Obama Rejects Sequester Scalpel for Meat Cleaver
Ezra Klein notes a “weird” twist in the sequester stand-off:
On the sequester, the Republicans want to give the White House the chance to use a scalpel rather than a meat cleaver. And the White House is saying, basically, no thanks. Meanwhile, Republicans badly want to means-test Medicare — but they never seem to talk about the White House’s proposal to means-test Medicare.
That’s the lead-in to an interesting 18:47 video discussion with Sarah Kliff available at the link.
The upshot is that, while the administration has correctly pointed out that the main problem with the sequester is the stupidity of having to take cuts across-the-board rather than being able to make rational decisions as to which programs to trim, the beauty in that “meat cleaver” approach is that he can at least blame the Republicans. Given the authority to make line-item rescissions, though, and he’d be held accountable for each and every cut, which Republicans would naturally use against him on the campaign trail ahead of the midterm elections.
In a related blog post (“Republicans want to make the sequester better. Why won’t Obama let them?“), though, he hits at a more basic issue: the administration has misrepresented their own position.
The bottom line is that Republican bill makes the sequester easier to live with, and the White House doesn’t want the sequester to be easier to live with. The point of these poorly constructed spending cuts, in the White House’s view, is that they’re hard to live with, and that forces both sides to compromise. Making the sequester a bit better makes it much harder to replace.
There’s been a lot of talk of “meat axes” and “across-the-board cuts” and the general idiocy of the sequester’s design. But all that is, in the end, distraction. The fight over the GOP’s sequester replacement is the clearest distillation yet of the two side’s positions.
Republicans basically support the sequester because it’s all spending cuts, but they want the cuts allocated more intelligently. The White House opposes the sequester because it hits the economy too hard in 2013 and because it doesn’t include tax increases, and so they want it replaced with a compromise proposal. And so Republicans want to make the sequester a bit better and a lot more permanent while the White House opposes efforts to make the sequester better precisely because it would make it more permanent.
I think that’s right.