Tuesday, November 22, 2011

If It's Good For The Goose....

Well, that's a start. Yesterday evening, Ezra Klein reported

In an unusually firm statement this evening, President Obama responded to the supercommittee’s failure to reach an agreement. First, he said, the blame lies with the Republicans, who were unwilling to consider a package that balances spending cuts with revenue. Second, he said, he would veto any efforts to lift the trigger. “There will be no easy offramp,” he promised.

The Budget Control Act of 2011, which created the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction in August, contained a "trigger mechanism" in which $1.2 trillion in cuts would occur if the supercommittee failed to reach an agreement by Thanksgiving on at least that much. Half of the cuts are required to come from defense. With $200 billion expected to come from savings on interest, $500 billion would be taken out of the Pentagon. A New York Times editorial explained Republicans

rejected the proposal from supercommittee Democrats to cut at least $3 trillion from the deficit, because a third of it would have come from higher taxes on the rich. When you hear Republicans claim that Democrats refused to touch their sacred cows of spending, remember that the Democratic offer would have cut $475 billion from Medicare and Medicaid over 10 years, nearly half of which would have come directly from beneficiaries. That’s more than the Bowles-Simpson deficit plan proposed, and eight times the level of Medicare cuts offered by President Obama in September.

These plans actually tipped too far in the direction of spending cuts. By comparison, the Republican offers were risible. One pretended to raise revenue by $300 billion, while actually calling for the Bush tax cuts to be permanent and even reducing the top bracket to 28 percent from 35 percent. The consequences of this failure are serious.

Republicans on the Armed Services Committee already have staked out their position. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, contending "these cuts represent a threat to the national security interests of the United States and cannot be allowed to occur," have announced they are writing legislation to undo those cuts. Committee chairman Buck McKeon of California vowed Monday "I will not be the armed services chairman who presides over crippling our military."

Determined not to allow anyone to exceed his irresponsibility, Mitt Romney declared "it was a very bad idea to put our national security on the chopping block and (I) will, if elected president, reverse those cuts."“ Given that the reduction would not take place until 2013, Romney's threat is a very real one.

So be it. McCain and Graham, tied together at the hip, are sincere military hawks and McKeon, as Armed Services chairman, understandably pals around with defense contractors. But there is no reason responsible Democrats can't play the same game and stake out a position reflecting their own preferences.

Half of the cuts are required to come out of discretionary spending. So while McCain, Graham, and others attempt to panic Americans into opposing any reduction in a bloated defense budget, Democrats ought to propose legislation to eliminate domestic, non-defense spending from consideration. It at least would be a good bargaining position, not starting at a position of compromise as has been the practice of President Obama and congressional Democrats. Pound the airwaves, social media, and all outlets with examples of the impact of a reduction in domestic spending. As Brad Plumer notes,

Third Way has provided examples of what would happen if the the trigger’s 7.8 percent cuts were spread evenly, across the board, in 2013. We’d have 608 fewer food-safety inspectors, which would likely lead to some 49,000 more cases of Salmonella, E. coli, and other food-related diseases. We’d have 1,200 fewer FAA air-traffic controllers, which could lead to an estimated 205,527 more flight delays. There’d be 2,326 fewer IRS agents, which would likely lead to $4.5 billion less in tax revenue collected.

Tom Toles had it right eight days ago. Being a responsible partner is responsible- as long as you have a partner. With no partner, however, it is only foolish and self-defeating.

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