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.