A small but increasing number of people have voiced the obvious solution to the “sequester” — the meat-axe budget cuts that Congress foisted on itself last year. As it stands, the sequester is supposed to kick in on March 1, this Friday. The result in DC is both consternation and quiet.
All you need to know — this is one more manufactured emergency. Who wanted it? By many accounts, Barack Obama himself. Read this good piece by Yves Smith and Bill Black at Naked Capitalism on that. I’ll have more about the Smith piece later; it deals with the causes of the present problem. Here I want to focus on the solution.
How to fix the sequester? Cancel it.
That’s right; Congress can just cancel the sequester. Anything Congress can do, Congress can undo. So Congress can undo the sequester. The latest to call for this solution is the Congressional Progressive Caucus (the CPC), which I’ve been writing about. From the office of the two leaders, Raúl Grijalva and Keith Ellison:
If Congress cannot come up with a replacement to the sequester before the end of the week, we should eliminate the sequester entirely. One million working Americans should not be forced to pay the price for Republican stubbornness. If this goes into effect, it will be one of the most irresponsible legislative failures in the history of the Republic.
And they provide a stark look at what will happen if the sequester goes through as originally written:
The consequences of more massive budget cuts are real. Economic growth will slow, hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost, and more people will have to rely on government assistance to meet their basic needs. In 2013 alone, seventy thousand children will be kicked off Head Start. More than one million kids will see their schools lose education funds. Emergency responders will lose their jobs, meaning slower response times and weaker disaster preparedness. Layoffs and furloughs for Social Security workers will cause delays and hassles for millions of seniors who depend on Social Security to put food on the table. Cuts to air traffic controllers and airport security agents will mean longer waits and travel disruptions.
Naturally, they place blame for the extended sequester fight on the Republicans (again, see Yves Smith, as noted above), and it’s true that the Republicans don’t give two figs for programs like Head Start (though for the leadership of either party to play chicken with these cuts is … well, unconscionable, within the full meaning of the word.)
Chris Hayes on Cancel the sequester
The CPC is not alone with this solution. Here’s MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on the subject (h/t digby):
See? Simple. All they have to do is show up for work. One sentence couldn’t be that hard. I offered two options here. I’m sure you can think of your own. (Atrios also agrees, in his atrionic fashion: “Just repeal it.”)
By the way, note the graph that Hayes showed. See what the sequester does to the deficit? Not much. What’d I tell you — a manipulated “crisis.” Both parties have their dabs on it. I hope you’re noticing how all of the spending cuts in the sequester, military and non-military, are being used to blackmail progressives and conservatives alike to buy a deal that … (wait for it) … reduces the social insurance programs.
My prediction, and a note to the CPC
If Obama and Boehner can blackmail their recalcitrants (that’s you, CPC, so far) into voting for cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, you’ll see a sequester “deal” vote that includes benefit cuts.
But if that blackmailing manufactured crisis can’t attract enough votes to make it worth proposing, the sequester will magically disappear. Hayes and the CPC will have gotten their wish. In a blink Congress will be asked to make the sequester go away, and they will.
My caution to the CPC — this is a strong statement, the one above, and a strong position. Congratulations, and thanks. But you may not get to vote on a cancellation. Obama may get the deal he wants, and you’ll be stuck with only two choices — Yes to Cuts or No to Cuts. If so, I suspect that any progressive who votes Yes to Cuts will have hell to pay.
2014 is not that far away, and the American people absolutely hate benefit cuts. Click here to see the data on that; it’s overwhelming. So consider this advice a service — that vote on cuts, if it comes up, will be a land mine of epic proportions. No one wants any of you to step on it.
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