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You can blame whom you want for the sequester crisis

Pretty much everyone agrees that it will be stupid and destructive to allow the sequestration cuts to go into effect and almost no one seems to believe that the players who would have compromise to prevent them from taking effect will do so. So, instead, we are distracting ourselves with a relatively pointless argument over whose idea it was in the first place.

The short answer seems to be that it’s everyone’s fault. David Brooks leads his column today with an anecdote borrowed from Bob Woodward’s recent book in which Jack Lew (who was then the White House budget director and is now the chief of staff) tells Harry Reid that the White House has embraced sequestration which (according to Brooks/Woodward) causes Reid to bend over with his head between his legs as if he was going to throw up.

On the very same NYTimes op-ed page, Paul Krugman (who calls sequestration “one of the worst policy ideas in our nation’s history”) seems to want to blame Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson (who had nothing to do with it directly) as symbols of the overall Washington obsession to focus on deficit reduction. In case you have missed his last 100 columns and book on the topic, Krugman believes that focusing on deficit reduction during a recession is wrong-headed (to put it mildly) and that the government should be focusing on an all-out Keynesian program of economic stimulus.

Sen. Marco Rubio, in his response to Pres. Obama’s State of the Union address, said that the military spending cuts in the sequestration law were “Pres. Obama’s idea in the first place.”

Speaker of the House John Boehner has also blamed Obama for sequestration. There’s a modicum of truth to this idea (back to the Jack Lew anecdote above). But the bill that established the sequestration passed in the House with mostlyu Republican votes. If you trace the story back, a reasonable case can be made for Boehner as the cause (not the author) of sequestration because of what is called the "Boehner rule," a Republican demand that every dollar of increase in the national debt limit much be matched by a dollar of spending cuts.

Of course, the key to remember is that whomever fathered sequestration and whomever voted for it, everyone agreed that the mandatory cuts would not take effect but would be replaced by a smarter set of cuts that, for all the obvious reasons, Congress never found.

Politifact has fact-checked this blame game several time, most recently in this check of Rubio’s statement in the SOTU rebuttal) and, if you find yourself confused about the origin of sequestration, I commend their workup to your attention.


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Comments (6)

The underlying question is

which party is on record as wanting to prevent any constructive action from taking place, to further its own political interests? That's what sequestering is ultimately about.

Why is it bad?

I don't agree with "pretty much everyone." It's not like all the cuts go into effect immediately. The dollar amount of the cuts is spread over a decade, at least, and there's nothing to prevent Congress from restoring funding at any time. This is indeed a manufactured crisis.

Yes, there will be reductions in service, furloughs and so on and we should be angry at Congress for making it so. But these do not have to be permanent. Jobs can be restored one minute after sequestration goes into effect.

...."After months of hard

...."After months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee’s deadline."....

United States Congress Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (b 8/2/2011, d 1/31/12)

Can you say, "dereliction of duty"?

Notice that the Committee life was 5 months, and that it closed down over a year ago. 13 months of wasted time.


Burning the house down to prove that it is flammable.

There is only one plausible hypothesis.

This level of dysfunction cannot occur without it being the intent. The strategy of the Republican party is to bring the repute of Congress so low that the citizenry will cease to have any expectations that its government may function and therefore cease to object to its drowning in a bathtub. It's the frog-in-the-heating-water strategy.

False equivilence... AGAIN

Cuts only budget solution are a Republican Party dream. There's nothing to compromise on, whaddya gonna do, offer them MORE cuts in exchange even less revenue? Sure it's dysfunctional, there is source for that dysfunction. Let's stop pretending that EVERYONE is responsible for that dysfunction. This pseudo equivalence is nothing but political denial and so long it prevails the gridlock will persist. You can't solve a problem by ignoring the cause. I'm not saying the Democrats are perfect, I'm NOT a democrat. But we're never going to move this ball forward until we acknowledge the barrier that's preventing progress and deal with it. This "blame everyone" stuff is simply dishonest. It looks to me like the democrats have finally realized that there no compromise they offer will move the republicans. Plan B, let's see of the reality of the sequester moves them.

The Republicans

The problem Republicans are having here is that they confuse concessions Democrats are willing to make with policies Democrats acually support.