By Doug Porter
The world as we know it will end in just nine days.
That’s about the only thing Democrats and Republicans agree about on the subject of the sequester, a kick-the-can-down-the-road budget deal that’s come due.
The GOP has decided to dig in their heels and allow billions in automatic cuts to domestic and Pentagon spending kick in March 1st. Their issue seems to be preventing the closing of tax loopholes mostly used by the very wealthy.
Democrats, led by President Obama, are taking to airwaves to warn of doom and gloom. Locally Congressman Scott Peters has led the charge, predicting dire economic impacts on jobs and basic government services.
Today I’ll attempt to explore some of the notions surrounding this would-be fiscal Armageddon. I can’t claim to be non-partisan, nor do I want to be. But I know what bullshit smells like no matter what kind of
politician bovine creature is dispensing it.
Who Started It?
The easiest answer would be to say ‘who cares?’, but our culture of guilt demands an answer.
Both sides agreed to the sequestration, right? Actually, the vote was 218 Republicans for sequester and 0 (that’s a zero) Democrats in support of the measure. But the President did go along with the deal. He didn’t have much choice after the credit worthiness of the country was downgraded thanks to GOP intransigence on the debt ceiling.
In an attempt to allay voter concern over hypothetical cutbacks or layoffs predicted with sequestration, Republicans have taken to branding it with the President’s name. Here’s a slide used by Speaker Boehner to sell House Republicans on the worthiness of the idea.
The correct answer, after reading through a huge pile of accusatory invectives, is that sequester is a product of the ailing political process in Washington DC. Or, as the Rolling Stones once put it in Sympathy for the Devil, “After all, it was you and me.”
That’s right; our elected representatives (most of them, anyway) are doing exactly what they think we asked them to do last November.
When Will It Hit?
Despite the fact March 1st is being used as the target date for this fiscal rapture, the actual impact will dribble in over a several week period. Oh, there will be plenty of pronouncements, but actual effects that actual people can actually see won’t appear overnight.
Political reporter Chuck Todd over at NBC thinks a deal will emerge in the weeks following ‘official sequestration’ and Congress will ultimately ‘undo’ most of the negative impacts.
For those of us who don’t work for government and/or government contractors, the results will take time, just like an incoming economic recession.
Come to think of it, recession is the most likely reaction. Once again, the American people will have to learn the hard way that ‘trickle down’ (save on taxes for the rich) actually means we get pissed on.
Meanwhile, Congress is on break.
But What About…?
Just in case the public hasn’t bought into the notion that the sequester is Obama’s fault, UT-SD is now going with the ‘it’s not so bad’ meme. From today’s editorial:
Those “devastating” sequestration cuts that kick in March 1? According to The Washington Post, what’s been depicted as immense is only about 2 percent – $75 billion – of the $3.6 trillion federal budget. Two percent! That’s the same amount most Americans lost from their paychecks in January when the payroll-tax holiday expired.
Never mind that the monetary figure they use is for the last three quarters of 2013, and the projected impact over the next decade is much larger. The dirty little secret here is that the impact on domestic spending (even though the dollars are theoretically the same) will be much greater. And anything negatively impacting the 47% of moochers that Mitt Romney said Republicans will never win is okay by the UT editorial board.
Military spending, which is their favorite flavor of government appropriations, isn’t in such bad shape come sequestration, mostly because it was so bloated to start with.
U.S. defense spending now accounts for 41 percent of all military expenditures on the planet. In fact, it spends more than the next 16 nations combined. From Meteor Blades over at Daily Kos:
…in the decade beginning in 2001, Pentagon spending nearly doubled. In inflation-adjusted dollars, it rose higher than it’s been in the post-World War II world. It’s dropped recently, mostly as a consequence of the end of the war in Iraq and the winding down inAfghanistan. But even if sequestration were to occur, defense spending would fall back only as far as it was in 2007, again adjusted for inflation.
How unsafe did that 2007 level of spending make the United States?
What’s more, even with sequestration, between now and 2022, the Pentagon budget would rise an inflation-adjusted 2.4 percent annually, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Which means the core defense budget, without money for war spending, would be higher in a decade than it is now although considerably lower than it would be if the growth in its budget weren’t slated to be slowed.
How Can We Fix This?
The Republicans claim there can be no discussion on sequestration because the Democrats have no proposals on the table. But if you look at what Speaker Boehner’s actual words are, they include “that can be passed by Congress”.
The White House does have a plan that includes both cuts in spending and ending tax breaks. There is a (frankly terrible) new Bowles-Simpsonplan out there. So there’s plenty to talk about.
The Republican plan at this juncture is to go before the cameras on March 1st and say the cuts are unfortunate but necessary medicine. They’ve wanted these spending reductions for two years. It hardly matters much who invented the mechanism for the cuts. What matters, as the Republicans will find out, is that the people don’t want them.
Some saner GOP minds are yelling from the rooftops that refusing to negotiate on the sequester is crazy. From the Washington Post:
Jim Gilmore is a conservative Republican, a former governor in a purple state and a man who has developed, in the last several years, a deep and emotional concern over the condition of the U.S. economy. And he’s frustrated – because, he says, Republicans inWashington seem to care more about cutting federal spending than sowing the seeds of rapid economic growth.
“That’s the biggest problem with the Republicans” on Capitol Hill, Gilmore, a former Virginia governor, said this morning over coffee and a ham-and-egg biscuit in Alexandria. “They think spending is the most important thing. It’s not.”
He says he has urged GOP leaders to back down and compromise to prevent the so-called sequester spending cuts from going through – “I keep telling them, you’re going to lose this” – and he has strong words for congressional leaders’ focus on deficit reduction as their primary economy goal.
His plea for sanity has fallen on deaf ears. Just as Republicans miscalculated the mood of the nation in last fall’s Presidential race, they’re now blinded by their own ideological purists on this issue. There will be no last minute deal. And if there was, I’m afraid Obama’s pragmatic tendencies would give away much more than he needs to.
So, for the rest of, there is only one path open at this point: let it happen. I take no joy in saying this. But let us turn disaster into opportunity. Our ‘citizen power’ needs to be focused beyond March 1st. .
This can indeed be the political rapture the right has so long yearned for; their own destruction. Let’s make sure the political price Republicans pay is high enough to send their leaders scurrying back under the rocks they crawled out from.
California Poll: Obama Up, Tea Party Down
The Associated Press is reporting this morning on a new Field Poll saying that President Obama’s approval rating is at 62% here in the Golden State, the highest it’s been since 2009.
Meanwhile, Tea Party approval numbers are rapidly headed in the dumper. After peaking with 14% of those surveyed in 2010 saying they identify a lot with the conservative movement that number has now declined to 5%.
Hold on a Second While I Get Sober
Futurist blog io9.com is reporting on research showing promise towards creation of a “sober pill”.
A team of researchers led by UCLA bimolecular engineer Yunfeng Lu and USC biochemist Cheng Ji have packaged enzymes inside a nontoxic, nanoscale polymer shell that mimic the body’s natural alcohol-processing activities. The “biomimetic enzyme nanocomplexes,” have been shown to quickly and dramatically reduce blood alcohol levels in intoxicated mice, and show promise as “antidotes and preventive measures for alcohol intoxication.”
Technology Review’s Mike Orcutt has more:
To demonstrate the efficacy of the delivery method, the researchers injected the mice with capsules containing two enzymes. One of them, oxidase, produces hydrogen peroxide, so it has to work in concert with another enzyme that decomposes this potentially harmful by-product. The researchers report that the mice receiving the enzyme treatment saw their blood alcohol content fall quickly and significantly compared with controls.
The advance could open the door to a new class of enzyme drugs, says Lu. Down the road, for example, he envisions an alcohol prophylactic or antidote that could be taken orally. Since alcohol metabolism naturally occurs in the liver, it would “almost be like having millions of liver cell units inside your stomach or in your intestine, helping you to digest alcohol,” he says.
Wait! Wait! Who’s Gonna Pay for the Lawsuit Against Mayor Filner?
Matt Potter over at the SDReader raises an interesting point on this whole dust up between the Tourism Marketing District and Mayor Bob Filner.
If the group gets all its money from the City’s collection of room tax surcharges, who is going to pay for filing the suit? Will the City actually fund a lawsuit against itself? And who will City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, who’s on record opining that the tax surcharge is legal even though it by-passed voter approval, represent?
Contacted this morning by phone, the marketing district’s lawyer, Michael Colantuono of Grass Valley, says he doesn’t know who is picking up the tab for his work on the controversial proposed litigation against Filner, and doesn’t want to go public with any legal advice he might have for his client on whether the district could legally use public money to go after the mayor.
Colantuono, a noted public government specialist who has served as a contract city attorney in cities and towns across California, says he also can’t discuss any details of the marketing district’s financing or whether private funders, including the hotel owners themselves, might step up to foot the sizable legal bill that would likely be run up should the district file suit against the mayor.
Get some popcorn, folks. This is going to be fun to watch.
Why We Call Them Teahadists
Some of this stuff is just too good; from blogger ProgLegs / Daily Kos:
Hastening their death spiral, a Tea Party group in Citrus County, Florida is speaking out against new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service restrictions that would prevent humans from riding manatees:
“We cannot elevate nature above people,” explained Edna Mattos, 63, leader of the Citrus County Tea Party Patriots, in an interview. “That’s against the Bible and the Bill of Rights.”
Mattos and her fellow Tea Party members oppose efforts of groups like the freedom-hating Save the Manatee Club, whose mission is to protect the endangered manatee and their aquatic habitat for future generations.
Mattos said she enjoys showing off the manatees to her grandchildren, but she had little use for the Save the Manatee Club, explaining, “If some of these environmental movements had been around in the days of the dinosaurs, we’d be living in Jurassic Parknow.”
Props to Jon Stewart and the Daily Show for breaking the story last night.
On This Day: 1792 – President George Washington signed the Postal Service Act thereby creating the U.S. Post Office. 1809 – The Supreme Court ruled the power of the federal government was greater than that of any individual state. 1974 – Cher filed for separation from husband Sonny Bono. She filed for divorce not long afterwards. They had been married for 10 years.
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John Lawrence says
The sequestration thing is overblown. How else to cut Federal spending including a good chunk out of the miloitary-industrial complex? To see them cut significantly (but hardly to the bone) is worth the price of admission. Note that the big three – social security, medicare and medicaid are not cut at all. So why worry?
The Pentagon is crying crocodile tears. They may have to cut out one billion dollar airplane. Boo hoo. The really big jobs program which is what the MI complex is will have to be cut back. Other agencies can make adjustments.