Economy & Budget

So why did you propose a plan that threatens thousands of jobs and economic security, Mr. President?

So why did you propose a plan that threatens thousands of jobs and economic security, Mr. President?

I’m confused.

Sequestration, the across-the-board federal budget reductions that will be split between defense and domestic discretionary spending, starts on March 1. The Obama Administration has had an uncharacteristically tough time placing the blame on Republican obstructionism, or private jet owners or other hobgoblins – though it’s going to step up efforts, no doubt.

Today, for instance, the White House sent out this scary fact sheet claiming that “Unless Congress acts by March 1st, a series of automatic cuts—called a sequester—that threaten thousands of jobs and the economic security of the middle class will take effect.”

So, I suppose, the most obvious question is this: Why on Earth would the White House propose — and the president then sign — a plan that threatens the middle class in the first place? If we’re to accept the liberal idea that even some unexceptional curbing of future government growth will be  devastating for American workers, what liberal would hatch such a crazy idea?

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In the third presidential debate Barack Obama claimed that “The sequester is not something that I’ve proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed.” Congress may have voted for it, but unless Bob Woodward is lying, we now know that it was the administration that proposed the sequester during the 2011 debt-ceiling negotiations. Why would it risk the well being of the middle class so recklessly? I suppose some Republican senators might ask Jack Lew this question (among many others) during his confirmation hearing.

Even beyond that, to accept the White House’s case  one would have to believe that a  $1.2-trillion cut in future government growth over a decade threatens every facet of our lives and futures. From law enforcement, to AIDS prevention, to drug approval, to homelessness, to mental health services, to education, to food safety …  the only thing missing is a dire warning about how asteroids will devastate humanity if House Republicans don’t surrender immediately.

Sequestration, as others have pointed out, may be the only way to get even modest spending cuts – and without any more tax hikes. Republicans have nothing to lose by blowing past the deadline. The budget cuts in defense – around $50 billion a year – can’t be the end of the world, either. Not that Obama seems very concerned about defense cuts, they go unmentioned in the fact sheet.

Moreover, there is an easy way around these ham-fisted cuts: pass a bill that allows department to be more nimble in trimming fat.  After all, if $1.2 trillion in cuts to future spending is enough to threaten economic growth something has gone seriously wrong with our economy. To put it in some perspective, in 2012, according to the CBO, Washington paid around $220 billion interest on its debt — and the price of servicing debt is likely to skyrocket. Yet, no one in the White House seems concerned about how that threatens the  middle class.

WHITE HOUSE FACT SHEET: EXAMPLES OF HOW THE SEQUESTER WOULD IMPACT MIDDLE CLASS FAMILIES, JOBS AND ECONOMIC SECURITY

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