I wrote the following for my weekly newspaper column. And then I realized that, having already sent one in for this Sunday, it couldn't be published before the deadline. So I'll just plug it in here, rather than entirely waste the effort. Sorry for a certain redundancy vis a vis a previous post:
Working my way through the “sequester” fiasco as best I can, I conclude it’s a microcosm of everything that’s wrong in D.C. nowadays. And, yes, it reveals much more about the venality of today’s Congressional Republicans than it does about Democrats. Sorry, but when a thing is true, there’s no way to pretend otherwise.
The sequester, as we’ve all heard by now, is the nonsensical name for the effects of a bipartisan agreement made many months back, in order to get Rs to buy into the Ds temporary fix to an impending fiscal crisis: if Congress couldn’t subsequently get its act together to address our budgetary problems, such drastic cuts would occur – in domestic spending that Ds would abhor, and in defense dollars that Rs would find impossible to countenance – that, surely, they’d act like adults and get to work. Yeah, right.
Each side claims the monetary high ground at this point: Ds say they’ve offered cuts in domestic spending far beyond what they’d choose,and President Obama says he’s open to more; Rs say that since they agreed to slightly higher taxes on slightly hardly anyone, they’ve done all they need to do. We can argue about how much of which concession is the greater (or we can simply do the math and acknowledge that Ds agreed to far more in cuts than Rs agreed to in revenue.)
But at this point Rs have taken all further revenue off the table; even the highly touted and lowly specified Romney/Ryan tax loophole closures are no more. It’s up to Ds, they say, to provide a wholly R-centric budget; meaning, they must do it entirely by cuts to get a single R vote, no matter the impact on the economy, or jobs, or our ability to educate our kids, leave them a livable future. We’re done, say the Rs, literally and literally.
Okay, well, at least they’ve made clear their priorities: lower taxes, despite being half of what they were in the time of their hero, Ronald of Reagan. But what’s most revelatory of who and what they are is their attempt to characterize this sequester as the sole responsibility and fault of Barack Obama. Sure, they fictionalize history as policy (witness their intent to return to the policies that nearly killed us); but have they still not noticed that there are videos nowadays, and detailed records of what happened mere months ago?
At the time of its inception, the sequester was welcomed as a policy victory by such congressional luminaries as John Boehner and Paul Ryan, the latter considered their finest fiscal mind. A majority of Republicans voted for it: you can look it up. Now, though, as President Obama is pointing out the real consequences of their fiscal intransigence, suddenly they’d have us believe it was rammed down their gullets. That’s the part I find so emblematic of who they are, and who they think their public is: dumb, and dumber.
Over the last several years, thanks largely to their message maven Frank Luntz, Rs have been undeniably brilliant at messaging, making Orwell’s fiction and Goebbels’ reality look positively incoherent. “The Clear Skies Act, The Patriot Act, Government Takeover Of Healthcare, Death Panels.” But now, as if admitting they’ve run out of ideas or have given up even pretending, they’re using the term “Obamaquester.” Really? From the people who gave us “Death Tax?” That’s the best they can come up with? Doesn’t even scan.
Pick a number: if the sequester happens, Rs get 87% of the blame. If forced, I’ll go down to 84, but really there’s not much wiggle room. At this point they’ve explicitly ruled out helping, while arguing that they’re innocent as lambs. The facts speak otherwise. But then, since deciding to cling to forty-year-failed Reaganomics, when have facts mattered?
[Image source]Boehner wrote an op-ed the other day in which he simultaneously blamed the sequester on Obama, claimed it will wreck the economy, and said he’s fine with letting it happen. Even conservative pundits went slack-jawed over that one. I’m almost feeling sorry for the Speaker, heading, as he does, a party chewing off its own head. He didn’t elect his Tea Party members; voters did. And until those voters think harder next time they have a ballot in their hands, there’s nothing anyone can do.