Wednesday, February 27, 2013

At Least Labor Responds

Pete Kasperowicz of Politico reported yesterday

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday blamed Washington's failure to avoid the coming sequester on President Obama's "non-stop" campaigning, which he said has deprived Congress of any White House leadership on this issue.

Boehner spoke on the House floor shortly after noon — something he rarely does — after several Democratic members of the House called on House GOP leaders to work harder on a sequester replacement.

"I hear my colleagues on the other side of the aisle complaining about the president's sequester," Boehner said. "It's the president that insisted that this sequester be part of the Budget Control Act a year and a half ago."

Slightly confused, the Speaker is wrong on one charge and partially right on the other.

President Obama is not engaged in "non-stop" campaigning, for he has run his final campaign.  Were Boehner to have charged the President with being interested in his legacy as well as the best interests of the country, his claim would have been legitimate, if not justified.

Someone here is involved in non-stop campaigning- but it isn't President Obama.  It's Speaker Boehner, campaigning to remain Speaker Boehner.  Jake Sherman of Politico explains

The speaker agreed to a tax hike just a few months ago — days later, 12 of his Republican colleagues voted against his reelection as speaker. Sure, aides realize that they will get pressured privately by a handful of Republicans to accept tax increases to head off the sequester, but such pleas won’t move Boehner. Starting off this new session of Congress by hiking taxes again would be akin to political suicide for the Ohio Republican.

Blaming Obama for the sequester, Boehner is not completely wrong which, for him, is a major accomplishment.   William Black remarks

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.  I found contemporaneous reportage on the President’s efforts to preserve the Sequester – andthe articles were not critical of those efforts.  I found no contemporaneous rebuttal by the administration of these reports.

In fairness, the Republicans did “start it” by threatening to cause the U.S. to default on its debts in 2011.  Their actions were grotesquely irresponsible and anti-American.  It is also true that the Republicans often supported the Sequester.

Barack Obama should drop basketball and golf (or at least golf) from his game and engage deeply in chess, a board which he sees clearly while others don't.  Black adds

President Obama has revealed his real preferences in the current blame game by not calling for a clean bill eliminating the Sequester.  It is striking that as far as I know (1) neither Obama nor any administration official has called for the elimination of the Sequester and (2) we have a fairly silly blame game about how the Sequester was created without discussing the implications of Obama’s continuing failure to call for the elimination of the Sequester despite his knowledge that it is highly self-destructive.

The only logical inference that can be drawn is that Obama remains committed to inflicting the “Grand Bargain” (really, the Grand Betrayal) on the Nation in his quest for a “legacy” and continues to believe that the Sequester provides him the essential leverage he feels he needs to coerce Senate progressives to adopt austerity, make deep cuts in vital social programs, and to begin to unravel the safety net.  Obama’s newest budget offer includes cuts to the safety net and provides that 2/3 of the austerity inflicted would consist of spending cuts instead of tax increases.  When that package is one’s starting position the end result of any deal will be far worse.

Though at times he has overestimated the GOP's willingness to be reasonable, Obama is focused on his goal, which the threat of extreme austerity in form of the sequester helps facilitates.  Fortunately, though neither of the two (small "p") parties, the President or House Republicans, has called for elimination of the sequester, the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party is stepping up as 

The AFL-CIO is coming out today for a repeal of the sequester. The labor federation will press the case in the days ahead that the sequester perpetuates destructive government-by-crisis, and that more austerity — replacing the sequester with other spending cuts — is exactly what the country doesn’t need at a time of mass unemployment and lackluster growth.

“We need to repeal the sequester,” Damon Silvers, the policy director of the AFL-CIO, told me in an interview this morning. “It’s bad economic policy, and it feeds a dynamic that encourages hostage taking. We are calling on elected officials not to play this game of substituting one bad thing for another bad thing. We’re insisting that our elected officials not buy into this inside Washington game of manufactured crises.”

This morning, the AFL-CIO’s executive council voted unanimously to call for repeal of the sequester, and I’m told the AFL-CIO planning to organize events designed to mobilize behind this goal in the days ahead.

Notwithstanding the popular proposal by the Progressive Caucus to replace the sequester, the left has been slow to respond to the economic threat it poses.  However, as Digby understands, "it's finally come to understand that if they don't take a position against these cuts, the Obama administration's 'offer' to cut vital programs and otherwise degrade the Democratic party's slim hold on its principles will be the leftward pole of any negotiation."

Grave long-term damage to the nation is likely unless congressional Democrats recognize themselves as one of the three major legs of the economic tripod, essential to balance the right-wing pressure brought by Boehner's GOP. Democrats must realize what the Ohio Republican does not, or pretends not, to understand: Barack Obama will not run for any political office again, which frees him to undermine Social Security and Medicare, no matter their success or popularity with the American public.

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