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It Doesn’t Matter Whose Idea The Sequester Was

us-politics-republicans-democrats

I agree with James Joyner’s assessment of the Bob Woodward story and the alleged “threat” he received from Gene Sperling. What strikes me as most significant about it, though, is the fact that it is continuing what may be the most idiotic debate to hit Washington in quite some time. For months now, indeed going as far back as the moment that the Budget Control Act of 2011 became law, both President Obama’s supporters and Congressional Republicans have been in a constant war trying to blame the other party for the existence of the sequester. The Republican side of the argument, of course, is supported by Bob Woodward’s book about the 2011 debt ceiling crisis and the fact that it is undeniable that the sequester itself is an idea that originated in the White House and was apparently the work product of then-Budget Director Jack Lew among others. Therefore, President Obama is incorrect to attempt to place sole responsibility for the  sequester on the Republicans. At the same time, though, it’s true that the negotiations that led to the sequester would not have been necessary if Republicans had not insisted in the summer of 2011 that any deal to raise the debt ceiling including spending cuts. It’s also true that the Budget Control Act passed both the House and the Senate with majority Republican support. Therefore, it’s incorrect for Republicans to claim that the sequester, which they now want to see go through, was the President’s idea entirely. As with most of the bad things that come out of Washington, the sequester is one that both parties are equally responsible for.

This brings us to Bob Woodward, because the entire “threat” issue wouldn’t even be a story if it weren’t for the fact that official Washington has spent most of the month of February engaged in a partisan blame game rather than a serious discussion about whether the sequester should really be avoided and, if so, how we should go about doing it. In response to Administration claims that the sequester was a Republican idea, Woodward wrote an Op-Ed piece correctly pointing out the fact that the idea had actually originated in the White House and suggested that the Administration was “moving the goalposts,” and it was that Op-Ed that lead to the exchange between Sperling and Woodward that is in the news today.

In other news, one piece of unimportant information became news because Washington is engaged in a completely pointless blame game over who is responsible for the sequester.In the end, it doesn’t matter who’s responsible. The sequester exists, it’s going to go into effect tomorrow.At that point, the only relevant question is whether we need to do something to retroactively replace it with some other kind of deficit reduction package and what form any such package would take. Just as it has been for the entire month of February, a debate over who’s at fault accomplish nothing but to satisfy the partisans on both sides of the aisle that are addicted to the war of all against all that our political system has turned into. Sadly, I’m sure that we’ll spend more time talking about the blame game than actually getting anything accomplished.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Therefore, it’s incorrect for Republicans to claim that the sequester, which they now want to see go through, was the President’s idea entirely

    Uh oh….don’t let that one get out. The GOP supporting the president’s idea???? In this country? On this timeline?

    a debate over who’s at fault accomplish nothing but to satisfy the partisans on both sides of the aisle

    More “both sides do it?” Ya know, for the last few years there’s been a willingness to negotiate on one side and a staunch refusal on the other end. I guess you can point fingers at both…..

    But seriously, we need pundits to stop this “both sides do it”. Why do you think politicians obsessed with the blame game? Because they read the political media too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  2. legion says:

    It doesn’t matter to _you_. It also doesn’t matter to 99.9% of all Americans. But to the beltway-cocktail-party-wingnut-welfare crowd, it is of paramount importance.

    Because if they couldn’t spend all day pointing fingers, they’d have to actually have to work for a living, and who wants that?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  3. Finrod says:

    But seriously, we need pundits to stop this “both sides do it”.

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb): Precisely. When someone tries to say “Both sides do it”, what they’re actually saying is “I know my side did it, but I want to spread the blame”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  4. Ben Wolf says:

    An alternative austerity package won’t be any better in terms of its macroeconomic effect.

    Watch the first two minutes of the video below, so I don’t have to type it out myself.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSYRpOg9Ls0&feature=player_embedded

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. Tyrell says:

    What happened to that Simpson -Bowles commission ? They had some good ideas.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  6. gVOR08 says:

    Booman pretty much nailed the sequester situation a couple days ago: http://www.boomantribune.com/story/2013/2/25/223210/196

    What happened after the 2010 midterms is that a whole bunch of frankly stupid people were elected to the House of Representatives to represent the views of people who are even dumber than Donald Trump and Victoria Jackson combined.

    What is happening (and what no one wants to admit) is that we are embracing the chaos of the Sequester not because Boehner or Cantor think it is good policy or even good politics, but because they think they have to for “member management purposes.” They think that they won’t be able to compromise until it is demonstrated to their members that the American people would prefer to be infested with chiggers than to be governed by these morons anymore.

    Boehner is so defeated that I still have no idea why he hasn’t just resigned.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  7. Dan Collins says:

    And Obama didn’t scuttle a bipartisan deal at the 11th hour in the summer of 2011.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  8. Mr. Replica says:

    From gVOR08 ‘s post:

    Boehner is so defeated that I still have no idea why he hasn’t just resigned.

    On some level I actually feel bad for Boehner. Here is a career politician that finally makes it to the speaker position, only to be the leader of a bunch of people who won’t listen to him 95% of the time.
    Either he goes against his base and gets replaced, or falls in line behind the people that make him look incompetent.
    He looks like a fool no matter what he does. No wonder he cries so much.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  9. Pharoah Narim says:

    Two men make a pledge to play chicken on mountain bikes. The winner gets to pleasure the loser’ s wife. Does anybody think “Honey this was HIS idea!” is going to hold water when the winner shows up for his prize?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  10. Hal 10000 says:

    When I hear these guys debating who is at fault for the sequester, I keeping hearing “Wabbit Season! Duck Season! Wabbit Season! Duck Season!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  11. john personna says:

    I think some of you have bought too much of the “both sides do it” narrative 😉

    That blame tactics look shallow is kind of missing the big arcs in strategy. Democrats are (imperfectly) trying math. Republicans are (even more imperfectly) trying avoidance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  12. superdestroyer says:

    Who cares? I justed watched David Axelrod on television saying that in the long run this is all about tax increases (increasing revenues) now for the promise of spending cuts later. Of course, everyone know that the spending cuts never comes and everyone knows that if the Democrats regain control of the U.S. House, that the spending cuts will never occur (outside of Defense) and that spending will increase due to new entitlements and the Democrats desire to expand public sector employment.

    Of course, I doubt if any wonks or pundits will think about the long term consequences of ever expanding spending and a shrinking private sector.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. gVOR08 says:

    @Mr. Replica: I’ve also seen speculation the moderate Rs who are sick of this nonsense might get together with Pelosi and the Ds and elect a new Speaker. Boehner can’t win. I agree with your assessment of his situation. Of course my sympathy is limited by the fact that he’s a d**k.

    Were the moderate Rs and Pelosi to name a new Speaker, they could then ignore the Hastert Rule and actually govern.And get some swag for their donors. “…more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.” – Capt. Barbossa.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  14. Mike says:

    So the law that Congress passed and the President signed is only one side’s fault?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  15. Ben Wolf says:

    @superdestroyer: It would be a wonderful thing for government to supply jobs by purchasing all labor not wanted by the private sector. If, as you claim, that’s what Democrats are after then they’re good people.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  16. Ben Wolf says:

    FYI, the Seven Deadly Innocent Frauds of Economic Policy is set to be a free Amazon download this weekend. It’s worth reading if you’re looking for alternatives that don’t give in to ultra-conservative economic ideas.

    http://www.amazon.com/Deadly-Innocent-Frauds-Economic-ebook/dp/B00BGWOXEK/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1362091024&sr=1-1

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    As with most of the bad things that come out of Washington, the sequester is one that both parties are equally responsible for.

    What is saus(age) for the goose is saus(age) for the gander.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Ben Wolf: Thanx, Ben. I’ll check it out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Who cares? I justed watched David Axelrod on television saying that in the long run this is all about tax increases (increasing revenues) now for the promise of spending cuts later. Of course, everyone know that the spending cuts never comes and everyone knows that if the Democrats regain control of the U.S. House, that the spending cuts will never occur (outside of Defense) and that spending will increase due to new entitlements and the Democrats desire to expand public sector employment.

    You’re worried about the Democrats regaining control? The Democrats? After what happened during the Bush years you are worried about Dems? After what St. Ronaldus did to the budget deficit when he got in? Really? You give partisan hacks a good name by comparison.

    Of course, I doubt if any wonks or pundits will think about the long term consequences of ever expanding spending and a shrinking private sector.

    I doubt if you will ever think about the long term consequences of voting GOP.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  20. Barry says:

    G-d D-mn it, Doug – why do you keep trying to lie to us with ‘both sides do it’?

    The GOP has been playing unprecedented games, trashing the country.

    Full stop.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  21. Unsympathetic says:

    It does matter, Doug. Republicans are to blame – period, dot, end of story.

    Both sides do not do it, and you know it.

    If you don’t like it, you need to tell your party to quit being stupid.. or switch parties. You know, to the only party that actually cares about having a successful government – the Democratic party.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  22. JKB says:

    So….it is midday on March first. Where is the Sequester Apocalypse?

    Shouldn’t the MSM be out showing us the dead in the streets? The horror of a DC lobbyist coming up empty? Cats and dogs living together (wait, seen that on Youtube, it was too cute)

    BTW, philosophical question: Is it a violation of church and state if the government causes a disaster of Biblical proportions?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. @JKB:

    So….it is midday on March first. Where is the Sequester Apocalypse?

    In your pants.

    (Oh, sorry…that was rhetorical, wasn’t it?)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  24. JKB says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb): In your pants.

    Well then, we’ve nothing to worry about. I took a small cutback down there long ago and it hasn’t seriously impacted my enjoyment or success.

    So really all this sequester drama is just people afraid of change.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  25. Septimius says:

    @JKB: I’ve heard scattered reports that defense contractors at the Pentagon are resorting to cannibalism.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  26. @JKB:

    “So really all this sequester drama is just people afraid of change”

    Nah, man…..there will be a lot of money NOT changing hands. It will have an effect.

    You just have to wait more than a few hours to feel it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  27. An Interested Party says:

    So really all this sequester drama is just people afraid of change.

    That’s rich coming from a conservative who is afraid of change on a seemingly daily basis…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  28. Jc says:

    Hmm I wonder if and when we have another GOP controlled house, senate and exec, when they need to raise the debt ceiling (which they will have to do) How will that play out? Since now the precedent has been set that if you want to raise it, you have to make cuts. So dumb. Prez Talking to Econ advisers, “propose something so dumb and idiotic, that GOP would have to agree to a mixed cuts and revenue type plan, they would then be able to convince even the dumbest in their party that its the best short term approach, as even the majority of the population agrees” “uh mr prez, what if what I propose is exactly what they want?” “You mean they want to cleave up the federal spending and structure they helped build and never cut in the past?” Nah, come on now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  29. Jc says:

    Oh, and why do we even need a debt ceiling? I mean, why pretend to cap something that always will grow? What other nations have debt ceilings?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  30. Sam Penrose says:

    Doug, I’m a big fan, but this post is 100% misguided. The nation’s problem is that in 2008 and 2012 about 65% of the adults elected a center-left president, and in 2010 about 40% of the adults elected a right-wing house. The two bodies don’t agree on what the country’s problems are, let alone what solutions would look like. The Constitution gives well-funded minorities who can get 51% of the house or 51% (ahem, 41%) of the senate the power to hold out against the choice of the people indefinitely. The same dynamic started in California around 20 years ago, and every time the wingnuts are offered the choice between winning elections and holding firm, they double-down on fealty. They are at 33% of the legislature and holding. If you think Congress won’t follow the same path, go read Redstate.com.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0