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White House hysteria

"White House hysteria" Continued...

Lost in the White House’s hysteria over sequestration is the fact that the Obama administration created, approved, and signed into law the sequestration deal in the summer of 2011. It was designed to break the deadlock over negotiations to increase the government’s borrowing limit. Obama, in November 2011, pledged to stop efforts to get rid of the sequester.

“Already some in Congress are trying to undo these automatic spending cuts,” the president said then. “My message to them is simple. No. There will be no easy off ramps on this one. … We need to keep the pressure up to compromise, not turn off the pressure.”

In other words, Obama campaigned for sequestration before he campaigned against it. He did this because he was banking on the belief that its large defense cuts included in the sequester would force Republicans to agree to tax increases. The president’s sequester replacement plan called for $110 billion in new taxes.

But, on March 1, Republicans called the president’s bluff. Speaker Boehner said revenue increases were off the table after Democrats got more than $600 billion in new taxes on Jan. 1.

“How much more money do we want to steal from the American people to fund more government.” Boehner asked. “I’m for no more.”

That goes against Obama’s belief that the tax increases are needed to empower the government to help grow the economy, and it would harm his ambitious second term domestic agenda. He doesn’t want what he calls “political gridlock” to stand in the way of “progress.”

Obama believes the public supports his approach: “The question is, can the American people persuade their members of Congress to do the right thing,” the president asked on March 1.

Americans may not embrace the cuts, but so far they are signaling that they can learn to handle them. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll out Wednesday shows that 61 percent of the public supports the cuts. That nearly 2-to-1 advantage in favor of the cuts may be a sign that Americans see sequestration as a step toward fiscal sanity.

“The American people look at this and say, “Gee, I’ve had to cut my budget more than this,’” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, “probably on numerous occasions over the last four years because we’ve had such a tepid economy.”

Obama is right in suggesting that the outcome rests with the voters. If they see that life continues with just a little less government, then the president’s gamble may backfire.

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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