Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett  / Lexington Herald-Leader (February 25, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge and then c'mon back.)

Well, here we are, snug up against the sequester deadline, and there doesn't appear to be much movement by either side.  President Obama has taken his case to the public, the Republicans in the House have called on the Senate to get busy on the issue (even though budget bills are supposed to originate in the House), and the Republicans in the Senate are being, well, Republicans.

In his last two columns for the Los Angeles Times, Doyle McManus looked at the stupidity of the whole issue, noting that both sides are responsible for the issue.  On Sunday, he characterized the situation as stupid.

The sequester, those $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to hit the federal government on March 1, was designed to be stupid.

In 2011, when President Obama proposed the scheme and both parties in Congress embraced it, their thinking was: With a whole year to work on a deal, surely we can figure out a way to avoid a catastrophe.

What Washington did they think they were living in?

With no negotiations under way, it's virtually certain that on March 1, a long list of federal programs will get slashed. But at this point, the only thing Democrats and Republicans agree on is that the mandatory cuts will hurt the economy, the nation's security and the well-being of the American people.

So why has there been no serious negotiation to avoid the train wreck we all see coming? One reason is that both sides think the public will side with them and blame the other party...
In the end, there will be some kind of compromise, probably around March 27, when Congress has to pass a law to keep the government operating for the rest of the year. It will probably include spending cuts that approach what the sequester demands, but with more flexibility— and, if Democrats have their way, a longer delay before the cuts kick in.

Tax increases will be a sticking point, of course. Democrats want them; Republicans reject them. But the recent history of budget showdowns suggests the GOP will compromise at the last minute.   [Emphasis added]

McManus is even less sanguine in his Monday column.

The automatic cuts to federal spending don’t start until Friday, and even then their effects will only be gradual. But Washington is already in a frenzy over a crisis that the two parties have brought on themselves with a scheme that was -- as I noted in my Sunday column -- designed to be stupid. ... television appearances over the weekend, GOP leaders began to repeat their own best talking point. “Surely [Obama] can put forward a plan to cut 2-to-3% from a $3.5 trillion budget,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said. “Rather than issuing last-minute press releases on cuts to first responders or troop training or airport security, he should propose smarter ways to cut Washington spending.”

McConnell has a point, of course. If the sequester’s cuts could be spread across the entire federal budget, they wouldn’t be so disastrous. That’s why Republicans are talking about modifying the sequester to give Obama more discretion on where to cut -- a change that would make him responsible for whatever reductions in government services he chose.

Democrats have already denounced that idea as a trap and declared that they won’t fall for it.  They point out that Obama has long offered to enact at least $930 billion in smart spending cuts, almost as much as the $1.2 trillion sequester. (The problem for Republicans, of course, is that Obama wants to pair those spending cuts with $680 billion in new tax revenues.)

And that’s why there’s no easy way out. ... 

So there you have it, folks.  Our government in action.

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