Yesterday’s Up with Chris Hayes was really interesting. It was good in the way the show usually is, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Through much of the show, Hayes was pleading to the world—including his panel—to have congress pass a “one sentence law saying no sequestration.” I share his exasperation.
The economics of this are very clear. Our economy has spent the last four years crawling very slowly out of recession. The government should be spending more. Now is not the time for austerity. We’ve already cut one and a half trillion dollars in the disastrous 2011 Debt Ceiling deal. Then we increased taxes by roughly $600 billion in the Fiscal Cliff deal. The deficit has been reduced every year that Obama has been president. Where is the fucking fire?!
Meanwhile, Greg Sargent reports this morning that Republican governors are starting to push for a Sequester deal. This isn’t that surprising. Congressional Republicans can obstruct and delay, looking toward a time when they are again in the White House. But Republican governors actually have to govern. As crazy as they are, they know if the trains stop running or the schools close down, they will be blamed.
Of course, all these people calling for a deal are missing the main point. While it is true that raising the taxes of rich people doesn’t hurt the economy as much as taking food stamps away from poor people, it does still hurt the economy. I was none too happy with the Fiscal Cliff deal. Yes, I think that the rich should pay more in taxes. (Of course, as usual, the administration didn’t even do a very good job at that goal.) But many liberals celebrated like it was some great blow for the people. Passing card check would have been infinitely better for the people.
Republicans aren’t the only problem in this Sequester fight. I find myself very frustrated with liberals who seem to think that the critical issue is between good and bad government spending. Sure, it is best that the government spend wisely. But in a depressed economy, spending is a good thing. There are no caveats. Howard Dean has been going around saying that the Sequester, while unfortunate, is a winner. At first, he was just making the same specious arguments about debt and “certainty.” Now he seems to be claiming that this is a once in a generation opportunity to cut defense spending. While this new argument may be better than the old argument, the economy can ill afford these cuts right now.
I almost dread a deal for the way liberals will act—pretending it is on par with the second coming of Christ. As it is, the administration isn’t even asking for half revenue. It is more like one-third revenue. So you can imagine, if a deal is struck, it is likely to be one-quarter revenue. I’m not saying that would be terrible, but I will be galled to hear people claim it is a liberal victory. A true liberal victory would be a “one sentence law saying no sequestration.”
Update (25 February 2013 9:05 am)
The Washington Post has an excellent table that runs down how the Sequester will affect education funding in each state. Even if you want to (and you shouldn’t, because it is a canard), this isn’t about “waste, fraud, and abuse.”
Update (25 February 2013 9:27 am)
What do you know! The Pew Charitable Trust has put together an interactive map that shows how big the cuts will be to state budgets. It turns out that the non-defense Sequester hurts red states a lot more than blue states. Part of this is just that red states (The real America!) are the “takers” and the blue states (The anti-American bastards!) are the “makers.” But don’t think this will cause a ground swelling of Republican opposition to the Sequester. Most conservatives believe they don’t have their hands out to the government. In fact, I am constantly amazed at how many Fox News quoting conservatives live off SSI. They are for cutting programs because they just know that Rush, Sean, and the whole gang understand that Mr. Conservative SSI Recipient is one of the “deserving.” They would never cut funding for such loyal conservative media consumers!