From the debt ceiling debates to the fiscal cliff, the government has made a habit of setting arbitrary deadlines, causing widespread panic among political punditry, and then sweeping to the rescue in some grandiose “compromise” that solves all our problems…until they do it all again. The issue of the sequester is a prime example of this gameplan, with an added twist: we also get to see the president take two diametrically opposed positions.
As a general history, the sequester emerged from the summer of 2011’s debt ceiling debate. As a compromise to raising the debt ceiling, a super committee of senators was created and charged with ‘cutting’ (ie. reducing the rate of increase by) $1.2 trillion in spending over ten years. If the super committee failed to agree to any cuts automatic spending cuts–aka, sequestration– of $1 trillion (also a reduction in the rate of increase and not a real cut) would automatically be put in place. Well, the agreement never occurred and the $1 trillion in the reduced rate of increase were put in to place. These cuts were delayed by two months at the end of December when Congress “saved us” with the fiscal cliff deal, thus setting up the “catastrophe” that awaits us at the end of this month.
The idea of sequestration was signed into law and praised by Obama at the time. In fact, he publicly opposed any attempts to undue the automatic cuts that were to come. In November 2011 he stated
“There will be no easy off ramps on this one…The only way these spending cuts will not take place is if Congress gets back to work to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion.”
It’s funny how time changes things.
In Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Obama had this to say about the sequestration cuts:
In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year. These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness. They’d devastate priorities like education, energy, and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs. That’s why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as “the sequester,” are a really bad idea.
First off, it is interesting that he places the blame for sequestration on Congress claiming that they passed a law. Yes, that is true…Congress does pass the laws…But who is it again that is required to sign the law before it goes into effect?
Secondly, how is it that a president can take two diametrically opposed stances on the same exact topic and not hear one bit of criticism. This new position on opposing spending cuts is, of course, not new. It was the facade that he would actually support cutting spending that was out of character.
There is no new lesson here, I suppose; just another reminder of the two-face hypocrites and contrived-crisis-averters that plague Washington.