Thursday, February 7, 2013
Will the Sequester End Up Being Obama's Waterloo?
If the economy were stronger - say growing at 4 percent annually - the sequester cuts would be little more than an over the top hot foot; unpleasant, but hardly fatal. But with a still fragile recovery limping along at just over 2 percent growth, a loss of $120 billion a year out of the economy - split evenly between domestic programs and the Pentagon - could spell trouble. In fact, it could induce a double-dip recession.
And while there is little doubt that the GOP would bare the brunt of the blame for such a calamitous outcome, the President would not escape unscathed. In fact, as the economy begins to tank more and more, the general mood of the electorate could turn decidedly ugly towards him, which is precisely what Republicans are hoping for.
Think about it. They couldn't beat him at the ballot box, and he handed them their lunch during the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling negotiations, but now, thanks to an ill-conceived and poorly thought out compromise, the GOP can bring about by accident what they couldn't accomplish by design: bring Obama to his knees, politically speaking.
The problem with being the adult in the class room is that you have to be the adult. Republicans have no interest in seeing Obama succeed. Torpedoing the recovery is their best and perhaps last hope of resting control of the reigns of power in 2014 and 2016.
Gerrymandering allowed them to retain their majority in the House last year despite getting a million less votes, but the Senate is still firmly in their sights. If they win a majority in that chamber next year, Obama's last two years will be reduced to the political equivalent of a footnote.
And that's why he must avoid that scenario at all costs. Allowing Republicans to bring European-style austerity to America is unacceptable. Period. Politically, it's suicide; economically, it's a disaster. Think I'm over reacting? Take a trip to England and let me know what you find when you get there. In that country they are about to embark on a triple-dip recession, courtesy of David Cameron's obsession with slashing. If the GOP gets its way, it's lights out for the foreseeable future.
To those who still naively believe Republicans wouldn't be that irresponsible, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn that's a steal. Michael Tomasky of The Daily Beast had it right. There isn't going to be a budget deal. The GOP is counting on it.
Last year, Republicans generally sounded more alarmed about Pentagon cuts than about spending and the budget deficit. But now, that’s flipping. Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn said, “I think sequester is going to happen. I think the people want it to happen.” South Carolina GOP Congressman Mick Mulvaney said recently, “Gridlock is leading to spending reductions. If the government does nothing, spending goes down. We have to claim victory.”
The problem with dealing with people who are married to a bankrupt ideology is that it's virtually impossible to separate them from it. Republicans have convinced themselves that their irrationality is their ticket to victory. To deny them, Obama's only play is to come to the table with a reasonable offer and, when the GOP rejects it, hit the road and explain thoroughly to the voters what's really going on here.
The debt isn't responsible for the mess we're in; it never was. Drastic spending cuts will do far more harm than good. Obama must use every ounce of political capital at his disposal to drive that home or everything he has done to keep the country from going under these past four years will be all for naught.