Obama economic adviser: Using the sequester to cut benefits was “part of the DNA from the start”

We now have stunning confirmation that Obama is using the sequester “battle” as blackmail to get his Grand Bargain (Grand Betrayal) passed — and that “entitlement” benefit cuts are, and always were, part of the plan. It could not be more clear.

Barack Obama wants to cut entitlements, and he’s using the sequester to do it. This, and no other reason, is why the sequester is happening.

The person who made the statement quoted in my headline — that cutting entitlements is “in the DNA” of the sequester — is Gene Sperling, a “top economic aide” to Barack Obama, and someone who knows what he’s talking about. Let’s ignore the giggly high-school story of Woodward and Sperling threatening and cajoling each other and go right to the quote.

Here’s what Sperling wrote to Woodward in an email on February 22, 2013 as quoted in Politico (h/t Digby, my emphasis and reparagraphing). I’ve cleared up some of the tortured syntax, but the meaning is not changed:

[T]he sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand bar[g]ain with a mix of entitlements and revenues … [this] was part of the DNA of the thing from the start. It was an accepted part of the understanding — from the start. Really. …

[T]hat it was supposed to be replaced by entitlements and revenues … is not controversial. (Indeed, the discretionary savings amount from the Boehner-Obama negotiations were locked in in BCA [Budget Control Act of 2011]: the sequester was just designed to force all back to table on entitlements and revenues.)

Go to Digby for the full quote; you won’t see a problem with my version. Please note:

  1. The email to Woodward is just a few days old.
  2. The writer is Obama’s current director of the National Economic Council.
  3. The “grand bargain” was always a “mix of entitlements and revenues” — benefit cuts plus a tax-filled Dem-blackmailing sweetener.
  4. Everyone knew this and knows it today, that the sequester negotiation was designed as a way to cut entitlements.

Everybody knew this. But no one was telling you. Not one big news-name. Not one MSNBC host (with the possible exception of Chris Hayes, who still seems to see through both eyes). Not one CNN camera-face, not one breathless Politico Beltway secrets whisperer. No one — yet this was an open secret in a news-hungry town. Your lying corporate media at work.

Now add in the fact that when Republicans tried to cancel the Sequester, Obama defended it. Bill Black, writing at Naked Capitalism (my emphasis):

I wrote last year about the fact that President Obama had twice blocked Republican efforts to remove the Sequester. President Obama went so far as to issue a veto threat to block the second effort.

Black has decided, as have we at La Maison, that Obama’s goal is to frighten the progressives into supporting his “Grand Betrayal”:

Obama has made clear that he hopes this Grand Betrayal (my phrase) will be his legacy. Obama and [Jack] Lew do not want to remove the Sequester because they view it as creating the leverage – over progressives – essential to induce them to vote for the Grand Betrayal.

Need more proof? Here’s Barack Obama on March 1, 2013 (that’s last Friday on my calendar) after meeting with Congressional leaders about the sequester:

And what I’ve said very specifically, very detailed is that I’m prepared to take on the problem where it exists — on entitlements — and do some things that my own party really doesn’t like … [T]he deal that I’ve put forward over the last two years, the deal that I put forward as recently as December is still on the table.

“Leverage over progressives” is Bill Black’s assessment, and mine as well. That means you, Congressional Progressive Caucus, and your cousins in the Senate. Your turn at bat.

What to do

There’s a simple take-away here for readers, actually two:

■ Obama wants the Grand Betrayal to be his legacy. Give it to him. Everyone reading this has some “reach” — some group of people you influence. Every time you talk about Obama, tell just tell the truth.

“Barack Obama wants to cut Social Security and Medicare. He’s tried it every time these phony crises come along. He just needs Republican tax hikes to hide the knife.”

In other words, rebrand him; paint him with the truth. Don’t hide it from yourself; don’t hide it from your friends. At some point, the new paint will stick. But for that to happen, we must persist.

Can we get a political cartoon of cloaked Obama sneaking up behind “Social Security” (an elderly woman selling pencils perhaps) with a knife in his hand and a manic grin? ‘Cause that’s who he is. Until then though, until we get iconic images — or an iconic will.i.am song that corrects his previous one — we’ll have to use words. You have reach; use it. Paint Obama’s betrayal as it is. Talk loud and proud. You’ll be doing us all a favor.

■ Support HR 900, John Conyers’ Cancel the Sequester Act. It’s one sentence, and it does one thing. It cancels the sequester. There are just four sponsors so far, Conyers and three co-sponsors:

Last Name First Name District Party Phone Number CPC?
Conyers John MI-13 D (202) 225-5126 1
Grayson Alan FL-09 D (202) 225-9889 1
Jackson Lee Sheila TX-18 D (202) 225-3816 2
Wilson Frederica FL-24 D (202) 225-4506 0

In the CPC column, 1 means caucus member and 2 means leader. Note that Jackson Lee is to date the only leader of the CPC signing this letter, and that Wilson is not a member of the CPC, yet she still signed on. Good for her; she deserves your thanks, as do they all.

We expect more signatures next week, but we’ll need quite a number. I’m going to publish whip-lists (phone-call lists) in the next few days. One will include House Democrats who signed the CPC’s “we oppose cuts” letter. Another will include House Republicans holding seats in districts where Obama did well in 2012. I hope that as many of you as possible — and many of those in progressive activist positions as well — will start whipping (phoning) for this bill.

I also hope for news of a parallel bill introduced in the Senate. Once that’s in place, progressives (voters and activists alike) can work both houses of Congress. The goal — put a Cancel the Sequester bill in front of Obama for signature.

I know, he may want his Grand Legacy more; maybe he’ll veto the bill. I doubt it, but that’s on him. Getting the bill to his desk; that’s on us.


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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