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It's in neither party's interest to let the sequester take effect

March 1, 2013, at 12:50 PM

After a hastily called meeting at the White House this morning, President Obama and congressional leaders departed after just an hour with no deal to avoid the automatic spending cuts scheduled to hit later today.

While most of the discussion has been on how the spending cuts will hurt Americans, a larger consideration is what Americans will lose with no compromise between the two parties.

By refusing to consider more revenues by closing tax loopholes for wealthy Americans, Republicans have lost out on a chance to control entitlement spending. Had the GOP pushed a plan to dramatically cut entitlement spending in combination with new revenues, it would have been very hard for President Obama to refuse.

As Ron Brownstein correctly points out, Republicans "are underestimating the value of a Democratic president willing to provide a heat shield for entitlement reductions that would face initial public resistance."

Meanwhile, President Obama pointed out in his press conference immediately following his talks with congressional leaders that economic growth will be less than it could be as long as the sequester is in effect. The coalition he put together to win re-election — young people, minorities, and single women — will arguably hurt more than any other demographic group if economic growth stalls.

Brownstein notes that "nothing will strain that coalition more than a recovery too tepid to provide greater opportunity, especially for hard-hit young people, African-Americans, and Hispanics."

By letting arbitrary spending cuts take effect — regardless of short-term political calculus — is all the proof you need, as Walter Shapiro notes, "that the inmates are now running the asylum."

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