of 2011. What it didn't include were the spending cuts that were supposed to accompany those tax increases. So when House Speaker Boehner talks about being owed the cuts because Obama already got his tax increase, he's 100% correct.

Now the President wants to double dip on tax increases, insisting that there must be a "balanced plan," and that the Republican refusals to go along with this means they are standing in the way of a deal to avoid the Sequester. Sure. Let's fire up the Wayback Machine...

The President's words, in November of 2011 (my boldface):
In September, I sent them [Congress] a detailed plan that would have gone above and beyond that goal. It's a plan that would reduce the deficit by an additional $3 trillion, by cutting spending, slowing the growth of Medicare and Medicaid, and asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share... 
In addition to my plan, there were a number of other bipartisan plans for them to consider from both Democrats and Republicans, all of which promoted a balanced approach... 
But despite the broad agreement that exists for such an approach, there's still too many Republicans in Congress who have refused to listen to the voices of reason and compromise that are coming from outside of Washington. They continue to insist on protecting $100 billion worth of tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans at any cost, even if it means reducing the deficit with deep cuts to things like education and medical research. Even if it means deep cuts in Medicare... 
One way or another, we will be trimming the deficit by a total of at least $2.2 trillion over the next 10 years. That's going to happen, one way or another. We've got $1 trillion locked in, and either Congress comes up with $1.2 trillion, which so far they've failed to do, or the sequester kicks in and these automatic spending cuts will occur that bring in an additional $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.

Now, the question right now is whether we can reduce the deficit in a way that helps the economy grow, that operates with a scalpel, not with a hatchet, and if not, whether Congress is willing to stick to the painful deal that we made in August for the automatic cuts. Already, some in Congress are trying to undo these automatic spending cuts.

My message to them is simple: No. I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off ramps on this one.

We need to keep the pressure up to compromise -- not turn off the pressure. The only way these spending cuts will not take place is if Congress gets back to work and agrees on a balanced plan to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion.
The two big takeaways here: 1) Obama suggested three things for a "balanced" plan and he's already gotten two of them; the one missing is spending cuts, and 2) he was clearly all in for the Sequester at this point in time, categorically refusing to consider getting rid of it.

Yet now, today, he says the following:
Unfortunately, it appears that Republicans in Congress have decided that instead of compromising — instead of asking anything of the wealthiest Americans — they would rather let these cuts fall squarely on the middle class.
Totally dishonest on the part of the President. Regardless of what one thinks about the solutions to the U.S.'s debt/deficit problems, the President is not playing fair; he's ignoring what actually happened in order to make himself look better, in order to advance his agenda. Bob Woodward--who has already proven that the idea for the Sequester originated in the White House and nowhere else--sees this too, even though he doesn't necessarily agree with Republican plans:
So when the president asks that a substitute for the sequester include not just spending cuts but also new revenue, he is moving the goal posts. His call for a balanced approach is reasonable, and he makes a strong case that those in the top income brackets could and should pay more. But that was not the deal he made.
Liar, liar, pants on fire Mr. President.

But that's become par for the course for this White House. Remember the Churchill bust fiasco at the end of July, last year? Charles Krauthammer brought up the subject of a Churchill bust the White House had sent back to the British embassy (it was on loan) and was subsequently castrated by White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer in a White House Blog post:
Lately, there’s been a rumor swirling around about the current location of the bust of Winston Churchill. Some have claimed that President Obama removed the bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office and sent it back to the British Embassy.

Now, normally we wouldn’t address a rumor that’s so patently false, but just this morning the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer repeated this ridiculous claim in his column. He said President Obama “started his Presidency by returning to the British Embassy the bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office.”

This is 100% false. The bust still in the White House. In the Residence. Outside the Treaty Room.
Pfeiffer had to eat those words, every last one of them, because he was 100% wrong. He claimed his mistake was just that, not an attempt at deception. And I guess some might be inclined to take him at his word. Me, I see it as a part of a larger pattern in the Obama White House: lying as a matter of course to protect the President's public image.

The White House is ready, it would appear, to lie about pretty much anything, no matter how small or how large. Because this Churchill bust story really was inconsequential, yet Pfeiffer came after Krauthammer in full attack mode and--in the beginning--got the support of liberal media figures like NYT editor Andrew Rosenthal. The same thing has happened with the Sequester, a far more significant story. The White House has been pumping out a fabricated tale about its origins and purpose and that tale has largely been accepted as fact.

But when pinned down on the issue, the White House has more or less recanted. The problem is, no one is paying attention anymore. The lie has already been sold to far too many people, to the point of it now actually being believed that the Sequester--thought up by the Admin, used by Obama to get his tax increases, and defended by the same as something that he will not allow to be taken off the table--is an invention of the Republicans. Pathetic, sad, and shameful.

Cheers, all.

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