At the end of my last blog on March 6th, I indicated that my next statement would outline the president’s plan that could serve as a starting point for negotiations to end sequestration. However, in the ten days that have passed since then, information-gathering by listening, reading and watching have led me to ask “What’s the point?” Here’s why such a cynical question seems fully justified.
It’s certainly true that Obama does have a plan, as I noted previously. It can be accessed at http://www.whitehouse.gov/presidentsplan. It contains an array of cuts in spending coupled with increases in revenues in the forms of closing tax loopholes and ending subsidies. All told, the result would be a further reduction in deficit spending which is to say more movement towards an eventual balanced budget. Generally speaking, that is the course that the president has charted and that voters supported in the 2012 election. How odd then, that Obama isn’t out making that point loudly, publicly and pushing congressional Republicans to come to the table and negotiate.
For their part, congressional Republicans, especially in the House, have passed their own budget, authored by Paul Ryan. Called “The Path to Prosperity” it is little better than a mash-up of the budget that Mitt Romney and Ryan ran on last year. It includes a rolling back of the tax increases that were recently passed, an end to Obamacare and cuts in spending that will be borne largely by the working poor and middle class. It is a document prepared as though the last election never happened, and is worse than a bad joke.
What is to be gathered from the behavior of both parties; i.e. the president and House Republicans? The answer is that for the time being neither has any serious intention of finding a way out of sequestration. Such a conclusion begs the question “Why?” especially if, as everyone agrees, sequestration is a bad thing.
The answer resides in action taken by the Congress this past January. It involved a three-month postponement of dealing yet again with the raising of the nation’s debt ceiling. It is as though both sides have decided to lump the fight over how to end sequestration with the contest over the debt ceiling that will surface this spring. So my fellow Americans want an even bigger crisis? Be patient as you’ll soon have one!!!
When that next big crisis hits watch for House Republicans to seek to regain ground with their ultra-conservative constituents, having lost favor over failing to both stop the 2012 tax increase and additional government spending. Accordingly, in future negotiations they can be expected to try to avoid at all costs, a repeat of those same two concessions.
The president and he Democratic National Committee (DNC) are surely aware of all this. Indeed, they are likely to be counting on it and on further growth in voters’ already extant recognition of House Republican rigidity and obstructionism. The hope is that this dissatisfaction will lead to a return of a Democrat majority in the lower chamber. In fact, the DNC has already targeted 16 House seats held by Republicans that will be hotly contested in the 2014 midterm election.
Now, stop here and if necessary, go back and re-read the last two paragraphs. It’s obvious that both parties are primarily interested in seeking power. The Republicans want to retain and expand it; the Democrats to reacquire it. Looking ahead to the 2014 election, I do not see either side gaining a sufficient number of seats to control both houses of Congress. If that’s the case then you can expect that gridlock in Washington will continue until 2016 when voters will again have the chance to give one party clear dominance. In the meantime, expect nothing of significance to be accomplished, legislatively. Rather, we will get watered down, half-measures that are crafted to avoid hard choices and thus offend as few voters as possible.