The Asymetrical Sequester

The sequester gives Republicans cuts in government spending while protecting the wealthiest Americans from paying higher taxes. It’s a fallacy that it provides equal satisfaction to Democrats in the form of military cuts. Although many Democrats rightfully support elimination of pork barrel military contracts for equipment that doesn’t work and that the pentagon doesn’t want, for political reasons Democrats can’t boast about cutting military spending as triumphantly as Republicans can about cutting off medical care and education for poor children. Democrats really don’t want to gut the military. Republicans really do want to gut services that help the poor and middle class. The imbalance is exacerbated by the bizarre fact that Republicans never pay a political price for voting against the military, and also by the freedom the media seems to feel to blame Obama, rather than congressional Republicans, for everything the Republicans do to the economy.

The cuts to programs like head-start and meals on wheels are part of the sequester because that’s what Republicans were demanding. The military cuts are part of the sequester because they were, in theory, so unpalatable to Republicans that they would be forced to negotiate. Apparently, closing the wealth gap is more unpalatable.

Both Republicans and Democrats have the option of caving to the other’s demands in order to protect the military. But if Republicans cave, it will mean higher taxes on the wealthy. If Democrats cave, it will mean gutting programs that Americans depend upon, and allowing Republicans to get what they want by threatening to destroy our economy. It is due to that threat that the sequester deal was suggested in the first place.

In the Washington Post, Thomas Mann notes something else that the Republicans get:

The insistence on deep discretionary-spending reductions while calling for even deeper tax cuts shows that the sequester is not about money but about taking a meat ax to government as we know it … Planning, recruiting personnel and drafting long-term contracts have become impossible in areas from cybersecurity to embassy security to medical research to homeland security, damaging not industries rife with waste, fraud and abuse but critical services.

The very rich have always faired well through tough economic times, which might explain the willingness of the Republican party to sacrifice the economy to get what they want. And they never cared about the troops the way they claim to. But their willingness to sacrifice our safety to prevent the wealth of the wealthy from being used for food, health, and education is surprising.

Depression era photo of poeple on food line in front of billboard about America's high standard of living.

Randy Forbes the Visionary

All this rancor about sequestration is all for naught because Randy Forbes has a solution: “Hey guys, how about Republicans take whatever they want and let Democrats eat shit?”

Wow, Randy. Nobody ever thought of that. Sure glad we have you and your win-win attitude.

I have an idea, too. Why don’t Republicans stop giving lip service about how important they think the military is and prove that they’re willing to sacrifice for it. As far as I can tell, Republicans will do nothing to stop the sequestration because they get political points for blaming it on Democrats. But the sequestration had plenty of Republican support. In fact, it had better support among Republicans than among Democrats. Even Paul Ryan pushed for it.

The reason sequestration is looming is it gives Republicans what they want. Not that Republicans want to gut the military, they just want to gut social programs to prevent the wealthy from paying higher taxes. And they can accept the devastation that sequestration will bring as long as they can blame it on Democrats.

Democrats, on the other hand, aren’t nearly as hostile to the military as Republicans claim they are. Democrats shrink from accusations of not supporting the military while Republicans boast about cutting social programs. Democrats do want to cut wasteful spending on pork-barrel programs that don’t actually strengthen the military, but they support the military with far greater force than Republicans support economic safety nets, infrastructure, or public education.

The asymmetry of sequestration is that social programs are on the chopping block because Republicans want them to be cut, but military spending is on the chopping block because they were supposed to be so unpalatable that they would force Republicans to negotiate.

But it turns out that taxes on the wealthy are more unpalatable for Republicans than cuts to the military. Republicans aren’t willing to honestly negotiate for what they claim is so important to them. The best they can do is Randy Forbes’s visionary proposal to let Democrats make all of the sacrifices.

The next time a Republican politician talks about supporting the troops, remember how Republicans would rather leave the military on the chopping block than negotiate to save it.

From a recent Forbes email:

Working to Prevent Sequestration and Protect Our Military

With sequestration just days away, Congressman Forbes continued in his efforts strongly opposing these arbitrary cuts and protecting our nation’s armed forces. Congressman Forbes voted against the Budget Control Act, which set up the process of sequestration, and has been warning against the devastating nature of these cuts ever since.

Introduced a bill to protect defense from sequestration. Congressman Forbes introduced a bill, H.R.773, to remove the Department of Defense from sequestration. Under sequestration, defense spending will be disproportionately cut, absorbing 50% of the cuts. Spending cuts of this magnitude will not only cripple the economy, but will decimate the military. This bill would reduce the amount of the sequester to $600 billion.

Joined bipartisan, bicameral letter on impact of sequestration in Virginia. Congressman Forbes joined Senators Warner and Kaine and Congressmen Wittman, Rigell, Wolf, Scott, Moran and Connolly in writing a letter to President Obama and congressional leaders to express concern about the disproportionate damage sequestration will have on Virginia. Members of the Virginia delegation urged both parties to work cooperatively to end the threat of sequestration. Due to Virginia’s contribution to national defense, the letter notes that over 207,000 Virginia jobs may be lost as a result of sequestration should Congress and the President fail to act.

Urged protection of vital defense programs. Congressman Forbes and Congressman Rob Wittman sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee urging that vital defense programs remain fully funded in the face of looming defense cuts. Among the programs cited as essential to national security were the continued modernization and maintenance of the Navy’s Fleet; completion of refueling and overhauls for the aircraft carriers Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln; construction of a new aircraft carrier, USS John F. Kennedy; and ensuring the procurement of additional Virginia-class submarines and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Congressman Forbes is determined to prevent possible defense budget cuts from degrading critical U.S. military capabilities and inflicting unnecessary economic damage on our struggling economy.

Met with senior leaders of the Department of Defense. Congressman Forbes met with senior military officers and Pentagon civilian officials to discuss the potential consequences of sequestration and another Continuing Resolution (CR) on U.S. national security. Among those whom the Congressman has met in recent weeks are Assistant Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley, the Navy’s senior shipbuilding official; Lt. Gen. Charles Davis, the Air Force’s senior uniformed acquisition official; Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, the Deputy Commandant of the Marine Corps; and Lt. Gen. Burton Field, Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff. The Congressman will continue his consultations with the Pentagon’s senior leadership in the coming weeks as he works to prevent and mitigate the damage of sequestration to our national security.

Questioned the Joint Chiefs of Staff on DoD’s failure to plan for sequestration: During a House Armed Services Committee hearing, Congressman Forbes questioned the Joint Chiefs of Staff and senior civilian officials as to why the Defense Department has waited until recently to publicly explain the impact of sequestration. Congressman Forbes expressed his concern that the DoD has not adequately informed Congress and the public about sequestration’s potential damage to our economy and security. The Congressman will continue to use his leadership position on the House Armed Services Committee to demand accountability from our senior military leadership on issues affecting the national security of the United States.

Delayed implementation of health care law to prevent sequestration. Congressman Forbes cosponsored a bill, H.R.607, to delay all provisions of the health care law that are set to take effect in 2014 and 2015 until January 1, 2016, and then use those savings to replace sequestration for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013. Not only does this measure stop the destructive effects of these cuts, it gives the Administration time to prepare for the many new provisions of the health care law.

Sequester Blame

This graphic that’s been going around lately had me scratching my head, having said many times that the sequester deal was a bi-partisan agreement and that Republicans are full of shit trying to blame this mess on Obama or Democrats.

Crying Boehner with text: Who voted for the sequester?  Democratic votes -0 Republican votes - 218

The bill which is about to kick in was passed in the house 269 to 161, with strong Republican support and half of the House Democrats voting for it. The figure in the graphic comes from an earlier version, which was killed in the Senate.

It’s dishonest to suggest that no Democrats supported the sequester when some Democrats eventually did, but it’s not nearly as outrageous as blaming it on Democrats who never supported it as strongly as Republicans. It’s also outrageous to blame it on Obama, who’s team only came up with the idea to keep Republicans from pushing the country into default.