So apparently there’s been nothing but a lot of chatter about the sequester since I last paid attention to it, which was last week. Not that I really expected anything to happen, anyway; the whole premise of the way things work now is to bring everyone to the edge and then come up with some stop-gap measure that puts everything off for a couple of months. That’s how we got here in the first place.
Keeping up with last week’s news — it’s really no different today than it was on Thursday — here’s what Paul Krugman had to offer.
The right policy would be to forget about the whole thing. America doesn’t face a deficit crisis, nor will it face such a crisis anytime soon. Meanwhile, we have a weak economy that is recovering far too slowly from the recession that began in 2007. And, as Janet Yellen, the vice chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, recently emphasized, one main reason for the sluggish recovery is that government spending has been far weaker in this business cycle than in the past. We should be spending more, not less, until we’re close to full employment; the sequester is exactly what the doctor didn’t order.
Unfortunately, neither party is proposing that we just call the whole thing off. But the proposal from Senate Democrats at least moves in the right direction, replacing the most destructive spending cuts — those that fall on the most vulnerable members of our society — with tax increases on the wealthy, and delaying austerity in a way that would protect the economy.
House Republicans, on the other hand, want to take everything that’s bad about the sequester and make it worse: canceling cuts in the defense budget, which actually does contain a lot of waste and fraud, and replacing them with severe cuts in aid to America’s neediest. This would hit the nation with a double whammy, reducing growth while increasing injustice.
As always, many pundits want to portray the deadlock over the sequester as a situation in which both sides are at fault, and in which both should give ground. But there’s really no symmetry here. A middle-of-the-road solution would presumably involve a mix of spending cuts and tax increases; well, that’s what Democrats are proposing, while Republicans are adamant that it should be cuts only. And given that the proposed Republican cuts would be even worse than those set to happen under the sequester, it’s hard to see why Democrats should negotiate at all, as opposed to just letting the sequester happen.
So here we go.
And here we go again. The one thing I’ve noticed about this time around, though, is that the Republicans don’t seem to care if it hurts them politically. The vast majority of Americans don’t want the sequester to hit, they think the wealthy should pay more in taxes, and they think that a lot of the GOP ideas are whack. But the Republicans seem to be determined to do anything they can to diminish and humiliate anything that comes out of the White House even if it takes them out to the end of the Kuyper Belt politically.
I’ll give them credit for standing by their principles.