Republicans won’t take Obama’s “yes” for an answer on sequester

They’re at it again. No matter what President Obama offers in the sequester negotiations, the Republicans won’t take “yes” for an answer. And that’s excellent news for us.

To recap: We’re now in the middle of Part Cinq of Obama’s attempt to use anything at hand to kick-start the neoliberal dream of reducing FDR’s (and LBJ’s) signature social insurance programs — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. But according to Paul Krugman, the Republicans are having none of it (my emphasis):

Ezra Klein mans up and admits he was wrong. He had written a piece suggesting that if only Republicans knew how much Obama has been willing to offer, they might be willing to make a deal. Jonathan Chait set him straight, informing him that no matter what Obama put on the table, Republicans would find a way to say that it’s not enough. And sure enough, a Twitter exchange lets Klein watch that process in real time, as a top Republican consultant, confronted with evidence that Obama has already conceded what he said was all that was needed, keeps adding more demands.

So Klein admits that Republicans just don’t want to make a deal. Their objections to the deals on the table aren’t sincere; if convinced that Obama has met their demands, they just make more demands.

I think it’s important here to understand the broader implications.

That set of paragraphs is worth reading again. Ostensibly, it’s about Ezra Klein not getting what Krugman and others have observed all along — that Republicans are bargaining insincerely with Obama in his repeated attempts to get a Grand Bargain.

I agree with Krugman on this, and then we part company. Later in this piece Krugman assigns Obama a motive I can’t accept — that Obama’s goal is to take “the whole fight over the budget off the table” until the end of his term and move on to other stuff (like approving the Keystone Sludgepipe, perhaps?).

Regular readers know I’ve been saying for years that the Neoliberal project is “privatizing from the left” — selling public-private partnerships and Milton Friedman’s “free trade” from a faux-liberal perspective so that the billionaires of both parties can be served. Obama has been on board with neoliberalism and its goals since at least 2006. (I’ve written much about this; extra analysis here.)

Free trade and entitlement cuts are core neoliberal goals. Note that the next sovereignty-killing trade deal, TPP, has been described as “NAFTA on steroids” and stands in the on-deck circle for Obama. Obviously, cutting entitlement is in the batter’s box now, and has been since at least 2011.

All of which means, if Krugman is right, we may be sitting pretty, since we may have Republican partners working with us.

How to kill entitlement cuts: Kill the Sequester

The key to killing entitlement cuts this round is to kill the sequester. USA Today is reporting that top Obama economics adviser Gene Sperling is telling the press that “Obama would continue to seek alternatives to the $85 billion in cuts that he said will slash programs devoted to national defense, education, infrastructure and other things.”

Of course, Sperling is the guy who said cutting entitlements is “in the DNA” of the sequester. So we know Obama doesn’t want to kill the sequester; he wants to use it instead to frighten us into frightening both parties into finally passing his Grand “Bargain”. So the “alternative” to the dreaded Sequester won’t be to cancel it; we’ll have to do that for him.

How to kill the Sequester: Frighten Republicans (and others) into killing the deal

Key to killing the Sequester is to stiffen the spines of Republicans and Democrats who would otherwise have to vote for those cuts. And that’s where Krugman gives us hope. Again:

Republicans just don’t want to make a deal. Their objections to the deals on the table aren’t sincere; if convinced that Obama has met their demands, they just make more demands.

We can use this information. Click here to read the plan as it was proposed a few days ago. The only thing that’s changed is the introduction of the Cancel the Sequester Act on Friday (HR 900) by John Conyers, a member of the House Progressive Caucus. That changes the strategy on the Democratic side (we’re going to push for broad Democratic support).

But it changes nothing on the Republican side — it just gives them an easy out if they don’t want to buck House leadership. If Krugman is right, Republican, and especially Tea Party–branded, office-holders can be motivated by …

teabagger_with_hat▪ Raw hatred of Obama
▪ Hatred of taxes, ‘cuz “gummint”
▪ Fear of voter retribution, especially in “ungerrymandered” districts
▪ Desire to overturn the party’s “mainstream” leadership

… to vote down any tax-plus-cuts deal Obama offers. Our job is to stimulate their motivation with phone calls. My earlier calling script went something like this:

“Are you a man (woman) or a mouse? Where’s that Tea Party no-tax goodness you promised when you ran? And by the way, you’re dead to me if you vote for cuts to my Medicare or retirement money. See you in 2014.”

Now add in Krugman’s insight and say, “And how dare you give that man, that man I tell you, any kind of a victory at all.” You can emphasize the word “that” in that man any way you like. They’ll get the point.

You can then tell them that HR 900 is a safe haven to get the business concluded without blood, if they’re so inclined. Or just tell them that if an Obama–Boehner deal comes up for a vote, you’re expecting a No — ‘cuz, “keep them gummint hands off Social Security,” or something.

I’ll have that Republican calling list very soon, in a day or so. It’s loaded with Rs in the House who are vulnerable in 2014, either because they hold seats in districts where Obama did well, or because they have statewide or national ambitions and need to moderate their public act.

And never forget — a vote against Social Security and Medicare will be toxic to both parties. Both parties. Feel free to say so, loud and clear. The Republicans will get that point too.

[Updated slightly for clarity.]


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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38 Responses to “Republicans won’t take Obama’s “yes” for an answer on sequester”

  1. Medicare & Social Security cuts are not acceptable ant any cost and people are suppose to get more benefits and enhanced options to make it more useful for themselves.

  2. spo101 says:

    The GOP is working HARD to privatize everything of value so a very few silver spoon, trust fund baby Satan worshippers can own the USA. Wealth is being funneled up, not trickled down, but FUNNELED upward because they know their power is slipping away just as quickly. Top Republicans are smart enough to know the only way they can hang onto to power is cheating… and if that doesn’t work, to perpetrate a police/court/ military/ corporate fascist takeover to eliminate rights/freedoms, to jail boat-rockers, intellectuals and Americans who refuse to watch reality TV. (lol)

    I’m convinced Republicans are suffering from some propaganda induced madness. Severe superiority complexes, odd paranoia, racial hatred, religious delusions and all the pharmaceuticals Conservatives are ingesting have them making the same mistakes, over & over & over, expecting a different result… (insanity). WAKE UP!

    NOTE: (watch Rachel Maddow segment tittled “Solving problems that don’t exist”. Thank GOD for Maddow, Thom Hartmann & Keith Olbermann, Randi Rhodes, etc…)

    I think what the Obama/Biden Administration is doing is genius. The way I see it, President Obama is giving the Republican monkeys enough rope to hang themselves. Eventually Conservatives are going to snap out of their cult stupor and realize Republicans aren’t representing the best interests of the American people. The GOP wants to make sure the wealth of the nation is under control of the Satan worshippers.

    Republicans, you’ve been exposed… I can only hope/pray Conservatives finally own up to being played for fools. It was a HUGE mistake giving power to those shameless hypocrites in the Republican Corporate Socialist Party and their silver spoon pimps.

    When one brings the debate home to it’s roots or simplest terms the only thing that really matters is RESULTS! What are the results of trickle-down Reaganomics? How is the Bush/Cheney corporate crime wave impacting our daily lives? Is the 2010 Republican Congress getting results? HELL NO!

    GOD forbid we talk about the 50 MILLION Americans struggling below the poverty level… OR do an investigative report on the Corporate Crime Wave that gripped this nation during Bush/Cheney… Ask vital questions such as WHY are Republicans leading the charge to obstructionism, voter suppression, deregulation, union busting, debtor’s prison and repealing CHILD LABOR laws? (REALLY?) These un-American mofo’s want to get rid of an American Institution, the POST OFFICE for GOD sake…
    NOTE: Post office motto Inscribed on post office on 33rd St. + 8th Ave, NYC:
    “neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” HERODOTUS 503 BC.
    (These patriots didn’t count on a destructive force known as a lame duck Republican Congress, lol, remember 2006? Y’know, the forced excessive pension/healthcare payments?)

    Maybe USE the overwhelming evidence/information TO PROSECUTE evil, trust fund babies who are holding back capital, jobs, stalling technology and keeping gas prices high just to make Obama/Biden and Democrats look bad… (ask Jimmy Carter about big money working against his Administration)

    So the most important job of the new American patriot is DEMANDING ETHICS, RESPONSIBILITY and ACCOUNTABILITY from our Capitalist Over-Lords (lol). The Aristocrats and their Republican Party flunkies have a LOT TO ANSWER FOR! These vain, self-serving, power-mad, greed stricken silver spoon con artists have turned the USA into the United Suckers of America.
    © 2013 by FGE,

  3. hollywoodstein says:

    BTW, anyone know how you can see who likes and who no likeys you on Disqus? I am updating my enemies list.

  4. hollywoodstein says:

    OFA drone strikes again!

  5. blue says:

    Agree 100%. In fact, I wish the conversation would change a bit and have someone point out that there is NO balance between the impact to a billionaire’s standard of living due to a return to progressive tax rates and an elderly or disabled working class person’s standard of living due to their sole, fixed Social Security income being slashed. They are not comparable AT ALL. It’s not “balance,” and it’s not a “shared” sacrifice.

    Can we please start talking about the actual impact?

  6. hollywoodstein says:

    OMG, we coulda had a super train.

  7. devlzadvocate says:

    There can never be too few of them.

  8. FLL says:

    The good news is that November 2010 was the height of the Tea Party’s clout. Their representation in the House seriously declined in 2012.

  9. FLL says:

    Mega-like for all five comments. There’s nothing more expensive than war. Only a few far-right nutcases like Ann Coulter still argue that the Iraq War was a plus. The vast majority think Bush’s Iraq mistake was an epic disaster. Most Americans still won’t fault Bush for starting the War in Afghanistan because al-Qaeda launched his attack on the World Trade Center with support from the Taliban government. Nevertheless, ending the War in Afghanistan next year is moving in the right direction. The best idea of all is not going with Romney’s proposed “preemptive” war on Iran, i.e., war of aggression.

  10. devlzadvocate says:

    Does anyone really think a teabagger Congressman cares about making people happy? Don’t think so. What they care about is creating chaos and from that a new political and economic order.

  11. hollywoodstein says:

    No, don’t care what it costs. But I imagine it costs less than what was wasted in Iraq.

  12. hollywoodstein says:

    Okay, fine let Boeing make it.

  13. hollywoodstein says:

    And a cross country super train. I want a supertrain.

  14. hollywoodstein says:

    More National Parks please.

  15. hollywoodstein says:

    These people just hate the idea of taxes. I always loved paying my taxes. It’s the price of living in a civilized society. I just wish less of it went to War.

  16. FLL says:

    I shudder at that thought. I really don’t admire Obama, and if his persona is part of the reason for the poisoned atmosphere, then fine, I’m glad he’s a lame duck. It might push people to move on to other things. That would be much better than the present nonsense becoming the new normal. I hope people will just prepare for a more sane political scene, post-Obama. (See my reply below to hollywoodstein.)

  17. BeccaM says:

    That’s just the thing: I don’t believe 2011 was the aberration. It is the new normal for American politics, and if anything it’s getting worse.

  18. FLL says:

    Blazing Saddles was a great movie, and yes, the “townspeople” do remind me of today’s Tea Party crazies.

  19. FLL says:

    The circumstances in Congress during 2011 produced exactly what you call it: economy-damaging insanity. I just hope that the specific circumstances of 2011 were an aberration.

  20. BeccaM says:

    This is all well and good, but we’re dealing with two parties that, when they were finally able to agree on something, agreed upon this economy-damaging insanity called the ‘sequester.’ That right there should tell you we’re no longer dealing with rational political parties.

  21. all this kabuki was never about the Plan, it’s about being able to give an ‘up yours, n***er!’ to the sherriff

  22. BeccaM says:

    As Jonathan points out, Sirota isn’t a GOP spokesman. But that aside, it should be quite telling that instead of staking out a far left position and negotiating from there, Obama (and his Dem enablers) has consistently started from what used to be center-right GOP proposals and gone even further to the right from there.

    Every other word out of his mouth these days is “balanced approach” when what’s needed is a return to a more fair economic system and a restoration of more progressive tax rates. For the last two generations, the poor and middle class have made every single sacrifice, and gotten nothing but stagnant wages, plundered pensions, and a declining standard of living — especially as compared to the rest of the civilized world. How is it at all fair then to say, “Everybody must sacrifice more to get this mess back on track”?

    I say no, not when most of the problem is that the 99% has been systematically robbed so the 1% can become obscenely wealthy. Yet this isn’t what’s proposed, and not the language used. The new “normal” is the rich keep getting richer and the poor and vanishing middle class are told we must sacrifice some more.

    What Obama and his DNC people should do and what we already know they will do are two different things. And quite frankly, expecting anything different after seeing four-plus years of what the actually do is akin to a battered spouse talking themselves into believing the beatings will stop if they just work harder at not being beaten.

  23. BeccaM says:

    Yeah, pretty much.

    Our “betters” (sic) have their disagreement, but it’s the peasants who suffer and die.

  24. FLL says:

    Since Obama is a lame duck, there is now an excellent chance to move the Democratic Party back toward its base. Nothing wrong with that, so you and I may very well be in agreement.

  25. FLL says:

    Hilariously true.

  26. FLL says:

    Gaius Publius, you’re on target about advocating a bill to cancel the sequester, and you have sound strategies for lobbying both Democratic and Republican congressmen. However, your assessment of who wants the sequester is a little confusing. The vast majority of public opinion, on both sides of the partisan aisle, agree that the notion of sequester in 2011 was the result of the Republican Tea Party victories in 2010. Your previous post seemed to finger Obama as the impetus for the 2011 sequester arrangement, which is a theory supported by few others. In contrast to your previous post, your post of today seems more realistic.
    I say this because I dutifully followed this link you included for the Sunday morning interviews with Gene Sperling, Obama’s adviser. The headline from that USA Today article is: “Obama aide rips sequester, respects Woodward.” And the takeaway quote from that article is:

    “This sequester is a win for nobody,” Sperling said on CNN’s State of the Union, discussing the $85 billion in budget cuts that began to take effect this weekend. “It is just a loss for the American people.”

    I admire your advocacy in favor of cancelling the sequester. I’m also happy to see that you’re using aluminum foil for its intended purpose: wrapping food for storing in the freezing rather than making those tin foil hats that really don’t work anyway. Cheers.

  27. Naja pallida says:

    Sirota has been drummed out of most conservative circles for talking sense.

  28. hollywoodstein says:

    I would prefer a little more symbiosis please.

  29. hollywoodstein says:

    Obama is a parasite on the Democratic party. He could only get elected with it, but then he rejects what it’s base wants.

  30. hollywoodstein says:

    The true believer teabaggers are the only ones who can save us from Obama.

  31. Blogvader says:

    Yeah, I’m reminded of that moment in Religulous when Bill Maher’s talking to a Washington legislator who casually say: “You don’t have to pass an aptitude test to work in Washington.”

    And then the guy realizes he said something stupid and frowns, which they also caught on camera.

    Sadly, it’s true.

  32. jomicur says:

    The more I watch what is smilingly called our government in action, the more I feel like someone’s putting me on. THIS is the leadership of “the greatest country in the world”?! This pack of buffoons, poltroons, petty con artists and mental defectives? Really? Seriously? We keep hearing that the rest of the world hates us, but I’m not at all convinced. I doubt if they can stop laughing long enough to hate us.

  33. That wasn’t a GOP spokesman. David Sirota is quite liberal; he’s actually quoted in the FDL piece linked above bashing the Hamilton Project. He was just addressing the fact that, if Obama wants a “grand bargain” as he seems to, then Obama is an awful negotiator. He was discussing tactics that he himself would not support–as you could tell if you read any of his pieces in Salon or In These Times.

  34. devlzadvocate says:

    Yeah, I’m gonna call some tea-bagger Congressman to ask for their vote. Then I’m gonna make an insane statement about rape, burn down a forest and join GOProud. Sure. Nothing has changed here.

  35. ezpz says:

    And surprise, surprise! The poor will be hit the hardest and soonest…

    DSWright, FDL:

    As Austerity Begins Wealth Inequality Shines Through As Poor Are Targeted

    “Last Friday President Obama signed the sequester order officially launching America’s latest austerity program. Austerity has yet to produce jobs or growth in any country it has been tried in. In fact, austerity is becoming one of the few certainties within economic policy making – the certainty of losing growth if the policy is adopted. And now we get to learn the lesson everyone else now knows the hard way.

    But even in the “across the board” cutting program it seems the poor are going to get the worst of it.”

  36. nicho says:

    This is all so very medieval. The Duke of Bollocks and the Prince of Dungheap have a beef with each other and spears and arrows start flying. Meanwhile, the working people have their land and property destroyed, their daughters raped, and their sons impressed into service. Instead of petty nobility, we have corporations and politicians — but the dynamic is all the same.

  37. madcap says:

    I watched a GOP spokesman tell the story on Up w/Chris Hayes this weekend. He said that the GOP can’t accept anything that Obama offers and have cred with the Tea Party. That Obama should start the bargaining way out to the left and let the GOP compromise on the middle. That way Obama would get what he wants and the GOP can show that they are pushing him to the center.
    They have created this big thing where they cannot accept what they want. As a matter of fact if it is anything Obama wants they cannot accept it, even if it is what they wanted last week.

  38. Drew2u says:

    One of the things I hate about this whole mess are the mass-emails I get from liberal organizations that say, “Sign my petition! (oh, and donate money, too)”. And it is often the case, as it is with the sequester, there are redundancies of groups trying to make me sign their pledge that says the exact same thing as another group’s (only each one ends with, “by the way, give US your money”).
    Wouldn’t it be more helpful if these groups just linked to a single “We the People” petition on the White House’s website instead of reinventing the wheel? Sure you want money, but redundant petitions need to be filed under: “You’re not helping”. If “Non-Binary Genders” can get over 5,000 signatures, then repealing the sequester should be able to get at least that.

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